Venezuela: a Corbynite touchstone. An unmitigated human and democratic disaster

by Rob Marchant

It is not for months but, in fact, years that some of us have tried to draw attention to the pathological infatuation of Labour’s hard left (and even some of the soft left) to the Venezuelan regime of Hugo Chávez.

The attraction was straightforward: a kind of “Cuba-lite”, where in contrast defenders could always point to at least some kind of democracy, slanted towards the ruling party with various “cheats” though it was (such as the inequitable use of state television for propaganda). Not to mention, of course, a dazzling oil wealth which could comfortably mask the self-enriching activities of the ruling kleptocracy and still leave a bit of largesse to spread among its voters around election time, in the name of “true socialism”.

Indeed, so attractive was it that some of our current crop of hard-left doyennes, in perhaps less elevated times than they now sit, headed out for the Caribbean in 2012, the October of Chávez’s last election before his death.

Step forward, Diane Abbott and sidekick Owen Jones, “impartial observers” of the election. Except that they weren’t, of course, they were friends of one side only, as I helpfully pointed out to them while they were in Caracas as the guests of the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (run by a Chávez crony, incidentally).

Abbott, as patron of the Chávez-supporting Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, claimed without irony that she was “at pains to say that I wasn’t going to Venezuela to support any particular candidate”. So that’s all right, then.

It was an election, it should be noted, at which there were no international observers from any reputable organisation: only UNASUR, a regional body dominated by Venezuela itself. Then again, for 2012 Abbott, the likelihood of a formal Shadow Cabinet post probably seemed small, especially after various faux pas like the famous “white people love to divide and rule” comment. So she probably paid a little less attention to what might be the impact of her visit.

Oh, how dull and carping we were, who would criticise the Chávez regime or its slanted electoral system. But even then, all the signs were there. Why the need to invite, for want of a better word, your mates, to observe an election? Because, apart from UNASUR, no-one else came to the party. The EU and the UN had been invited to previous elections, why not this one? Could it be that the regime knew it would be heavily criticised for unfairness?

But it has also been obvious for many years how things would end: as they always do, with regimes which cannot let go of power. They have ended that way now. It has been quite an achievement, the frittering away of the world’s largest oil reserves. But it has come to pass.

Starvation, shortage of medicines, violence on the streets and now, a constitutional coup which bypasses Venezuela’s established democracy altogether, with a new chamber which will naturally be “more democratic” (as it will be ruled by the Chavistas). You could not have made a story more redolent of the old Soviet Union if you tried. Venezuelan Democracy, if it is not dead already, is certainly in intensive care.

If you want to know how Labour could have saved itself the bother of wondering whether Venezuela would turn out well or badly these last eighteen years, there was a simple sign right at the beginning, and it comes from a universal law of politics.

Never, ever trust a politician who contrives to award themselves more power. Because it is invariably a one-way street. One of his first acts was to consolidate the two legislative chambers into one increasing his own power; later to abolish presidential term limits. They were to be the first of many creeping constitutional changes, up to this last by Maduro, effectively abolishing democracy altogether.

Erdogan, Putin, Orbán and others have all come from democracies, and all gradually whittled away freedom until little remains: democracy to dictatorship via pseudo-democracy. Maduro is only completing the job that Chávez started.

And so we come to Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time supporter of Venezuela. Can he bring himself to condemn what is effectively a constitutional coup, to strangle democracy in Venezuela? Or the violence meted out to those rightly protesting against this? He cannot. He manages only a mealy-mouthed condemnation of “violence on both sides”, as if somehow both were equally guilty.

But condemnation of both sides, when there is not equal blame, is the last refuge of the knave. It is victim-blaming of the worst kind. And who said that? Why, Corbyn himself.

And the explanation is simple. Iain Macleod once said of Enoch Powell that he was “driven mad by the remorselessness of his own logic”. Corybn, the same kind of marginal figure, is really just the same: his own logic – America bad, anti-America good; left good, right bad – leads him to conclude that despotism is bad when committed by the right; and ok when committed by the anti-American left. It is a shame that an apologist for this would-be dictator continues to lead our party.

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


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10 Responses to “Venezuela: a Corbynite touchstone. An unmitigated human and democratic disaster”

  1. John P Reid says:

    The word injustice these days is handed around by those who don’t like a juries decision, if it’s decided that there’s no case to answer, such as rape cases where otsone persons word against another, if a jury says not guilty, then there was never a rape for the jury to have not reached the decision the accuser would like, so saying that there’s a an injustices because someone feels oppressed is silly

    By the way , hers a good link http://www.labourfirst.org/suggested_contemporary_motions

  2. buttley says:

    when i have bile in my throat, i usually gargle TCP, saves having to type it out.

    However, despite Rob’s predictable cock womble-ing, about Corbyn,

    This is an interesting debacle.

