他们的结论——因为委内瑞拉的社会主义出了毛病，所以“失信的社会主义意识形态必须被丢进历史的垃圾箱”——再次说明作者是多么鲁莽自利、轻慢无知，才拼凑出一篇符合编辑部立场的文章。他们连连贯的句子都写不出，甚至写得还不如那篇读起来牙齿都磕绊不断的《科尔宾同志的宫廷政变》（Comrade Corbyn’s Palace Coup）。
My favourite sketch in the surrealist comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus is the one where working-class Venezuelans take to the streets, demanding neoliberal economic reforms. Okay, I made that one up myself. But it speaks to the absurdity of the idea that we can only imagine it in Python. This did not stop The Telegraph from making such an assertion. As their editorial explained, ‘today, nationalisation is a dirty word in Venezuela, and people are clamouring for their industries to be privatised again’. This is seen as common sense, so no evidence needs to be given - not even a fake quotation from a fictional farmer named Fernando.
Their conclusion - that, because it didn’t work in Venezuela, ‘the discredited ideology of socialism must be consigned to the dustbin of history’ - is just another example of their conjuring editorial positions out of reckless self-interest and blithe ignorance. It’s not so much a coherent sentence as the sound of teeth chattering at the prospect of Comrade Corbyn’s Palace Coup - they admit so much in the headline. Not even well-meaning, The Telegraph has been, consistently, spectacularly, the densest of all Western broadsheets. (Like being the gayest of The Village People, this is no mean feat.) Fired by the zeal of International Liberalism and an ignorance of local social, historical, and political circumstances, The Telegraph is representative of an ideology in which everyone wants to be them.
To claim that Venezuela’s failure means that socialism can and will never work is no different from using an unplugged dishwasher as evidence of the universal, inevitable failure of such appliances. All the conditions needed for socialism, or any political philosophy, to function, are absent: this is the Venezuelan Problem. President Maduro’s senseless economic policies are itself just a symptom of endemic problems with governance in the state. Indeed, Western analysis of the tragedy has repeatedly made a distinction between the poor policymaking of the regime and the corrupt government - in other words, policies were seen as being destructive even in a non-corrupt political environment. An understanding of Venezuelan history teaches us that the two are indistinct. The West is wilfully ignorant because it has already decided on the conclusion to which its analysis will come. However, a glance at the findings made by the father of Venezuela’s independence movement, Simon Bolivar, can show us the deep historical problems which the country is yet to overcome - of which today’s socialism is merely a symptom.
It is modern Venezuela’s Bacchanal tragedy that its enormous natural wealth should be the reason for its underdevelopment and persistently revolutionary population. 500 years ago, when the Conquistadors landed, the country was already rich, so there was no need to build structures that could create and spread wealth, as was the case in North America. Since the indigenous population was not wiped out, the colonialists remained a minority - a Creole elite, which upon independence in 1811, owned nearly all the land despite consisting of only 1% of the people. Following subsequent coups by this group, political Marxism became a far more compelling ideology. Compare the supple British constitution, resistant of revolution but encouraging of reform, with Venezuela’s. It has had 26 of them - last time I checked.
Deep in despondency, and far away in exile, Simon Bolivar understood contemporary Venezuela more than anyone in the Western world today - and he's been dead for 200 years. Because ‘we were neither magistrates, nor financiers, and seldom merchants’, he claimed that representative institutions were unsuitable for Venezuela. His conclusion is even more difficult for modern liberals to accept. He asked, ‘with such a racial mixture, and such a moral record, can we afford to place laws above leaders and principles above man?’. In 1828, Bolivar enshrined a constitution where neither property nor law existed, but only the man - he, as dictator for life, with the freedom to choose his successor. This was a privilege Chavez would later enjoy.
We can now put modern Venezuelan policymaking into perspective. Western media outlets have reported the price controls and market distortions - undoubtedly clumsy and ill-conceived - as economic Marxism in action. But the economic rationalisation is just a smokescreen for that intractable affliction Bolivar simultaneously celebrated and decried: the man above the law. Based on the perplexing monetary arrangement in which Venezuela trades on three different currency exchanges, President Maduro and his cronies are able to sell dollars at 50,000 times the rate at which they buy them. Is this socialism, or the post-modern iteration of Bolivar’s unaccountable despotism?
However, there is hope: evidence that the Venezuelan Problem can be answered. It also shows that the poor policymaking of the regime and corruption are indistinct. Working in similar conditions, Bolivia has made similar policy goals successful. Its socialists have succeeded in maintaining strong growth and significantly reducing poverty in what are, arguably, more difficult circumstances. Bolivia has a greater history of fiscal mismanagement. Over the past 50 years, their inflation rate has averaged at 281%. It is currently at 3.01%. Over a similar period, Venezuela’s has averaged at 94% - by all means princely, but small by comparison. It is now at 13,000%. Bolivia has also experienced less of a commodities boom. When the socialist president, Evo Morales, came to power in 2004, the export revenue was $2.2 billion. By 2014, it had grown to $16.85 billion. On the other hand, Venezuela’s grew from $23 billion to $153 billion.
