Last week Opinómetro published an opinion poll regarding the presidential election in Colombia. It suggested that the second round of the 2014 elections will pit the incumbent, Juan Manuel Santos, against Clara López, leader of the radical Left Party (the Polo Democrático Alternativo).
In spite of the irresponsible joy this poll seems to bring to some academic and intellectual sectors, it does not mean that the Marxists will make it to the second round, let alone win the election.
What it does mean, however, is that statism is garnering more support in Colombia. Why?
There could be many reasons: the context of social protest or the indifference shown by traditional elites towards the problems of some demographics, among others. To draw on Frédéric Bastiat, however, I believe that these reasons are only what we can easily observe.
What is not seen are two more powerful reasons. First, the parties on the left in Latin America receive accolades they do not deserve, and Colombia is no exception. Second, their failures are blamed on specific people, not on the ideology.
Regarding my first assertion, even those of us who criticize Marxism have allowed for it to be seen as a well-intentioned or moral ideology, concerned with the poor, the left-behind, and the weak. At least publicly, all other ideologies worry about the poor as well: is there any ideology that promotes an expansion of poverty? Not to my knowledge.
However, some minorities, such as the homosexuals, are rejected by some ideologies, but embraced by the left. Even though current Marxists show support for these minorities, said support can only be interpreted as electoral opportunism, seeing as every communist society to date has persecuted homosexuals.
We have also failed to stress the fact that the alleged Marxist concern for marginal sectors manifests itself as an elimination of their individuality, dignity, and capacity to choose, and it makes them state-dependent. The Marxist vision turns human beings into objects to be pitied and talked about in politically-correct discussions — objects whose only role in the world is making the elites, we know only too well, feel better about themselves, more humane, more just.
The second reason is the most harmful one. Since the days of the ex-USSR, it has become a tradition for Marxists to explain their models’ failures and excesses as deviations of their respective leaders.
These explanations have been tacitly accepted by all. Nowadays, for instance, people criticize Hugo Chávez’s authoritarianism, Nicolás Maduro’s or Evo Morales’s ignorance, the corrupted ways of the Castro brothers or even Cristina Fernández’s obsession with fashion. Is there anything less relevant to say about her?
However, the problem lies not in them or in their behavior. The problem is their ideas, since it is true that said ideas require leaders who are authoritarian, ignorant, corrupt, arrogant, and yes, frivolous.
How can one accept the idea of a few imposing their will on the many, without being authoritarian? How can one think he or she knows the ultimate way to create wealth, without being arrogant? How can one repeat the mistakes of the past, without being ignorant? How can one continue to follow the model adopted by sinister characters like Lenin, Stalin, or Mao Zedong, without being frivolous?
However, as I was saying, our discussion must not focus on the people, but on the ideas they want to implement. A similar failure has taken place regarding the alleged cases of leftist governments that have been successful. An often and correctly quoted example is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s administration in Brazil. More efforts should have been made to show that this person ruled, at least domestically, in a fashion quite distant from radical Marxism.
In that sense, it is necessary for voters to understand that Marxist representatives can only be successful by ruling as if they were not Marxists — that is, when their leading political inclination, so common in Marxism, is treason.
As Colombia’s case shows, Latin America has been lacking in demonstrations of this type. How is it possible for Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city, to continue to choose candidates from the Marxist left, in spite of all the chaos and setbacks?
National preferences may shift in the next few months. However, the results of the aforementioned poll should raise a red flag regarding the huge task ahead for those who want to keep Colombia safe from the ideology of underdevelopment that has gripped its Andean neighbors.