    The Voting machine CEO, holds a press conference, says “we know result is fraud” wow, really, why? “because the opposition didn’t attend the audit”

    However, in order to vote, you had to give your thumb print, to the optical scanner, have it recognised, in real time, for anti dual voting, make computer vote, print vote, check vote, if correct, deposit it in ballot box. The two get tallied, real vote and computer audit.
    = result below 0.1% error is claimed.

    it is a good system, the CEO’s statement is weird at best, and its yet to be challenged or substantiated.

    Statement
    https://www.smartmatic.com/news/article/smartmatic-statement-on-the-recent-constituent-assembly-election-in-venezuela/

    Biometric Stuff
    https://www.smartmatic.com/voting/software/detail/identity-management-system-idms/

    Then Reuters claims to have seen election audits, with 3 or so hours to go before polling closes, saying only 3.5 million votes cast. nothing to back it up as yet, just lots of mud.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-vote-exclusive-idUSKBN1AI0AL?il=0

    Big echo chamber from that one.

    And the Exit polling story, which is objectively dealt with here.

    https://off-guardian.org/2017/08/02/venezuela-elections-resurgent-chavismo-and-unrecognised-democracy/#comments

    and here

    https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/705

    The two opposition dudes are back under house arrest again, having been harangued by a judge, for taking liberties, with their bail conditions.

    https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/13290

    9th Aug

    The CNE (National Electoral Council) announced Tuesday its plans to press charges against the London-based company “Smartmatic” once they have completed the corresponding audits.

    One side in this is bullshitting, time will tell.

  3. Stephen Hildon says:

    “It was an election, it should be noted, at which there were no international observers from any reputable organisation: only UNASUR, a regional body dominated by Venezuela itself.”

    In what way is it dominated by Venezuela? Any evidence for this claim?

    “a constitutional coup which bypasses Venezuela’s established democracy altogether” Is a very strange way of describing what is clearly in the current constitution:

    Article 348: The initiative for calling a National Constituent Assembly may emanate from the President of the Republic sitting with the Cabinet of Ministers; from the National Assembly, by a two-thirds vote of its members; from the Municipal Councils in open session, by a two-thirds vote of their members; and from 15% of the voters registered with the Civil and Electoral Registry.

    “He manages only a mealy-mouthed condemnation of “violence on both sides”, as if somehow both were equally guilty.”

    The violent protesters have killed many more including an ANC candidate.

    What Rob should be worrying about is if the oligarch backed violent protesters overthrow the government and turn Venezuela into 1973 Chile. If that happens he will have been supporting the wrong side all along. 2002 is not a good harbinger of what might happen.

  4. steve says:

    “Corybn, the same kind of marginal figure, is really just the same: his own logic – America bad, anti-America good; left good, right bad”

    Faulty analysis here, Rob. There is no kudos in failed attempts at point-scoring. You may find it comforting to link Corbyn to Enoch Powell but a figure who is leader of the opposition and has a very good chance of becoming the next PM is in no sense a marginal figure.

    By casting Corbyn as marginal it appears you intend to justify your continued presence in the Labour Party: Corbyn is marginal therefore he can be sidelined as was Powell. And then all will be well.

    However, that is a fairy tale. It’s not going to happen because of a range of factors – not least the 40% of the vote achieved by Labour under Corbyn (against your expectation) in the recent general election.

    If you really believe there is shame in having Corbyn as leader there is only one thing you should do. Yet you fail to follow your own logic and continue supporting Corbyn by paying your subscription to the LP.

  5. paul barker says:

    Less than 24 hours & you have 5 Corbynite Trills already, thats good going for a moribund site like this.
    It might be more to the point if you explained just what you are actually doing to stop Corbyn becoming our Chavez ?

  6. Ed says:

    Quite right Steve. Rob needs to keep up with the times. It’s Mr Blair who’s the marginal figure, now. Coming soon: Rob on, Wasn’t life great under Pinochet?

  7. e says:

    There’s a rather fatuous premise there Mr Baker.

  8. john P Reid says:

    I’m ashamed to be in the same party as Corbyn, now
    he’s said that trump hasn’t done enough to condemn the neo Nazis in the USA and the fact he hasn’t condemned Venezuela isn’t comparable, who’s he to say that hi slack of condemnation in Venezuela is ok, but trumps isn’t its one rule for one group ,one rule for another apparently if a far left mass murderer, carries it out ,it’s for the common good of the people ,but if a right winger does it ,it isn’t so the left wing murderer doing it ,Is ok.

  9. MarkL says:

    I’m not convinced that Chavez committed any serious election fraud or stole huge amounts from the country. We have yet to see the actual evidence. What we have are allegations based on assumptions.

    No doubt he sailed close to the wind on trying to skirt democracy, but doesn’t every politician who gets power? Look at the “Moderates” in Labour trying to rig the internal democracy for their own good. That is politicians for you.

    What we cannot doubt is that he lifted very many out of outright poverty and improved healthcare and education for a large number of his citisens.

    I will hold off on judgement until I see some proof or at least a damn sight more serious evidence than we have been shown to date.

    As for the “guilt by association” strategy of the anti-Corbynites? Well they have already proven that there are no depths to which they will not go…

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