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The Man Who Predicted the Venezuelan Catastrophe in 1893

On 19 August, the Guardian reported that Venezuelans fleeing their country’s economic, political, and humanitarian crisis are being attacked by natives of neighbouring countries, who have grown weary of the relentless influx of migrants (a term that sounds increasingly euphemistic—’refugees’ is a more accurate descriptor). For nearly 20 years, Venezuela’s regime has blamed foreign actors and ‘neoliberal’ subversives for every woe and calamity that has befallen the country. But the disastrous results of the Bolivarian socialist experiment were both predictable and widely predicted—and not just by contemporary observers and analysts. They were also foretold 125 years ago by a now-obscure German politician, journalist, and author named Eugen Richter.

Richter was what we would now call a ‘classical liberal.’ He appraised socialist doctrine before an actual socialist state put theory into practice, and he found it wanting. In 1893, he turned his concerns into a dystopian novella entitled Pictures of the Socialistic Future, in which he vividly predicted what would happen if the socialists of his day were to gain control of the German economy. Narrated by a devout socialist, the novel tracks the course of events as the party and its members labor to implement their utopian vision. The narrator documents the tragic consequences of the government’s policies on his family—his wife Paula, his son Franz, and his daughter-in-law Agnes. What starts as a joyous, popular revolution soon disintegrates into a socioeconomic nightmare, and the conflicted narrator, who initially resorts to excuses, finally has to confront the real reasons for the tragedy.

Eugen Richter (1838-1906)

Richter’s novel lacks the literary flair of Orwell’s totalitarian allegories. But it is impressive for another reason. History has revealed Richter’s political and economic insights about the inevitable fate of socialist experiments to be a warning of eerie prescience. In what follows, I juxtapose excerpts from Richter’s bleak portrait of a socialist future with contemporary reports from Venezuela, drawn from a cross-section of media.

To appropriate any human tragedy with the sole purpose of scoring political points against one’s ideological opponents is deplorable. The case of Venezuela is no different. Unfortunately, some opponents of socialism have been engaging in a ghoulish and gloating triumphalism. I do not intend to echo that sentiment here. Instead, what follows is an expression of frustration and anger. The unfortunate truth is that libertarians, centrists, conservatives, and liberals have all been sounding the alarm for a long time now, but have had their warnings blithely dismissed by ideological fellow travellers, even as an oil-rich nation has been plunged into an entirely avoidable political and economic catastrophe. It is long past time for some hard lessons to be learned.

*     *     *

Pictures of the Socialistic Future: “None but absolutely reliable Socialists are allowed on the Onward [nationalised newspaper] … Franz will have it, that politics have had something to do with the assignment of labour.” (p. 16)

“While the opposition roundly criticized the new law when it was first introduced in October 2001, the real problems within PDVSA [Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company] did not begin until Chávez decided to fire his appointment to the presidency of PDVSA, General Guaicaipuro Lameda, in February 2002 … Chávez replaced Lameda with Gaston Parra, a leftist economist and former president of the Central Bank of Venezuela. Also, he appointed five new members to PDVSA’s board of directors. Lameda, together with members of PDVSA’s upper management charged that Chávez was politicizing PDVSA by appointing individuals to the board on the basis of political loyalty, rather than merit.” The Economics, Culture, and Politics of Oil in Venezuela, venezuelanalysis.com, 30 August 2003.

A decree has been issued against all emigration without the permission of the authorities … The main thing was to take care that they did not take money or money’s worth with them over the frontier.” (p. 51-52)

“Recent records show that 1.5 million Venezuelans have left the country since 1999. This number has only kept growing as Venezuela’s economy spirals out of control. Many Venezuelans aspire to leave the country since the highly politicized Central Bank has completely devalued the national currency, the bolivar, with its inflationary policies. But those seeking economic exile must also face capital and currency controls in order to leave in the first place. First implemented by Hugo Chávez in 2003, these measures were used to stem the capital flight caused by the 2002 oil workers’ strike. These capital controls started out as measures that targeted the rich in order to supposedly rein in their greed and their ability to move vast sums of capital abroad. History, however, has shown that regulations that start out solely targeting the rich eventually turn into all-encompassing controls that affect all social classes.” The Human Cost of Venezuela’s Capital Control Nightmare, PanAm Post, 18 February 2016.

[W]hat Franz does not quite like … is the way they have now of spinning the work out so. In spite of sure and regular wages, they say, ‘if the job is not finished today, it will be finished tomorrow.'” (p. 56)

Diligence and zeal are looked upon as stupidity and perversity. And indeed why should one be industrious? The most diligent comes off no better than the laziest. No one is any longer … the forger of the links of his own happiness.” (p. 57)

“A plethora of ostensibly pro-worker decrees have been passed in recent years, culminating in a 2012 labour law known as the LOTTT. The law includes a virtual ban on dismissals, a shorter working week and improved holiday and maternity benefits. In December, Mr Maduro renewed a decree, in force for the past decade, which makes it almost impossible for private firms to fire workers. Under the LOTTT, job security is virtually guaranteed after the first month. The result, employers say, has been absenteeism rates ranging from 15 percent to 40 percent of the workforce, depending on the industry and the time of year. Under these circumstances most firms are unsurprisingly reluctant to recruit. Luis Alfredo Araque, who chairs the labour commission of the main employers’ federation, Fedecámaras, says businesses are being bankrupted by unproductive workers: “I know one American company here, which is paying 250 workers to stay at home rather than come to work and cause trouble.” Labour-ministry inspectors refuse to approve dismissals, whatever the grounds, leaving many employers with no choice but to bribe workers to leave.” Labour’s Love Lost, The Economist, 25 January 2014.

Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And this very spirit of selfishness which we see so much of in our workshops, what is it other than the evil inheritance left us by a state of society in which every man strove to gain an advantage over every other man? Our new schools and institutions will very soon create that ‘moral atmosphere’ in which the tree of socialism will grow and flourish.” (p. 60)

“Juan Carlos Loyo, deputy minister of the popular economy, noting that community service has been part of the cooperative creed since its beginning, asks for patience: ‘We know that we are coming from a capitalist lifestyle that is profoundly individualistic and self-centered.’ Marcela Maspero, a national coordinator of the new, Chavista UNT labor federation, acknowledges ‘the risk of converting our comrades into neo-liberal capitalists.’” Venezuela’s Cooperative Revolution, Dollars and Sense, July/August 2006

“President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela during the swearing in ceremony of his new cabinet gave a fiery speech in which he announced a series of radical measures … Other measures he outlined included that of setting up a ‘Bolivarian popular education.’ He explained that this would ‘deepen the new values and demolish the old values of individualism, capitalism, of egotism.’” Chavez Announces Radical Measures Against Capitalism, Marxist.com, 9 January 2007

For a long time past there have been signs in all directions that something or other was wrong. When going to make purchases, you were told, only too often, that such and such an article had just run out of stock, and that a fresh supply would not come in for some little time. It now comes out, however, that this was due, not to an increase in the demand, but to a decrease in the supply.” (p. 93)

“In 2013, President of the Venezuelan government’s Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE — National Institute of Statistics) Elias Eljuri suggested that all shortages in the country were due to Venezuelans’ eating, saying that ’95 percent of people eat three or more meals a day’ while referencing a national survey. Data provided by the Venezuelan government’s statistical office instead showed that in 2013, food consumption by Venezuelans actually decreased.” Shortages in Venezuela, Wikipedia

Food shortages in the Central Madeirense supermarket (2014)

All stores for daily consumption seem to have dwindled down to a minimum. The only stocks we have are of such things that there is little or no demand for.” (p. 95)

“With prolonged shortages of basic foods, Venezuelans have been forced to shift their diets to whatever they can find. And what they can find is not necessarily healthy. Milk, meat, and beans—the main sources of protein in the Venezuelan diet—are hard to find or sold at exorbitant prices, and many are filling up on empty carbs from pasta, rice, and the traditional arepa cornmeal cake. ‘These fill you up and make you fat but they are not nutritious,’ said nutritionist Héctor Cruces. ‘Viscera are high in fat and low on protein.’ A study revealed last month by Venezuela’s top three universities showed that 12 percent of those polled said they were eating less than three meals a day ‘And those who do have access to three meals have seen a deterioration in the quality of their diet,’ said Marianella Herrera-Cuenca, of the Bengoa Foundation, an NGO dedicated to promoting nutrition. Children and the elderly are hardest hit. Investigators from the Bengoa Foundation said a sampling of 4,000 school-aged children showed 30 percent were malnourished and that school absences were on the rise.” Food Shortages Take Toll on Venezuelans’ Diet, the Guardian, 24 May 2016

“Venezuelans have been living with shortages of food and essential items for nearly three years as the oil-dependent economy began to buckle. And patience is wearing thin. The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict registered 2,138 protests between January and April, most of them spontaneous manifestations of anger or frustration. Incidents of looting have nearly quadrupled in the same time. ‘We are like a bomb going tick-tock, tick-tock,’ said Zenovia Villegas, a 54-year-old housewife who waited in line at a Guarenas supermarket since the early hours of Thursday only to be told at 3pm that the store would not be opening its doors that day. Dejected, she went home empty-handed.” We Are Like a Bomb: Food Riots Show Venezuela Crisis Has Gone Beyond Politics, the Guardian, 20 May 2016

Even the most indispensable repairs are constantly postponed. No longer is there a syllable dropped about alterations and improvements anywhere, about the renewal of machinery and stores; about the building of new mills … or about the construction of new railways.” (p. 94)

“China Railway Group’s railway project in Venezuela is suffering delays because the Venezuelan government is unable to pay the entire US$7.5 billion contract. When the deal was announced in August 2009, it was China’s largest overseas rail construction project and the Latin American nation’s largest non-oil contract. Venezuela is a major oil exporter to China, which pays for its imports partly through infrastructure projects. The Venezuelan government owes China Railway US$400 million to US$500 million, said Li Changjin, the chairman of China Railway, which is listed in Hong Kong and Shanghai.” China Railway Group’s Project in Venezuela Hits a Snag, South China Morning Post, 11 April 2013

“Venezuela was plunged into darkness on Tuesday when the country’s main power distribution network failed, depriving 70 percent of the country of electricity and creating traffic chaos in much of Caracas. The electrical energy minister, Jesse Chacón, appeared on state TV to explain that the failure was in the ‘backbone’ that carries electricity from the Bajo Caroni region, where 60 percent of Venezuela’s power is generated. President Nicolás Maduro said on Tuesday night that 14 of 23 states had lost power for much of the day and blamed ‘sabotage,’ suggesting opposition groups were responsible. He said service had been progressively restored with some exceptions, including the oil-producing state of Zulia. Maduro blamed ‘the extreme rightwing,’ as he has in the past, via Twitter. Power was restored in Caracas by nightfall. Despite possessing the world’s largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela has been plagued in recent years by worsening power outages, but they have rarely reached metropolitan Caracas, home to more than one-sixth of the country’s 28 million people … In an evening broadcast on state TV, he claimed the outage was ‘part of a low-level war’ on what his government refers to as ‘the revolution’ begun by the late president Hugo Chávez, Maduro’s political mentor but provided no evidence to support his accusations of sabotage.” Power Cut Paralyses Venezuela, the Guardian, 4 September 2013

“The government … went on the assumption that [the nation’s productivity] would remain at least the same, and would not diminish … A short time, however, sufficed to show that the nation’s productiveness sank down to one-third of what it had formerly been…” (p. 96)

“According to economist Ángel Alayón, ‘the Venezuelan government has direct control over food distribution in Venezuela’ and that the movement of all food, even among private companies, is controlled by the government. Alayón states that the problem is not distribution, however, but production since ‘nobody can distribute what is not produced.’ Expropriations performed by the Venezuelan government resulted in a drop in production in Venezuela. According to Miguel Angel Santos, a researcher at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University, as a result of expropriations of private means of production since 2004, ‘production was destroyed,’ while a ‘wave of consumption based on imports’ occurred when Venezuela had abundant oil money.” Shortages in Venezuela, Wikipedia

The government party shows considerable confidence … it calls upon all other parties, as true patriots, to forget their differences, and to unite and form a grand Party of Order, in opposition to the party of negation and demolition, which was stealthily increasing and which, under the enticing name of a Party of Freedom, sought to ingratiate itself with the nation.” (p. 84)

The Chancellor — The fact of a considerable diminution in productive values having taken place in our country, a diminution so great that these values are now only one-third of what they were before the great Revolution, is a fact that it ill becomes us either to be-laugh or be-moan but which we must all endeavour to grasp and comprehend. Prominent amongst the causes of that retrogression are the opponents of our socialistic system.” (p. 96)

Our export trade has fallen off to an alarming extent, partly owing to … the aversion which the bourgeois nations show to our manufacturing system.” (p.102)

They try to appease the ill-humours of their populations by directing attention to foreign affairs.” (p. 121)

“‘We must take all measures to recover productive capacity, which is being paralysed by the bourgeoisie,’ Mr Maduro told a rally in Caracas. ‘Anyone who wants to halt [production] to sabotage the country should get out, and those who do must be handcuffed and sent to the PGV [Venezuelan General Penitentiary],’ he said. ‘We’re going to tell imperialism and the international Right that the people are present, with their farm instruments in one hand and a gun in the other … to defend this sacred land,’ he added.” Venezuela Crisis: Maduro Threatens Seizure of Closed Factories, BBC, 15 May 2016

“On Wednesday, more than 1,000 police fanned out around the western city of Maracaibo after a night of riots. More than 100 people were arrested there for looting that damaged dozens of businesses, according to local governor Francisco Arias, who supports the Maduro government. Venezuela is among the world’s most violent countries, and crime generally spikes here when the lights go out. Maduro condemned the night of protests, and said his political enemies were trying to sow chaos and sabotage him. ‘The crazy right wing doesn’t understand that in hard times, a family has to band together,’ he said. ‘They’re trying to create a violent situation.’” Maduro Blames the ‘Crazy Right’ for Riots Sparked by Daily Several Hours Blackouts, Merco Press, 28 April 2016

“Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared a 60-day state of emergency on Friday due to what he called plots from within the OPEC country and from the US to topple his leftist government. Maduro did not provide details of the measure. A previous state of emergency, implemented in states near the Colombian border last year, suspended constitutional guarantees in those areas, except for guarantees relating to human rights.” Venezuela President Declares 60-Day State of Emergency, Blaming US for Instability, the Guardian, 14 May 2016

The fact that we, on our part, now require no more silk … is but a meagre compensation for the loss of our export trade, amounting to many millions.” (p. 81)

From month to month, the deficit seems to grow greater and greater instead of less, in spite of all attempts to grapple with the difficulty. Even the stocks of raw material and auxiliary material begin to show signs of not being long able to keep the various works fully going.” (p. 95)

“Chavez’s so-called back-to-the-land movement calls for the redistribution of land —increasingly properties that the state has taken over in what officials term a ‘rescue’ or ‘recuperation.’ The objective is to ensure ‘food sovereignty,’ thereby reducing dependence on imports. But nearly five years after the measures were implemented nationwide, farmers and agriculture experts say, Venezuela is not only far from self-sufficient in food, but also more dependent than ever on foreign countries. Food imports rose to $7.5 billion last year, a sixfold increase since Chávez took power a decade ago … In most cases, the so-called reforms have failed to spur production. Felicia Escobar, a lawyer and consultant on land issues who used to work for the Agriculture Ministry, said land redistribution has failed across the continent because farmers are not given incentives to produce and governments have not provided adequate credit or technical assistance. She said that in Venezuela, the new farmers are not even given title to the lands they occupy. In some cases, they are grouped into communes and expected to work as a unit, with little stake in their plots. ‘That is socialism,’ she said. ‘It did not work before, and it does not work now.'” In Venezuela, Land ‘Rescue’ Hopes Unmet, Washington Post, 20 June 2009

“Franz has proved to be right in his forecast of the results of the elections. In his last letter he expressed his belief that, in a community in which there was no longer any personal or commercial freedom, even the freest form of government would fail to restore any political independence. He considered that those subjects who are so dependent upon the Government, even in the most ordinary affairs of life, as is now the case with us, would only in very rare instances have the courage to vote, no matter how secret that voting might be, in opposition to the known wishes of those in power. The right of voting, Franz wrote, could have no more serious significance in our socialistic State of society than such a right has for soldiers in barracks, or for prisoners in gaol. The result of the elections shows that the Government party, in spite of all the widespread discontent there is, has secured two-thirds of the votes recorded.” (p. 91)

“Electoral authorities in Venezuela say the governing Socialist Party has won 17 of 23 state governorships in a crushing victory. President Nicolás Maduro hailed it as a victory for Chavismo, his party’s brand of socialism named after former president Hugo Chávez. But opposition leaders alleged fraud. The Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition has refused to recognise the result and demanded a complete audit, campaign director Gerardo Blyde said. He said that ‘neither Venezuelans nor the world will swallow this fiction’ … A poll conducted by private firm Datanalisis before the election suggested 45 percent of voters intended to vote for opposition candidates and 21 percent for the governing socialist party candidates.” Venezuela Socialists Win Governor Seats Amid Fraud Claims, BBC, 16 October 2017

“Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro, says the country’s main opposition parties are banned from taking part in next year’s presidential election. He said only parties which took part in Sunday’s mayoral polls would be able to contest the presidency. Leaders from the Justice First, Popular Will and Democratic Action parties boycotted the vote because they said the electoral system was biased. President Maduro insists the Venezuelan system is entirely trustworthy.”Venezuela Opposition Banned from Running in 2018 Election, BBC, 11 December 2017

“The number of embezzlements is now seven times greater than it used to be. Officials of all grades dispose of goods belonging to the State in consideration of some private favour or service rendered to them personally; or else they neglect, in the due performance of their duties as salesmen, to extract a coupon of the right value from the money certificates of buyers, in exchange for goods supplied.” (p. 71)

“The UIAF [Colombia’s government body that looks into suspicious money movements and sends them for investigation] statement also accused Venezuela of using food and humanitarian aid as a weapon for social control and said there was ‘large-scale theft’ of funds from the Venezuelan food aid program (CLAP). Venezuelan army officials and others tasked with distributing food amid widespread shortages have long been suspected of stealing or misappropriating government-related funds…” Colombia, U.S., Mexico, Panama Seek to Combat Venezuelan Corruption, Reuters, 12 July 2018

“Most sectors of the Venezuelan economy suffer from endemic corruption, due to the highly politicized and ineffective judiciary that is inefficient in cracking down on corruption and impunity. The Venezuelan legal framework criminalizes several corruption offenses, including extortion, passive and active bribery and abuse of office. However, the legal framework does not include the bribery of foreign officials. Enforcement of anti-corruption legislation in the country is very weak, and government officials do engage in corrupt practices with impunity. Bribery and facilitation payments are widespread. Gifts given in return for an undue advantage are illegal under Venezuelan law; however, the practice is recurrent in most sectors.” Venezuela Corruption Report, Business Anti-Corruption Portal, May 2016

From all parts of the country, reports are constantly coming in, detailing violent collisions between civilians and the troops which were sent out to establish Socialism.” (p. 86)

“Oil-rich Venezuela has been rocked by two months of deadly protests, with at least 41 people killed since a wave of demonstrations against the leftist government of Nicolas Maduro broke out in early February.” In Pictures: Renewed Rioting in Venezuelan Capital, the Daily Telegraph

” series of anti-government protests have persisted since February, motivated largely by the leftwing government’s heavy handed dealings with the political opposition, out of control crime, and the Nicolás Maduro administration’s economic policies, which have resulted in shortages of food staples and basic items like toilet paper. The protests have led to 44 deaths and more than 800 injuries, according to La Opinión, including both demonstrators and government supporters.” UN Condemns Violence in Venezuela After Government Breaks Up Protest, the Huffington Post, 12 May 2014

“Venezuela has deployed soldiers to almost 100 food markets in efforts to counter an ‘economic war’ it says is being waged against it. President Nicolás Maduro ordered the measure, arguing that sellers were charging over the odds for price-controlled items. Venezuela has the highest inflation in the world and there are severe shortages of basic food items. Many Venezuelans report going hungry as they struggle to feed themselves.” Venezuela Deploys Soldiers to Markets to Check Prices, 21 June 2018 

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The conclusion here is, I believe, unassailable. Though an isolated parallel would be unremarkable, the extent and accuracy of Richter’s predictions about the trajectory of a socialist economy demand the attention of all intellectually honest observers. The grave economic and social problems we find in both fact and fiction are not merely coincidental—they are innate and native to socialist doctrine. Decades after Richter, libertarian thinkers like Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek would build on the tradition to which he had belonged, and sharpen the economic case against socialism. And, as the century wore on, and the evidence of socialist doctrine became manifest in a growing list of corrupt, oppressive, and impoverished nations, public choice theorists elaborated on that critique. The result has been the construction of a scholarly, theoretical indictments of socialism supported by real world failures that, regrettably, are more often than not ignored or strawmanned by the radical Left.

And so I urge socialists—both revolutionary and democratic—and leftists more generally to at last take this article as a signpost to the liberal tradition of critique. I encourage them to at least entertain the possibility that the long list of failed twentieth century socialist states were not simply socialist ‘in name only,’ or the ‘victims of circumstance,’ or co-opted by ‘reactionary’ or ‘counter-revolutionary’ elements— they were the inevitable and logical consequence of immiserating policies that trade short term gains to the poor for long term disaster.

 

Hugo Newman received his PhD in Philosophy from University College Dublin in 2015, with his research focusing on the intersection of ethics, politics, and economics. He is co-founder and director of an eLearning company and currently resides in Madrid, Spain. You can follow him on Twitter @Hugo_Newman

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129 Comments

  1. Farris says

    History, however, has shown that regulations that start out solely targeting the rich eventually turn into all-encompassing controls that affect all social classes.”

    History does indeed show that! The question is why have so few failed to learn it or choose to ignore it? Excellent article though the verbiage about not trying to sound like he was saying “I told you so” was unnecessary and out of place.

    • Nick Ender says

      Well to be exact, they effect all classes except the political class. The power brokers being exempt of course.

    • History shows nothing of the sort. If you want to make that claim stick, you must prove it by analyzing a specific example of the imposition of state controls that quasi naturally induced expansion of state economic power. Ludwig von Mises persuasively argued such a mechanism, BUT SOLELY REGARDING PRICE CONTROLS, not with respect to any other instrument of state intervention in the economy. See articles on Mises at http://www.blueplanet notes.blogspot.com

      • Chavez introduced foreign currency controls, which eventually led to enormous corruption (hard currency was only allocated at official rates to regime kingpins who then dealt it in the black market). Maduro extended them and choked foreign investment.

        Chavez introduced labor controls which made it almost impossible to fire workers. This made it hard to justify hiring, so we turned to short term contracts to avoid having permanent employees.

        Chavez implemented a system to control food movements from the producers to the markets. This led to inefficiencies and huge amounts of food rotting before it could get to the retailer.

        I would have to review several years’ worth of documents and emails to list item by item the way Chavez and Maduro strangled and destroyed the economy. I would add that they were being advised by Spanish marxists such as Monedero, Iglesias, Serrano, and others who came out of a Valencia Institute which got funds from Venezuela, and by the Cubans. I saw what went on in Venezuela from 1999 until now as a repeat if what happened in Cuba under Castro. They are such fanatics they never consider the whole system is wrong, doesnt work.

  2. Nick Ender says

    I doubt any democratic socialist are going to read this and change their mind. It was worth a try though.

    • Socialists today are entirely free to entertain their faith just as religious people are. That is, they can open free/cheap restaurants, hotels, apartment buildings, and create companies that treat all employees the same, give them all that they need, etc. It’s called club membership and they can do it now with all who are true believers, and even then, you’ll find they won’t try because they know the abysmal results they’ll have in comparison to the free and equal individuals.

    • I am a democratic socialist. I am also familiar with the economic theory of socialism and with the entire economic literature on socialism for the last century or so. Moreover I have been following the Venezuela crisis for years.
      As I explain beneath, VENEZUELA HAS NO PLAUSIBLE CLAIM TO CALL ITSELF SOCIALIST, at least in the sense of having a planned economy. Consequently critique of socialism, whether accurate or not, is irrelevant to the Venezuela issue.
      The simplest proof that Venezuela is not and has never been a planned economy is the fact that as Venezuela’s petrodollar revenues rose between 1995 and 2010, the land surface devoted to farming shrank swiftly. This is a typical market reaction to increased food imports. A planned economy would never react that way.

      • Read the articles on Venezuela by Venezuelan economist Ricardo Haussmann. As far as I recall, he makes noo mention of “socialism”.

      • The individuals who have ruled venezuela call themselves practitioners of “21st Century Socialism”. They are marxists, they have implemented socialism under advice from outside experts, and have failed. You too will fail if you ever manage to take over. But you will also cause pain, death, misery, injustice and possibly even genocide and war.

        By the way, “democratic socialism” seems to have been coined by East Germans who regrouped after the fall of the USSR. You are being fed dogma, and are simply repeating the same excuses I’ve heard them use for decades.

        • dirk says

          How you call yourself, Fernando, is not that important. A lot of activists and politicians called themselves Marxists, without even having read his voluminous works, and without having appetite to read abstracts of it.

          • They say they are socialists, they do what socialists do, they are corrupt and murderous as most socialists have been, they base their ideas on the same fallacies and stupidities socialists do. The consensus we have in Venezuela is similar to what other people who have suffered that monstrosity has been. Its a deadly dogma, sokd to the mentally weak and ignorant by ivory tower intellectuals who dont understand much about real life.

        • No Sharia says

          Why the need to qualify socialist with democratic??? Could it be because socialism is inherently non-democratic?? It’s just a variation on the “people’s” republic of [fill in the blank with your favorite socialist/communist hell hole]

          • A good criterium of whether a nation is democratic or not is the existence of (reasonably) free elections. With this criterium at hand, East Germany (or neighbours eastwards, and Cuba or course) was not a socialist democracy, but Venezuela yes! Even if you deny that with both hands (as bolivious does).

      • Gringo says

        The simplest proof that Venezuela is not and has never been a planned economy is the fact that as Venezuela’s petrodollar revenues rose between 1995 and 2010, the land surface devoted to farming shrank swiftly.

        FAO in forms us that Venezuela’s area devoted to crops increased by 20%, from 1.698 million hectares to 2.045 million hectares. So, by your logic, Venezuela is a planned economy.
        http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QA

        • dirk says

          But, gringo, you yourself had doubts about these figures, FAO just writes down (like the lizards in Alice in Wonderland) what the countries, trustworthy or not, report. I also have my doubts. Also, the area under crops or cattle is not so important, the productivity only is what counts (in the NL, 1 ha of wheat= 10 tons, in Australia 2 tons). In the NL, a very small country, we also have 2 million ha under crops and grasslands, unbelievable, Venezuela is about 30x as big as we are. Why not do more with your land? Gosh, gosh!

          • Gringo says

            But, gringo, you yourself had doubts about these figures, FAO just writes down (like the lizards in Alice in Wonderland) what the countries, trustworthy or not, report.
            Did you bother to read the Gustavo Coronel link I provided?(Not the first time I have asked you this question about a link,) Gustavo’s objection was to the FAO’s representative in Caracas claiming circa 2015-6, well into the drop in the price of oil, that Venezuela had this great food supply and a great government policy.When 70+% of Venezuelans reported losing an average of 9 kilos in 2016, that FAO claim didn’t sound so good. Gustavo Coronel’s objections were NOT about FAO production or land use statistics, which is what you are objecting to.

            If you look at the FAO’s page on Venezuela, you can see some of that water-carrying for Chavismo- some of Gustavo Coronel’s objections- as in Average protein supply (g/capita/day) (3-year average), there is no data past 2011-2013.But one can also note that the same FAO page on Venezuela shows a 50%+ drop in Cereals production from 2014 to 2016.

            I am repeating myself -because the message apparently hasn’t gotten through-but recall this Carlos Machado Allison quote.

