This is a story about three donkeys, and what brings them together to illustrate, perhaps better than anything else, the socialist disaster that is Venezuela.
Donkey number one
This is the donkey that represents economic collapse and a broken promise. This innocuous animal in Spanish is known as the burro.
In the Venezuelan state of Falcon just three years ago, burros were so numerous that they were an outright nuisance. Herds of them would cause collisions on roads and block airport runways. Now you would be hard pressed to find one in the Andean mountain hills or the coastal lowlands of Falcon. And that is because thousands of them have been slaughtered by starved Venezuelans in the socialist famine it is now experiencing.
In a land where routine expropriation of prosperous private farms results in useless “collectively-run initiatives”, beef and veal production have fallen 75 per cent from 1998 to 2014, so it is no surprise that Venezuelans are turning to wildlife for sustenance.
Following Chavez’s 2001 land law, 20 per cent of agricultural land was, by 2010, seized by the government, and the remaining farms do not invest or drive their businesses forward for fear of the same fate. Maize, rice, potato, and coffee production have all fallen by over 40 per cent since 2007.
The industrious Cariaco sugar plant was nationalised and within two years was producing 11 per cent of its previous output. Supermarket chains were combined into the state-owned Bicentennial Supplies, which has now shut 60 per cent of its shops and left 9,000 workers unemployed.
With Venezuelans losing an average of 12kg in 2017 and 60 per cent of them waking up feeling hungry each day, it is no surprise that the innocuous donkey was the only way for the people to keep themselves alive.
Donkey number two
This donkey is characteristic of a land “for the many, not the few”. It is a donkey that wandered into the hands of two Venezuelan firemen in September this year, and one that would affect the rest of their lives.
The firemen capitalised on the appearance of the donkey and videoed the animal while pretending it was President Nicolas Maduro, a figure sometimes referred to by his opponents as “Maburro”. The stunt was picked up by military counter-intelligence officers who arrested the men, and they now face up to 20 years in prison for this “hate crime”.
The tale of the second donkey is one that is characteristic to socialist states: while leftists globally raise the banner of freedom of political expression, the reality is always very different indeed.
This is because of the unshakeable attitude of socialists in power: their system can never fail, it is only ever “sabotaged” or “undercut” by enemies of the people; those who seek to deprive the common workers of their collective dream. It is the toxic mindset that grows as a socialist state begins to deteriorate and its leaders turn to authoritarianism for protection. And they always deteriorate, and so they always become authoritarian. One must only look at Stalin’s purges or the Berlin Wall to see this in action.
We even see this underlying mentality across the West’s left-wing parties. They speak of “freeing” the press from vile right-wing barons, of barring dangerous figures from their “platforms” in the media or universities, and of seeking to purge “hate” wherever it can be found.
Donkey number three
This is a very different kind of donkey. It is one that has been supporting and praising Venezuelan Marxism, and even today fails to denounce the regime that has caused mass starvation, the destruction of its health system, and the largest refugee crisis that South America has ever seen. Leading Corbynite figures like Owen Jones and Seumas Milne travelled to Venezuela and praised it without reserve.
“We celebrate – and it is a cause for celebration – the achievements of Venezuela… its role in the whole world as a completely different place… we recognise what they have achieved, and how they’re trying to achieve it”, said Jeremy Corbyn as recently as 2015.
Some leftists like Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson continue to support the regime publicly, and Diane Abbot still employs in her office the coordinator of the disgraceful pro-regime propagandist Venezuelan Solidarity Campaign.
But, now that Venezuelans are starving, persecuted and killed by the regime, most of our socialist donkeys in Britain have fallen silent. However, they still support the Chavista policies of price and currency controls, nationalisation, and the abolition of press freedoms that have led to the Venezuelan crisis.
“Chávez showed us that there is a different, and a better way of doing things. It’s called socialism”, said Corbyn.
He is not, however, prepared to either explain or defend the Venezuelan disaster and why those same policies would not lead to the same results here.
In reality, donkeys are innocent, blundering, and innocuous – and the left is far from that. As Venezuela now illustrates, the socialists of today are – as they always have been – ruthless, cold-hearted and calculating. We must not allow them to take us for donkeys and lead us to misery.