The Corbynite take on Venezuela tells you all you need to know about the leadership’s judgement

by Rob Marchant

A country with a population half that of Britain is currently collapsing. Its president was defeated in the country’s parliamentary elections last December and, in the true style of demagogic leaders the world over, finally declared a state of emergency ten days ago in an attempt to cling onto power, backed by the country’s army.

It is all the more ironic to understand that the state enjoys a massive economic blessing: it contains the world’s largest oil reserves. But it has been so terribly managed since the turn of the century that there is scarcely any food in the shops, electricity in the wall sockets or medicine in the hospitals. A clearer example of Biblical famine in the land of plenty it would be difficult to find.

The country, of course, is Venezuela. A country which, under its recent leadership, has gone out of its way to pick fights with the West: US presidents, even the King of Spain. And wasted no time in cuddling up to the West’s enemies, notably Putin’s Russia.

But, as Nick Cohen has argued many times, in Britain the current regime has long been supported by “a herd of bovine leftists”. This has particular resonance for those of us who find ourselves in a Corbyn-led Labour Party which we seem to scarcely recognise any more.

In short: in spite of the absolute dog’s breakfast it has made of running a country bursting with natural wealth, the regime of Nicolás Maduro has still has a few close political allies in the West.

Who, we ask, might those be?

Step forward, the current leader of our beloved party (not to mention one Diane Abbott, who enjoyed a Caribbean trip as an “impartial” observer at the 2012 election, an election which itself raised big questions about freeness and fairness).

These people see the Venezuelan regime as a shining example of democratic socialism, and are active campaigners on its behalf through its “useful idiots” support organisation in the UK, the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (also, for the record, supported by TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, ironic when you consider the regime’s record on rights for trade unions). Any failure by the regime, of course, is conveniently attributed to the shadowy forces of its enemies, such as the United States or Britain.

To that particular roll of shame we can give a special mention to Labour frontbencher Richard Burgon MP, who tweeted last year about the “alternative to the agenda of austerity”, even as the queues for basic foodstuffs were lengthening in Caracas:

 Jeremy Corbyn has not only been a supporter of the disastrous regime for many years but, like his friend George Galloway, has gone further and for years carved out a modest niche for himself, as a politician often better known in far-flung despotic corners of the world than within his own country.

To wit, you can see him here fêted by Maduro on this call from 2014 commemorating the death of Tony Benn, broadcast live on Venezuelan TV (Corbyn, then a mere backbencher, joins the president – in half-decent Spanish, it must be said – for a mutual back-slapping session which goes on for a good five minutes).

The thing is, these people really believe this stuff. Take Corbyn on the regime in Parliament, 2004:

“And why do the US hate him so much?…It’s because they cannot cope with the threat of example all over Latin America. Because if you do it in Venezuela, you can do it anywhere else in the whole continent, and all those vested interests of the USA will then be under threat.”

So, get this: for Corbyn, there exists a visceral hatred of Venezuela, because the US is scared that its anti-capitalist economic miracle will be replicated all over South America and they will be out of business. Seriously, there are adult people who think this.

But the country’s decline was already achingly predictable in those days, the days of Maduro’s predecessor: the equally corrupt and incompetent yet considerably more charismatic Hugo Chávez.

Even as it was being lauded by British leftists, the country was designated a human rights and press freedom pariah by organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders. And that is without even starting on the chronic economic mismanagement which has led it to its present state of near-collapse. Or its debilitating corruption.

How can a relatively small group of people, such as the current crop at the top of the Labour party, have called a situation so terribly wrong? Exceptionally poor judgement, is the only possible answer. Now imagine putting those people in charge of Britain’s economy. Or its defence, for that matter.

And it is not as though Corbyn has changed his mind on the subject, for all that anyone can make out. The news of recent days and months, in Corbyn’s favourite example of a socialist state, have met with a silence from the Leader’s Office which one can only see as grimly prudent.

No, this story will not hurt Corbyn or Labour, because the British public is not interested enough to probe that deeply into Corbyn’s past and present beliefs (that said, surprisingly obscure points, such as his historical engagement with known anti-Semites, can eventually make the news).

