Quico says: We tend to think of chavismo as shiny and new: all 21st Century and postmodern. But the basic mechanism whereby democracy gradually morphs into tyranny? Plato foresaw it 2400 years ago.
Substitute “adecos” for “drones” and “Chávez” for “protector” and, well…
There is a law of contraries; the excess of freedom passes into the excess of slavery, and the greater the freedom the greater the slavery.
You will remember that in the oligarchy we found two classes—rogues and paupers, whom we compared to drones with and without stings. Now in a democracy, too, there are drones.And there is another class in democratic States, of respectable, thriving individuals, who can be squeezed when the drones have need of their possessions; there is moreover a third class, who are the labourers and the artisans, and they make up the mass of the people.
When the people meet, they are omnipotent, but they cannot be brought together unless they are attracted by a little honey; and the rich are made to supply the honey, of which the demagogues keep the greater part themselves, giving a taste only to the mob.
Their victims attempt to resist; they are driven mad by the stings of the drones, and so become downright oligarchs in self-defence. Then follow informations and convictions for treason.
The people have some protector whom they nurse into greatness, and from this root the tree of tyranny springs.
The protector, who tastes blood, and slays some and drones others with or without law, who hints at abolition of debts and division of lands, must either perish or become a wolf—that is, a tyrant.
Perhaps he is driven out, but he soon comes back from exile; and then if his enemies cannot get rid of him by lawful means, they plot his assassination.
Thereupon the friend of the people makes his well-known request to them for a body-guard, which they readily grant, thinking only of his danger and not of their own.
Now let the rich man make to himself wings, for he will never run away again if he does not do so then. And the Great Protector, having crushed all his rivals, stands proudly erect in the chariot of State, a full-blown tyrant: Let us enquire into the nature of his happiness.
In the early days of his tyranny he smiles and beams upon everybody; he is not a ‘slave master,’ no, not he: he has only come to put an end to debt and the monopoly of land.
Having got rid of foreign enemies, he makes himself necessary to the State by always going to war. He is thus enabled to depress the poor by heavy taxes, and so keep them at work; and he can get rid of bolder spirits by handing them over to the enemy.
Then comes unpopularity; some of his old associates have the courage to oppose him. The consequence is, that he has to purge the State; but, unlike the physician who purges away the bad, he must get rid of the high-spirited, the wise and the wealthy; for he has no choice between death and a life of shame and dishonour.
And the more hated he is, the more he will require trusty guards; but how will he obtain them? ‘They will come flocking like birds—for pay.’ How will he support that rare army of his?
First, by robbing the temples of their treasures, which will enable him to lighten the taxes; then he will take all his father’s property, and spend it on his companions, male or female.
Now his father is the people, and if the people gets angry, and says that a great hulking son ought not to be a burden on his parents, and bids him and his riotous crew begone, then will the parent know what a monster he has been nurturing, and that the son whom he would fain expel is too strong for him.
‘You do not mean to say that he will beat his father?’
Yes, he will, after having taken away his arms.
‘Then he is a parricide and a cruel, unnatural son.’ And the people have jumped from the fear of slavery into slavery, out of the smoke into the fire.
Thus liberty, when out of all order and reason, passes into the worst form of servitude…
Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported.
Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.Donate