            According to my calculations, which are quite adjusted to those of Fedeagro and the rest of the guilds, in 1998 the vegetable agricultural production was 780 kilograms per person per year, and in 2016 it was 500 kilograms.

            That would be a decline of 35.9% in vegetable agricultural per capita production. (vegetable as in non-animal) Compare FAO gross Crop tonnage for Venezuela from 1998 to 2016. I am taking out sugar cane production, as it has an out-sized influence for two reasons. 1) It accounts for about half of gross tonnage and 2) sugar cane production crashed. I am substituting in raw sugar production instead of sugar cane production.
            Sugar cane
            1998 8.1 million tons
            2016 3.3 million tons

            Raw sugar
            1998 563,526 tons
            2016 233,000 tons estimated ( ave only sugar cane prod for 2016, so am estimating w average of 0.07 conversion for sugar cane to raw sugar.)

            Year Gross Crop Tonnage, metric tons (raw sugar instead of sugar cane)
            1998 8,842,953
            2016 7,803,271

            Crop production kilos per capita
            1998 375
            2016 247

            While these kilos of production per capita from FAO data are not the same as those used by Carlos Machado Allison – he had 780 for 1998 and 500 for 2016, the percentage drop is quite similar: 34.1% drop in per capita production for FAO data (raw sugar instead of sugar cane) versus 35.9% drop according to Carlos Machado Allison & Fedeagro.
            Which informs me that FAO production data is fairly accurate. Which also informs me that FAO land use data should also be fairly accurate.

            In additionbolivious made the completely undocumentedclaim that that from 1995 to 2010 “the land surface devoted to farming shrank swiftly.” FAO data shows to the contrary, and gross (summed up) crop tonnage also shows an increase from 1995-2010- which supports the FAO land use data. Why did you not object to bolivious’s making a completely undocumented claim?

            Overall , I will go with FAO documentation, imperfect though it may be, over bolivious’s completely undocumented claim.

            BTW, while cassava data is quite possibly incomplete, why would the degree of incompleteness be all that different for 2016 compared to 1998?

            http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QC

        • dirk says

          So, you think FAO is right in their figures on agricultural land(official? provided by?), and Oblivious’ one is wrong, in fact, not so relevant who is right, I think. The area “devoted” to crops doesn’t say much, production does. In a land with only 11 or 12% rural population, this can only mean a large shrinking of arable land, unless the scale of remaining holdings, or the productivity has increased substantially, which I doubt is the case. Also not necessary, because most of the beans and stuff are imported with petrodollars (until quite recent at least), even Chavez had to admit so(see my comment below).
          Since the Charcote ranch has been sold and distributed amoung plotholders, the area devoted to crops most probably has increased, but the production decreased (because of flooding, the land was for cattle grazing, not suited for crops, so, bare maize stalks on the field and no cobs and grains). This is one case, but how was this elsewhere? The national situation since 2005 was completely chaotic, figures here (Fao, Carlos) don,t help much. And, I must admit, I seldom read links, sorry!

          (this comment better should have been put under your next comment)

  3. Emmanuel says

    What we are witnessing in Venezuela is nothing but one of the latest episodes of “left-wing ideas vs. real life”.

    • They real-word experiments that split Germany and Korea and Vietnam into two, one socialist and the other capitalism, and the results are plain for all to see. Poverty isn’t genetic/racial, but socially constructed by bad cultural reasoning.

  4. dirk says

    Something I can’t understand: why do Venezuelans flee their country, or stay in the cities, and don’t flee back to the rural areas, to some family farm or piece of land of grandparents. With very little work, you can produce there all the potatoes, cassava, bananas, chickens, goats and pigs you want, no problem, I have some experience with it (to live a luxury life with self supportance is another chapter, but now it’s on kilos of rice, beans and pork for millions and millions of pesos, unbelievable, and what great chances for small enterprising peasants all of a sudden). This is what happened in a massive scale in Peru during crises (own experience, in the ceja de selva), and now again in Greece, where the farm population in the last few years grew from 13 to 17% (and if the farmhands would be counted also, much higher). Socialism has much to do with te flight of people from the land, to the cities and factories, Marx knew this already. Being an agronomist, I would be very obliged to have some response here from knowledgeable persons on the issue. Thanks in advance!!

    • Peter Bottler says

      Much of the people who already left have their origins on migration, mainly from Italy, Portugal, and Spain shortly after the end of the war. Hence, makes sense most of them choose to move back to their ancestral lands. Not to mention the general lawlessness from such areas, plus rumors of operating guerrilla warbands operating on most of the arable lands that happen to be…not exactly welcoming. Not exactly very appealing for someone who wants to learn the farming trade

      • Most of the people leaving Venezuela lack money to travel far, or they cant get a visa to enter europe, so they dont even get on a plane. Many cant get passports. The flow is mostly into Colombia, from there they go to Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. Many have walked all the way from the border to Lima, Peru.

        Your perception is a bit distorted. Im trying to help people escape and it gets complicated because most countries in the region are filling up, or deny entry. In Brazil theyve been attacking Venezuelans at Boa Vista, and the government just ordered troops to move north.

        And then theres diseases. Venezuela has had almost no vaccination, so there’s lots of diseases, and people heading out are a health hazard. Its bad.

    • Sagesse says

      As stated in the article, the state controls the land, and also controls the means of distribution, so there are no incentives to farm crops, as opposed to Greece which you cited where state doesn’t control the factors of production.

      • Indeed, plus farming is very hard work and rural isolation tends to breed poverty and lack of education and worldly understanding.

      • dirk says

        Thanks Sagesse and Peter: yes, if these guerillabands are all over the place (like they were in neighbouring Colombia), I would understand, but is that really the case? Incentives to farm you don’t need if you farm for yourself (this is what I meant, and saw in rural Peru during crises). On a visit in Curacao, all vegetables, fruits, black beans,green maize cobs bananas and root crops for sale there were transported (smuggled?) by small boats from Venezuela (only a few miles away), for quite reasonable prices. I wonder, for those astronomical food prices now, whether they still sell their produce there, better at home now, I would say!

        • Peter Bottler says

          Indeed, Dirk, hard to tell how present are the guerrillabands in rural area, but sure, probably is not that relevant. Those accounts were mostly near the colombian border at Apure and Barinas states. Indeed, a better explanation why so many left is a general disassociation with rural life. As the rural exodus happened somewhen on the 1910s, and much of the middle class was formed by 2nd or 3rd generation venezuelans with deep connections overseas. So many moved back with to their grandparents and other relatives homes, they just happened to be outside the country. Yet it doesn’t fully explain why is there almost no movement within the country, at least that we heard of. All that comes to my mind at the moment is the lack of infrastructure connecting the rural interior with the urban coast, which is almost non-existent consisting of only a few two lane roads; as well as the current government’s reputation of expropiating everything on sight; as well as siding at court with “invaders” who ilegally settle on other people’s property, as it happened in the now infamous “torre de David”.

          • dirk says

            Yes, Peter, where is the rural interior? In the views and reports on Venezuela? Mostly, you see only street scenes and bridges full of fleeing people. In the deep south, the last indigenous, these Yanamamo, are probably living their isolated life, with every day a balanced diet of bananas, fruits, cassava, fish or some wild, but elsewhere in that giant fertile country?
            What Newman forgot to tell in his enthousiastic tale about the dangers of socialism, is that, like in all Latin America, this land, until rather recent, was in the hands of just only a few socalled latifundistas, the rich landlords with 1000s and 1000s of acres and a workforce of half enslaved locals. Why not mention that? Chavez installed new land laws, in the (false?) hope to change this, with the logical results of the landless recuperating the unused parts of the landlords, but also, of course, the properly farmed areas. result: backlash of paramilitary forces from the landlords, as happens in Brazil. Newman mentiones libertarian author Richter, and the libertarians Mises and Hayek. I wonder what these libertarians would have said about the land reforms and rural production situation as launched by Chavez and Maduro. Somewhere I read: the overwhelming reliance on oil revenues determined all productive (especially rural, Newman said it already, not distribution of food is the problem, but production), and the general socio-economic development. No Latin American nation has such a high urbanisation as V., and that already early-on. Poor Venezuela.

        • Dirk, there are no “guerrilla bands”. What we see is organized bands of jackers and looters. They are gangsters and have no relation to organized communist guerrillas operating in Colombia, which are extremely well armed and have links to the chavista regime and the Cubans. Your proposal is unrealistic. Even if it were possible, theres no seed, no implements, city folk know nothing about farming, and they would have to wait several months for crops.

          • dirk says

            Guerrillabands were the words of Peter, of which I (and Peter himself) doubted the relevance, though, at the border of Colombia that might be different due to FARC’s movements. What I read was that more than 100 peasants were killed by unknown forces, but probably supported by landlords that were afflicted by land appropriation. And please read what I said about city folk as farmhands earlier on, that was no theory, I know this kind of people from Peru, I spoke to them, I saw them at work, and I am sure that Venezuela has some, or many of them, like is the case in Greece.

    • Emmanuel says

      There is no doubt that in time of food shortage country people live better than city people. In Europe, it was true during both World Wars and in the following years. However, ot does not mean that moving from the city to a subsistance-based country life is easy.
      Even in a country where subsistance farming is easy, it requires skills and knowledge most city dwellers lack. While you can acquire them, it takes some time.
      On top of that, you need available land to farm : either arable land nobody else is using ( not likely if you don’t own it) or wilderness area to clear yourself. Unoccupied lands may not lack in Venezuela but they probably aren’t easy to reach for people from Caracas or another big city and clearing them would be fairly hard work. On top of that, if you don’t follow the local legal procedures, you run the risk of getting your farm confiscated if you don’t bribe the relevant officials. In a socialist country like Venezuela I don’t know if it is easy to get a land lease and how much of your crops you are allowed to keep, even if you are only trying to farm for your own subsistance.
      Also, when things get really bad, an isolated farm is fairly vulnerable : think of what happens to the white farmers of South Africa. I have read that guerilleros from Colombia have moved into Venezuelan territory, even if it is not true, Venezuela is already a very violent country.
      Another problem would be the mentality of the people : not everybody has a pioneer’s spirit and would be willing to make such a change of lifestyle, with all the risks that come with it. We should not forget that until not so long ago, Venezuelan people enjoyed very high standards of living : going from that to subsistance farming might be unthinkable for many people.

      Going back to the land might be easy for people who have kept a link with it, relatives with a farm who can support them until they can settle in good conditions, but for everybody else it would be much more difficult.

      • dirk says

        Thanks Emmanuel, good points. My experience, nevertheless, is that if city-life and soaring prices make life difficult (and, better believe it, is close to a war situation there, as we had in the NL in 1944, people dying from hunger, golden times for the farmers) then many go back to some relation, old friends or family with a piece of land, somewhere far from the city. They help with simple land work (weeding, picking, harvesting bananas, maize cobs or cassava and carryng them home, winnowing and cleaning beans ,feeding chicken or swine) and are fed in natura by the farmer. I know such people from Peru, and must think this was quite common then and there, though you never read about it in the media (in that Peruvian mountain village, never even an official or journalist showed up). But, you are right, if the political situation, title deeds,corruption, safety, does not allow, everything stops. In Greece, as I said, the people that returned to the land were only those with relatives with a piece of land (yet quite common there, the old ones that never left). I have the idea that unused land is no problem in Venezuela. The article mentioned the partnership with Brasil with that MST, Landless Workers. In Brazil, this MST is quite successful, so far as food security and self supporting for the poor is concerned, not for much excess to the towns and cities of course. Writing this, a lot Latino memories come back, it was a rich time, in poor countries!

        • Emmanuel says

          I have no idea of what the economic situation of rural Venezuela looks like but I would be very surprised if food shortage were anything like what is happening in the cities. It would be interesting to check how their agricultural and land tenure systems work. While “unused” land is plentiful, I don’t know how easy it is to legally get a plot of land to farm for yourself : without legal tenure or property, you are at the mercy of anybody in position of authority.

          • Poor people are starving in rural venezuela. Theres no “unused land”. The government has taken land, doesnt farm it, but its impossible to invade it.

            In venezuela we use a term, “invasion” for when people go take land. The invasores are likely to get shot by the landowner, which can be a small farmer unable to farm due to lack of seed, or implements. Ive seen areas where they cover roads with two men with shotguns to stop invasions, or looting (anybody walking down a country road is considered a would be looter or eyeballing vehicles for hijackers).

        • The author may have mentioned Mises and Hayek, but he has never read them, unlike me. At no point does the author explain his reasons for calling Venezuela “socialist”. Consequently he is merely a smugnoramus who uses the case of Venezuela to propagate antiquated flea-market ideology.

          • Venezuela is ruled by individuals who call themselves socialists (some like Maduro are communists). Their party is the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela), they believe in nationalizing land, claim to be for social justice, the poor, say they hate the bourguesie, are admirers of Fidel Castro, use red as their color, implement central controls, took over all media, use censorship, have destroyed the economy, are arbitrary, and app,y torture on prisoners. They behave like socialists elsewhere.

            And please dont come back and tell me about Sweden. The swedes are moving away from socialism, but its probably too late. I dint think most Swedes will live in Sweden in 50 years.

    • Alistair says

      It’s a plan. And many Venezuelans have done that. It gives at least some security against starvation, for those with access to rural land.

      BUT….a life in the country isn’t autonomous. You still need electricity, fuel, spares, medicine, and a thousand other small things you can’t produce “on the farm”. How will you get those? When the nearest market is half a days travel away and empty most of the time? When you can’t sell your surplus? Or are paid only in worthless money? You also can’t secure yourself from the growing violence. You have food worth stealing? Well, then, you had best arm and secure yourself at night; isolated farms make good targets for armed thieves.

      Finally, living in a rural area is no security from the state. You have no guarantee that your land won’t ultimately be appropriated and given to supporters of the regime. Eventually you may find yourself forced out with nothing.

