8 August 2017

Venezuela, Jeremy Corbyn and an ideology that strips people of dignity


There are two precise forms of horror arising from the situation in Venezuela. First the horror of life for its citizens, starved of basic foodstuffs and healthcare — and democracy — thanks to the interesting social experiments of the government there.

But there’s another horror on show as well, albeit a quieter one, that’s not so easy to make out. That’s the horror of waiting for the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition to criticise Venezuela’s regime, to which he had previously given his vocal support.

Oh yes, he’s issued one of his “Isn’t violence just awful?” statements. But he’s specifically refused to condemn the Venezuelan government for the specific violence it is specifically fostering.

What do you call a regime that persecutes its opponents, and suppresses democracy? Jeremy Corbyn knows, and hitherto wasn’t shy in naming it as a “better way of doing things. It’s called socialism.”

What do you call the man who defined that socialist government for us? And who phoned En Contacto Con Maduro in 2014 to fawn on-air about President Maduro’s great achievements? Who has subsequently had nothing to say, as Venezuela reaches the endpoint of all seriously socialist states (increasingly random and increasingly brutal acts of violence; hopelessness; starvation)? History has given us a name for Jeremy Corbyn: “useful idiot”.

Silence from the useful idiot about Venezuela’s predicable and predicted calamities. Instead we must turn to the lesser fleas, who hop self-importantly around the strangely immobile features of British socialism; not so much the useful idiots, as the useless ones, injecting their own toxins into socialism’s impassive godhead and bringing the rest of us out in a nasty rash.

“My abiding memory of Venezuela: the inhabitants of newly built housing in Caracas banging pots and pans in celebration of Chavez’s election,” tweeted Owen Jones, in 2013. “Now they don’t have a pot to piss in,” points out one of his correspondents, helpfully.

Here’s Diane Abbott, claiming in 2012 that elections in Venezuela are “actually less liable to fraud and impersonation than the British election process”. I suppose if you shoot people for disagreeing with you, then the whole “counting votes” thing becomes more straightforward; less prone to mistakes.

The most “interesting” take comes from Corbyn’s erstwhile ally, the man with a fondness for debating whether or not Hitler was a Zionist. I’m referring, of course, to Ken Livingstone, who thinks Venezuela’s problems stem from a failure to assassinate more people. Kicking Livingstone out of London felt cathartic, but I hadn’t realised we were lucky not be shot in our beds as a result.

We rid ourselves of Livingstone by voting him out; el Presidente Maduro didn’t fancy anything as bourgeois as a general election. Tiene miedo a la catarsis, no doubt. Instead he announced “the creation of a constituent assembly” — one that can’t vote down his authoritarian laws, the way the pesky National Legislature kept trying.

A people’s assembly, in other words, of the sort that proved such a reliable manifestation of the popular will in liberal democracies like Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, and the Tottenham Hale branch of Momentum.

A new Venezuela! A lecturer in international law at Birkbeck College, University of London, justified Maduro’s power grab as follows: “The assembly will […] provide an opportunity for those parts of society who drove the revolutionary process … peasants, indigenous people, the LGBT community, etc.” Another triumph for British universities. (Don’t you just love that “etc.”?) A new Argentina! The voice of the people cannot be, and will not be, denied. It comes to something when a decades-old musical by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice provides a more biting critique of socialism in action than does the leader of the Labour Party or his uselessly idiotic compadres.

Oh, but what’s the point of having a go at Corbyn about this? Haven’t we tried it before?

In vain, before the election, we pointed out that he had spent his career sucking up to any passing terrorist. Apparently the “Hi, I didn’t like Dunkirk bye” generation are immune to the many stinking defects in Corbyn’s character. So, some argue, it’s time to give it a rest.

Let me disagree. I think eventually the penny will drop regarding the un-cuddly nature of the essential Corbyn, and the lesser fleas who currently swarm around him will die off, engorged, fatally, on their own poisonous contradictions.

But even if it were electorally useless, Corbyn must be pilloried for his beliefs and the choices he makes based on those beliefs. Because we’re not like him, and this matters.

Liberals and Tories don’t believe in killing people who won’t vote as they’d wish; they don’t believe in the ideology that strips human beings of dignity and reduces them to looting for sacks of flour; they don’t  support the wilful suppression of democracy and its replacement with a “people’s assembly” of “revolutionary groups, etc.”

Sooner or later, the downfall of all liberal societies is that they tolerate those forces which hate them. Corbyn hates liberal society; his record proves as much.

To stay silent about his wicked ideology and its inhuman consequences is to tolerate it, and thus help him to normalise it. (“Oh, that Jeremy! What a card! Could you speak up a bit comrade? Can’t hear you above the gunfire.”) It would be an ethical deficit to keep quiet about the Labour Party leader’s desires for this world.

Corbyn gave the Venezuelan devastation, this “better way of doing things”, a name: socialism. Make him own what is happening there; it’s not as though the bloodshed was unpredictable, or that (see IRA support for details) Corbyn has ever let political terror get in the way of his ideological objectives.

Corbyn is free to disown Maduro whenever he wants – something yesterday’s hand-waving failed to do. In the meantime, we’re free to draw the obvious conclusion about his refusal to do so, and to join the dots between that refusal and his support for the Venezuelan regime.

There aren’t that many dots to join, after all: socialism kills, first dissent, then the rule of law, then people. It kills in the name of “the people”, but it kills actual people — no inverted commas, no “etc.” — just the same.

Corbyn knows this. He wants it anyway; he wants it for Venezuela. He wants it for Ireland. He wants it for you. To borrow from Rice & Lloyd-Webber again: Joseph’s coat — the liberal Tory coat — was of many colours. But Jeremy’s cloak, “the people’s cloak”, flea-infested and waved in our faces all year, hides an ambition for society that won’t be satiated by Venezuela. It’s not a cloak of many colours; just deepest, blood-stained red.

Graeme Archer is a political commentator and statistician