Socialismo y libertad / Héctor Silva Michelena

Socialism and Liberty

David Hume (1711-1776) said: "It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once." This is what happens daily in Venezuela, step by step, even beyond the Constitution and the laws, and against the right of the entire nation to freely elect their economic systems and their leaders. I liked the interview Mariela León conducted with Asdrúbal Aguiar (El Universal, 10/03/05), whose answers were stupendous. I cite a telling paragraph: "The lawyer seeks to call attention in front of the constant and measured advance of el proceso in its strategic new map that intends to eliminate the market economy, the regime of liberties and private property, now ambushed." Aguiar can't explain to himself why we don't notice the imminence of the danger.

The jurist provides his explanations, but perhaps Hume's phrase clarifies the point.

The New Map is of great importance, because the actions deriving from it are restricting liberty. Chávez has clearly said that "we must transcend capitalism in order to embrace socialism."

What does this all mean? We know that in el proceso Chávez and Castro are the ones who think and decide; those who execute orders are punished if they emit another opinion. The New Map is the real National Plan.

In classic socialism one aspired to the conscious guidance of the economy, by means of central planning; there had to be an upper branch of technicians and a single leader, whose actions could not be disturbed by means of discussion. In Venezuela today that New Map is the chavista substitute of the Stalinist Central Plan. If the lines emerge from a single center, what good are the market, cooperatives, co-management or endeogenous development? One should also remember that for the governing echelons of chavismo—this is not so with its base—decentralization is a neoliberal instrument. Fleeing from Satan, the country and its institutions have been strongly centralized.

This represents the survival, in Chávez's actions, of the authoritarian tendencies of old socialism, which meant the nationalization of the means of production and central planning.

Today the conception has changed. Socialism fundamentally means a profound redistribution of income through the beneficient State, with the cessation of a few productive measures. In this interpretation the deleterious effects of centralization on fundamental liberties are produced more slowly and indirectly and insensibly.

It has been demonstrated that the final result, when there is no rule of law, tends to be almost exactly the same, even if the path is different.

The coming of socialism was going to be the leap from the kingdom of indigence to that of liberty. In actuality it led to a shame as brutal as that of the Holocaust: the formation of the Gulag and of a citizenry afraid of espionage and the shot to the head. This asphixiation of liberty was a decisive factor in the fall of socialism. The masses watched the collapse of the oppressive Empire with disdain and tore down its symbols. The social ends had justified all means, including torture. May we never hear Lord Acton's (1834-1902) premonition: "The finest opportunity ever given to the world was thrown away because the passion for equality made vain the hope of freedom."

{ Héctor Silva Michelena, TalCual, 10 October 2005 }

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