      • dirk says

        It’s clear Alistair that you have not the slightest idea how small peasants in Latin America (and elsewhere around the equator) live. Electricity? Spares? Fuel? For let’s say 100 million peasants unknown and unnecessary things. But I am not surprised, none of my friends can imagine that beyond Europe and the US life is completely different. Maybe, I also wouldn’t have believed, but I happened to have lived in a mountain village in Peru (as botanist for a company), without electiricity, spares, roads, streaming water (there was a rivulet close to the village), cement, or newspapers, if sick, I had to fly by Cessna to a town nearby. Very comfortable, after all, because never sick. Of course, such people have a low income (they are all self sufficient, but earn some cash with surpluses of beans, chicken, swine), but the problem in Caracas is almost a war situation, no food, hunger, and then no more need for electricity, medicines and spares (for machines? tractors?, you really don’t need that if you have a hoe, an axe and a machete).Still, I got no sensible answer on the question: why not overcome this difficult period by staying on the piece of land of relatives somewhere far from that damned Caracas??, and wait for better times! I would have done that, with pleasure. Though, it’s true, in case of dangerous situations, lack of safety (guerrilla, corrupt officials) I also would not, so, I.m still waiting for somebody who knows the rural situation better, and tells me more about that, I can’t find it via Google. A friend of mine with a small farm in rural Colombia had to flee to Bogota for some years because of FARC, so, yes, can be problematic.

        • Emmanuel says

          Dirk, you are perfectly right : all over the world there are plenty of people leading a subsistance-based lifestyle without all the commodities most westerners would find necessary for survival. That kind of existence should neither be idealized nor looked down, and in Venezuela, right now, it sounds much better than life in a city where there is no food and no electricity but plenty of trigger happy looters and soldiers.

          Since foreign journalists have little access to Venezuela outside of the big cities, that kind of migration may already be happening without many outsiders noticing it.

          One more explanation might be the lack of infrastructures which would make city to empty rural area migrations easy : for many people the neighbouring countries might be more accessible than distant rural areas.

          • dirk says

            Yes Emmanuel, you know at least something, because of your stay in French Guyana, the bridges with fleeing people we know from the media, because the journalists are there, (they must be back before evening in their luxury hotels in Caracas or other city to write down and mail what they saw that day), but what really happens there, the people that wander, flee and (maybe?) work on the small farms far away from everything (civilized), that’s completely another matter, we will never know, unless some crazy (western) bushcrafter informs us.

        • The bulk of venezuelans arent peasants. Many of you just dint understand that it has been a rich country. Has a very large urban population. My suggestion to Dirk is to come on down and see if you can teach Venezuelans how to turn into proper south american peasants.

          • dirk says

            Cubans and Vietnamese (friends of Chavez) did that Fernando (at least, I read so), but I wonder whether they came with good advice. The Vietnamese I trust most, where it comes to irrigation, planting, weeding and harvesting of rice.

    • So lets say you live in Caracas, are a mechanic, have a wife, two children. Exactly where are you goung to go? To Portuguesa, where the farms are fallow because theres no seed, and farmers who are still around cant get product to market because theres highwaymen stealing everything? Thats very romantic, but you simply have no idea.

    • pesos must be bolivars, of course, there is, after all, some difference in latin-american nations.

  5. Bradd Graves says

    You could have written this piece without a reference to the “classical liberal” revival. I must assume that the support of far right-wing capitalism is your main intent here. In the US, the corporations now have control of just about everything and everyone, and things are more of a mess than they’ve ever been in my lifetime. The truth you want to ignore is that a mixed system along the Swiss or Danish models would result in the most economic and social stability.

    • If there is any real tragedy occurring from corporations, it’s the fault of government siding with them rather than ensuring liberty, equal protection and ensuring those who create harm (externalities included) are protected by government choosing of winners and losers.
      You are never forced to buy from any corporation, but you are forced by whatever government demands.

    • Adam Gibbons says

      Bradd, I’m not sure how flagging the fact that Richter would today be described as a classical liberal constitutes referencing some classical liberal revival. I’m also not sure how criticism of Venezuela’s government can lead you to believe that the author supports far right-wing capitalism, or that he wants to ignore anything about mixed economies.

      May I suggest that you are irrationally projecting views here? Perhaps also consider some charitable interpretation.

    • ga gamba says

      First it was Scandinavia = socialism and now it’s “classical liberal” = far right-wing. There’s no lie too low the intellectual Huffpost reading progressives won’t stoop to use.

      BTW, the Swiss model of 8.5% federal corporate income tax, personal income tax varies from a bracket of 1% (for single tax payers) and 0.77% (for married taxpayers) to the maximum rate of 11.5%, VAT is either 2.5% or 7.7%, property tax is from 0.3 to 0.5 per cent, and no minimum wage. If you’re appealing for that, then sign me up.

    • Susan Newman says

      Of course, Brad, a mixed system may well result in economic and social stability. But in the absence of this Utopian fantasy I would argue that a Capitalist system, which we have the relative freedom to accept or reject is far superior to a centrally controlled governance, masquerading as Socialism.
      Susan

    • The truth is that Swiss are capitalists. I believe Denmark is a strategically located small nation with a small population. And in any case, any move towards socialism such as they had in Sweden 30 years ago would be out of the question. The swedes cant even afford that, and the latest polls show the majority is leaning center to far right (and thats in spite of decades of brainwashing).

      • @fernandoleanme
        Yes, Scandinavian countries have been the subject of so much confusion and mixed messages in the U.S.
        Basically all of Scandanavia is based on a market capitalist system. Norway leans a bit more statist as it sits on heavy oil reserves that are state owned (much like venezuela, hmmmm…) but the rest of the economy is market based.
        All of these countries have high income, vat & sales tax to support a heavy welfare system. I repeat, the economy is a market based system with high taxes across all income brackets with a very expansive liberal welfare system.
        In Sweden the unions have a central role in working with the corporations to support wage incomes and all the negotiations that go along with the union / employee sector.
        This worked quite well for a while for most people. From the research I’ve done, even when they couldn’t taken extensive time off most didn’t. It seems the Nordic countries have an excellent work ethic and high trust in their government. However, this is being pushed to the point of collapse with the mass migrant crisis of 2015-2017. I believe all of these countries have been affected somewhat but Sweden has been taxed to the breaking point. They took in more migrants per population than any other country and their only a country of 10 million so less than a third the pop of Cal & Texas.

        The migrant issue has caused a heavy burden on their welfare system and they have had to make cuts and the violence has caused division in their society that they’ve never had to deal with before. I’m afraid the migrant crisis may make the Nordic model a thing of the past.

    • His logic points to small countries, with mostly homogenous people and certainly a homogenous culture, and that are all starting to suffer as immigration increases (where the culture is no longer shared) population and interpersonal conflict. They ignore the reality of all other such “natural” experiments where we split Germany, Korea or Vietnam….or even western vs. eastern Europe, or North America versus south/central.

  6. Treat Williams says

    People calling for the end of “socialism” again because of the Venezuelan example are like people calling for the end of “capitalism” after 2008. There has to be a mix of policies. What is most successful will depend on a particular mix in a particular nation. Anyone over the age of twenty should have pretty decent exposure to the excesses of both sides by now. What side you inveigh against will hinge on what side you think is more in danger of ruining the world, and that comes down to completely contingent personal biases. We need some subtlety and sobriety when we talk about these things.

    It was always clear to anyone in the middle like myself who supports a somewhat intervening state that this country was going to go to pot. If you didn’t think that you were not a social democrat or maybe not even a socialist – you were just a moron.

    • In 2008, you had none of the serious consequences of Venezuela, and that’s with a government that’s both corrupted to protect corporations over citizens, while also handing out social goods like never before.

    • dirk says

      I agree, Treat W., and that especially counts for the countryside, the farm community. Where other rules and needs reign as in the cities, though, these cities often determine the rural policies (not always for the good).

    • Peter from Oz says

      People calling for the end of socialism are 100% correct. Socialism is an evil creed. How much evidence do you need to understand that?
      The fact is that modern, western democracies never descended into socialism. They all adopted some socialistic policies, but overall they allowed the private sector to generate the wealth necessary for a healthy economy. On a few occasions socialistic policies have nearly ruined western democracies. The most famous example would be the UK, where nationalisation of industry and huge subsidisation of private sector wages led to near economic collapse in the 70s.

    • What i do know is that “democratic socialism” is used by German communists from Die Linke. I suggest you visit the webpages put up by the Rosa Luxemburg Institute in New York, and check their German pages. What you will see is communists who used to enjoy torturing people, and are now selling marxism as “democratic socialism”. Its back to Stasi days if they take over. Trust me, I’ve spent decades studying them.

  7. dirk says

    I know of other countries relying on oil or a single export crop (Cuba on sugar, Nigeria on oil) where production of staples and simple food (rice, beans, maize, chicken) was consequently abandoned, because import was often cheaper, peasants stopped farming and came to the cities, but there are also other disturbing things brooding now in Venezuela, obviously.

  8. Farris says

    To those who cite Sweden as a socialist triumph (Bernie) Some facts about Sweden:

    1.In 1993, Sweden’s debt was running at 111% to GDP
    2. By 2008 they had cut it to 38% to GDP.
    3. In 1994 the government also began cutting government spending by an average of 3% per year for the next 10 years.
    5. These cuts were aimed primarily at healthcare, along side simplifying taxes.
    6. It’s important to note that cuts do not necessarily result in a drop in quality of services.
    7. In response to the recession, Sweden also cut taxes across the board.
    8. Sweden’s banks are not nationalized.
    9. Automakers are not nationalized
    10. Saab was not “Too Big to Fail.
    Just to name a few examples of how capitalism is alive and well in Sweden.
    I suspect most socialists or social democrats would not support the reforms enacted by the Swedes.

  9. One of the most ignorant things people say is “but why can’t America be more like Sweden?”

    Have you ever met a Swede? It goes against every strand in their DNA to inconvenience others or be a free loader. On top of that they have a bulletproof work ethic and unassuming temperament. America, on he other hand, is peopled by a whole class of historically aggrieved groups who believe society owes them a free ride. THIS is why socialistic policies that seem to work in Scandinavian countries will NEVER work in America. There are simply too many people here more than happy to live off of other people’s hard work without once considering that they should contribute something themselves.

    With the slightest influx of immigrants from the south, Sweden’s generous social policies will collapse precipitously.

  10. ga gamba says

    Much of below is taken from Ronald Fraser’s Blood of Spain: An Oral History of the Spanish Civil War and Burnett Bolloten’s The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution. Bryan Caplan of George Mason University did the tough slog putting it together, and I’ve excerpted some of the parts about workers’ control.

    Socialists and Anarchists often mention Barcelona, Spain as an example of their theories working… until Franco defeated them. If not for the fascists a genuine workers’ utopia that had been established would have thrived and been the example to follow.

    Writes the Democratic Socialists of America: “We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.

    Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic socialists favor as much decentralization as possible. While the large concentrations of capital in industries such as energy and steel may necessitate some form of state ownership, many consumer-goods industries might be best run as cooperatives.”

    Let us now read of how people’s ownership and control was implemented and experienced. Keep in mind the means of production had been seized; there was no compensation provided to the former owners, so the workers weren’t starting with deficit.

    Initially, the workers (rather than an Anarchist nomenklatura) usually assumed control over their places of employment. Quoting Fraser, “one thing dominated the libertarian revolution: the practice of self-management – the workers’ administration of their factories and industries.”

    In October [1936], the government of Anarchist-dominated Catalonia passed the Collectivization and Workers’ Control Decree, which legally recognized many of the de facto collectivizations.

    “Works councils, elected by an assembly decision of the workers and representing all sectors of the enterprise, were to administer the collectivized factory, ‘assuming the functions and responsibilities of the former board of directors.’ A Generalitat representative was chosen, in agreement with the workers, to sit on each council. Collectivized enterprises (and private firms under workers’ control) in each sector of industry would be represented in an Economic Federation, in turn topped by a general industrial council which would closely control the whole industry. Fifty percent of a collectivized firm’s profit would go to an industrial and commercial credit fund which would have to finance all Catalan industry; 20 per cent was to be put to the collective’s reserve and depreciation fund; 15 per cent to the collective’s social needs, and the remaining 15 per cent to be allocated by the workers as they decided in a general assembly.”

    So, 30% would be kept by the workers for pay and non-pay “social needs” benefits. The 50% tax was to help support the struggling workers’ collectives.

    More importantly, there was a huge loophole – firms had to pay a percentage of their profits. To eliminate the exaction, one merely need eliminate the profits. With worker control, there is a simple way to do this: keep raising wages until the “profits” disappear. Taxes on profits – which is what the Decree amounted to – will raise revenue if the workers and the owners are different people; but with worker control such taxes are simple to evade. Witness after witness reports the abolition of piece-work, improvement of working conditions, lavish non-wage compensation, and so on.

    “‘It came as a psychological shock to some workers to find themselves suddenly freed from capitalist tutelage. Exchanging one individualism for another, they frequently believed that, now that the owners were gone, they were the new owners.

    In short, after being told that the workers now owned the means of production, the workers often took the statement literally. What is the point of owning the means of production if you can’t get rich using them? But of course if some workers get rich, they are unlikely to voluntarily donate their profits to the other members of their class. This seems elementary upon reflection, but only practical experience was able to reveal this to the economic reformers of the Spanish Revolution.

    “The woodworkers’ union weighed in with its criticism of the state of affairs, alleging that, while small, insolvent workshops were left to struggle as best they could, the collectivization of profitable enterprises was leading to ‘nothing other than the creation of two classes; the new rich and the eternal poor. We refuse the idea that there should be rich and poor collectives. And that is the real problem of collectivization.'”

    “‘Individual collectivized mills acted there from the beginning as though they were completely autonomous units, marketing their own products as they could and paying little heed to the general situation. It was a sort of popular capitalism…'” How, one might wonder, could avowed socialists act so contrary to their principles? The workers’ behavior was not particularly different from that of wealthy Marxist professors who live in luxury while denouncing the refusal of the West to share its wealth with the Third World. Talk is cheap. When the worker-owners had the option to enrich themselves, they seized it with few regrets.

