A favorite Saturday activity of mine involves chatting with a merry band of socialists who clot on a main street near me. Dreadlocked, dreary, and decked in alarming red, they implore every passersby somehow to stop U.S. “imperialism” in Venezuela. From outside Starbucks a mere 4,738 miles away.
Most of us drenched in false consciousness prefer shuffling around, buying things we don’t need, and documenting our largely pointless existence via Instagram. The apparent injustice roiling in South America doesn’t resonate.
Student-aged girls snap selfies. Trundle a yard. Snap another selfie. For a tapestry of late capitalism, they at least seem happy.
But the socialists are not. President Maduro’s Venezuela is “under attack.” When I ask how this may be, my socialist friend, an adolescent of 35, crumples his cheeks.
“Maduro was elected by the people, man. And I haven’t got time to discuss this, anyway.”
What is strange is that he didn’t have time to discuss a subject of which he took time to daub on a placard. And the time to stand on a shivering high street. Nothing says ponderous silence like bellowing into a megaphone.
I wanted to ask why 3 million Venezuelans had recently fled the country. Why 93 percent of those left live in poverty. Why nine in every 10 say they don’t have enough to eat. I have nothing better to do on Saturdays.
But my comrade slurred into incantations. Fist in the air. Garbled something in Spanglish.
At least, he did until people began dining on zoo animals.
Because the Venezuela of reality is now inconvenient. That’s why you won’t hear Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) talk much about it. Corbyn and his pals here insist on “caution.” That Maduro was elected by the people. A courtesy not extended to President Trump.
The reality must never besmirch the idea. An idea Maduro is so committed to, he told reporters this week that humanitarian aid is not welcome. It would humiliate his people.
“We are not beggars. You want to come humiliate Venezuela and I will not let our people be humiliated,” he told state TV.
Perhaps those people are already humiliated. Once the wealthiest nation in South America, Venezuela, sitting atop vast oil reserves, is now a jumble of crises. There’s little food, medicine, drinkable water. Diseases of yesteryear enjoy a renaissance. Gangs maraud. Mothers pick through garbage.
Allowing such aid, bequeathed by the American gringo oppressors, would be to admit failure. That the grand quixotic project has indeed joined every other socialist experiment in abject ruin.
This time it’ll be different. What animates the likes of Corbyn, and AOC, is what allows socialism to endure. Ostensibly “for the people,” socialism is a deeply individual creed—littering history with the self-convinced. This time, they will get it right.
AOC thinks she will. She also thinks President Trump, in his State of the Union address, tried to “confuse the public” by linking the horrors of socialism with the horrors of Venezuela.
The president’s “ad hominem” attack was a luculent attempt to “throw people off the scent of the trail,” presumably of the real socialism for which AOC, and every other socialist figurehead in history fights, and has fought. And died. Alongside millions of others who once fancied (or not) the idea, too.
But those are troublesome details that obscure the bigger better picture. And what AOC offers is a falsely moderate dilution. An elixir which she rightly said found popularity with the American people.
Meanwhile, the families of Maduro, and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, enjoy levels of wealth the modern Democrats once would have regarded as obscene.
Socialism is never sold on the reality which conjures millions to flee its wonder. Which is why its adherents try and try again. As if tinkering with the radioactive mixture will eventually produce limitless helpings of utopian broth.
President Trump knows better. In an address shorn of base-baiting attacks, Trump-plus-charm even had some white-capes on their feet. Just none for AOC as when he blamed “socialist policies” for dragging Venezuela into “abject poverty and despair.”
In a clear pivot to his re-election campaign, Trump foraged Republican and Democratic plains for the better of ideas, a gathering palatable to most Americans.
What better than to contrast this with the competitive extremism of Democratic hopefuls taking cues from AOC’s media drip-feed. At 29, she can’t run for president. But the Democrats’ eventual nominee will sound an awful lot like her.
And when they fail, it’ll be the fault of imaginary oppressors. Of “imperialism.” Never themselves. Which is why that merry band of socialists will turn up outside the Starbucks each week with a new enemy to deplore. Because it’ll work this time.