Current American politics is a matter of grave concern for faithful Christians, because a crucial part of the radical left’s agenda is its attack on traditional Christianity. In particular, its sexual morality restricting sexual behavior to the marriage of one man and one woman, and its soteriology excluding from salvation all but those with faith in Jesus are unacceptable to the cultural left. Only the first is being directly attacked with the force of law at the present time, but we can expect the second to be legally attacked as well if the far left prevails in politics.
In the twentieth century, it was widely believed that a communist dictatorship, or another hard left regime, could only assume power by force, not by the electoral process. The Italian electorate never dared to elect a communist government, even though the communist party in that country was the largest in the West, had much electoral support, and a reputation for forming stable and honest local governments. The adversary Christian Democratic Party never had the possibly salutary time in opposition. Chile was a notable exception, electing a Marxist president in 1970, only to be overthrown by a coup in 1973.
But the socialist take-over of Venezuela engineered by Hugo Chavez two decades ago shows how long term power for an essentially undemocratic regime can be gained initially in a democratic electoral process. The results of this originally democratic choice are now difficult to undo. This message was emphasized by Venezuelan activist Andres Guilarte, in a presentation to the Institute for Human Ecology at the beginning of the year. Not only did his presentation show that socialism is bad, but it was established by a freely elected government which came to power on the promise of uplifting the poor. It then dragged the country into poverty and tyranny by the application of socialism. Chavez “presented himself as a humanist; he never said he was a socialist,” but wanted only to “help the poor.”
But once in power, “he changed everything he could, he changed the name of the country, he changed the constitution.” The national legislature was changed from bicameral to unicameral. “He changed how the oil industry was managed,” and confiscated privately owned buildings to public applause. For a while he was “widely praised” around the world, but even at that time Venezuelans were already suffering from poverty and tyranny. The oil boom in 2006 due to the Iraq War resulted in more revenue, but this was only spent on state expansion. Oil prices went down after Chavez’s death in 2012. Under his hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, the country went from a “culture of dependency” to a “culture of fear.” Now people were suppressed by force or the threat of force.
Guilarte asked how the Venezuelan experience entering and living under socialism compares to the American experience. He said that Americans “take for granted liberties Venezuelans used to fight for every single day.” But “a lot of politicians” in the U.S. “are trying to sell the kind of policies that we had in Venezuela before Chavez.” Before Chavez, Venezuelans said they would “never be like Cuba” but now they are “worse than Cuba.” Cubans had also said they would never “be like other countries.” But, Guilarte said, people should “never say” that what happened to Cuba or Venezuela cannot happen in their countries. Venezuela used to be a prosperous country; now it is an impoverished tyranny. He asked anyone to discover the difference by traveling from the “hell” of socialism to the “paradise” of America. Nevertheless, politicians in America are trying to sell socialism, which is a “dream which is actually nothing more than a nightmare.”
Guilarte said that in fact socialism is an old recipe that will always take a society to the same place. Socialists will say of failed socialist states “we are not going to do it that way.” But “if you follow the same recipe, you’re going to have the same results.” He said that the Green New Deal shows that its supporters actually are advocating socialism; it “aims to attack industries, and tries to gain more power from the industries.” In answer to a question about how to fight candidates like Chavez, Guilarte said that free speech is important; such politicians should be fought with ideas. But their bad ideas must be fought. “When the good guys don’t do anything, the bad guys get to power.”
The loss of personal freedom the coronavirus epidemic occasioned, the crippling of the economy by state order, the attack on religious freedom that the shutdown occasioned, and the fact that all of this was enthusiastically advanced and supported by the Left, and opposed by the Right clearly shows that we no longer have competition between two parties. Rather it is conflict between historic American freedom and state socialism. The violence of the summer clearly shows that – like the socialist Venezuelan government, which eventually had to turn from a culture of dependency to coercion and fear – the radical left today is essentially coercive in its approach to the nation. If the American nation gives in to this coercion, it will be dictatorial, just as it is in Cuba and Venezuela, and was in Eastern Europe.
The case of Venezuela clearly shows that a free and relatively prosperous nation can be seduced and cajoled into accepting tyranny without realizing it. The fact that America has known itself as the “land of the free”, and has been a superpower and “the leader of the free world” does not mean it cannot happen here. What will happen is in God’s hands. But he has placed in the hands of Christians the duty to be obedient and not violate the precepts of our faith, which increasingly has been required of us in the last decade, and under a new leftist regime will surely become firm state policy.