Chavista celebrities refuse to say they were wrong about socialism
The New York Times published an article on Venezuela titled "Dying Infants and No Medicine: Inside Venezuela's Failing Hospitals." It reads like an apocalyptic horror story and begins, "By morning, three newborns were already dead." The author provides an explanation for this tragedy: "This nation has the largest oil reserves in the world, yet the government saved little money for hard times when oil prices were high. Now that prices have collapsed – they are around a third what they were in 2014 – the consequences are casting a destructive shadow across the country." No other explanation is offered. Perhaps we will be receiving reports of massive starvation in Saudi Arabia soon.
The article is a far cry from the glowing reports that greeted the assumption of power by Hugo Chávez. When Chávez was elected, Venezuela's people were the wealthiest in Latin America. Celebrities flocked to Caracas to pay homage to the new socialist leader. Sean Penn, Michael Moore, Danny Glover, and Harry Belafonte are just a few of the entertainers who have visited. Oliver Stone has made a film, Mi Amigo Hugo, about the Venezuelan leader. Now Venezuela appears to be suffering a food shortage. A survey by three universities found that 75 percent of Venezuelans lost an average 19 pounds this year.
Have the Venezuelan revolution's early supporters admitted they were wrong? Are they at all embarrassed? According to John Stossel, they believe they were right to praise Venezuela's move to socialism. Stossel corresponded with college professor Noam Chomsky. Chomsky's reply to Stossel's question about his support for Chávez was "I was right." Chomsky blamed Venezuela's problems on capitalists: "Capitalists were free to undermine the economy in all sorts of ways, like massive export of capital." Stossel quotes Marian Tupy, editor of HumanProgress.org, who said, "More countries will refuse to learn from history and give socialism 'a go.' Useful idiots,' to use Lenin's words ... will sing socialism's praises until the last light goes out."
Socialism has failed repeatedly. How can apparently well educated, intelligent people maintain their faith in a failed system? The answer is that in spite of their claims of being based on science, socialism is a religion. It is the official religion taught in many public schools in the U.S. It is a form of Christianity without Christ. Millions of adherents will swear a vow of poverty to further their programs. The socialist elite, however, is another matter.
This brings us to Maria Gabriela Chávez, Hugo's daughter. According to Diario las Americas, she has $4.2 billion in American and Andorran banks.
The socialist elite does very well for itself. The elites apparently see no contradiction in living well as others starve. Communist defector Victor Kravchenko described this phenomenon when he was a member of the Soviet elite: "I found myself among men who could eat ample and dainty food in full view of starving people not only with a clear conscience but with a feeling of righteousness, as if they were performing a duty to history."
Reuters published an article describing the role played by social media in the opposition to the government. Activists are posting details of the lifestyles of government officials and their families. They expose them as thriving from corruption while the "common man" is starving. One estimate suggests that $350 billion have been misappropriated by Venezuelan officials. The Atlantic reported on a blog, "Relojes del Chavismo," that lists the brands and prices of watches worn by the Venezuelan elite. Vladimir Lopes, the minister of defense, sports a $11,900 Rolex while the president of a state TV channel wears a $12,600 watch.
Still, these officials may be considered frugal compared to our own champions of the downtrodden. Former member of the House of Representatives Jesse Jackson, Jr. reportedly had a $43,000 Rolex.
The success of socialism seems to depend upon having the "right people" running the government. Are our advocates of wealth redistribution setting a good example for their followers? Do Bernie Sanders, Mark Zuckerberg, and the hundreds of entertainers and academic who advocate for socialism wear hair shirts? Or do they live lives of incredible opulence maintaining several residences that remain vacant in their absence?
John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy, Algora Publishing, 2013.