Venezuela – why Corbyn should worry

Without the prospect of a hung Parliament, the Conservatives will win the next election. Their strategy? “Look at Venezuela. That is what Corbyn will wreak here in the UK!”

As yet it is mainly a few comments in the comments stream of the Financial Times online, but clueless and nasty as the current government is, they will terrify enough disillusioned voters with the threat of something much worse.

There is no denying that Venezuela has become a failed state, and that Jeremy Corbyn is on record as praising it in happier times. But ‘has become’ is an important caveat. Hugo Chavez came to power – democratically – in 1998, and  began the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ in 1999, yet these two attached FT articles show that the economic collapse has not only been dramatic, but quite abrupt. Emigration from Venezuela was zero until 2012.. The decline in oil production, and hence the worst examples of serious malfunction, did not start until 2017.

Indeed, for many decades not only had there been no emigration from Venezuela, there had been substantial immigration. Much of this was from neighbouring Colombia, riven by internal strife (and without oil), but many stayed, which would hardly have happened without confidence in Venezuela’s future.

Here is. the ‘New Statesman’s take, which we can assume is as favourable account as any from Corbyn’s point of view, but it was written 9 months ago. In the light of the deterioration since then , I fear that it may seem complacent.

To be fair, the New Statesman did express concern in 2015, but mainly over an appalling human rights record, which had worsened under Maduro rather than economic mismanagement.

How plausible is the threat that any of it could happen here? There are neoliberal forces which are determined to suppress anything they perceive as a threat to their global hegemony. Venezuela is not the first, as Chile and Argentina can testify.

Corruption certainly seems to a part of the problem. Oddly enough, Chavez came to power as a result of corruption by his predecessor, but is it fair to imply it would happen on Corbyn’s watch?

But how will proportional representation help? Perhaps I am again clutching at straws (I do it all the time), but if the voters think that Vince Cable will be in the cabinet, Corbyn’s shortcomings will be less of an issue.

As soon as Theresa May called a snap election in April 2017, I changed my mind on the Progressive Alliance. Well, sort of. The prospect of anything from Labour other than implacable hostility never made sense to me.

At that early stage, May seemed on course towards a landslide ‘strong and stable’ victory. Therefore the only obvious hope was to hijack the agenda into being about PR as a result of a hung Parliament. This would involve compromises by all other parties. My suggestion was that although the Green Party could expect nothing in return, certainly from Labour, Greens should not stand where the Con majority over Labour was slim, and with or without any quid pro quo, we would not oppose Lib Dems where they might re-take 2015 losses.

The Conservatives’ seemed to be in a strong position at the time. This strategy presupposed that it would prompt Labour and Lib Dems to do quite a bit of horse trading. Bearing in mind the Conservatives’ not so secret Venezuela weapon, I believe that this scenario is more realistic now than it was in 2017.

But what about Venezuela’s plight? As Chamberlain said of Czechoslovakia in 1939 (paraphrasing slightly), Venezuela is a far off country for which we have no responsibility. But people are starving. If people in Ethiopia starve, the outside world thinks it right to offer aid. But with oil reserves Venezuela should be a donor state.

If intervention was justified in either Iraq or Syria, why not Venezuela?

The Tragedy of the Commons will not seem immediately relevant here, but I have a vision of a sustainable world where everyone, everywhere has access to basic needs, on condition that they, and whatever community of which they form part, observe ecological limits. Outside intervention in Venezuela now would simply be seen, and probably actually be, in pursuance of outside interests., though starving people might be a useful pretext…

The Tragedy is indirectly relevant because growth is still the dominant ideology world-wide. It assumes strategies which facilitate growth, not sustainability. This leads to winners and losers, not co-operation. It needs a rather different mind set to think of intervention to enable Venezuela, with its resources, to play its rightful part in a sustainable global economy

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