But it is ultimately about judgement. The quality of that judgement should worry anyone who seriously believes that the Corbynites are capable of running the country, even in the unlikely event that they should be given the opportunity.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

Tags: , , , , , ,

9 Responses to “The Corbynite take on Venezuela tells you all you need to know about the leadership’s judgement”

  1. pkelly says:

    This is somewhat over the top. Nothing wrong with pointing out Corbyns uncritical attitude to Venezuela but it is bizarre to suggest that anyone on the Left might not have good reason to feel that the US wishes that country ill. US presidents have not shied away from intervening in Latin America in the past: Chile, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua etc when they did not like the colour of the government. Let’s see how a Right led government (if you think that’s the solution to Venezuelas problems) does on human rights and trade union independence.

  2. Forlornehope says:

    You should be ashamed of yourself spouting this Blairite propaganda. We should all get behind Jeremy and give him our full support. We have to educate the British people so that they understand the true reality of Venezuela and demand that the same socialist policies are implemented here.

  3. Tafia says:

    And the continuing decline of Greece? An EU country? And there will be a couple of others going tits-up in the EU later this year.

    And you know nothing of leadership Marchant. Not a thing. Because you don’t possess any – you are decidedly a follower, that you you can stab the back of those in front of you far easier.

  4. paul barker says:

    I dont know if you had noticed but in 4 weeks time we will be facing the most important vote in our lifetimes, a vote in which Labour activists have a vital role to play. Labour have always encouraged blind loyalty in “Their” voters, alonside a visceral hatred of Tory Toff, Libdem Traitors etc etc. There are millions of Labour voters who will only listen to Labour.
    Luckily Labour Left & Right are united (mostly) in support of Remain so any internal fights will be put on hold while your activists pound the streets – if only!
    Articles like this can wait while Labour get out & do their fair share of persuasion.

  5. John P Reid says:

    Paul barker when you say labour left and right,you mean left & right members ,not left and right labour voters, ,two thirds of labour members are remain, only a half of labour voters are, less if it’s believed,all the Dan Hodges types who’ve stopped voting labour, are counted

    Fonelornehope, I actually Know, those in the party who are opposed to Blair, who disliked what’s happened in Venzuala, since Chavez time, and Blairites who are pro it

  6. Anon E Mouse says:

    Forlonehope spells out all that is wrong with the Labour Party at the moment.

    I don’t need “educating” thank you and if I did I wouldn’t be using anyone arrogant enough to believe the know better than I do.

    The sooner this arrogant leftwing Londoncentric nonsense stops and Labour starts representing the working class the better…

  7. Stipe Message says:

    Thank you, Forlornehope, for suggesting that we need to “educate” the people on why they need the same policies as chavismo has inflicted on the people of Venezuela. I’m sure that when we’re on the doorsteps they will be thrilled to know why independent trade unionism needs to be smashed and why they should queue for hours for milk for their children. Our leaflets will make it all clear to the British people why their parents should go without the medicine they need to stay alive and why anything they’ve managed to put by in case of bad times should be wiped out by inflation, and why we should arrest their employers as foreign spies when we make it impossible for them to keep producing and stay in business. The Bitterites need to shut up, unite behind the leader, and explain why the voters should support millionaires and billionaires simply because of the identity of their political cronies, why the judiciary and the civil service need to be under our political and ideological control, why we should develop an armed youth movement, why we should circumvent the rule of parliament when it suits us. And all without anything like the massive natural resources of Venezuela.

    When I was a child, I saw the queues for milk, the hospitals without drugs, peoples lived ruined by inflation, cronyism, corruption, violence and ideological idiocy; I saw it because I lived in a country that was run by authoritarian socialists just like Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro. And just like pretty much every authoritarian socialist regime, it collapsed in chaos, just as Venezuela is collapsing now.

    Thankfully, my family came to Britain. Here, I found that socialism could be a force for bettering people’s lives as well as for oppression. I also found out that British people did not take kindly to people insulting their intelligence. Forlorn hope is about the soldiers taking high casualties, not the soldiers inflicting high casualties on the people they are supposed to defend.

  8. sackcloth and ashes says:

    ‘We have to educate the British people so that they understand the true reality of Venezuela and demand that the same socialist policies are implemented here’.

    I’m trying to figure out if this remark is a spoof, or whether you happen to be barking mad.

  9. Winston Snith says:

    Instead of attacking the Labour leadership over Venezuela, would not Labour Uncut do better to condemn those inside and outside the country attempting to destabilise the country and effect regime change. The “opposition” has long been organised and funded from outside the country.

    We await your condemning of this.

Leave a Reply