The party describes itself as being “a left-wing socialist organisation” that embraces Marxism and Leninism. Pedro Castillo has said that he opposes communism, but that is in no way unusual. After 24 disastrous socialist experiments, modern socialists want to distance themselves from the failures of the past – failures that have been responsible for the deaths of more than 100 million people.
Initially, Perú Libre’s goals included the nationalisation of mines, gas, oil, hydroelectricity and telecommunications in order to fund social programmes. However, in an attempt to appease foreign business interests, Peru’s new president Pedro Castillo has promised that his government will not nationalise industry within Peru.
This is all very reminiscent of Hugo Chavéz in Venezuela. Chávez, who came to power in 1999, also started out by declaring that he would respect private property rights and never “expropriate anything from anyone.” Before the election, he surprisingly portrayed himself as a friend of foreign investors and of Western values in general. At the time, the British social democrat Tony Blair was popular on the international stage and Chávez proclaimed himself to be the “Tony Blair of the Caribbean.”
I live in Germany, where a socialist dictatorship was established in the country’s eastern regions in the wake of the Second World War. It was at that time that the Communist Party of Germany affirmed in its manifesto of June 11, 1945: “We are of the opinion that forcing the Soviet system onto Germany would be the false path … Rather, we are of the opinion that the most compelling interests of the German people in the present situation call for Germany to take a different path, the path of establishing an anti-fascist, democratic regime, a parliamentary, democratic republic with all the democratic rights and liberties for the people.” In the years that followed, however, the GDR’s rulers did precisely the opposite: Under the pretext of anti-fascism, land and the essential means of production were nationalised and, as a result, a dictatorship modeled on the Soviet Union was established.
Every new socialist experiment is enthusiastically greeted by intellectuals, as Kristian Niemietz confirms in his book Socialism. The Failed Idea That Never Dies. It was the same with Stalin as it was with Mao. And after Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela, leading intellectuals and leftist politicians across Europe and the United States praised Venezuela as a model of “Socialism of the 21st Century.” This sounded seductive because it allowed them to distance themselves from the miserable failures of socialism in the 20th century. But socialism also failed dismally in the world’s most oil-rich country. Today, the inflation rate in Venezuela is higher than in any other country in the world and more than ten percent of the country’s population have fled – hunger and repression prevail.
After the collapse of the Venezuelan experiment, socialists initially fell silent. Then they claimed that the US boycott was to blame, or they explained that Maduro had unfortunately abandoned Chávez’s correct path. Incidentally, their main argument is now that Venezuela was never a truly socialist country after all, and that the country’s failures cannot therefore be blamed on socialism.
Socialists are counting on the fact that most people know very little about history and the extreme poverty and inhumane conditions in which our ancestors lived before capitalism emerged. And they are confident that a vast majority of students in schools and colleges will hear almost nothing about the inhumane conditions under socialism. But the fact that every single anti-capitalist system without exception has ended in failure is a truth socialists are not willing to accept: That was not “true” socialism at all. In Pedro Castillo, a socialist has once again been elected on the back of claims that after 100 years of failed socialist experiments, he has finally found the right recipe for how socialism can work after all.
Dr. Dr. Rainer Zitelmann holds doctorates in history and sociology and is the author of The Power of Capitalism.