At the Welsh Labour Grassroots Conference, early November, Welsh Economist Steve Davies, in his contribution, raised the unspeakable, the dreaded ‘c-word’, the word now common-place from the lips of news-readers, journalists and economic analysts. Capitalism!
Gordon Gibson closed the debate saying we should go on the offensive against all its propaganda.
News items these days, it seems, are required to conclude with an update on ‘how the markets responded’. Share prices up: cheer; share prices down: gloom. Qadhafi and thousands of Libyans killed: Buy! Buy!; nuclear disaster: Sell! Sell! Except they even rig the news now by ‘leaking’ bad gossip. Share values fall, they buy cheap, then sell soon after when the price re-stabilises. So overt is the brazen manipulation and greed of the ‘one percent’ that there is even serious discussion in their media on the extent to which world power is in the hands of governments or ‘the markets’, the current rapid vagaries of the Eurozone crisis being a case in point. [For now, we shall set aside the matter of whether the EU or, indeed, most national governments represent ‘the people’ or those same markets.]
Now it may be a bit ultra-left of me but when I hear reports that the markets responsible for this economic chaos are in pain and suffering, I tend to experience a glow of pleasure. My exuberance is enhanced by markets’ dismay when Greek workers strike, hundreds of thousands of young ‘indignados’ hit the streets in Spain, the Occupy Movement resonates all over the western world and Icelanders vote to ditch their debt. ‘The markets’ quiver in fear and I am pleased.
Shares markets are not the barometer of good and bad in the world, not for me. The true indicators are riots in Tottenham, the popular emergence of the occupy and ukuncut movements, people with disabilities coming on the streets, pension plundering being the occasion for the biggest national strike since 1926. There are personal indicators: the tears of our daughter at work, exasperated by Tory sabotage of the good things that we care about and need, and worse, the volume of tears of those coming to terms with the slashing of public support for their already strained life existence.
Shed no tears for the markets; the only concern of shareholders is their dividend. Their priorities are the very root of the problem. So self-focused are the markets that, despite recognizing the overwhelming need for ‘global solutions’, they are incapable of delivering.
Europe is riven with desperation and division. Only Germany, on a world scale, shows any understanding of ‘working together’ and their interests are driven, in no small part, by their desire to share the load of the bail-out. Britain walks the other way, content to reap the market benefits but rebuff fiscal management and the most modest human rights. I’m a European but the British left still finds itself on the same side of the fence as its hated government, against the EU, even if the best propagandise for for a United Socialist States of Europe.
That reflects the problem, more for capitalism than for the left: ‘Global solutions’ = socialism! Capitalism can’t stomach that. Short of world domination – and they are certainly giving that a try – capitalism just cannot bring itself to sit down and plan collectively. The imperative of short-term self-interest and the grasping demands of shareholders is just too much. They have been spoiled by high yields, mega salaries and obscene finance market bonuses. The ‘quick-win’ casino culture has blinded them to their own early history wherein their pillage of world resources was invested in the long-term stable returns that built most British cities and still provide the financial underpinning to their vast wealth.
It’s a bit Keynesian to say it but, right now, we could do with some of that. And if they can’t come to terms with it, we may well have to end up taking it, staying put in our mortgaged homes, jobs and businesses, nationalizing the banks, controlling the money markets, stopping the oil-and-arms-economy wars, devolving democracy….
Oops, we’ve ended up talking socialism again.