Monday 26 May 2008

Boris cuts off his petrol pumps to spite his nozzle

With oil prices at hyper-inflation levels, it seems strange that anyone - much less, the mayor of a city with a large public transport network - would turn up his nose at cheap oil. Yet that is exactly what Boris Johnson, the new Tory Mayor of London, has done. The oil in question is from Venezuela (BBC News: Mayor to end Venezuelan oil deal)

Mr Johnson's excuse for ending the oil deal is that the deal is, allegedly, "funded by the people of a country where many people live in extreme poverty". True, there is still widespread poverty in Venezuela. But Venezuela's elected leader, Hugo Chavez, has done more for the poor people of his country, and to address the poverty issue, than most leaders internationally, let alone in Latin America.

Chavez has nationalised a number of industries, notably Venezuela's oil, and used the revenues gained to embark on social programmes including welfare, health and education - which have massively benefited the Venezuelan poor. Small wonder, then, that Hugo Chavez has been enormously popular. Popular enough not only to be re-elected on a number of occasions, but also to survive a vilification campaign by the Venezuelan establishment media - notably the tabloid-esque private TV stations - and even an attempted military coup!

It was partly because of Chavez popularity, not just in Venezuela but among workers internationally, that the previous London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, made a deal with him to keep his remaining (albeit rapidly diminishing) credibility among the left. At the same time, Chavez' popularity among workers has an equal and opposite unpopularity among the capitalist Establishment, notably in the US, who are angry with his nationalisation programme - especially the oil nationalisation and his attacks on the mega-profits of the oil multinationals who were operating in Venezuela.

It is against this backdrop that the real reasons for Johnson's ending of the oil deal with London, become more obvious. The Tories are still no friends of the working class, as has been shown by their recently-announced intention to introduced workfare for young unemployed people (BBC News: Tory work plan for young jobless).

Admittedly, I'd be lying if I said Venezuela was a socialist paradise. It is still a top-down society in which reforms and wealth redistribution are carried out on behalf of, rather than by, the working class itself (similar to countries such as Cuba). My nose would grow further still if I then said that Ken Livingstone was the ideal choice for London Mayor. Although Livingstone has been committed to the anti-war campaign and the fight against racism and oppression, his economic policies have been flawed, as he has endorsed privatisation on the London tube, attacked strikes, and defended non-domiciles who earn obscene amounts of money but pay little if any tax.

But electing a Tory Mayor of London, and siding with the imperialist Western Establishment against a fledgling social-democratic economy like Venezuela, is not the way forward. The only way to achieve a socialist society, from London to Caracas, is for the working class in all countries to unite against the capitalist Establishment in all countries.

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