    [T]hings are not going as well as they did in the early days of the [revolutionary] movement… The workers no longer think of working long hours to help the front. They only think of working as little as possible and getting the highest possible wages.'”

    [T]here were the committees,” explains Fraser, “which… simply continued to present their weekly wage list to the Generalitat, which went on paying them, instead of seeking to get their businesses going.” In the footnote, Fraser adds, “This later became institutionalized as the ‘pawn bank,’ through which the workers of the deficitary enterprises received their wages in return for ‘pawning’ their company’s capital equipment and inventory to the Generalitat – a measure which resulted in giving the latter virtual control of the enterprise.”

    The simplest way that the collectives could have avoided dependence on the government would have been to issue debt; in short, to borrow from the general public rather than the government. But undoubtedly the fear of revealing surplus wealth to lend would make such a scheme impossible. [The Anarchists and Communists had been running around attacking and even murdering those they deemed capitalist or bourgeoisie, anyone the people believed to be supporters of the Nationalists. In most cases, these supporters had taken no specific action to assist the Nationalist rebellion; they were singled out for their beliefs, or what people guessed their beliefs were.] Even if their physical safety were not their concern, investors could hardly expect to ever get their money back. The insecurity of property rights thus made it very difficult to borrow from the public, so the collectives mortgaged themselves piece by piece to the government until finally the government rather than the workers owned the means of production.

    Only a minority understood that collectivization meant the return to society of what, historically, had been appropriated by the capitalists…'” In other words, most workers assumed that worker control meant that the workers would actually become the true owners of their workplaces, with all the rights and privileges thereof. Only the elite realized that worker control was merely a euphemism for “social control” which in turn can only mean control by the state (or an Anarchist “council,” “committee,” or “union,” satisfying the standard Weberian definition of the state).

    Inequality existed within collectives as well as between them. Invariably, the participants attribute the tolerance of inequality to the fact that it was impossible for one collective to impose equal wages unless the other collectives did the same. If one firm refused to pay extra to skilled workers, they would quit and find a job where egalitarian norms were not so strictly observed.

    Perhaps the most fascinating incident in Fraser’s account of worker-control involves the Tivoli opera theatre. . . . one day when the famous tenor, Hipolito Lazaro, arrived at the Tivoli theatre where the union was organizing a cycle of operas at popular prices. He was to sing the lead. Before the audience arrived, he got up on stage and addressed the company. ‘”We’re all equal now,” he said, “and to prove it, we all get the same wage. Fine, since we’re equal, today I am going to collect the tickets at the door and one of you can come up here and sing the lead.”

    Many workers took the slogans about worker-control literally. They overlooked the possibility that these slogans were intended to win their support for a revolution to replace capitalists with party bureaucrats.

    “They overlooked the possibility that these slogans were intended to win their support for a revolution to replace capitalists with party bureaucrats.” Time and time again this is what’s occurred. The liberators of labour over promise and under deliver because the true goal is not to give control to the workers, but for a group of ideologues to seize power for themselves because they are more deserving. It’s happened every time. And the liberated workers are the ones made to suffer most after the state’s enemies are murdered.

    • Hugo Newman says

      Thank you very much for this information. Really useful.

    • My father’s family came from La Rioja, the premier wine region upstream from Cataluña. Ive heard stories from relatives, read books, and lots of webpages. I’m not going to use these pages to debate the Spanish Civil war. But i can tell you my mother had with her the photograph of her cousin, who had left Cuba and gone to Spain to become a nun, was captured by communists, raped, strangled. My mother told me that the men who did it were led by a woman they called Dolores, and that later most of them had been killed by Franco’s troops. Which of course was fine with us.

      • ga gamba says

        That was the period called the Red Terror. The evil reported by eyewitness accounts of it are beyond comprehension – using clerics’ skulls as footballs, for example. From 18 July 1936 to 1 April 1937 no fewer than 6,832 priests, nuns, and other religious people were murdered for their faith. Not content with that, the leftists and anarchists disinterred corpses of nuns and priests from their graves and put them on public display to be profaned and desecrated. They also dug up children’s bodies and put them on display with the bodies of nuns, telling the people that these were the nuns’ secret children, whom the sisters had murdered to conceal their sacrilege.

        The leftists delighted in publicly flogging Catholics and threatening to execute them unless they renounced their faith by shouting, “Viva el Comunismo!” One of their murderers testified: “Those God damned fools! No one could shut them up! All the way they sang and praised Christ the King. One of them fell dead when we hit him with the butt of a gun, and this is no lie, the more we hit them, the more they sang and shouted: ‘Viva Christo Rey!'”

        … led by a woman they called Dolores
        That may be Dolores Ibárruri. British historian Antony Beevor writes of her many claims to infamy one included her biting the jugular of a priest to bleed him to death. Beevor says 40,000 murdered civilians including clerics, nuns, and other religious people by the left is a credible number.

        One of the best histories of the Red Terror is Jose M. Sanchez’s, The Spanish Civil War as a Religious Tragedy. He disputes earlier apologists of the left who claimed the violence was spontaneous. Sanchez found the terror unleashed against the Church was planned, it continued much longer than what can be deemed spontaneous, and it was viewed positively by most on the left as well as the anarchists. In reality anticlerical violence was a PR disaster for them, both domestically and internationally.

        • dirk says

          In the end, Franco won. In Santiago I walked through a Franco street, forgotten to change the name. Very few there like to be remembered at the horrors of the civil war. Maybe some elderly and religious ones.

          • dirk says

            The exact name of the street: Rua do Franco! Just imagine!

    • georgopolis says

      I always scroll down to look for your comments ga gamba. I hope to see you publish here one day. Thanks very much for this read and all the others.

    • Lenny says

      I’ve read a lot around the internet the false claim that fascism defeated the “libertarian workers paradise in Catalonia”. It’s a pretty bad falsehood I wish would go away. CNT/FAI and their allies were actually defeated in the “May Days” of 1937 by the partisans of the Second Republic and Soviet-allied communists.
      In fact one of the factors that prompted the Soviets to get rid of the anarchists was the severe underproduction of their factories. Catalonia was the biggest industrial center in control of the Republicans and they badly needed it to produce tanks, guns, ammunition and etc to the war effort. But the Anarchistis, by destroying the rational management and structure of most factories severely damaged the capacity of delivering those goods, All the while, Franco transformed the industries in the Basque region into a very efficient part of his war machine.

      • That’s interesting Lenny, bien etonne de se trouver ensemble, the Sovjets and Franco on one line for an efficient and productive war industry. Yes, maybe not so funny, Stalin, Franco and Hitler, all 3 of them, all in favour of that Industrial war machinery, at the cost of much human suffering of course, but who cares, quite logical, if only you start memorising!

      • And, Lenny, it’s not at all as what I read about the libertarian succesful Catalon society from that fierce madame Emma Goldman.

  11. Rick says

    “To appropriate any human tragedy with the sole purpose of scoring political points against one’s ideological opponents is deplorable.”

    I disagree. Moral arguments win the day and illustrating loudly, vociferously, and saliently the moral horrors of socialism in practice should be on the agenda of every non-socialist in the world. It is the lack of strong moral argumentation that has the NYT Op-Ed stanning for socialism. This should be reversed by illustrating the realities of socialism as often as possible. Think Pro-lifers posters at an abortion clinic, but instead, pictures of starving children, malaria rates, etc outside of every socialist meeting place in the West.

  12. Peter says

    Dirk asked : Why Venezuelans do not leave cities and start cultivating land, as quite a number of Greeks did in recent years (a very interesting fact).

    Well, what is the point of toiling on the land if the socialist government can come and tell you: you have to prepare a ton of potatoes next month, and we will pay you a very low price for it. We will also seize another 500 kg without paying, because we think you got too much. If you do not comply, you will go to jail.

    It is called »solidarity« with the city folk. This was actually done in some Socialist republics in Central and Eastern Europe for about six years after WWII, often leaving the farmers and their families with little to subsist on. I listened to a woman whose parents were struck on the floor by the Militia and kicked in the face, as they were suspected of hiding food.

    Besides, where will you find a spark plug for your cultivator or spare parts for the water pump in socialist Venezuela? Even basic necessities of life are missing.

    Greece is quite a different place: a market economy with retail functioning, and private property protected. Greeks are also very good and industrious at agriculture: I marveled at their neat olive orchards. I remember a schoolgirl on the bus who proudly told me the number of olive trees her family had. The best dried figs come from Greece as I learned.

    More people would stay on the land in Greece in the first place, if the former governments were not so generous with public sector jobs, pensions, and banks would not throw loans around.

  13. Gringo says

    What Newman forgot to tell in his enthousiastic tale about the dangers of socialism, is that, like in all Latin America, this land, until rather recent, was in the hands of just only a few socalled latifundistas, the rich landlords with 1000s and 1000s of acres and a workforce of half enslaved locals.

    While that is the Chavista myth, what has been the reality of Venezuelan agriculture. According to Carlos Machado Allison, the go-to guy on Venezuelan agriculture, the biggest landowner in the country is the government.
    The Devil’s Excrement (2005): An expert on the realities of Venezuela’s agriculture
    The Devil has copied excerpts from an interview with Carlos Machado Allison from the newspaper El Nacional:
    (Boldface:questions. Indent: Answers of Carlos Machado Allison.)

    On the state being the biggest landowner:

    This is true; it has so much that it does not even know what it has. Some say it has 8 million hectares, other say 20 million. But there is no census

    Is controlling the land, controlling production?

    Exactly the opposite. What the Government has to do is to promote the pure and simple sale of the enormous extensions it has, get rid of the bureaucratic load that it implies being the owner of land, mostly unproductive and end the legal fight of who owns them

    Do you think the state can reactivate the agricultural sector when it distributes the intervened land?

    In this country, rural people have always been discriminated against and I think it is impossible to develop in a place where people are not the owners of what they have. If I am not the owner of a farm, I am not going to invest in it. If the land continues belonging to the Government and they offer to end them to me I am not going to produce beyond the conuco(Parcel of land owned by small farmers). The policy should be one of regularizing not intervening the land.

    The Governors say these measures are to fight against the large farm state and guarantee a basic supply of foodstuffs.

    The first thing that has to be made clear is that the number of latifundios (large farm states, defined as more than 5,000 hectares) in Venezuela is small. These farms are located in the plains or in Apure; they have hard soils, lateritic ones, with lots of iron and alumina.

    The FAO informs us that Cereals (corn, rice) production in Venezuela has fallen over 50% from 2014 to 2016

    • Communists create their legends, repeat them kver and over. I lived in venezuela for years, and traveled all over the country. My impression: it was a mixed bag. I saw little farms, inherited by several sons from their father, split up until they were marginal. And i saw larger farms, with many employees using modern tractors and large sprinkling systems.

      What many of you dont get is that venezuela had had a small population and lots of oil. So the country was fairly rich, and it evolved to have a very sophisticated urban class where even a lower class woman could get breast implants. The population grew grafually, outpacing oil income. And the government was socialist. Even what you may think of right wingers (Copeyanos) were socialist.

      But their socialism was run by dumb politicians, was corrupt, and it could not cope with the oil price collapse in 1986. This led to ibcreasing poverty and the chavista coup atempt in the early 90’s. That in turn dissolved society in acid, even if it was defeated, and led to Chavez’s election in 98.

      Chavez enjoyed the oil price run up from 1999 to 2012, but wasted or stole most of the windfall, and died in Cuba from cancer. He was replaced by Maduro, a Cuban trained marxist who enjoyed high prices until 2014 (even after the 2014-15 crash prices were higher in real terms than in 1998). But Maduro turned out to be a devil. Hes destroyed everything, and the only solution i see is civil war to force him out.

  14. dirk says

    Ola Gringo, gracias for that info from go-to guy Carlos M.A., but, of course, I would have been more interested to know what’s going on on those nationalized or expropriated lands of latifundistas (I wrote about latifundios until recent, but I just see that there still are many, it’s legal to posses uptil 3000 ha, and only the unutilized pieces are expropriated). Of course, the oil boom, the price controls and the cheap imports have just sucked all those small peasant to the Caracas barrios, so, now even where the government offers free land, the campesinos/peasants (because you need to know somethng of land, crops and animals) are nowhere, vanished, due to that easy oil revenu and cheap imports). Another item: the giant latifundios of once were, as you said,situated more in the llanos (Apure,Cojedes a.o.) and lowlands, but my comments above were more meant for the scattered small private peasantries in the montes, the hillside. I know such small farms from other countries (Peru, Colombia), but must think that they still exist also in the Venezuelan countryside.
    Have a look also at the movie (Youtube?) on these matters, Tierras Libres, Edward Ellis, 2003 ?, where the remaining latifundistas defend their property and legal rights against the claims of the occupying peasants. The local alcaldes and officials, even now seem to be very often siding with those remaining landlords and ranchers, and not with Chavez in the far away capital. And a minor item: where I spoke of bananas above, I meant plantains, a famous staple of the region, not easy to import, but very easy to grow and harvest if you have only a minor plot near the house. To eat with black beans and a chunk of beef (from the llanos and ranches,those immense latino prairies, 1 kg of it in Caracas now: 14 million Bolivar!!!).

  15. Gringo says

    Of course, the oil boom, the price controls and the cheap imports have just sucked all those small peasant to the Caracas barrios, so, now even where the government offers free land, the campesinos/peasants (because you need to know somethng of land, crops and animals) are nowhere, vanished, due to that easy oil revenue and cheap imports)

    Good point. The only addition I would like to make is that the urbanization process long preceded Chavismo. After all, “easy oil revenue and cheap imports” were not an invention of Chavismo, but embedded into Venezuelan culture. At least until recent years. World Bank: Urban population (% of total).

    Urban population (% of total)
    1980 79 %
    1990 84 %
    2000 88 %
    2017 89 %

  16. Gringo says

    but, of course, I would have been more interested to know what’s going on on those nationalized or expropriated lands of latifundistas
    The WaPo link has some information on that.
    Prodavinci has an interesting interview with Carlos Machado Allison. Carlos Machado Allison: “Es brutal el atraso tecnológico en el sistema agroalimentario” An excerpt follows.
    ¿Tiene a manos cifras que nos den una idea del resultado de las políticas de la revolución bolivariana en el sector agrícola?(Do you have at hand statistics that give us an idea of the result of the politics of the Bolivarian revolution in the agricultural sector?)

