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Sunday, 14 August 2011

The loosers uprising

We never thought we would hear a defence of The "Losers' Uprising" as German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung termed it from the Daily Telegraph but we now have.

"Richard Branson was thinking of moving his headquarters to Switzerland. This move was represented as a potential blow to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, because it meant less tax revenue... People would note that a prominent and wealthy businessman was avoiding British tax and think less of him. Instead, he has a knighthood and is widely feted. The same is true of the brilliant retailer Sir Philip Green. Sir Philip’s businesses could never survive but for Britain’s famous social and political stability, our transport system to shift his goods and our schools to educate his workers. Yet Sir Philip, who a few years ago sent an extraordinary £1 billion dividend offshore, seems to have little intention of paying for much of this. Why does nobody get angry or hold him culpable? I know that he employs expensive tax lawyers and that everything he does is legal, but he surely faces ethical and moral questions just as much as does a young thug who breaks into one of Sir Philip’s shops and steals from it? Rotherham MP Denis MacShane who accurately remarked, “What the looters wanted was for a few minutes to enter the world of Sloane Street consumption.” This from a man who notoriously claimed £5,900 for eight laptops. Of course, as an MP he obtained these laptops legally through his expenses. Labour MP Gerald Kaufman asked the Prime Minister to consider how these rioters can be “reclaimed” by society. Yes, this is indeed the same Gerald Kaufman who submitted a claim for three months’ expenses totalling £14,301.60, which included £8,865 for a Bang & Olufsen television. Salford MP Hazel Blears, who has been loudly calling for draconian action against the looters. I find it very hard to make any kind of ethical distinction between Blears’s expense cheating and tax avoidance, and the straight robbery carried out by the looters. Take the example of Francis Maude, who is charged with tackling public sector waste – which trade unions say is a euphemism for waging war on low‑paid workers. Yet Mr Maude made tens of thousands of pounds by breaching the spirit, though not the law, surrounding MPs’ allowances. The Prime Minister spoke of morality, but only as something which applies to the very poor:..He appeared not to grasp that this should apply to the rich and powerful as well. Cameron is himself guilty of failing this test. It is scarcely six weeks since he jauntily turned up at the News International summer party, even though the media group was at the time subject to not one but two police investigations. Even more notoriously, he awarded a senior Downing Street job to the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, even though he knew at the time that Coulson had resigned after criminal acts were committed under his editorship. The Prime Minister excused his wretched judgment by proclaiming that “everybody deserves a second chance”. It was very telling yesterday that he did not talk of second chances as he pledged exemplary punishment for the rioters and looters. These double standards from Downing Street are symptomatic of widespread double standards at the very top of our society. Certainly, the so-called feral youth seem oblivious to decency and morality. But so are the venal rich and powerful – too many of our bankers, footballers, wealthy businessmen and politicians. Of course, most of them are smart and wealthy enough to make sure that they obey the law. That cannot be said of the sad young men and women, without hope or aspiration, who have caused such mayhem and chaos over the past few days. But the rioters have this defence: they are just following the example set by senior and respected figures in society..."
As socialists, we hate vandalism, we believe in peaceful social and political dialogue. But, when people take the law into their hands, that means that they have been oppressed beyond bounds and they are prone to explode. And their explosion can result to rioting, rebellion, terrorism and sometimes total anarchy. Capitalism needs a reserve army of unemployed, to exert a downward pressure on wages as well as a source of readily-available extra labour-power that can be called upon during the expansion phase of the capitalist economic cycle. In addition, there is always a surplus population who, for various reasons, are never going to be employed. The level of state "benefits" paid to these non-working sections of the working class is fixed more by political than economic considerations, basically by what the state can get away with without provoking riots. The state has evidently pushed a section of these workers too far. The result has been a revolt against the state as represented by the police, the fire brigade and public buildings. The state has replied in kind. Sending in more police, declaring almost state of emergency, imposing and handing down severe sentences. in the end, the state will win and the riots will be put down.

Rioting, though is not the answer. What is required is not blind rage but that the quite legitimate rage of these victims of capitalism should be accompanied by an understanding of the situation capitalism has put them in. Capitalism causes - in fact, requires - some workers to be surplus to requirements and suffer above average social exclusion. Once this is understood, then it will be realised that the constructive thing to do is to work for a new society in which having to obtain money, by hook or by crook, to acquire what you need to live will be a thing of the past. Capitalism should be eradicated without further delay to enable us to enjoy the beautiful things of the world without the need to loot or steal them .

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