Why You Need to Stop Idealising Socialism
“I see them all the time as I walk the halls of my uni – these goth girls dressed in black strut down the halls handing out flyers for the socialist club, preaching communist theory left and right,” my friend, who lives in the UK, informed me at dinner last December.
We laughed – she half-Bolivian, half-American, and I, born and raised Bolivian.
This came up as we made light conversation about the constant political turmoil across Latin American countries, and it’s stuck with me ever since. It comes to mind with every anti-capitalist meme or caption I bump into when mindlessly scrolling the feeds on my screen.
Though it was nothing new to me, it was surely amusing. Oh, the novelty that these edgy girls in Europe must find in rebelling against the system! I could chuckle and roll my eyes, but I could not judge them. You cannot blame someone for not knowing or recognising what they have not been forced to live.
Anti-capitalist and socialist rhetoric has become part of a counterculture consisting of young woke leftists preaching against their oh-so-broken capitalist governments. It appears to be a trend in rich democratic countries, such as Australia and the UK.
I would love to live in a world where I could sit down and appreciate the amazing works and theories that Karl Marx’s Das Kapital brought to life. I have even analysed some in a sociology class. It’s undeniable that his ideas were groundbreaking and revolutionary for the time period they were published in, but these are the same ideas that wrecked the beautiful island of Cuba – a Caribbean wonder visited by thousands every year; so I would never be able to without completely insulting my Cuban peers.
Call me closed-minded, but I have grown up a Latina in the age of Venezuela and Nicaragua’s descents into disaster. I cannot speak for European models of democratic socialism; I can only speak from my own experience, which has seen this ideology manipulated in order to enforce populist ideals on the masses to keep them ignorant.
The leftist ideology trend in Latin America rose to popularity in the late 1990s and early 21st Century after various countries suffered through rigorous right-wing authoritarian regimes in decades past.
Evo Morales, “President” of Bolivia, was elected in 2006 as the world’s first indigenous leader. Morales prided himself on being an activist, and his appeal and political campaign centred on the idea that he would represent indigenous people in running the nation. He was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for climate justice.
Nowadays, he is leading the destruction of the Tipnis, an Amazon biodiversity hotspot home to 14,000 indigenous people, by approving the construction of a highway that will run through it. Fernando Vargas, a Tipnis indigenous leader, told The Guardian, “This is the beginning of the destruction of protected areas in Bolivia and indigenous peoples’ territory. Evo Morales is not a defender of Mother Earth or indigenous peoples. He’s in favour of extractivism and capitalism.”
Bolivia, a nation with a majority indigenous population that had been ruled by white men throughout its lifetime, finally elected a leader to represent its oppressed voices. And the amount of progress and the path he paved for the indigenous population will forever remain a revolutionary step forward in human rights for my country. The poverty rate dropped from 59.9 percent the year he was elected to 36.4 percent at last measure, and across the country, access to electricity, sewerage and clean water has improved. But many indigenous and social movements that initially supported Morales are having serious doubts.
Before his death, my favorite author voted and vouched for Morales. However, he passed away before the President began to alter the constitution (which originally allowed no more than two consecutive presidential terms) in order to make himself re-electable for a third term.
A constitutional referendum was held on February 21st of 2016 asking the people whether Morales should be an eligible candidate in 2019. The results ruled no, with 51 percent of votes ruling him out; however, he is running nevertheless.
This is a nationwide scandal, as changing the constitution in order to be reelected it is a clear obstruction of justice. Our economy is going through a depression and our future is uncertain.
In the same sentiment echoed in Plato’s The Republic, “Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty”.
To give you some more context, my President is best friends with Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega. Daniel Ortega started out as a freedom-flag waver for the people of Nicaragua. He was the leader of the revolution against the Somoza dynasty 40 years ago. Today, he is berated as a tyrant and acts as a hated dictator over his own nation by keeping himself in power with violence and the persecution of freedom of speech. He is described as having become the same dictator he replaced.
In Venezuela, the socialist government that came to power with Hugo Chavez’s administration led to the current economic and starvation crisis that is in the hands of Nicolas Maduro. Maduro never graduated high school, the same way Morales did not finish his primary education. His regime has used all the authoritarian power possible in order to tip the elections to his favour. Venezuela is suffering what is titled as the world’s worst economic crisis in the entirety of history so far.
These men are the culprit of suffering in their nations. My home country of Bolivia is currently one of very few that is siding with Maduro, despite the 65 other countries that no longer recognise him as a President of Venezuela . I have seen multiple friends of mine from both Venezuela and Nicaragua forced to leave their beloved homes because of the ramifications of living under one of these power-hungry leaders. They are uncertain whether they will ever be able to return.
I do not side with the typical American Republican Party argument that goes on about how socialism is nothing but handouts for lazy bums who won’t get off their asses to get a job. I understand the argument is immense in its complexity. But I have witnessed socialist ideology serve as the perfect mask for what actually functions as populism in my country.
What do Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia all have in common? The corrupt mechanism of socialist propaganda that truly functions as populism, the obstruction of justice in elections and violation of democracy and socialist leftist dictators that are very friendly allies.
I have seen my President give out financial bonds to poor students instead of improving their educational environment. I have seen him buy himself a private jet and build a museum named after himself, all while wearing Nike apparel as the national debt skyrockets. And this is why I will never stop rolling my eyes at these alternative rebels, hugging their Communist Manifesto as if it were a punk-rock bible alongside their vintage Che Guevara shirts.
Cover via Fee