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Hugo Chavez: Like Leading Lambs to the Slaughter

By Carlos Alberto Montaner | Firmas Press

04.10.05 | The raid on private property in Venezuela has begun. The excuse is the elimination of factories and large land tracts that are supposedly unproductive. Because these enterprises do not generate wealth or jobs with the zeal that President Hugo Chávez might desire, the government will expropriate them.

Once they are held by the state, Chávez, always generous with the income derived from oil or the taxes paid by Venezuelans, will inject the properties with capital and with thousands of workers who will earn lavish salaries.

Those enterprises will lose huge amounts of money, naturally, but to the revolutionary mind this is an insignificant fact. The losses will be washed down with abundant swigs of public money, creating a multitude of grateful stomachs that presumably will join the revolutionary bandwagon. That is precisely the essence of populism.

The economic consequence of such stupidity is the collective impoverishment of society. The more public enterprises lose money, the poorer becomes the society that needs to sustain them.

How does Chávez explain the fact that the communist countries were abysmally poor? Their thousands of enterprises -- crammed with unnecessary workers, directed by apathetic bureaucrats who parroted political slogans and inflexibly ruled by controlled prices -- inevitably slid into generalized disaster.

That was explained to Lenin -- patiently and futilely -- by Ludwig von Mises in a book titled Socialism, published in 1922, when the Bolshevik revolution had just begun.

The communists paid him no heed. Not because they didn't understand the impeccable reasoning of the Austrian economist, but because the decision to seize property was ideological, not economic.

Marx, an enlightened prophet, had insisted that once changes are made in the regime of property (its structure), changes occur in both social mentality and the institutions (the superstructure) that enable the emergence of the New Man, a virtuous and unitary creature who will build paradise on Earth.

Lenin didn't care a fig if all those enterprises mired and sank; what he wanted was a mob of obedient Soviets that would allow him to test Marx's scatterbrained theories and, incidentally, to govern despotically like the implacable autocrat that he was.

Chávez, hand in hand with Fidel Castro, his beloved mentor, is walking exactly down the same road. Behind the dismantling of the system of private property is a search not for economic efficiency but for political control.

Where private property doesn't exist, rebellion or plain civil disobedience is impossible. Where the state owns the means of production, society bows its head servilely, because the government controls its sustenance and because every enterprise becomes one more link in the repressive chain.

That explains why no communist dictatorship ever disappeared as the result of a massive popular rebellion. The citizen in the hands of the state is a defenseless being. Those of us who remember the process that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall know it only too well: communism collapsed when the East Germans began to run toward the border and Gorbachev refused to shoot.

Those people did not rush the army barracks to wrest the power from the military or break into party headquarters to confront the officials of the dictatorship. They tried to escape, not to fight, because experience had tamed them -- with the exception of a handful of heroic dissidents.

The objective of eliminating private property in Venezuela is precisely that: to begin the ''stable-ization'' of society, so it can be dominated without pity. Institutions will become stables. Venezuelans will be controlled in their neighborhoods by the Bolivarian Circles and will work in state enterprises under the watchful and implacable eye of the party's labor leader.

Frightened families will crack into hostile segments. Parliament will dictate the laws needed to keep Venezuelans under a tight rein, while the courts -- docile to the executive's authority -- will deal mercilessly with any transgression of their deliberately vague and imprecise standards, so the sanctions imposed may be in accordance with the interim needs of the revolution.

Once the circle of terror has been closed, there will be no free press, and the only voices of protest will be the screams of the victims. Worst of all will be the widespread indifference to such monstruous acts.

It has always been thus.

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