T Nation

Venezuela's Collapse

Socialism phase three.



It really is unreal what is going on there.

Ah, socialism. I remember as a kid the 18-hour blackouts, shortages of gas and consumer goods and a bizarre fuel rationing system where in addition to rationing you were allowed to drive cars with odd numbered license plates only on odd calendar days and vice versa.

I remember my parents waking me and my baby brother at 3 am after receiving a tip off that a specific store in the countryside still had some diapers for sale. I remember the anxious drive as we were spending our precious rationed fuel hoping that the tip off was correct. And all that in a socialism-lite country. Countries who were on a “more advanced path to communism” generated stories that were even more harrowing.

The thing is, socialism corrupts the soul. Not in a religious way, but in terms of human-to-human and human-to-society relationships as it breeds distrust and destroys the overall fabric of society. Restoring social capital expended in such a way takes several decades. That’s why in all post communist countries there is such a generational gap between those over and under 45.

In order to survive, one had to be “creative” - bribe, cheat, hoard and work around the system. Can you imagine paying a bribe to be able to buy a car? Or paying a bribe in order to be able to buy groceries in a store?

And there are many who LOVED socialism, mostly due to small perks they received for their loyalty, for which they had to oppress all others. These petty Party officials and bureaucrats loved the fear and loathing they generated among the general population. Think a borough councilor is unimportant? Not if he decides whether you can live in his borough, buy an apartment or keep your job. Then he’s one of the most important people in your life.

Power is the strongest drug, I’ve seen similar dynamics with the religious police in islamic countries and sadly, in Venezuela.

Such a shame for a country with such cool people.


Great post, I don’t want to take away from it as I have never experienced a socialist country in that fashion.

I only want to add that in a lot of discussions about how to eliminate corruption involve solutions proposed by Bernie and/or Hillary have been to move the power to government. During my discussions with their supporters I always find it odd and have to clarify for them that moving the power from the greedy business owner to the power hungry bureacrat doesn’t eliminate cronyism.


Venezuela during Chavez, was able to pull off socialism because he had a ton of oil money to supplement the economy. Now that oil has plumented, they are in deep shit. They have no other means of generating income for the country and they have no capitalist system to invigorate the economy.
With the oil prices high, they were able to keep food on the shelves. Sure you have to wait half a day to get the food, but you could get it. Now the food dried up, nobody has any means to take care of themselves because everything is nationalized and there is no money coming in.

I haven’t ever seen a single case where socialism has not bankrupted the country. I don’t even get where it sounds like a good idea.


Socialism follows the same path over and over.

Guy with a little money gets power and tries to combat guy with money -
taking that money and staying in power by giving it to those with no money until it is squandered.

Damn - people are both sheepish and sorry at the same time.


Yeah, I want to see the art and culture that came out of the Soviet Union.

Did you grow up in Russia or the communist block?

Actually,you’d be surprised - but it’s not because of communism but in spite of it. As people had to watch what they did/said in the public and sometimes among friends and family, they tended to withdraw to the private sphere, often focusing on solitary pursuits such as music and literature.

It was a coping mechanism, withdrawing to your own private world. Otherwise you’d go crazy with all that oppression and absurdity. And it’s not that you had much option to channel your creative energies - you couldn’t travel or own a business, and if you were not great at sports or were unfit for the higher levels of the military-bureaucratic complex (in USSR then usually meant Jewish or a darker skin tone) your options were very limited. That’s why you had to many exceptional composers and classical musicians in the USSR.

Also, people believed you were less likely to get into trouble with the authorities by being a musician, considered a “safe” profession. Not the case, though.

Some art forms were straight out prohibited or overtly discouraged (poetry, modern art…) but many talented individuals found a way to showcase their talent by serving the regime - filmmakers come to mind. For every one hundred idiotic Soviet propaganda movies there came a veritable masterpiece.

Another bizarre effect of this was the explosion of science fiction and what is today know as fantasy literature in the former Eastern Bloc.

As writing about politics or even regular daily life (outside the idealistic propaganda bullshit) could get you arrested, science fiction and fantasy was the way out. Writing about the grim reality of Soviet life or housing shortages - penal colony in Siberia, writing about interstellar travel or elves - slightly disapproving looks by the government censors.

Many outstanding works of science fiction came from the Eastern Bloc, most notably from authors such as Stanislaw Lem.

Also, if you’re into games and have played any installment of the Witcher series, it can be pretty interesting to know that the character was first created for a short story in one of those communism era SF/fantasy zines.

As a matter of fact, all the characters and main plot lines in the Witcher series come from folk tales and pagan legends of the Eastern European Slavic nations, most notably Polish, Croatian and Slovenian (that weird in-game alphabet? 10th century Croatian). So if you’re from that part of the world, it’s just one big oral history tribute full of inside jokes.

Wow, this really has nothing to do with Venezuela.

Former Yugoslavia, then nominally part of the unaligned block but pretty much part of the Eastern Bloc for all practical purposes. Most famous for the technological marvel that was the Yugo.


Thanks for that wonderful post! One of the only good things I got out of film school was getting to watch Eisenstein and Tarkovsky on a big screen. The battle on the ice from Alexander Nevsky was the shit!

Vasily Grossman was Another great Russian writer who’s epic novel of Stalingrad Life and Fate was banned in his lifetime. That is absolutely worth the read.


Russian/USSR literature is without a doubt the most depressing literature I’ve ever read. There is a poor suffering person. Lots of bad things happen to them. People die, go insane, go to prison. Either the main character goes crazy, gets locking into long term suffering, or at best dies. Nothing resolves. The end.

I dont know about that…

I read a cool story were the prostitutes set the exchange rates.

When the ports were flush with foreign nationals floating USD, AUD or any other half way appreciable currency, the prostitutes had the market cornered.

This would be an example of the poor having power without the bureacratic title…

That aint exactly a communist setup there though lonewolf. In communism the patrons of the prostitutes would get equal say in the price.

Capitalism really.

I just like how the prostitutes are setting the currency exchange market because they are probably accepting any denomination that is not Venezuelan.

I like the wizard of oz, :confused:


Of course, I meant because of it, being so limited and generic about what your subject matter could be.
I have seen the latter myself. Half of me is from the former Soviet block Czechoslovakia. The Czech side. The creativity that was utilized to make life more livable amongst conditions where you barely had enough to live was impressive.

I see these saws and drills with the vacuum attachments these days and I know the guy who invented that, he’s my uncle, in a little town called Brno. After the fall, somehow BASF got wind of a sander and planer hooked up to a shop vac and they bought the idea on the spot for what looked like a decent sum at the time, but turned out to be nothing compared to what it could have been if he had patented it. But, his government just collapsed and he had no idea he could do any such thing. Plus he didn’t think it was such a big deal, it just kept his small workspace clean and he is a neat freak. He will never get credit for it. Naming him would mean paying him, and nobody is about to do that. He won’t sue, he’s just not that kind of person.

But hey, they had ‘free health care’. Granted, they still used silver fillings and combated infections by leaving a wound open and sucking out the puss daily and shit in the '80s but it was free. The ‘free health care’ killed my aunt. She would have lived if she lived in the U.S.


it gets progressively more and more grim there. I am wondering how long until the country rebels.

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It will be made more difficult that the populace has been disarmed in the recent few years since 2012 and effort accelerated with Chavez’ successor. Ironically V is at the top of the murder rate in the world.

With the highest proven oil reserves in the world, this calamitous situation is doubly disgusting and heartbreaking.

You’re right. Sadly nothing ironic about it…when peoplw can’t eat or feed their families they resort to murder.