The ENCOVI survey carried out by a consortium of major Venezuelan universities and NGOs, should give everyone in the country room for pause. The results are catastrophic. 74% of Venezuelans are losing weight. On average, they’ve lost almost 20 pounds over the last year. Among the poorest, weight-loss over 20 pounds is common. Overall, 93.3% of Venezuelans say they don’t have enough money to buy the food they need. 

The question of how a revolutionary government survives an engineered famine and props up its flagging popularity at the same one is very much alive in Venezuela. But it’s not new. If you know your Russian history, you know long before the Dieta de Maduro, we had the Dieta de Lenin. 

Lenin’s tragedy is the antecedent to Maduro’s farce. In fact there’s no need to re-write the book on this: Mikhail Heller and Aleksandr Nekrich already wrote it. It’s called Utopia in Power, and reading it will give Venezuelans the chills.

Beginning in May 1918, mere months after the Russian Revolution, Lenin implemented a policy of grain requisitioning in which “peasants were obliged to sell the state all their surplus, at fixed prices.” Note that what we’re seeing here is the first step toward the destruction of the market because, as Andrzej Walicki has pointed out (in Marxism and the Leap to the Kingdom of Freedom), in the Marxist “utopian vision the abolition of the market was more important than the socialization of property.”

That set of values certainly holds true for Maduro, steeped as he is in the Marxism of the Socialist League he once led, specifically, the “Verticalist” faction that, as Cristina González writes, “insisted on the Marxist-Leninist model of consolidation of the left party that would maintain a verticalist structure for the movement.”

Heller and Nekrich quote Lenin saying that the requisition of grain “must become our fundamental activity” and that it had to “be pursued to the end.” But why, how and to what end?

The end would be a “grain monopoly” that would be the “socialist” way of “fighting hunger.” The means would be for the “food detachments,” to confiscate the grains and give back some portion to the peasants as a “material incentive.”

Only the combined efforts of Herbert Hoover’s American Relief Administration and perhaps the earliest Russian NGO, the All-Russia Famine Relief Committee, kept it from all being much worse. Canal humanitario, que le dicen. 

These “food detachments” were made up of “convinced loyalists to the October Revolution,” as Lenin wrote in July 1918. Unlike CLAPs, however, these groups went out and actually harvested grain throughout the areas under Soviet control rather than sorting out $23-dollar-boxes of packaged, imported foods the Venezuelan government pays $1000 for.

By requisitioning grain, Lenin eventually managed to break the market. Instead of that bottom-up mechanism for distributing goods, a top-down instrument of rationing was imposed, making the population increasingly dependent on Lenin’s government.

The long-term result was a famine that saw millions of peasants starve to death, and a peasant war that eventually took the lives of ten percent of the nation. Only the combined efforts of Herbert Hoover’s American Relief Administration and perhaps the earliest Russian NGO, the All-Russia Famine Relief Committee, kept it from all being much worse. Canal humanitario, que le dicen. 

Agriculture only recovered under the “New Economic Policy” in which market incentives and other “capitalist” instruments were reintroduced which, along with the humanitarian efforts mentioned above, slowly pulled the country out of famine.

But the policies of 1918 had their effect. Since “certain categories of the population did not get any” of the rations (and one can easily guess which “categories”), this part of the population was forced to “resort to illegal measures, fostering crime on a huge scale and giving birth to an extremely powerful black market. The grain monopoly and the ban on private trade trained people to think that commerce, in and of itself, was a counterrevolutionary activity or at best an unworthy occupation.” (p. 61 Heller and Nekrich).

Naturally, Nicolás Maduro has not shown a propensity for violence on the scale of Vladimir Lenin’s. What he has shown, though, is a fundamentally similar world-view, leading him to propose the same kinds of mechanisms to face up to the same problems that the same policies created.  

Food detachments? CLAPs? What’s in a name?

15 COMMENTS

  1. If you are interested in engineering collective behaviour then the most effective strategy is to offer a carrot and if that doesnt work then using a stick to force people to follow the behaviour you want them to adopt. the stick is the final recourse because in the end it causes more resistance than the carrot .

    However if you have the spirit of a thug (and Lenin was an ideological thug who loved the violent exercise of violence for its own sake , or rather for the sake of the narcissistic kick he got from hitting on vulnerable people to show how mighty and ruthless he was) , then you go for the stick every time !!

    This regime is also a thuggish regime , it resorts to extortion and intimidation and brutality every time it can , of course always sugar coating it with syrupy appeals to pink clouds and golden utopian rainbows to come, and grandiose promises but the language of its words deeds and gestures always come armed with swinging club ….!!