    Las empresas socialistas, las cooperativas, los fundos zamoranos,absorbieron un enorme gasto y no producen. El desabastecimiento y la caída en la producción de maíz, arroz, ganado, hortalizas, café, es notoria. Venezuela ha tenido que importar arroz cuando llegamos a ser exportadores, y a importar ganado por una cantidad monstruosa de dinero tras la destrucción sistemática de fincas ganaderas en Guárico y Portuguesa. En Yaracuy, Lara y Aragua ha habido un daño muy grande en la caña de azúcar. Según mis cálculos, que se ajustan bastante a los de Fedeagro y al resto de los gremios, en 1998 la producción agrícola vegetal era de 780 kilogramos por persona al año, y en 2016 fue de 500 kilogramos. Para la seguridad alimentaria se necesitan 800 kilogramos por persona. The socialist companies, the cooperatives, the Zamorano farms, absorbed a huge expense and did not produce. The shortage and the fall in the production of corn, rice, livestock, vegetables, coffee, is notorious. Venezuela has had to import rice when we became exporters, and to import cattle for a monstrous amount of money after the systematic destruction of livestock farms in Guárico and Portuguesa. In Yaracuy, Lara and Aragua there has been a very great damage to sugarcane production. According to my calculations, which are quite adjusted to those of Fedeagro and the rest of the guilds, in 1998 the vegetable agricultural production was 780 kilograms per person per year, and in 2016 it was 500 kilograms. For food security 800 kilograms per person are needed.

    I will provide FAO documents in support of Carlos Machado Allison,but in a later comment. My previous comment got caught in spam-meter, so I am breaking it up.

  17. Gringo says

    A lot of the reduction in per capita agricultural production has occurred in the last two years. From 2014 to 2016, Cereals production (rice, maize) in Venezuela dropped by roughly 1,800,000 metric tons. For 30 million Venezuelans, this would represent a per capita drop of 60 kilograms in Cereals production from 2014 to 2016. (FAO Stats, Country Indicators.)

    Here are some FAO stats to back up Carlos Machado Allison.
    1) Drop in sugar production.

    Sugar Raw Centrifugal, metric tons
    2004 716,882
    2005 739,711
    2006 788,902
    2007 766,184
    2008 568,831
    2009 434,129
    2010 428,815
    2011 428,816
    2012 428,816
    2013 486,716
    2014 565,000

    2) Venezuela changing from a rice exporter to a rice importer.

    Export Quantity: Rice (Milled Equivalent)
    1997 63,378
    1998 75,984
    1999 22,463
    2000 63,957
    2001 46,164
    2002 27,603
    2003 1,035
    2004 10,804
    2005 12,530
    2006 21,728
    2007 18,892
    2008 0
    2009 375
    2010 4,599
    2011 0
    2012 0
    2013 0

    Import Quantity: Rice (Milled Equivalent), metric tons
    1997 363
    1998 159
    1999 236
    2000 280
    2001 292
    2002 493
    2003 84,255
    2004 720
    2005 661
    2006 1,286
    2007 627
    2008 256,811
    2009 199,699
    2010 378,328
    2011 254,101
    2012 295,063
    2013 477,976

    http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/BC Commodity Balances – Crops Primary Equivalent:
    http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QD Production: Crops Processed

    • dirk says

      Thanks for the figures Gringo. So, with sugar and rice, tremendous decreases in production. Not so strange where you have foreign currency to import stuff that’s rather cheap on world market, and easy to store and transport and distribute (with subsidies?). And need a lot of organisation (irrigation systems, ingenios ) to produce, the first produce that suffers where the infrastructure and policy is wanting. Probably, the production of plantains, black beans, maize and cassava, produce of the small independent campesino farms, does not have such disastrous declines. Anyhow, a good lesson for the university classes of farm economics of the less developed nations. Because, I think, in Nigeria and Cuba, similar things happen.
      But, back to the countryside, hillybilly’s territory, the free man’s land, I still think that’s heaven for the starving citizens.

      • Everything, every crop, every economic activity is hurt. The regime has destroyed the country. And we see people starving. Its awful, and it sure would be better if you stop defending this genocide.

        • Gringo says

          Probably, the production of…maize,, produce of the small independent campesino farms, does not have such disastrous declines.

          Maize is in its own special category. At first substantial production increases, and then after 2014, fell off the cliff. From 2013 to 2016, a 40% fall in production. The 40% fall in per capita income from 2013-2018 has made it difficult to purchase items for production, such as seed corn or fertilizer.

          Maize production, metric tons
          cv 1,166,732
          1996 1,033,292
          1997 1,199,219
          1998 983,121
          1999 1,149,450
          2000 1,689,551
          2001 1,801,061
          2002 1,392,029
          2003 1,823,237
          2004 2,126,256
          2005 2,193,460
          2006 2,336,834
          2007 2,570,869
          2008 2,638,010
          2009 2,183,345
          2010 2,372,452
          2011 2,033,934
          2012 2,107,861
          2013 2,457,263
          2014 2,306,741
          2015 1,439,875
          2016 1,465,379

          From what I hear, the decline will continue for 2017 and 2018 production.

          http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QC

        • dirk says

          Is anybody defending socialism or Chavismo here, Fernando??, where do you read such things, or is it the strawman?? I am defending the peasantry, the small free farmers. And I hope you know about all those remaining latifundios in Venezuela, often in the hands of foreigners (e.g., El Charcote, 30thousand ha’s). I wonder whether Fidel would have left such farms untouched.

          • dirk says

            Charcote not completely untouched of course, a few 1000 acres of unused lands are redistributed to locals, though, again, I miss figures of the situation right now. Wikipedia says that more than half of the ha’s of the national latifundios is still firmly in the hands of the landlords. It won’t help the food situation much. It’s like war in Venezuela now.

      • Gringo says

        Probably, the production of plantains, black beans, maize and cassava, produce of the small independent campesino farms, does not have such disastrous declines.

        1998 prod, metric tons.
        Bananas 812,921
        Beans, dry 31,141
        Cassava 519,044
        Plantains and others 615,095

        2016 prod, metric tons.
        Bananas 470,594
        Beans, dry 23,243
        Cassava 306,395
        Plantains and others 577,146

        % Decline in Production, 1998-2016
        Bananas 42.1%
        Beans, dry 25.4%
        Cassava 41.0%
        Plantains and others 6.2%

        % Decline in Per Capita Production, 1998-2016
        Bananas 56.8%
        Beans, dry 44.3%
        Cassava 55.9%
        Plantains and others 29.9%

        Disastrous enough, unfortunately.

        Maize is is a special category, as production increase

        Population 23,569,454 in 1998 & 31,568,179 in 2016 (World Bank)

        If you sum up the Crop tonnages for Venezuela for 1998 and 2016- after substituting “Sugar Raw Centrifugal” (processed crops) for sugar cane (BIG tonnage difference), you don’t get the same tonnages as Carlos Machado Allison, but you DO get the same per capita decline of 33% from 1998- 2016.

        http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QC

        • dirk says

          As you can see, Gringo, the decrease of beans and plantains (peasant crops) is by far not as disastrous as that of rice, the country practically stopped production of it, and (if we may believe the statistics, see later) maize even increased substantially after the Land Reform laws of 2001 (maybe because price incentives? skip to another crop?). The decrease of cassava of Carlos, I distrust, what do other sources say? Crops like cassava, but also plantains, fall beyound statistics, who is going to estimate or measure what peasants grow in their farms and sell locally? In all those backward mountain areas without proper roads? Nevertheless, it’s clear that also such small crops must decrease due to price controls and the Dutch Disease (use of money from fuel or gas exports for social programs), the large urbanisation as a result in V. just means disappearance of farmers and peasants. But, who can tell me why citizens don’t FLEE BACK to the LAND and the SOILS that provide food for work (and just rather simple work, every gardener can do)?
          Yesterday in my newspaper, estimates of the Venezuelans that fled their country
          UNHCR figure: 2,3 milion
          Independent enquete commission: 4 million.
          With other words: what is the value of Venezuelan statistics? Or other figures? Also from Cuban Fernando, I expect very few trustworthy figures on food production and peasant agriculture, or from figures on fleeing back to the countryside. Though, he must know more about all those agronomists and cooperation specialists that came to “help and assist” Venezuela in their disastrous land reform programs!.

        • Gringo says

          dirk
          Charcote not completely untouched of course, a few 1000 acres of unused lands are redistributed to locals, though, again, I miss figures of the situation right now.

          Did you ever read the links in this article? “Not completely untouched?” Rather completely touched, according to the WaPo link that Newman provided his readers. In Venezuela, Land ‘Rescue’ Hopes Unmet, Washington Post, 20 June 2009.

          Among the once-productive farms put out of business earlier this decade was this 33,606-acre ranch in Cojedes state owned by the Vestey Group, a British company. El Charcote used to turn out 3.3 million pounds of beef a year, making it one of the country’s top 10 producers. Today, the 13,000 head of cattle that once roamed here are gone.

          The small farmers working the property have a few cows, but those animals, and the small corn patches here and there, are mainly for personal use. New farm machinery, painted the government’s trademark red, gathers dust in a lot on the outskirts of this town.

          “If there is a word to describe all this, it is ‘stagnant,’ ” said Carlos Machado, an agriculture expert at the Institute of Higher Administrative Studies in Caracas and a former agricultural consultant for the Organization of American States. “The government policy to increase the crop production in the country is a complete failure.”

          El Charcote se fue a la….

  18. Venezuela‘s current crisis is due to corrupt crony populism, not to socialism.
    Two grounds are commonly alleged for claiming that Venezuela is socialist:
    1. Its government says so, and
    2. Its government owns much of the economy.
    HOWEVER:
    1. When the Venezuelan government says that Venezuela is socialist, we should analyze this statement with the same skepticism as when it claims to be democratic and anti-imperialist. Until evidence is forthcoming, we have no grounds to believe it.
    2. Austria’s government also owns most of the economy, namely all big banks, most heavy industry, and so forth. But nobody currently calls Austria “socialist”. Moreover when Venezuela began its nationalization binge in 2003, it was a purely political move intended to disempower local and foreign capitalists who were intent on undermining Hugo Chavez’ rule. It was a piecemeal expropriation and no central planning structure emerged. The new state enterprises were staffed by Chavez’ cronies chosen for their loyalty, not their competence.
    Consequently there seem to be no sound reasons for calling Venezuela “socialist”. Therefore the critique of socialism offered by Mr Richter, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek et al. are irrelevant to Venezuela.
    By the way – although this has nothing to do with Venezuela — there are writings about Mises’ and Hayek’s critiques of socialism that find them wanting in large part. See “Ludwig von Mises and the Art of Methodological Hanky-Panky” and other writing at http://www.blueplanetnotes.blogspot.com

    • It is socialism. All i can add is that decent people around the world should make sure these socialists cant rewrite history, because this has to be known, written in text books and taught to your children. Dont ever ever let them take over your countries, do what you have to do to stop them. They are fanstics, insist on inflicting pain and misery over and over. All they touch turns to rubble, they destroy society. If you are religious pray to your God that these people never get power over you.

      • Please state your reasons for claiming that Venezuela is socialist, while denying that Austria is socialist.
        An economic system without economic planning is not socialist. Venezuela has no economic planning, so it is not socialist. There is much to criticize about the Venezuelan economy, but exercising such criticism is not critique of socialism.

    • georgopolis says

      “…it was a purely political move intended to disempower local and foreign capitalists who were intent on undermining Hugo Chavez’ rule. It was a piecemeal expropriation and no central planning structure emerged. The new state enterprises were staffed by Chavez’ cronies chosen for their loyalty, not their competence.”

      The central planning structure that emerged failed. To your cronyism point: that is the point. This is what always occurs in socialist countries.

      “When the Venezuelan government says that Venezuela is socialist, we should analyze this statement with the same skepticism as when it claims to be democratic and anti-imperialist. Until evidence is forthcoming, we have no grounds to believe it.”

      I beg you to present evidence to the contrary. I cannot fathom how the evidence is not forthcoming. I think you’re essentially engaging in the no-true Scotsman fallacy: you don’t see socialism because Venezuela is not a Utopia.

      If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a chicken?

      • You claim there was a “central planning structure”. What was its name, when was it founded, who was its director? What were the names of the economic plans issuied by this central planning structure, and in what years did these economic plans begin and end?

        • dirk says

          Your own Hausmann called Chavez a socialist (from 2007 onwards, not at the start, where he left the economics, agriculture and enterprises on its own), but from then on started nationalizing banks, telecom, farms, supermarkets and the like. Though not very clever planning, I would call such moves rather socialistic!

    • Gringo says

      Venezuela‘s current crisis is due to corrupt crony populism, not to socialism.

      Chavista Venezuela, Sandinista Nicaragua (1979-1981 on), and Allende’s Chile (1970-73) all have had sharp declines in agricultural production. In addition, Cuba’s milk production from 1961 on lagged greatly behind that of the rest of Latin America. While neither Sandinista Comandantes nor Allende officials nor Cuban officials were completely free of corruption, their level of corruption was much smaller than corruption in Chavista Venezuela, and far from the main reason for economic debacle. What all four countries had in common was a Marxist ideology. Chavista Venezuela, Sandinista Nicaragua, and Allende’s Chile featured price controls, usually with high inflation, and a lot of “land reform.” Overweening government control was the feature in common in Cuba. Cuba’s having Soviet and Chavista sugar daddies meant it didn’t have to suffer inflation.

