THERESA MAY was among friends as she delivered her eulogy to free-market capitalism at the Bank of England, but a chillier reception awaits her in the real world.
The Prime Minister didn’t mention Jeremy Corbyn’s name, but her attempt to link him with advocacy of “ideologically extreme policies which have long ago been shown to fail” was transparent.
She was endeavouring to hit back swiftly after Corbyn’s Labour conference closing speech declared war on get-rich-quick property speculators, City spivs and cold-hearted profiteers.
May recognised that the Labour leader’s stirring address, warning that capitalism faces a “crisis of legitimacy” had struck a chord with the public, so she lambasted “the failed ideologies of the past,” in a clear allusion to the former Soviet Union, adding Venezuela as a further example of ideological extremism.
Her implication is that the Bolivarian revolution set up to protect “the poorest and most vulnerable in society” has failed them, but what is the reality?
Venezuelan governments led by Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro are not immune from criticism or selfcriticism and there is generalised acceptance that the boom years of high oil prices ought to have seen greater economic diversification and democratisation.
The corporate sector, still overwhelmingly in private hands, has engineered shortages of key goods through hoarding while the political opposition, bent on destabilisation, has engaged in relentless violent disorder, backed by the US and its allies.
Despite this and a halving of world oil prices, the gains made by the revolution in Venezuela remain substantial.
The country’s oil wealth was not diverted to enrich a tiny minority but dedicated to slashing poverty levels in half, providing free education at all levels, free healthcare, decent housing and benefits in cash and kind to the poorest in society.
A process begun in the past two decades in a country condemned chronically to uneven development under a corrupt comprador elite working as the catspaw of a dominant superpower that decreed its regional hegemony nearly 200 years ago cannot be understood as a model for the fifth or sixth-richest country in the world.
Nor has Corbyn tried to do so. He has applauded, as all true socialists do, efforts by progressive governments across the world to overcome the legacy of poverty and injustice left by colonialism and imperialism.
His proposals for Britain are not copied from other experiences. Nor are they a programme for socialism.
They have been designed to tackle inequalities and injustices that reflect an increasingly polarised society fuelled by the neoliberal austerity agenda favoured by May’s government.
Her patronising observation that Britain’s people “played no part in causing the financial crisis” but “had to make sacrifices in order to return the economy to health” fails to mention that people didn’t volunteer to make sacrifices.
They were imposed and continue to be enforced by a government in the pocket of the City and the ruling wealthy minority.
The Tory leader’s weasel words about “a free-market economy, operating under the right rules and regulations,” are exposed as cant by the reality of virtually unrestrained corporate power.
Property speculators engaged in social cleansing dodge pledges over affordable housing, the energy cartel rips off consumers with impunity and local councils can’t access government cash for sprinklers in high-rise blocks.
Each is a scandal underpinned by the market forces eulogised by May. Corbyn has given a voice to their victims who, once heard, will not retreat into silence again.