Saturday, 21 January 2012

The fantasy of a responsible capitalism

We have heard this term responsible capitalism a lot banded about recently like polititians know what they are talking about. I thought I’d look at if there is such a thing and could capitalism ever be made to be a fairer system for all ?

Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party is turning into an elaborate parody of the emptiness of reformism. With capitalism unable to afford any reforms, he is like the school pupil who works extremely hard to avoid working whilst giving the impression of being studious. He is trying very very hard, tossing and turning, to give the impression that reformism can work without any actual reforms. Unfortunately for Ed, in this case the illusion does not work.

He has recently announced that social democracy, or reformism, can (and will have to) provide the same quantity of ‘fairness’ and all-round " well-being" without actually spending any money, in fact whilst cutting enormously. Translated into English, this means that Miliband is offering no credible policies whatsoever to deal with the crisis and improve living standards. That is the only reason why Cameron outperforms him in polls and why, in some respects, the Tories, despite being so roundly hated, manage to be more trusted in economic matters. If people are only going to be offered cuts, it may as well be done by the guys who really know how to dig the knife in.

In the desperate search for a distinguishing policy Miliband has decided to cash in on the general hatred for bankers and the disgust at the gross inequality in British society. He is selling the idea that we can achieve the desired fairness and equality by reforming business practice, rather than through taxation and public spending or even (God forbid!) through nationalisation.

He says “Does anyone really believe that David Cameron came into politics to create a more responsible capitalism? The public are not going to buy it." The real question is, does anyone really think there can be such a thing as responsible capitalism? People do not take this seriously, and rightly so, for capitalism is inherently irresponsible and crisis ridden. To speak of conjuring up such a system whilst the world economy once again teeters on the brink of the abyss is utopian.

Accepting capitalism, as both reformism and Ed Miliband do, means adapting to its inner laws and implementing policies that are in the interests of capitalists and capitalism. Hence the fact that, in good New Labour tradition, Miliband is trying to sell this policy as not only fair and good for the poor, but also as in the interests of business, saying “There is nothing anti-business about cleansing cheats, asset-strippers and vultures from honest savings and good business enterprise.”

Unfortunately, there is something anti-business about that, since business, or capitalism, is the law of the jungle. Of necessity capitalism develops a culture of cheating and asset-stripping.

The concrete policies he has proposed are the following, “[We would] put an employee representative on every remuneration committee, make firms publish their pay ratios, empower pension companies and investors and have another year of the bank bonus tax to get some of our young people back to work.”

These policies are pretty thin for someone wanting to completely transform the way an entire economic system works and to restructure society. Investors are not interested in curbing executive pay, they are only interested in getting their dividends, and those who are charged with managing investment portfolios to achieve high returns are themselves extremely lavishly paid. Small shareholders are far too scattered and their assets too small to have a chance of dictating company policy, moreover they too are only concerned with getting their dividends in. The buying and selling of shares, and all other financial speculation, takes place internationally, in accordance with the laws of capitalism and determines the fate of the world economy. Empowering some of these investment companies engaged in this to become champions of fairness and equality is farcically ironic.

Putting employee representatives on company committee’s whilst, thanks to the global economic crisis, those companies will inevitably be making decisions to sack thousands of workers and attack terms and conditions, will either result in the buying off of the relevant worker, or in a breakdown of this class collaboration into open class struggle.

Indeed class struggle is on the order of the day for Britain and the world. 2011 showed that and 2012 will see even more. Capitalism inherently increases inequality and crisis ridden capitalism is the least able to overcome this tendency. If workers are to engage in holding their employers to account for obscene executive pay levels, it can only be through the workers having real, democratic control over those companies. But you cannot control what you do not own

So as Karl Marx described capitalism is a beast that cannot be tamed and will always come back for more if it gives you something with one hand it will take back with the other in another way without you knowing. The only way to make capitalism responsible and fairer is to make it responsible for the exploitation and destruction it has caused and end it for good. To be reaplaced with a socialist planned economy based on humans needs over a select group of very rich elites profits. FOr a fairer system which will meet everyones needs not just the 1% of society.

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