      1)Venezuela’s production of Cereals fell more than 50% from 2014 to 2016, and according to Carlos Machado Allison, vegetable per capita production in Venezuela fell by about 35% from 1998 to 2016. (see my previous comment.)
      2) Nicaragua’s Net per capita Agriculture Production Index Number(PIN) (2004-2006 = 100) fell nearly 40% in 1980. Per capita agricultural production in Nicaragua fell nearly 40% -not during the Sandinista uprising against Somoza in 1978-79- but in 1980, in reaction to Sandinista peacetime policies. While there was some corruption in Sandinista Nicaragua,
      3) From 1970 to 1973, Chile’s Net per capita Agriculture Production Index Number(PIN) (2004-2006 = 100) fell 17.5%. During the Allende years. That is, the Socialism years. Like with Nicaragua, neither corruption nor
      4) Compare the increase in milk production from 1961 to present for Cuba and Latin America. From 1961 to 2016, Cuba’s production of fresh milk increased 75%. From 1691 to 2016, Latin America’s milk production increased 321%. Dividing 2016 production by 1961 production: 1.74 for Cuba, 4.21 for Latin America.

      Repeat after me: NOTHING TO DO WITH SOCIALISM.
      NOTHING TO DO WITH SOCIALISM.

      As they say in Venezuela, tell me another cowboy tale. (Dime otro de vaqueros.) Also known as tall tale or fish story.

      Perhaps you want to close your eyes and ears to the above, but to me these examples show me that Marxism/Socialism is a disaster for agriculture. While one may not call Venezuela as Marxist as the other countries, it shared “land reform” and disincentives to production, such as price controls.

      (Agriculture didn’t do so well in the Soviet Union or in Mao’s China, either. Pure coincidence, from your point of view.)

      http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#country/236 Venezuela Cereals production
      http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QI

      Livestock primary: Milk, whole fresh cow (element 5510)
      http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QL

      • I’m Cuban, lived there under communism. After the land was nationalized by the Castro regime, fresh milk disappeared. Canned milk was allocated only for children 6 and under years old, in inadequate amounts.

        My mom was very savvy, she knew how to get black market milk, a dangerous trade which could land her in jail, but she knew my sister and I needed it so she went for it.

        I believe what we see in these comments sections is peppered with propaganda, cut and paste, prepared by the Castro regime, because its very uniform in style, and the lies and distortions used to defend these red regimes tend to be very similar.

        To the author and Quillette: if you want to write another article about Venezuela feel free to contact me (find me on twitter), and i can give you both spanish sourced information as well as put you in contact with individuals who used to support chavez and are so upset theyll risk their lives and allow themselves to be quoted openly. I, on the other hand cant give you my full name although i suspect by now the cuban secret police knows who i am.

      • I wrote nothing about “sharp declines in agricultural production”. Besides, the declines in production you claim did not occur during export booms in Chile and Cuba. I wrote that the surface of land devoted to farming shrank. A decline in production can have many causes. Planned economies are indeed often inefficient. But planned economies do not automatically reduce the amount of farmland they cultivate in response to surges in food imports. Prompt reductions in the amount of land farmed in response to surges in food imports are typical of market economies.
        Your ostensible rebuttal of my argument is based on simply changing the subject matter of the discussion.

        • dirk says

          @Bolivious
          Planning in cities with factories and a workerclass is, of course, easier than in the rural areas, especially where these are mountainous and full of wasteland and wetlands (llanos). Even in Russia, communism (even more socialist than socialism ) started in the big cities, and only after years (after the new economic policy,kind of compromise, failed) the land was following in the planning process: a disaster, because peasants and farmers actually don’t fit in the philosophy of industrial capitalists and the poor worker classes.
          BTW, how do you see the Israelian kibbutzim project? Socialism?

        • Gringo says

          I wrote nothing about “sharp declines in agricultural production”.
          As I wrote that, and I never claimed that you had written that, I have no idea what your point is.

          I wrote that the surface of land devoted to farming shrank.
          While my “sharp declines in agricultural production” was not written in response to the above, you did make such a statement. As you apparently want me to reply to it, I will do so.

          By your logic, the fact that “land surface devoted to farming shrank swiftly” from 1995 to 2010 was an indication that Venezuela was NOT a planned economy. FAO data informs us that in that same time period the amount of Venezuelan land devoted to crops increased 20%- from 1.698 million hectares to 2.045 million hectares. Which is a far cry from “shrank swiftly.” So by your own logic, Venezuela IS a planned economy.

          Your ostensible rebuttal of my argument is based on simply changing the subject matter of the discussion.
          You have reading comprehension problems. My comment about “sharp declines in agricultural production” was NOT written in response to your comment about “surface of land devoted to farming shrank,” but to your comment that began with “Venezuela‘s current crisis is due to corrupt crony populism, not to socialism,” a comment which makes no statement whatsoever about amount of land devoted to farming.

          http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QA Crops- Area harvested

        • Gringo says

          Besides, the declines in production you claim did not occur during export booms in Chile and Cuba.
          Which just might suggest to you that my comment about “sharp declines in agricultural production” had NOTHING to do with export booms. From 1961 to 2016, the amount of land cultivated for crops in Cuba fell from 2,054,422 hectares to 1,491,106 hectares, a figure which is more in line with my theory that Marxism/Socialism destroys agriculture than with your theory that export booms in capitalist countries destroy agriculture and that Socialism doesn’t.
          See my previous comment for link.

  19. For those that say but the USSR, China’s “revolution”, Venezuela or any other “socialistic” system is not THE ONE TRUE SOCIALISM then I say but our horrible “capitalism” is not TRUE CAPITALISM! Listen, it boils down to this; if there is a sector in the economy that is currently ran by private owners and the government comes in and takes it over that is coercive socialism, straight up. If the government does this with ALL sectors and closes it to the outside market than it is now on its way to becoming a totalitarian failed state. Every time, no exceptions.

    I’m sorry, but no amount of rationalizing or wishing will change this.

    Also, I don’t know if ya’ll noticed this but here in the U.S. “we the people” actually do run the show. Of course corporations are corrupt and money is in politics but in this country we have almost 30 million small businesses, a million of which are minority owned. These are SMALL businesses, that’s not including medium and large sized businesses. This is WORKER owned! These small business owners are not the petit bourgeois of old (those are college professors) these business people are the working class they own the plumbing services, autobody shops, construction companies, house builders, retail shops, restaurants, mechanic shops, small & large grocery stores, engineering firms, law offices, car dealerships, rental companies, trucking companies, mobile food trucks, floral shops, massage parlors, doctors offices, gyms and that is just in my small town of 50,000 people! We Are The Workers! We Are The People! At anytime, you, “THE WORKER” are totally free to leave and go anywhere else. You can open up a jewelry shop like 3 women have on Main Street in my hometown. I live in a red state in flyover country, it’s a college town but it’s ag based. A few years ago a few guys moved back home and opened up a micro-brewery that is doing phenomenally. This is the owner/worker society that you are talking about! Go outside the academy and look around, I know the rust belt needs help but most of us are doing great. We are entrepreneurs, we’re not Bill Gates or Sam Walton but we OWN OUR OWN MEANS OF PRODUCTION. This is the workers revolution of your dreams. If there is something you’re dying to do we have all kinds of options set up to help you get there. Of course it’s not handed to you and you will have to earn it but it’s totally doable. This is not utopia, it is a fact. But we have no need for the intellegentsia to tell us what or how to do anything. The intellectuals have always been useless to the business and working class in American society. We have no use for the intelligent vanguard, none! We never have and this, my friends, is why the socialist vanguard in academia have real hatred for the working and business class. It’s because they are parasites that only survive in a capitalistic market society. They are mostly upper middle class, they sit around in their comfy classrooms while thinking of ways to dismantle the very society that allows them to exist. They should just go open up a food truck and save the rest of us the headache of suffering through their tiresome protests!

    • dirk says

      But, KDM, I hope you realise it’s mainly a passtime for middle class academians? And nothing serious (because no influence at all) !!

  20. dirk says

    You are right KDM, neither true socialism, neither true capitalism (Friedman, Hayek) is the answer. The neo-liberal exigencies in policy (not only in Venezuela before Chavez, also in all African countries) resulted in economic and social disasters, or overreaction and flight into monocrop socialism. But, what we really need, everywhere, is the experienced bartender who knows how to mix and serve the right cocktails (something like the Rheinland model in NW Europe, Sweden, Germany).

    • Gringo says

      The neo-liberal exigencies in policy (not only in Venezuela before Chavez, also in all African countries) resulted in economic and social disasters..
      Like many Latin American countries, Venezuela privatized its government-owned telecom company, which we would agree was a neo-liberal move, would we not? Like in most Latin American countries that privatized their government-owned telecom companies, Venezuelan consumers benefited : better coverage, faster installation of landlines, less corruption, better prices, etc. (Mexico should not have handed Carlos Slim its telecom on a platter, however.)

      For the most part, in the 19901s, Venezuela kept its government-owned enterprises: PDVSA, iron, steel, aluminum and electricity generation. Hardly neo-liberal at all.

      The main problem with economic growth in Venezuela in the 1990s was that the price of oil was lower than in the previous decade. In 1998, Venezuela sold its oil at an average price of $10.57/BBL- the lowest average yearly price in a generation. As Juan Bimbo, the average Venezuelan, tended to judge his government by the amount of oil revenue it distributed, he had a decidedly negative view of the Venezuelan government in 1998. Thus the election result.

      That being said, Fourth Republic Venezuela in 1998 with $10.57 oil was decidedly better off than Chavista Venezuela in 2018 with ~$60 oil.

      But, what we really need, everywhere, is the experienced bartender who knows how to mix and serve the right cocktails (something like the Rheinland model in NW Europe, Sweden, Germany).
      As your statement about “neo-liberal exigencies” in Venezuela indicates you know a lot less about Venezuela than you assume you know, perhaps you shouldn’t snark like that.

      https://www.caracaschronicles.com/2018/08/27/you-wish-we-were-in-1989/

  21. Gringo says

    dirk:
    But, who can tell me why citizens don’t FLEE BACK to the LAND and the SOILS that provide food for work (and just rather simple work, every gardener can do)?

    For the most part, the information has already been provided in links and discussion. You can lead a horse to water…..

    Recall the data I provided about Venezuela having 88% urban population in 2000. A generation and more removed from rural areas- where are they going back to?

    Recall a Carlos Machado Allison quote I provided: :

    In this country, rural people have always been discriminated against and I think it is impossible to develop in a place where people are not the owners of what they have. If I am not the owner of a farm, I am not going to invest in it. If the land continues belonging to the Government and they offer to end them to me I am not going to produce beyond the conuco (Parcel of land owned by small farmers). The policy should be one of regularizing not intervening the land.

    There are problems with title to the land.

    The author of this piece provided a link that illustrated problems with going back to the land. I will copy the link and quote.In Venezuela, Land ‘Rescue’ Hopes Unmet, Washington Post, 20 June 2009. I will first quote from Chávez, regarding title to the land. I

    “I say to all who say they own land: In the first place, that land is not yours. The land is not private. It is the property of the state,” Chávez said last month on an episode of his weekly television show broadcast from rural Barinas state, where he grew up.

    If the land isn’t yours,but belongs to the state, you aren’t going to work your hardest on that land.

    Then there is the experience of someone who went back to a rural area. From the WaPo link:

    Dreaming of a new life, Ramón Barrera came to El Charcote, a vast farm here in northwestern Venezuela, several years after President Hugo Chávez’s populist government had expropriated the property from its longtime owners and begun distributing parcels to small farmers like him to work.

    Six months after he arrived, Barrera’s dream is still just a dream — his 37 acres are fallow, so he spends his time feeding grain to nine scrawny pigs. He and other farmers trying to earn a living on the farm’s sunbaked expanse said the technical help they had been promised never materialized.

    “Things are serious here. There is no water, no electricity, no comforts,” said Barrera, 64. “There is no credit. There is nothing. How are people supposed to work?”

    This WaPo link mentions problems of credit for materials needed for farming, problems of technical assistance ( Recall the Carlos Machado Allison Prodavinci interview), problems of title. If these were problems 9 years ago, with abundant oil export revenue, these problems are even greater today with Venezuela’s collapsed economy. (Venezuela did much better in 1998,with $11 oil, than it is doing today with $60 oil.)

    Not to mention the problems of getting rural produce to the city.
    A further issue with going back to the land is that criminals and criminal gangs are found in both rural and urban areas. Stealing of crops and livestock is rather common, I have read.

    Need I say more?

    • dirk says

      I can follow all your reasoning, understand most, and can even agree. There is a thick report to write about the situation and the possible measures to stop it. And I don’t think that somebody turns up here that knows about the movements within the country, also Fernando, who is more knowledgeable than others, can’t do the research, or spotting local journalists or bushcrafters to find out. So, I fear, I will not be informed about these things, whether, e.g., at least, say, 50 or 100.000 Caracans with ties with small familyfarms have returned to the land to escape hunger. Also in Greece it was not more than 4% of total population.
      I have lived and worked some 20 years in countries where land reform was an issue,always hotly debated. The ejido system in Mexico, the FARC in Colombia, the distribution of small plots to peasants by bying out (by he UK) the former landlords/cattle owners on the Kenyan highlands, a complete failure (not unlike that redistribution of El Charcote, also a cattle farm not suited for crops on most of the area). What I said above is outdated, the farm has been sold in the meantime to the state, but the owners (British landlords) still own 1000s of acres elsewhere.
      You mentioned the term -conuco-, a small plot for self supporting mainly (often by burning the bush before planting), called chacra in Peru, this is exactly what I was heading at, and NOT MORE THAN THAT, survival only for a period, so no electricity or tractors please, keep it small. What I read today in my Google search -Necesitamos credito, tractores, apoyo tecnico…..-, that stuff thus, and you know it’s not going to work, expectations that ask for a long term effort and coordinated organisations, not possible in the chaotic Venezuela of the last 15 years. But I stay interested, because of my history. Another sentence I read today – Como es posible que estemos importando caraotas- (Hugo Chavez himself), yes how is that possible!! To have to import the ordinary beans for a simple local dish, in such a resource rich country!! For me no surprise at all! Nigeria does the same! Thanks for discussing with me about these things!

      • dirk says

        ……a la chingada, was that what you meant Gringo?? Hahaha, I feel being back for a short moment!!

