Thursday, June 17, 2010
The tyrants in pinstripe
This piece of mine appears in today's Morning Star.
(It's also posted over at the Campaign For Public Ownership).
Neil Clark on the biggest menace to threaten Europe since the nazis- international capital.
Seventy years ago, European countries faced a battle for their very existence as nazi forces swept across the continent.
Now those countries face another battle - against the forces of international capital.
The money men won't be happy until every last publicly owned asset is privatised and in their greedy hands.
Europe's debt crisis, caused in large part by the greed of international speculators, is being used as an excuse for something which the money men and their cheerleaders in the media have long desired - the wholesale sell-off of those assets which remain in public ownership.
As John Foster said in his Morning Star analysis recently, it's a confidence trick so gigantic that it would make even that Olympic champion fraudster Bernie Madoff blush.
Earlier this month, Greece's "Socialist" government announced a major programme of privatisation, including the sale of 49 per cent in the state-owned railway, the sell-off of regional airports, highways and harbours and stakes in the post office and water utilities. The French government has announced a fire-sale of over 1,700 state properties, including many historic castles.
Here in Britain, new Postal Affairs Minister Ed Davey, from the "progressive" Liberal Democrats, has said he is considering the full-scale 100 per cent privatisation of Royal Mail, which has been in the hands of the British state since its inception in 1516.
If the money men have their way then over the next few years, governments in Europe will sell off not only their railways and national infrastructure but hospitals, schools, universities and all other state-owned enterprises.
It's a prospect eagerly awaited by "free-market" fanatics in the media. In the Daily Telegraph, Simon Heffer claims that deficit reduction requires "severe cuts" in the NHS and the privatisation of Britain's motorways. The former editor of The Economist Bill Emmott says that "if this debt crisis were to end up turning Europe Thatcherite, that would be something for us to celebrate."
While Janet Daley, an enthusiast for private provision of health care and pensions, says that the cuts should be seen "as part of an essentially positive, fundamental reconstruction of the way that public services are funded and delivered."
But in reality there will be nothing "positive" about these changes for ordinary people, who will be forced to pay much higher prices for basic services. For the financial elite however, there will be rich pickings.
It's a depressing scenario, but we mustn't lose heart. Things looked pretty bleak in 1940 in Europe, but nazism was eventually defeated.
By organising a mass pan-European movement to oppose privatisation and cutbacks in state provision of health, welfare and education, we can defeat today's anti-democratic, money-grabbing, pinstripe-suited tyrants.
• What a pity that the excellent John McDonnell was forced to drop out of the race for Labour leadership.
He is one of the few politicians in Westminster who understands the importance of public ownership and how, without halting and reversing privatisation, all the talk about building a better and more equal society is just hogwash.
Every major country that has followed the Thatcherite path, embarking on a major programme of sell-off of state-owned industries and enterprises has seen inequalities widen, as Britain has done since 1979. It's not hard to work out why.
Private ownership of capital is one of the four main ways that inequalities in wealth develop - the others being inheritance and income from rent and salaries. The post-war extension of public ownership in Britain not only led to the more efficient organisation of inefficient industries like coal and the railways, it was also a major factor in diminishing economic inequality over the next quarter-century.
But while McDonnell clearly "gets it" on public ownership, it's depressing to see how many on the left still don't see its crucial importance.
Last week The Guardian asked nine so-called "leading left-wing thinkers" to suggest policies and ideas that the Labour Party should embrace.
Among the ideas these leading left-wing thinkers came up with were "a job share in the shadow Cabinet," "directly elected education boards" "VAT on private school fees" and "tax relief of 20p in the pound for everyone who saves."
As the socialist blogger Chris Hall of Lansbury's Lido - named after the great 1930s Labour leader George Lansbury - commented, "none of the above is going to change things. All it will do is give the illusion of change but leaving the underlying malaise free to fester."
Revealingly, not one of the leading left-wing thinkers suggested that the Labour Party should embrace public ownership. The fact that they didn't shows how even those who consider themselves opponents of Thatcherism have still been influenced by the incessant neoliberal brainwashing about private ownership being better than public ownership.
• There are lots of reasons for criticising US President Barack Obama. His continuation of the war in Afghanistan. His refusal to condemn Israel over their murderous act of piracy on the high seas. His support for new sanctions on Iran on account of its non-existent nuclear weapons programme.
But I can't join in the hysterical attacks on him for criticising the multinational company which is responsible for one of the biggest environmental disasters of all time.
For me, BP doesn't stand for "British Petroleum," but "Bloody Profiteers."
Since the company was privatised, it's behaved like any other privatised company - appallingly.
Now, the very same people who want Britain to be joined up at the hip with the US in foreign policy are attacking the US President for criticising BP.
These people are quite happy for British soldiers to die in US-sponsored illegal wars of aggression, but don't want the US to say nasty things about a polluting oil company and its extremely wealthy - and extremely arrogant - CEO.
Talk about a warped sense of priorities.