Posted April 19, 2010
By Dan La Botz, Ohio Socialist Party Canadidate for the U.S. Senate
Alex M. Triantafilou, head of the Republican Party in Hamilton County, Ohio, posted a video recently attacking Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) as “The Enemy.” The video shows Maxine Waters questioning Shell Oil President John Hofmeister about the supposed benefits of permitting oil companies to expand their drilling. During the course of the discussion, Waters started to talk about “socializing” the oil companies—but then bit her tongue and, after a long pause, suggested instead “the government taking over and basically running all of your companies.”
While Triantafilou’s motive for running this video may be suspect—winning votes for Republicans by sowing hysteria and whipping up a new red scare—the issues it raises are important. For Triantafilou, that reference to euthanizing the oil companies makes Waters the enemy. In reality, the enemy is the petroleum industry. Oil has been for more than a hundred years the industry that simultaneously gives us environmental disaster, foreign wars, and corrupt national politics.
The Oil Companies: The Real Enemy
The little video in fact takes us to the heart of American politics over the last few years, as the banks, insurance companies and multinational corporations—particularly the oil companies—have taken the country to the brink. We have been brought by American capitalism to the abyss of economic crisis, environmental disaster, and several foreign wars, one of them lasting a decade so far. The economic crisis became so deep, that the U.S. government ended up taking over several banks and even half of General Motors.
Republicans in response called this “socialism,” though capitalist governments around the world have at various times nationalized all sorts of industries simply to shore up the capitalist system.
Somehow, I don’t think this call to protect the oil industry will work. What red blooded American would want to stand on the side of the oil companies, any more than they would want to rescue insurance companies or bankers? Many Americans hate the oil companies, perhaps as much as they hate the insurance companies. And rightly so.
The oil companies make billions years after year, in boom and in bust, and flourish even when the rest of us suffer. They have dominated our domestic and foreign policy for decades, preventing us from dealing with the environmental crisis at home and carrying the country into foreign wars abroad. Oil greases the relations between lobbyists and congressmen, and drips and stains every part of our government.
Maxine Waters is right. We certainly should socialize the oil companies.
Oil companies, like the other great corporations, banks and insurance companies, have outlived their usefulness. The corporations, oil and the others, are our bane. Today they prevent our country from solving our economic and social problems. The banks’ crisis and the way it was handled have made fiscal responsibility virtually impossible. Bush and Obama administrations gave 13 trillion dollars to the banks—saddling us and future generations with an enormous debt.
The health insurance companies prevented the Congress from passing the Medicare for all health program that we really needed, giving us instead the Obama plan.
And if we can’t get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan today, it’s because the oil companies aim not only to control the oil regions, but also aim to control the pipelines and the geopolitical pressure points throughout the world.
Maxine Waters called upon the government to take over the oil companies—and good for her. But her party, the Democratic Party, a party fundamentally committee to the capitalist system, is not about to nationalize the oil industry. And even if it were, nationalization alone is not socialization. Would you trust this government, run by corporate, capitalist parties to run a socialized industry? I wouldn’t.
Socialization means the control of industry by the people, the elaboration of a national economic plan, and the running of the industries by workers aided by consumers. Socialism means creating a democratic mechanism to plan the economy and end the boom-bust cycle, to create sustained growth that doesn’t threaten the environment, and to provide for the needs of all. Socialism means the extension of democracy to the economy, but that is only possible if we have political power over the state. We’re a long way from that.
Today, a few men meeting in a mahogany room somewhere control the most precious and most dangerous carbon fuel resources. They drill, refine, and manufacture chemical by-products more or less as they will. These men open up new fields and build new refineries—regardless of environmental concerns—and they close them regardless of the economic impact on society. We need to end this kind of system, one where a few men control our resources, in fact control much of the world’s resources and wealth.
Back in the 1840s and 1850s a group of progressive thinkers—white and black, men and women—recognized that the plantation had out lived its economic usefulness and that it was an immoral institution. They called themselves abolitionists and called for the abolition of that system of plantation slavery. Today, progressive thinkers recognize that the corporation has outlived its usefulness, and that it is as well an immoral and dangerous institution. We must become the new abolitionists, dedicated to the elimination of the private corporation, to its socialization, to its domestication by society. We could begin by socializing the oil companies, the real enemy.
On the role of oil in U.S. politics, government and foreign policy, see Michael T. Klare’s Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum (NY: Henry Holt Company, 2004) and Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century (NY: Viking, 2006).