Cllr Tim Briggs is the Leader of the Opposition on Lambeth Council.
In my borough, Labour activists and Labour councillors have organised events and fundraisers in support of the Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela. Yes, you read that correctly. Labour Party members in Lambeth, true to the “Loony Left” tradition, have been collecting money for the Venezuelan government, not for its victims who are being killed and starved.
In other words, in a country where, according to Kate Andrews of the IEA in August – infant mortality is up 10,000 per cent, inflation is now at 947 per cent, poverty is up from 48 per cent to 82 per cent, the minimum wage is down by 75 per cent, and the murder rate is ten times the global average – Labour activists have been giving the Venezuelan government money to prop itself up.
Even Venezuelans I have spoken to that support Labour in the UK will tell you that Hugo Chavez’s Socialist experiment has failed. All of their relatives that could get out of the country have left, and are living either in the UK, Canada, Europe or the US. Passport services are barely functioning in Venezuela, so those left behind cannot get out. The main Spanish-owned healthcare provider is now stopping services and leaving.
Caracas Airport has become a place of routine armed hold-ups to steal money and luggage from passengers. Kidnapping keeps people indoors after 6pm, unless you are a part of a Chavista armed gang with a big black bullet-proof Humvee to drive around. A military coup is unlikely because all the high-ranking army officers are making millions from their links with drug cartels. The politicians that run the country all have dollar bank accounts abroad, and so remain immune from any of the economic hardship they have brought upon the country.
By no means should this be viewed as a ‘failure’ of Socialism. On the contrary, the far-Left Government in Venezuela is as successful as uncompromising Socialism always is, in reducing life chances for the majority by making everyone equally wretched.
In an interview on Al-Jezeera (at 23:11) Delcy Rodriguez, head of the constituent assembly set up by the Maduro Government in violation of the Venezuelan Constitution, admitted that there could only be an ‘alternation’ of political parties running Venezuela that were ‘within the same national project’, and did not compromise what she called ‘Venezuela’s interests’ and the ‘political sovereignty of Venezuela’. In other words, the dictatorship would only ever allow the next Government to be Socialist. Or be the same Government.
Meanwhile over here Jeremy Corbyn has found himself unable to criticise his Venezuelan friends in government, or to apologise for continuing to support them (by failing to condemn them), much to the anger of the large Latin American community in Lambeth. Residents in Lambeth from other South American countries like Columbia and Peru are well aware of the havoc wrought in their own countries by anti-democratic far-Left political groups.
Morally, Jeremy Corbyn’s position is unsustainable. By condemning violence ‘from all sides’ without any criticism of the Maduro regime, he has intentionally created a moral equivalence between the violence of the Maduro regime, and the violent response from people whose rights have been violated, whose livelihoods have been destroyed, and who are now starving. There is no moral equivalence, even though the same word ‘violence’ is used in both instances. Corbyn talking about ‘condemning violence from all sides’ is actually the answer to a completely different question about whether violence is a preferable way for parties to express their differences.
By way of analogy, if your child went to a school where he or she was being violently bullied by a group of bullies, and your child was trying to fight back, you might go to the Headteacher to complain. Headteacher Corbyn then tells you he ‘condemns violence on both sides’. Which all sounds very moral, but the next day the violence continues, your child remains battered and bruised, but Headteacher Corbyn refuses to do anything, or to identify who is at fault. At the heart of the Labour argument is a kind of moral cowardice, and the cynicism of the argument is of itself immoral.
So in response to the Labour activists and councillors in Lambeth that have organised events and fundraisers in support of the Venezuelan regime, my Group of Opposition Conservatives on Lambeth Council have brought a motion for the full council meeting this Wednesday 18th October 2017 at 7pm (also in Spanish).
“Residents of the large Latin American community living in Lambeth, including Venezuelans who have fled Venezuela but who still have family members unable to leave the country, are appalled by the support given by Labour constituency activists in Lambeth to the Maduro dictatorship.
Labour party members and Labour councillors in Lambeth have organised events and fundraisers in support of a Socialist regime which is flouting its own laws, bankrupting the country, wasting its riches, and starving and killing its own people.
Labour councillors in Lambeth distance themselves from the Leader of the national Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn MP, who tweeted in January that ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’, yet has failed to unequivocally condemn the violent attempts by the regime to stay in power and suppress protests, condemning what he called ‘violence on both sides’.
All councillors will work to ensure that Labour party members in constituencies in Lambeth will no longer choose the side of the oppressor over the families of our Latin American community.
Council calls on all Lambeth councillors from all parties to follow Conservative councillors in unanimously condemning the violence of the Maduro regime, asserting our respect for the rule of law and parliamentary democracy with a proper separation of powers, and the values of tolerance, diversity, and striving for equality under the law, all of which allows for economic growth, opportunity and freedom for everyone, regardless of their background.”
Labour councillors in Lambeth, perhaps aware of the fallacy of running a ‘moral equivalent’ argument like Corbyn, have been careful to say in their amendment to our motion that they condemn violence from all sides ‘including the Maduro regime’.
Yet the fact remains that Labour activists and councillors in Lambeth have organised events and fundraisers in support of the Maduro dictatorship. So the condemnation now by Labour councillors of ‘violence on all sides including the Maduro regime’ cannot be sincere. It is the worst kind of moral fudge – an attempt by Labour councillors to sound sincere, in the hope of hiding the fact that they are still backing the wrong side.
People who for many years wrote off Corbyn and the far-Left as idealists with the best intentions, need to understand this fundamental lesson: that governments anywhere in the world that espouse weak arguments and ideas, moral fudges and poor governance create a vacuum which is both intellectual and real. If that moral space is not filled properly, it ends up being filled by extremists, bullies, sycophants and psychopaths, who quickly take power, and prey upon the weak.
Whether those extremists, bullies, sycophants and psychopaths are the far-Left in Venezuela or the far-Left Labour party under Corbyn in the UK, it is only good people armed with thoughtful, evidence-based arguments that can stop them. So all of us need to make a quiet promise to ourselves: that we will do our utmost to never allow these people the opportunity to trash and degrade countries that are rich and full of promise for everyone, into places of confused and empty slogans, poverty, and crime.
Please sign our petition on change.org to Jeremy Corbyn MP: ‘End your shameful support for the Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela’.