Venezuela is not a Warning to Socialists

The political crisis in Venezuela is not “a damning indictment” of socialism as the DAILY TELEGRAPH editorial claimed it was (Venezuela is a warning to Socialists”, 5.August.2017). The editorial wanted to crow over the failure of the social reforms policies undertaken by the Venezuelan government to address the problem of poverty and to use this failure as a stick by which beat Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party with, on the spurious grounds that both the Venezuelan government and Corbyn’s Labour Party have something to do with socialism. They don’t.

Venezuela’s ruling government, first under Hugo Chávez and, later, under Maduro, did promise “equality and justice” to the poor but that promise was based upon rising oil prices. The world market is now glutted with oil and so the price per barrel has tumbled. Such is the unpredictability of capitalism.

However, according to the DAILY TELEGRAPH editorial, before the present government was elected into power in 1999 there was endemic “corruption and poverty” throughout Venezuela. Millions of men, women and children lived in abject destitution. You will not find any DAILY TELEGRAPH articles at the time either lamenting the plight of the poor or attacking the corrupt US backed regimes that were in power during at the time.

Nor did the DAILY TELEGRAPH make much of noise at the attempted coup in 2002 which tried to bring down the legitimate, albeit capitalist government of Hugo Chávez. The DAILY TELEGRAPH has previous form in picking and choosing which coups to support, such as the time in 1973 when President Salvador Allende’s government was overthrown by the CIA-funded military led by General Pinochet. In fact the newspaper was one of Pinochet’s cheer-leaders. Peregrine Worsthorne, then editor of the DAILY TELEGRAPH, defended the conduct of Pinochet's forces during and after the 1973 Chilean coup as the military raped, tortured and murdered anyone who they believed to be a “communist”.

The DAILY TELEGRAPH, by its own admission, exists to serve the interst of “Business” not the working class. You will never find criticism of capitalism in the DAILY TELEGRAPH. Capitalism is a sacred cow. Any economic or social problems are the result of “socialists” or “Marxists”. The profit system is sacrosanct. Yet the cause of poverty in countries such as Venezuela is the workings of capitalism, not socialism. Capitalism has the potential to create conditions of abundance but the profit motive constrains production and distribution to what is profitable to sell. No profit means no production, despite the urgent and often desperate human need for housing, food, education, health and communication.

The DAILY TELEGRAPH is also plugged into so-called “free market” propaganda sites, such as the Cato Institute, who are financially underwritten by the US multi-billionaire Koch brothers. The last thing on the mind of these free- market evangelists from the Cato Institute, whose economic scribblings fill-up the comment pages of newspapers like the DAILY TELEGRAPH, is to give any practical and reasonable thought of how to abolish poverty without imposing some market dystopia upon the world.

The failure of the present Venezuelan regime has nothing to do with “socialist theory” as the DAILY TELEGRAPH editorial misleadingly states, but instead it has everything to do with the failed doctrine of the social reformists who erroneously believe that you can have an equitable distribution of social wealth while simultaneously retaining the private ownership and control of the means of production and distribution to the exclusion of the rest of society.

That the Labour Party is run by men and women who looked favourably on the Venezuelan government of Chávez and his successors has nothing to do with socialism. The present government in Venezuela has no “socialist model” worth considering. It is just a capitalist country. Socialism was never established there by a working class majority thinking and acting in its own interest. A socialist majority has never established the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.

The imposition of new political structures and the imprisonment of opposition leaders may or may not influence the thinking of a future Labour government. However, it is really nothing more than DAILY TELEGRAPH fantasy politics. In fact, if Jeremy Corbyn did gain political power he could well be undermined by forces from the conservative right, civil servant bureaucrats and the army as depicted in Chris Mullin’s novel, “A VERY BRITISH COUP”. As for poverty, the DAILY TELEGRAPH’s editorial is very quiet on the Tories own current Austerity programme which has seen attacks in the UK on the destitute, the ill and the disabled.

Fiction apart, all that will happen if a Labour Government led by Jeremy Corbyn, ever gets elected into power will be the administration of capitalism not socialism. The Labour Party has never been, is not and never will be a socialist party. It does not exist for that purpose. Nationalisation is not a socialist policy and it should be remembered that it was once embraced by the Tories as a means to prevent monopolies and for strategic purposes.

Hugo Chávez died in 2013 and so did not live to see the failure of his social reform programme. His successor, Maduro, has had to carry on with the same set of policies which have now led to attacks on the very poor his government first set out to alleviate. Such is the contradictions of capitalism. That is not to say that the situation has been made worse by the attempts of the US to destabilise the regime. The US politically dislikes any independent government in South America taking decisions not in line with the interests of Washington.

Government failure in Venezuela has seen the poor rush into the outstretched arms of the Catholic Church. According to the DAILY TELEGRAPH editorial, Catholic Bishops recently appealed to the Virgin Mary to save the country from “Communism”. Well, we could add that the children of Venezuela might need saving from the rapacious lust of the Catholic clergy. And has anyone yet seen gaunt-looking Catholic Bishops practicing selfless asceticism? Catholic Bishops live well and are often seen at the dinner tables of the rich and powerful. When communism/socialism is ever established by a majority of socialists, no prayers to the Virgin Mary will prevent commodity production and exchange for profit from being replaced by socialist production directly for social use.

Of course, it must be embarrassing for Jeremy Corbyn and other Labour MPs to see a regime they once supported demonstrably fail and descend into repressive authoritarianism, the imprisonment of critics and the torture of opponents. However, Labour MPs are not socialists. As for the “neo-liberal economics” favoured by the DAILY TELEGRAPH editorial, this dogma died in the financial crash of 2008; just as Keynesianism became toast in the 1970’s when there existed both rising inflation and unemployment - something the theory denied was possible. Political ideas and beliefs do not mould capitalism; capitalism just goes its own way and in the process destroys governments, politicians, economic advisers and their theories.

And again, socialists reject the misplaced belief of the DAILY TELEGRAPH editorial that the “redistribution of wealth is the ultimate goal of socialist politics”. No, the objective of socialist politics is the replacement of capitalism with socialism; an objective completely at odds with the reformist policies of the Venezuelan government and its Labour and ‘social democrat’ supporters, like Jeremy Corbyn, in the UK.

Venezuela is not a warning to socialists. There was no socialist revolution and the regime was always going to fail. You cannot build “socialism in one country,” any more than you can reform capitalism to meet the needs of all society. Socialism not social reform is the only solution to the problems facing the working class in Venezuela and elsewhere in the world.

Back to top

Object and Declaration of Principles


The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

Declaration of Principles


1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.

3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.

6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.