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Issue # 1401      4 March 2009

Culture and Life:

Nice capitalists

Prime Minister Rudd’s discovery of the ugly face of capitalism should have been a reason to celebrate: a national leader acknowledging the inherent rottenness of the private property/private profit system. But, of course, Rudd was doing no such thing.

His criticisms were not aimed at the system itself, only at the “bad apples” that threatened to spoil the remainder of the barrel-full. Far from attacking capitalism itself, his remarks were designed to show explicitly that not all capitalists were uncaring, greedy, profiteers.

By sticking the boot (however gently) into the profiteers, Rudd was really promoting the social democrat notion that capitalism has another, gentler more humane side. To believe that a system that is based on exploiting workers can in any way be seen as humane is to engage in self-delusion, but it is a belief that the ruling class very much wants working people to accept.

The ruling class would not last long if they acknowledged that the majority of the population – the workers, small farmers, owners of small businesses, pensioners and self-funded retirees – were all exploited, now would they?

Instead, the ruling class spends a lot of time and energy convincing the mass of the people that they, and the capitalist owners of finance and industry, are “all in this together” and have a common stake in keeping the economy buoyant.

Canny employers give trifling quantities of shares in their companies to their employees; employers draw on workers’ super funds as a source of investment capital; in all sorts of ways, subtle and unsubtle, workers are encouraged to think of themselves, not as members of the working class, but as members of the middle class which is perceived as somehow socially superior.

The fluctuations of the stock market, that really reflect the activities of so-called investors gambling on the rise and fall of share prices rather than reflecting actual production and industrial performance, are reported on the news every night as though every viewer were an investor, but they are never reported in terms of what the figures mean for the workers in a particular industry, despite the fact that the action of employers reacting to the rise or fall of share prices can have a catastrophic effect on workers in that industry.

Of course, however much they dress it up, workers are not part of the ruling class; they are not “in business”, they do not scoop the cream off the top before paying a part of what is left to their lowly employees.

When imperialism finally overthrew socialism in the Soviet Union in 1991, capitalist pundits nodded sagely and proclaimed that it proved that capitalism was the ultimate form of social development and there could be no further development: it was, they said, “the end of history”.

Such unscientific nonsense was soon dispelled: the overthrow of socialism failed to spread from Eastern Europe to Asia, Africa or Latin America. Even in the former Soviet Union itself, three Republics soon returned to the Soviet form of government and society.

Communist parties and the goal of Communism continued to gain ground, until today forty percent of the world’s people live in countries where the Communists either are the government or take part in the government. (Remember that next time someone tells you the Communists are “dead”.)

This continuing shift in the world towards the Left is crucial to understanding Rudd’s criticism of what he would like us to believe are the “excesses” of extremist or rogue capitalists. The bourgeoisie can no longer ignore or deny the growing mass support globally for progressive leaders, policies and programs.

Through propaganda, distortion and lying, the bourgeoisie will try to represent those progressive policies as part of its own agenda. But even when the people are taken in by such ruses, they eventually will see through them and, with the help of the Communists, discover the correct path once again.

The greed, waste and, let’s face it, inefficiency of capitalism prevents it from ever satisfying humanity’s needs and aspirations. Only socialism is capable of doing that.

As more and more people come to understand that basic fact, capitalism is steadily losing its grip on the world. The global financial crisis has added impetus to people’s questioning of the prevailing social system.

Capitalism’s only solution to the crisis, giving great wads of public money to the major capitalist institutions, does not sit at all well with the people, whose pensions, jobs and mortgages are being threatened, or have even been destroyed, by the greed of those same institutions.

Rudd’s role is to convince people that the crisis is the work of “bad” capitalists and that there are “good” capitalists around who can be trusted with our money. Meanwhile, capitalism’s strategy in this crisis is to maintain its profitability, by laying off workers or closing plants and by getting the State to use public money to prop up capitalist corporations.

As the State uses public money, the working people’s money, to pull these ailing corporations out of the hole they’ve dug themselves into, the rescued capitalists expect to resume where they left off. They have no intention of using their profits to repay the public money they were given: that was to “help the economy to get back on its feet”.

The people will be expected to be grateful to the big banks and other corporations for their “dedication” to reviving the economy. Surely it would by churlish of the people to want their money, their jobs and their houses back too?

Or would it? Somehow, I don’t think so.

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