Hands off Venezuela meeting at the Gorseinon College, South Wales

Last month Darrall Cozens, member of the national steering committee, spoke to Welsh students at the Gorseinon College, near Swansea in South Wales, on the significance of the Venezuela Revolution. The meeting provoked a lively discussion. Here is the reaction of one of the students.

As an avid follower of current affairs, and having discovered my passion for Politics in the past year, seeing a poster up on the walls of my college advertising a speech on Venezuelan Socialism made me strangely excited. Despite my news-junkie status, I made my way to the college’s philosophy HQ (the site of the presentation) lacking knowledge of both the history of and the current political situation in Venezuela. This was all about to change.

As it happened, my ignorance of Venezuela as a specific example of socialism coupled with my fairly sound knowledge of the political theory itself (thank you Marx For Beginners, and, to an alarmingly lesser extent, The Communist Manifesto) put me in the fortunate position of having a lot to gain from the talk. And it didn’t disappoint. Darrall Cozens’ informal but informative style of presentation left me feeling suitably enlightened on the topic, while being refreshingly different from most political lectures in that I was able to remain conscious throughout.  Darrall was grilled by the students afterwards, and responded well to all their questions. The only criticism I could offer was that some big topics were skimped over slightly, something Darrall could barely be held responsible for given the tight time restrictions that had been placed on him.

So, an excellent presentation, with some interesting points put forward by both Darrall and the students. Socialism is a strange beast; it is the system of the people, yet has been seen by some (myself included) to impede on civil liberties. The perceived failure of Eastern European Communism was inevitably brought up in discussion, and I’m sure Darrall and all those pro-Chavez in nature are sick of having Venezuela’s democratic government compared to the doomed programs of Iron Curtain era Europe. I think people need to learn to look at each example of socialism on its own merits, and from what I can gather from the various sources of information on the topic that are available, Chavez’s government that recently won it’s third successive general election landslide victory bears minimal resemblance to the dictatorial Eastern Bloc regimes that gained notoriety in the 20th century. In fact, it could be argued that socialism has never been more democratic as in modern-day Venezuela, making Chavez’s incumbent the most accountable of the Socialist governments to date.

Another point brought up by Darrall that was questioned was the statement that “Socialism always crops up at the weakest points of Capitalism” (paraphrase). To me, this made Socialism sound like a compensation, its only place being in a society in which capitalism has already failed, and there is no other option. Darrall countered with a list of Chavez’s achievements; huge and effective investments in education, healthcare, and housing, coupled with the most explicitly socialistic of his policies in his effort to democratize the economy.

The talk left me optimistic about the future of Venezuela and socialism. If Chavez can spot the faults in China’s system and avoid becoming too ‘Big Brother’ in his policies concerning individual liberties, he could find himself running amongst the most effective and ethical socialist state in the world. Wish him luck...

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