As we know, the new Labour Party is a fan of mass movement politics, with big protest marches and people power on the streets. So presumably he’ll be cheered by news that almost one million Venezuelans marched through Caracas last night.
Well, perhaps not: because this particular expression of people power was a protest against Nicolas Maduro, the president who is the current champion of the country’s particularly catastrophic brand of left-wing politics: Chavismo.
It’s unsurprising that Venezuelans are unhappy. Inflation is soaring, basic goods like toilet paper are unavailable, blackouts and electricity rationing are common, people are dying of preventible illnesses due to the lack of essential medical supplies, pets and pigeons are being slaughtered for food and zoo animals are starving to death in their cages. The response from the government has been as predictable as its economic failure: TV stations have been seized, independent newspapers driven out of business, social media is censored, journalists and bloggers are thrown in jail (in the name of a “socially responsible” media), dissidents are jailed and tortured. The latest economic innovation is a law which introduced a system of forced farm labour for Venezuelan citizens to try to end the food shortages.
As we noted back in April, Corbyn was a cheerleader for “the achievements of Venezuela” as recently as June 2015. He has been strangely silent on the topic in recent months – and his archive of articles and speeches on the topic has been deleted from his website.
He isn’t alone. Richard Burgon, the Shadow Justice Secretary and keen advocate of the worst type of student politics, is also quite the fan:
Shoulder-to-shoulder for Venezuela, for democracy for public services & against free-market fundamentalism: pic.twitter.com/sfOH0XV6Ue
— Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) 6 June 2015
Like his boss, Burgon has also had rather less to say on the “alternative” offered by Chavismo lately.
A motley list of MPs (including Corbyn) also signed EDMs lionising Chavez for “the way he spoke for the poorest and most marginalised people in Latin America” and hailing Maduro’s pledge to “continue Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution”.
For any ordinary group of politicians, heartily endorsing such a catastrophic and brutal regime would be a shocking error at best. Decent people who naively took Maduro at his word and later found they had been misled into supporting the ongoing ruination of a country would ordinarily apologise for their mistake – and even then they would struggle to live it down. The fact that Corbyn, Burgon et al have failed to do so, and have instead simply fallen silent on the topic, speaks volumes.
The trajectory which Venezuela’s “socialist revolution” would take – nose-diving into poverty, misery and brutal oppression – was obvious from the start to any student of politics or history. Those who saw it happen the first time, in Soviet Russia, and closed their eyes to the reality were known in Moscow as “useful idiots”. Those who still haven’t learned the lesson after almost a century and commit the same sins of omission and evasion today are more fairly described as simply idiots.