By June 1953, the workers in Soviet-occupied East Germany had had enough. There was severe rationing, power cuts, and arrests for dissent. Money that could be spent on the people was instead being sent to Moscow or went on security. The tipping point was a state-mandated wage cut disguised as raised work quotas. The streets erupted. Soviet tanks and troops firing live ammunition into crowds restored order.
The Marxist writer Bertolt Brecht expressed his personal disillusion thus:
After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts.
Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
Brecht had, ironically, expressed exactly how socialist governments have developed throughout history. What he did not understand is that this suits socialist governments quite nicely.
In East Germany this was expressed through the flight of millions through the only loophole in their prison state, the open border between East and West Berlin. The communists were contemptuous of those who voted with their feet:
‘Both from the moral standpoint as well as in terms of the interests of the whole German nation, leaving the GDR is an act of political and moral backwardness and depravity.
‘Those who let themselves be recruited objectively serve West German Reaction and militarism, whether they know it or not. Is it not despicable when for the sake of a few alluring job offers or other false promises about a “guaranteed future” one leaves a country in which the seed for a new and more beautiful life is sprouting, and is already showing the first fruits, for the place that favours a new war and destruction?
‘Is it not an act of political depravity when citizens, whether young people, workers, or members of the intelligentsia, leave and betray what our people have created through common labour in our republic to offer themselves to the American or British secret services or work for the West German factory owners, Junkers, or militarists? Does not leaving the land of progress for the morass of an historically outdated social order demonstrate political backwardness and blindness?’
What is striking about the above is its stylistic similarity to the reality-denying rhetoric of Corbynists.
The communist dictatorship would benefit from dissenters leaving the country. Those who remained would support the regime, however grudgingly, and would cause less trouble. Communists also had the naive egalitarian belief that those who remained could replace those who quit, given the right training. This is typical socialist delusion, refusing to believe that some people are better than others, and are thus interchangeable.
The kind of people who walked out on communism were the young, the skilled, and the professionals, the people that help a nation function. The communists found that replacing them was not that simple. They wasted billions of marks in education and training costs. By 1961, East Germany had lost 20 per cent of its population to this westward desertion. The Berlin Wall was erected to halt this exodus.
There is another country that is experiencing its own mass exodus, and this also also due to socialism.
Dire economic news from Venezuela marked its return to the headlines. The focus was the queues of Venezuelans at the borders trying to flee. The exodus started well over a decade ago with professionals holding portable skills. Socialism has not replaced them. A skill shortage in the oil industry means that the country with the largest oil reserves cannot get it out of the ground. Its state oil company has neither enough capital nor professionals. Chile, a country that figures in the demonology of the Left, benefits from hundreds of Venezuela-trained doctors.
One aspect of the socialist playbook that is barely covered is how demographic change to a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ is implemented with no state-ordained massacres or terror. It is the state exporting, however grudgingly, its malcontents. East Germany is a clear precedent, until it discovered the downside. The best people were leaving, and could not easily be replaced.
Venezuelan dictator Maduro does not have the option to erect a wall. He depends on his neighbours who have already taken the best of Venezuela tiring of the residual refugee flow and closing their borders, creating a captive population for him to dominate.
The socialist state has been adjusting and reducing its population to fit the size of its economy, which is still too small to service the needs of its reduced numbers. Using emigration, the world’s highest murder rate, a collapsing health service, and rising infant mortality, this could change.
State-sanctioned population adjustment is normal socialist policy, be it through purges, civil war, famine, terror, or just plain desertion. Chavez and Maduro used emigration to weed out popular discontent, in effect to ‘dissolve the people and elect another’ as Brecht suggested. Only party members will benefit from new economic reforms and will thus do as they are told.
The real tragedy of Venezuela is that it never stops, but does drop out of the headlines. It was in the news recently because of redenomination of the worthless currency, the minimum wage rises for party members, and also the IMF prediction of 1,000,000 per cent inflation by the end of the year. I have not used too many zeroes. One million per cent.
Civilisation is collapsing in Venezuela as the social and economic relationships that support co-operation wither and die. It is difficult to see, without international action and relief, how this will end. Thousands, maybe millions, more will experience premature death under Venezuelan socialism.
One thing is certain. Venezuela can be added to the long list of failures of socialism, even without a concrete wall as a physical reminder.