Socialism and left-wing ideas today are commonly associated with democracy, liberalism, and the rejection of government intervention in social life. Yet the records of socialist governments around the world could not be more different.
The ideology that drives Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is the same that has driven Maduro, Chavez, Castro, and others to expand the powers of government while undermining those who would seek to keep it accountable. Their vision of the state as the key instrument to move human progress forward makes this inevitable.
Before we go any further a distinction must be made between socialists and the centre-left. The simplest way to define socialism is through the original Clause IV of Labour’s party constitution (modified by Blair in 1995). It referred to “the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.”
Centre-left governments such as the Blair and Brown administrations were not socialist. Indeed, the former prime ministers are still derided by Corbyn supporters as “red Tories” and active detriments to the left-wing cause. The key is that having a social safety net doesn’t equate to socialism.
Socialists, therefore, believe that the common people and their interests are actively hindered by the “elite establishment”, a term of scorn with no consistent target. Corbynites use the phrase capriciously, with enemies of the people including the wealthy, the media, companies of all kinds, and even Jews.
This idea of a great struggle is, of course, an age-old staple of socialism, and one without which socialist ideas cannot survive. The key to Karl Marx’s philosophy is that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”.
As a result,
The process by which liberty is stripped is strikingly similar among socialist governments, and it is crucial to identify and campaign against it as soon as it becomes evident. Unfortunately, c
For socialists, the stage of power consolidation after election or the seizure of power is a crucial one. The new government will always be under threat and significant “reforms” are always deemed necessary.
Venezuelan socialist Hugo Chavez’s path to complete power is the best available example, as the leader was forced to be far more subtle upon his election in 1998 than socialist states of earlier in the 20th century like Cuba or Albania.
Chavez promised in his presidential oath in 1999 to “drive forth the necessary democratic transformations” in order to have the state serve the people. In practice, this translated to the abolition of the congress and the judiciary as well as the basic democratic right of the people to rid themselves of their government.
Chavez also put his socialist and military allies in key positions. One of these was Hernan Odreman, a radical socialist friend of Chavez who was put in charge of the National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services, responsible for monitoring and suppressing “dissidents” within the country.
To begin with, Chavez stuck to a centre-left and broadly capitalist economic agenda in order to appear moderate, a move that has been replicated by Corbyn in his 2017 Labour manifesto.
After successfully eliminating the country’s democratic checks and balances, however, the leader took more radical steps to take full economic control of the country.
His 2001 land law seized 20 per cent of the most productive agricultural land and resulted in those farms still in private hands
We can be sure that the Labour party under Corbyn would go a good deal further than stated in 2017. Secret plans are already in place, as was revealed by the botched press release of National Grid nationalisation earlier this year.
Labour cannot be trusted to stick to moderate policies because its leadership has a firm record in supporting radical socialist ideas. Indeed, Corbyn stated clearly that “Chavez showed us that there is a different, and a better way of doing things. It’s called socialism”.
Freedom House continually lowered Venezuela’s ranking in terms of civil and political liberties since Chavez’s election in 1998. By 2003, the World Bank concluded that Venezuela was one of the most regulated economies in the world and that people were not free to do as they pleased with their money.
Institutions such as the World Bank, however, could be soundly rejected as rampantly neoliberal servants of the worldwide capitalist “establishment”. John McDonnell recently attacked both the World Bank and the IMF for diminishing “people power” and serving only the interests of capitalism.
Venezuela’s media was, by 2000, subject to heavy censorship through a constitutional article that mandated it published “truthful” information.
Hostility to the press is common among socialists, as evidenced by Corbyn’s insistence that those responsible for the BBC Panorama programme on the antisemitism infesting the Labour party should “consider their positions”. Corbyn has also flirted with the idea of a British digital corporation and “democratic” control of the position of editor.
By 2006, the Venezuelan state controlled all content on radio and television programmes through The Law on the Social Responsibility of Radio and TV.
This reveals another key aspect of socialist thought, summarised best by Carol Hanisch in 1969: “the personal is political”. Hanisch referred specifically to women’s liberation, but threats to the authority of the socialist state can arise from any aspect of society or the economy.
It seems to be an incredible stretch of the imagination that the UK could become anything like Venezuela were Corbyn to come to power. We must realise, however, that a socialist of this calibre has never previously held office in the United Kingdom.
Corbyn and his allies, unlike their predecessors, have consistently supported corrupt, violent, and oppressive regimes across the world simply because they are socialist. John McDonnell has made clear that the UK will bankroll the Cuban regime upon Labour’s ascension to power.
This is the mindset of the hard left. Because socialism is constantly under threat, it must be protected at all costs and to any end. Infringement of liberty is a staple of socialist states, and freedom is simply not a consideration of the hard left.
A particularly chilling element of this mindset was revealed in John McDonnel’s proclamation that he “might want to invent” a law branding Tories as “social criminals”. For socialists, any other strains of political opinion are seen not as part of a healthy democracy but as existential threats that must be wiped out.
And while it’s unlikely that gulags will be introduced in the UK under Corbyn, enemies of the state can expect to be removed from public life and rendered harmless through means such as censorship and informal “courts of public opinion”.
After all, socialist leaders are adept at simulating significant grassroots support and distancing themselves from their actions.
Freedom is not a consideration of Corbyn or any other socialist, and the public must hold him to account when he claims that it is.