    The basic ethos is the same even if the rethoric and manner differs !!

  2. “Nicolás Maduro has not shown a propensity for violence on the scale of Vladimir Lenin’s.”

    That would be if we don’t take in account the slaughter he ordered in 2014.

    • Jesus freagin’ christ on a stateboard getting assfucked by a donkey, marico.

      Scale. Go to dictionary dot com and look up Scale. Scale, maricogüebón, SSCALE.

      • How many were officially ordered by Lenin’s regime to be shot in the head for daring to oppose the dictatorship?

        Ah, yeah, it’s right, there’s no record of that, so by that logic he only set people to starve to death, and thus he never killed anybody.

        Scale, moron, scale, a murder is a murder.

        Also, about 300.000 murders have been performed under the chavista regime, that would amount to almost a % of Venezuela’s population, not 10%, true, but that doesn’t take away the fact that most of those were people who didn’t deserve to be murdered by the chavista regime.

        • How many were officially ordered by Lenin’s regime to be shot in the head for daring to oppose the dictatorship? Ah, yeah, it’s right, there’s no record of that, so by that logic he only set people to starve to death, and thus he never killed anybody.

          No record of executions under Lenin? No Red Terror? Google is your friend. Google search: lenin executions. While the precise number is not known, there is no doubt that under Lenin there were a lot of executions, not just deaths due to regime-imposed famine.

          I may have an advantage in this argument because I read Utopia in Power shortly after it came out- a work which Clifton Ross cites.

          • Puzzle Me This was implying that Maduro and chavismo couldn’t be compared to Lenin because their kill count isn’t above dozens of millions, that was the reason of my reply.

            And in any case, any communist or hardcore leftist would flat out deny that their so-called “socialist leader” ordered the murder of anybody.

        • From Bertrand Russel’s The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism.[1920]

          This aspect of Bolshevism is exemplified by the Extraordinary Commission, a body practically independent of the Government, possessing its own regiments, who are better fed than the Red Army. This body has the power of imprisoning any man or woman without trial on such charges as speculation or counter-revolutionary activity. It has shot thousands without proper trial, and though now it has nominally lost the power of inflicting the death penalty, it is by no means certain that it has altogether lost it in fact. It has spies everywhere, and ordinary mortals live in terror of it.
          Extraordinary Commission=Cheka=OGPU=NKVD=JGB.

          When it comes to killing, Chavismo is minor league compared to Lenin.

          • Only because they haven’t been for so long, give chavismo enough time, and they’ll rack ten million murders.

            They have already exterminated one percent of the country’s population so far, 300.000 from a country of 30 million.

  3. Lenin at least was governed by a utopian ideology not yet proven bankrupt. Venezuelan leaders are following the same ideology, not only well-proven as bankrupt, but in a rapacious corrupt Tropical Mierda form….

  4. “Harvest of Sorrow”
    https://www.amazon.ca/Harvest-Sorrow-Soviet-Collectivization-Terror-Famine/dp/0195051807

    * “Net.” @ 11.50 am, what possible difference to the dead, could the intent be? … because Lenin was governed by an utopian ideology, it’s different?

    Not looking for an argument, the end result of any government being involved with food production, is shortages. The same applies to government being in charge of health, or education, or roads… there’s never enough, and someone else is always to blame.

  5. Top-notch. Those of us who have lived in Berserkeley appreciate how far Clifton Ross has traveled. Traveling to Socialist “utopias” helped open his eyes.

    The claim is made that during Cuba’s Special Period from 1991-95, after the loss of the Soviet sugar daddy, health improved. The average weight loss is stated to be 12 pounds during this period. I will leave it for others to analyze, but will point out that I haven’t found Venezuelan health statistics for 2015 or 2016. I believe I had read that Infant Mortality has increased in recent years in Venezuela.

  6. While there is no doubt the famine was due in large part to the devastating effects of Soviet policy, there were other factors which helped contribute to it. Various armies of the Russian Civil War (mainly Red and White, but also ethnic nationalists and local partisans) regularly lived off the land, requisitioning grain and sometimes using a scorched earth policy (and not infrequently massacring peasants). This, combined with lawlessness and Soviet policy, disincentivized able peasants from growing grain in the first place.

    Lenin was different than Maduristas, among other reasons mentioned, in that he was willing/able to make substantial changes to policies that weren’t working, leading him to allow thereturn of some capitalist behavior (i.e., New Economic Policy) and finally accepting some foreign aid. I don’t think we can expect the same of Maduro.

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