Bolivia doesn’t find itself sliding into Venezuela’s situation because during its economic boom, Morales’ administration saved, running budget surpluses rather than deficits. Since Bolivia’s experience of a similar socio-economic breakdown in 1982 (when inflation hit 24,000%), political pragmatism and successful reforms have been possible thanks to a strong plurinational settlement. Cultural sensitivity, the removal of the military from politics, and the encouragement of foreign investment (tempering ideological Marxism) were central to this. This good government was a resolution of the Conquistadors’ legacy. This - particularly the depoliticisation of the military - is not addressed in the answers to the Venezuelan Problem provided by the Western media, which ignore local circumstances.
The Financial Times has written that ‘the aim is not regime change per se,’ before offering a vision of just that - ‘rather an administration that abides by the constitution, stabilises the economy, allows for elections, and liberates political prisoners’. Colombia’s president has similarly suggested a ‘rise of factors inside power that enjoy military support, restore democracy and the legitimacy of the constitution, and hold elections quickly’. The New York Times has stated that ‘the question is how to get rid of Mr Maduro before he completes the destruction of his country’. This assertion is quickly - and coincidentally, I am sure - followed by a reminder that Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, before continuing ‘but that emphatically does not mean American military action, as hinted by President Trump… It’s hard to see how regime change led by the Trump administration would improve Venezuela’s lot’. The insinuation seems to be that regime change would be fine under the former tree-hugging, drone-driving fist-bumper-in-chief.
This time, with their policy of regime change but not regime change, it is the liberals engaged in the supposedly Marxist innovation of double-think. Three facts are essential: the political prisoners are mainly those who led the 2002 military coup; the director of Latin America for the liberal Eurasia group said before the recent election that Maduro would win even if it were free and fair; and the only constitution that has any credibility in Venezuela is the unwritten one that says constitutions have no credibility. Therefore, the FT and Colombia have called for the restoration of a liberal, democratic system which has never existed, and a constitution that has never had any legitimacy, by a military coup against a regime that has majority support. This resembles the 60s not only in its affection for military dictatorships, but warped sense of reality.
The New York Times’ solution of increased sanctions and support for the opposition is perhaps more thoughtless. Since Maduro apparently threatened to revoke food rations from those who did not vote for him, and sanctions tend to inflict most damage on the poorest, such Western moves will only allow the president to blame America for problems that are his own making. Latin American politicians are well-practised in this. Additionally, elections are neither free nor fair if the opposition is being backed by foreign powers - the Times ought to understand this better than most, given their paranoia over Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
Western aggression would be seen as an attempt to restore neoliberalism in Venezuela, of which there is genuine resentment amongst Maduro’s core vote. The 20 years of such policy saw poverty rise by 45%. Chavez’s popularity drew from his success in rolling much of this back, halving poverty from 50% to 25%, and extreme poverty by two-thirds. Although I don’t believe opposition leaders should be thrown in jail, Western elites must understand how difficult it is for Venezuelans to believe there would be any less political repression under a US-endorsed regime. The imprisonment of a few isolated figures hostile to their life-chances and sense of pride is unlikely to faze them. The Caracazo riots, in response to the reforms of a president who called the neoliberal IMF ‘a neutron bomb that kills people’ before implementing the neoliberal reforms of the said organisation, saw up to 2,000 deaths and the suspension of most of the articles in the constitution guaranteeing personal liberty.
The last experiment in Venezuelan neoliberalism led to levels of social unrest arguably worse than that seen today. Its shadow looms large over the threats of regime change - yet it is undoubtedly the end the West has in sight. In Western minds, socialism is our invention (founded in the British Library), and one that we have realised doesn’t work - a finding that the rest of the world will slowly, but surely come to also. In the quietly bigoted idea of ‘developmental stages’ (which has more than a hint of Marx to it), we are steps ahead of the world - by hook or by crook, they will soon see the errors of their ways. Thus the failure of socialism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, blinding liberals from any examination of unique circumstances at play. However, the West’s conviction that the low and middle income countries of the world are ‘developing’ (a term not used accidentally), and doing so towards the model of the en vogue liberalism of the time, is coming under greater scrutiny. It simply doesn’t bear out in the facts - nobody would describe China or Russia as becoming more ‘liberal’.
This is today’s form of white supremacy. In a depraved kind of way, the Western response to the Venezuelan crisis shows how contemporary thinking is almost worse in this regard than during the age of empire - a time which has become synonymous with racism. In the logic of liberalism, it follows that intervention - by invasion or imperialism - expedites the coming of a Western political system (the universal end), and therefore alleviates suffering.
But in this post-Iraq world, we are at our most benevolent when we let ‘developing’ countries get on with the inexorable march of International Liberalism alone - with less inward investment than that offered by the British Empire, and less security than that found in Occupied Iraq - rather than forcing our creed upon them. At worst, we inflict crippling sanctions, or less tactfully, bomb them - both of which hurt the already-suffering poorest most.
Certain political and economic conditions and policies should not be demanded in exchange for aid - only an insistence upon non-corrupt government. This mustn’t be done through shock therapy, but gradually. It should be state-led, but not dogmatic. If this is followed, sovereign states will be able to forge their own paths.
Nowadays, rather than inflicting the terror of creating political institutions which give the vulnerable security and create some wealth, we have the self-control to restrain ourselves to spitting in the faces of the normal men and women who have no responsibility over the fiscal policies of their state - how very liberal of us!本文系观察者网独家稿件，文章内容纯属作者个人观点，不代表平台观点，未经授权，不得转载，否则将追究法律责任。关注观察者网微信guanchacn，每日阅读趣味文章。