Sunday, August 19, 2012

How We Got Here. What We Should Do

There will never be any trouble in filling the creative jobs, and far more people who have to do dull monotonous work could be trained to creative or constructive jobs. … It’s quite unfair for people to have to do boring jobs that machines could do—there’s nothing intrinsically good about work.
Mary Quant
Capitalism is not Democracy

How We Got Here

Award winning journalist, Jon Pilger describes Western democracies led by the USA as corporatist. Democracy is now a business plan—a plan to rob the people.

“Corporatist” means run like a national corporation looking after the interests of monopoly capitalists under the guise of a “democratic” state. It is state monopoly capitalism, the interlinked development of the capitalist market and its organization by the ruling capitalist class to sustain their profits.

Marx showed how capitalism tended to monopoly, through concentrating capital via credit. About a century ago, Lenin realized the state intervened to secure bigger profits for capital. Despite the appellation “democracy” we attach to it, the state we live in is never fair to all classes. It benefits monopoly capital at the expense of the blue and white collared working classes and the “middle” class of small businesses. It is a contradiction of capitalism that has not changed in the century since Lenin.

Capitalism’s essential failings manifest as recurring crises. A UK premier, Gordon Brown, was fancifully idiotic in announcing the end of “Boom and Bust” a few years ago. He thought he had disproved Marx. The present deep depression proves otherwise. Capitalist crises occur when the accumulation of money (capital) into private hands, and the drive to maximize profits by price inflation and wage stagnation, by offshoring, mechanization and sackings, leaves the consumer unable to buy all that is being produced. It is why the government seeks to encourage demand now by cutting savings rates to zero. It forces people to spend their savings, or see it erode by inflation. It also explains why earlier it extended credit ridiculously attempting to hold off the crisis, thereby lifting personal debt to absurdly high and unsustainable levels.

By monopoly, the super rich had bigger profits than most because they controlled the supply of the essential commodities they had monopolized, and so could profiteer by setting any price customers were willing to pay. By paying excess for commodities, the profits of non-monopolists dropped. That accelerated the difference among the capitalist class and therefore the accumulation of capital by the monopolists. It forced, initially, lesser capitalists into finding new markets through imperialism and the export of their capital abroad.

The Wall St crash was the first capitalist crisis when the capitalist economy was essentially fully monopolized. So Marxists described the economic depression of the 1930s as “special”. Workers, farmers and small businesses in capitalist countries were forced to suffer the crisis, but millions starved in capital’s colonies and in Africa and Asia.

Economic instability, low profits and unemployment, forced capitalism to intervene in the market, resulting in the New Deal in the US, and some social-democratic economies in Europe. Elsewhere in Europe, the forces of state monopoly capital took the authoritarian road to Fascism. Both approaches had the objective of securing stability and profits for the monopolists, one with a democratic front and one with an authoritarian one.

After the Second World War and the defeat of fascism, Western capitalism resorted to a Keynesian model—effectively what the New Deal and the Fascist effort put into infrastructure had done anyway. Keynes recommended state accumulation of capital in a boom, then spending it in the succeeding bust, thereby smoothing their excesses. For the first 30 years after the War together with capital largesse from the US to bombed out countries intended to insulate the west against communism, it mitigated the excesses of the capitalist boom and slump cycle, allowing the growth of business and monopoly capital to seem fair and stable. The rich and the poor were both getting wealthier at the same rate.

Then, in the 1970s, countries which exported essential resources for industry, mainly oil and copper, secured monopolies over their raw materials. And some of the organized working class in the capitalist world demanded more of the national cake. The mega-capitalists resented it, and turned against Keynesianism which they saw as pandering to democrats and the workers. J White (New Scientist) has noted that from 1951 to 2007, US productivity rose four fold, so, had it been used to reduce everyone's working week, we would have had an eleven hour week. Everyone could have been working one long shift, or two short ones. Instead it went in profit boosting schemes like military spending.

Cuts Double Corporate Profits

State monopoly capitalism turned to an aggressive monetarism led by guru, Milton Friedmann, and promoted by Thatcher and Reagan, under the pretense of turning back to Adam Smith and neo-liberal economics. Their aim was to smash the working class and return to imperialist foreign adventures to secure foreign markets and natural resources. It meant a shift away from the productive economy of manufactures, to the deregulation of the finance and service economy of derivatives traders and bankers, but inevitably leading into a worse crisis than any we had yet seen.

The outcome, this capitalist economic crisis, will not affect everyone equally, any more than any previous one has. No one should have illusions that everyone in the nation equally will tighten our belts. Ordinary people are being made to pay, while corporations escape paying even less than they give their chief executives as bonuses. The richest one tenth (10%) of the population of Britain today owns nearly three quarters of the wealth (75%). The poor half (50%) of the population owns just one per cent (1%).

Our governments are now openly hitting the ordinary people hardest, and have not suggested any tax at all on the rich. Capitalism is no nicer than it ever has been, notwithstanding the Olympic legacies and feel good factors blarneyed around by our leaders. The working classes, which includes everyone who has to work to live—blue collar, white collar and “middle class” workers running small businesses—are the ones who will suffer. We must stand up for ourselves.

Needs of the Hour

Let us make the government:

  1. take the big banks into full public ownership
  2. stop giving tax payers’ money to private firms for them to pay out as dividends
  3. regulate the banks to serve their proper function to fund industrial investment
  4. ease the credit crunch and reduce bank charges
  5. provide alternatives to house repossessions
  6. take back control of interest rates from the Bank of England, to get a fair balance between borrowers and savers
  7. stop the domination of British economic policy by the City of London
  8. give priority to manufacturing, new technology, and research and development.

Trades unions should campaign to achieve:

  1. a rebuttal of the inevitable “there is no alternative” whine of capitalist governments, when the plain aim of policy is to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich
  2. a united battle for higher wages, benefits and pensions, campaigning alongside pressure groups, students, pensioners and the unemployed
  3. a decent national minimum wage, including paying the full rate to all young workers, and enforcing equal pay for women
  4. a ban on mass redundancies in viable enterprises, with businesses taken into public ownership when the benefits of continuation clearly exceed the costs, including all social costs
  5. a slashing of domestic gas and fuel prices, with the big six energy monopolies nationalized along with companies subsidized out of our taxes like rail and coal industries
  6. increased government spending to stimulate the economy, including investing in a huge program of public sector house building, which should be financed by taxes on the rich and big business
  7. the abandoning of costly and dangerous plans to expand nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and instead government investment in renewable energy sources including clean coal and solar power.
Revolt Against Cheating Corporations

None of this will do anything to change the economic system from capitalism, but in the struggle to improve our exploitation, we can raise awareness of the real solution—socialism. This crisis should have shown everyone that capitalism does not solve any of the social and economic problems we face. It causes problems that the mass of us ordinary people, who have to work to live, face daily.

A united mass struggle around these issues would help mobilize and politicize millions of people and help to deepen political and class consciousness in Britain. It will strengthen the organized working class and make a revolutionary movement possible to take forward the struggle against capitalism and imperialism. A fairer socialist or communist system will remove the power of riches then all of us can get a fair chance of education, work and fulfilment.

After the setbacks on the left since Reagan and Thatcher introduced the saving policies for capitalism of monetarism and neo-liberalism, the task, especially among the young is to mobilize, agitate, educate and organize amongst the new generation of the working class, to fight for our future—a socialist future!

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