        • Gringo says

          I was thinking of “a la mierda.” But much the same…

          • dirk says

            Again, my history is what counts here: Vera Cruz, Mexico (10 years, great time). Even platano there isn,t what it is in Venezuela. And they don,t know what caraotas are. But what they eat is the same.

      • Gringo says

        Part of the problem for those familiar with other countries in Latin America is that Venezuela’s century as a petrostate has done much to differentiate it from other countries in Latin America. Which means that the assumptions brought from other Latin American countries to Venezuela do not always work for Venezuela.

        The state, with its control of oil revenue, has long had an out-sized influence in Venezuela compared to other countries. It has been remarked more than once that a “right winger” in Venezuela would be a left winger elsewhere.

        The assumption in Venezuela is that it is a “rich” country that should distribute its “wealth” to the populace: a rentier attitude pretty much from top to bottom. Unfortunately for the Venezuelans, not as rich as they assumed- even before the Chavista debacle. With a population of 5 million in the 1950s going to over 30 million 6 decades later, the oil wealth was split many more ways.

  22. Gringo says

    dirk:
    With other words: what is the value of Venezuelan statistics? Or other figures?
    Good point.

    As Venezuela Collapses, Children are Dying of Hunger.

    For almost two years, the government did not publish a single epidemiological bulletin tracking statistics like infant mortality. Then in April of this year, a link suddenly appeared on the Health Ministry’s official website, leading to the unpublished bulletins. They showed that 11,446 children under the age of 1 had died in 2016 — a 30 percent increase in one year — as the economic crisis accelerated.

    The new findings made national and international headlines before the government declared that the website had been hacked, and the reports were swiftly removed. The health minister was fired and the military was put in charge of monitoring the bulletins. No reports have been released since.

    The World Bank gets its data from country’s governments. Thus, what information the World Bank provides on Venezuela, comes from the Chavista government.
    World Bank: Venezuela: Number of Infant Deaths.
    2014 8,728
    2015 8,596
    2016 8,400

    The government bulletin : 11,146 Infant Deaths in 2016. World Bank reports 8,400 Infant Deaths in 2016. Conclusion: the Venezuelan government provided false data to the World Bank on Infant Deaths for 2016. Note that when the 11,146 infant deaths in 2016 in the NYT article is divided by 1.3, we get 8574 Infant Deaths in 2015, compared to World Bank data of 8596 Infant Deaths in 2015, which considering round-off errors, indicates the NYT data is accurate.

    I am reminded of pointing out to PSF (Pendejos Sin Fronteras) that World Bank data showed that economic growth in Chavista Venezuela from 1998-2013 was much lower than the rest of Latin America or the rest of the world, for that matter. The PSF reply would be that the World Bank, being a capitalist organization, would publish false data damaging to the Chavista government. Were one to go to the website of Venezuela’s Central Bank, one could find the same data on economic growth that the World Bank provided.Repeat after me: World Bank gets its data from respective governments. Which is why there is no World Bank data past 2015 on Veneuzuela’s economy. The Chavista government hasn’t provided that data- too embarrassing.

    Regarding skepticism about FAO statistics, I would point out that the FAO, like the World Bank, gets its data from the respective governments. There has also been well-founded suspicion in the past that the FAO – at least some parts of it- has been a water carrier for the Chavista regime. I refer you to Gustavo Coronel’s blog. Advanced Google Search @ Gustavo Coronel’s blog: food and agricultural organization.

  23. Old stuff, but nevertheless. In my newspaper today, an article on the book of our minister Dijsselbloom on the Greec crisis (also old stuff, though, for many Greecs probably not, they still suffer). He explained in his book(I,m not going to read, too boring) what the trouble was. In fact, I got the idea, not unlike that of Venezuela, with that difference, that Venezuela has no Merkel and EU that is going to rescue them. I got the idea: in both cases, the crisis has nothing to do with socialism, capitalism, imperialism, colonialism or whatever, but simply with one thing that every child of at least 5 yrs old will understand: if you spend more money than you earn or get, you ( or your parents, goverment) are in big trouble. Big difference: Greece was part of the EU, and, in order to have the common currency not devaluated, the European community came to the rescue, though, many countries were on the verge of dis-agreement. The farm community in Greece is about the same as in Venezuela (11% of the population), even if the GDP is much higher there, but incrased upto 17% within some years. So, still, my questions of above remain: why not back to the land???? Anybody who knows?? (I doubt, because nobody is interested in interior and rural questions of latino countries)

    • Small additional remark: Dijsselbloom also admitted that in Greece, the whole democratic system was bypassed (under strong pressure of North European nations) to save the EU and the currency (except on some minor aspects). Voters are always the boss, he said, but not always very knowledgeable. So, the democratic socialism of Bolivious is not something logical or harmonious. Instead, it is a big challenge!

  24. Santoculto says

    ”Socialist” values are considerably correct than capitalist ones…

    Don’t confuse them with pseudo-socialist practice.

    • Indeed , santoculto, what is pseudo-socialist? And what is genuine socialism? Or genuine capitalism? Colonialism? Imperialism?
      I wouldn’t know. Above I asked, is the kibbutz system in Israel genuine socialism? No answer, of course!

  25. With the hyperinflation all local Venezuelan wealth has been wiped out. The fear I have is the situation in Venezuela may go into a genocidal phase. These socialist governments tend to sometimes do that. The question is what to do if the genocide happens?

    • Why organize a genocide James, the people flee themselves already, now already more than 4 million abroad, as estimated by some sources. Pol Pot of Cambodja forced the citydwellers to settle in the rural areas and work in the fields. That could also be a solution(in a somewhat milder form) for Maduro, because where you miss foreign exchange to buy maize meal, rice, wheat, beef and sugar, you might as well try to let the job of farming be done by the Caracanians, they have lived too long now a freewheeling urban life. Venezuela is the only South American nation importing its staples ( Cuba being the Caraibian one).

  26. Here I am again. Thanks to Quillette, I heard more about the Venezuelan crisis and learned a lot of Gringo, Fernando, Bolivious and, via Google,also of the history and backgrounds. For me, having worked longtime in Mexico and Peru, an eyeopener. And, a pity that interesting reactions on Quillette then are not resulting into something more solid, or concluding, some katharsis after all.

    Also, I can’t find the whole thing anymore in the presentation of titles and subjects! Nevertheless. What I found of late:

    -Diego Arria (Venezuelan ambassador to the UN), in a Jazeera review: “Actually, we never had socialism in Venezuela”
    -Javier Farje (Peruvian born British journalist, also in a Jazeera interview):
    -After corn flour and pasta disappeared on the shelves of the supermarkets, these necessities were soon replaced by vegetables, fruits,plantains and potatoes, in which the country still was self sufficient-.
    This is what I suspected already (@Gringo), but now saw it as expressed by a knowledgeable source.

    The farm of Arria, La Carolina, in the state of Yaracuy, having 300 Jersey cows and other cattle, was expropriated in 2010 by the ministry of agriculture on the grounds of not being used, but being ” Idle and fallow” ( a reason to expropriate, thus different to situations in Russia and elsewhere, where the farms were simply and without any reason expropriated). Arria himself called the seizure of the ranch: “pillage and ransacking”. Background: the seizure was a reaction on critical remarks on Chavez’s policy.

    O.K., I think then, if things are like that, what is the use of discussing about socialism or capitalism?? Venezuela was stumbling as well under neoliberal policies (Perez a.o.) as under pseudo-socialist ones (Chavez, Maduro) This is just children’s play, and only possible because of ample export earnings due to petro dollars (and credits, all in the good times of course).

    • Gringo says

      After corn flour and pasta disappeared on the shelves of the supermarkets, these necessities were soon replaced by vegetables, fruits,plantains and potatoes, in which the country still was self sufficient-.This is what I suspected already (@Gringo), but now saw it as expressed by a knowledgeable source.

      But the “replacement” of plantains, potatoes, et al was not adequate to compensate for the loss of pasta and corn.

      Consider potatoes. In the tropics, potatoes are a high-altitude crop. Such land abounds in Peru and Bolivia. In Venezuela, much less so. Kilos of potatoes produced per capita in 2016: 138 for Peru, 99 for Bolivia, and 12 for Venezuela. Potatoes are a very minor part of the Venezuelan diet- hardly able to replace arepas(corn) or pasta. Moreover, in Venezuela from 1998 to 2016 there was a decline of 25% in per capita potato production. Not to mention a 30% decline in per capita plantain production from 1998 to 2016. ( to ~20 kilos per capita)

      In 2013, Venezuela had domestic supplies of ~130 kilos per capita of maize. That would indicate that domestic production of potatoes or plantains -which would add up to about 30 kilos per capita- would have been far from able to replace them. From 2014 to 2016, Venezuela’s Cereals production- maize and rice- went down about 60 kilos per capita. Neither maize/corn imports nor increased potato or plantain production made up for the deficit.

      Overall, food supply in Venezuela is greatly reduced in recent years, as most Venezuelans have reported substantial weight losses in the last two years. You WERE aware of this, were you not? Venezuelans report big weight losses in 2017 as hunger hits.

      CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelans reported losing on average 11 kilograms (24 lbs) in body weight last year and almost 90 percent now live in poverty, according to a new university study on the impact of a devastating economic crisis and food shortages.
      The annual survey, published on Wednesday by three universities, is one of the most closely-followed assessments of Venezuelans’ well being amid a government information vacuum and shows a steady rise in poverty and hunger in recent years.

      Over 60 percent of Venezuelans surveyed said that during the previous three months they had woken up hungry because they did not have enough money to buy food. About a quarter of the population was eating two or less meals a day, the study showed.

      Last year, the three universities found that Venezuelans said they had lost an average of 8 kilograms during 2016. This time, the study’s dozen investigators surveyed 6,168 Venezuelans between the ages of 20 and 65 across the country of 30 million people.

      That makes two years of massive weight losses. That hardly sounds as if plantains and potatoes are providing an adequate replacement for reduced supplies of corn or pasta, does it?

      Venezuela was stumbling as well under neoliberal policies (Perez a.o.) as under pseudo-socialist ones (Chavez, Maduro)
      “Stumbling under neoliberal policies”- I have already pointed out the fallacy of this contention.For one, the “neoliberal policy” of privatizing telecom was very successful in Venezuela. Hardly “stumbling” at all.

      Second, overall it is rather fallacious to label CAP2 -1998 as “neoliberal” because Venezuela remained a dirigiste government which maintained government ownership and control of oil, iron,steel, aluminum, and electricity production. Had Venezuela been as “neoliberal” as you claim, those would have been sold off.

      In addition, while Venezuela was “stumbling” in the 1990s, that is hardly comparable to the collapse of recent years. Infant Deaths rose 30% in 2016. FAO data supports Carlos Machado Allison’s statement that per capita plant-based agricultural production fell ~35% from 1998 to 2016. If you are going to characterize Fourth Republic of the 1990s as ‘stumbling,” it is not accurate at all to use the same to describe the utter collapse of Venezuela in recent years.

      http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QC
      http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/FBS

      • Why don’t we fly together to Venezuela Gringo, and stroll through the hinterlands to see? I saw in my Atlas that about half of the country is mountainous (south of the Orinoco and near Maracaibo), good Conuco land, good for all kinds of root crops, (sweet)-potatoes and others (was there not something like arracacha also?). Shortages of food in Caracas I nowhere denied, I only wondered about the alternatives, like Christina and others did, I really hope she will answer here, I mailed her yesterday. Best greetings!

  27. A final one, because of my passion for the subject, and because of a feeling of missing relevant facts.
    Yesterday, searching for more details of this discussion, I found what I was looking for, in -Venezuelanalysis-, a piece of Ana Felicien , Christina Schiavoni a.o. on -Reconnecting agriculture to our cultural base…..-, 4 sept 2018.
    – Peope now can’t find anymore the Kellogg’s ready mades, Campbell’s soups, Kraft cheese, Quaker Oats, canned and frozen food and other processed and imported junk food, because the shelves of the supers are empty, and instead eat more plantains,cassava (sweet) potatoes vegetables and other (healthy) stuff from the -conuco-, the family-plots inland. There is even a Feria Conuqueira (read in in another, earlier story by the authors) in Caracas where these products are sold (transport is still very cheap due to low fuel prices). Urbans grow crops in patios and on their roofs, the rural population also turns again to agriculture, and are INCREASINGLY JOINED BY URBANS to work in small fields. Freshly ground maize has replaced the processed and precooked maize meal, and granny’s maize grinders are dusted off to substitute the missing processed stuff.

    This is what I was looking for. What’s also clear to me: this trend is a turn back to pure capitalism, because, no more need for much infrastructure, credit, electrification,cooperatives and structures, commercial seeds and fertilizer, planning and knowledge from above. But, though capitalistic, it’s all Chavista, because Ana and Christina are Chavista researchers, there is even a governmental institute working on family farming and agroecology, in Barinas, and movements such as mano a mano, semillas del pueblo, and other such initiatives.
    Of course, such laudable movements and trends are not the effective and final solution, the crisis simply is too sharp now, but still it is something that you wouldn’t find elsewhere, not even in the Guardian or the NYT, they prefer the simple stories,

    I really was surprised by all this, but don’t think there is much interest in it on Quillette, abstract ideology (socialism vs capitalism) of course always is more appealing to the brains and the hearts than the reality of the food situation somewhere.

  28. Gringo says

    dirk
    Yesterday, searching for more details of this discussion, I found what I was looking for, in -Venezuelanalysis-, a piece of Ana Felicien , Christina Schiavoni a.o. on -Reconnecting agriculture to our cultural base…..-, 4 sept 2018
    Venezuelanalysis is a propaganda tool for the Chavista regime. If you want Chavista propaganda, go to Venezuelanalysis. If you want facts, go elsewhere.

    • I know Gringo, but the writers are not, one of them even is attached here to the University, I’m just now going to mail her, and ask about the connections of that Barinas station with Brasil. And he trend of the article was not positive or critical about the chavista philosophy, but rather neutral, in fact, conuco family farms escape the real Chavista program, they dont need oil revenues or state help and planning. Where they write that urbans are turning to agriculture, in fact, this goes against Chavismo, because they like planning and influencing the masses of the poor.

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