Sunday, 27 October 2013

Capitalism depends upon coercion and violence

The media commonly portrays the 'enemies' of capitalism as violent and destructive. This applies to those who protest, even non-violently against the excesses and destructive nature of capitalism. One recent example is the Occupy movement in the USA. Although there were some clashes between protesters and the police, the violence was very much driven by the aggression and brutality of the police, and its clear that there was a concerted effort to shut down the Occupy movement nationally in the USA. And there lies the problem. Capitalists, and the tame politicians who support them, enact laws which restrict peaceful protest and labour unions, and use the police as proxies to push through measures which benefit them at the expense of the communities which they are exploiting. This is a very convenient arrangement which allows the capitalists and corporations themselves to remain aloof and 'above the fray', hiding behind the law.

One of the more recent examples of this has been the criminalisation of environmental protesters. Not only have the protesters been attacked and threatened with imprisonment but they have also been targeted by the security services, spied upon, and treated like terrorists. So why are these protestors being targeted? It is because they threaten business interests, and that tells you something very interesting about the police and security services - they are here to defend the property and profits of capitalism - not the people, who they are supposed to be protecting.

The front line in the battle for the environment is now taking place over fracking in the USA, UK and in Canada. In New Brunswick the Mi'kmaq people are trying to defend the rights to their land from companies who want to exploit extreme energy. But it's the reaction of the authorities which has been extreme. When business interests were threatened the government reacted with a display of force including riot police, dogs and armed snipers in camouflage gear. Tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets were used against the protesters. Its hard to believe that kind of level of coercion can be used against a peacefully protesting community, and its not surprising that it provoked real anger amongst those affected, which resulted in six police cars being burned. These events are similar to those that have been taking place in Balcombe in the UK where excessive force, though not tear gas and rubber bullets, has been used against locals and supporters protesting against fracking.
RCMP use pepper spray on protestors in New Brunswick

Of course there's nothing new about this kind of violence being used against those who threaten the interests of business. In the USA business have long hired strikebreakers and thugs to force their will on workers and communities. One of the most dramatic examples of this occurred in the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921 when 10,000 coal miners fought for 5 days with lawmen and 'agents' hired by the bosses. here is a quote from the Wikipedia page:

"The Battle of Blair Mountain was the result of economic exploitation of workers during a period of social transformation in the southern West Virginia coalfields.Beginning in 1870–1880, coal operators had established the company town system.Coal operators paid private detectives as well as public law enforcement agents to ensure that union organizers were kept out of the region. In order to accomplish this objective, agents of the coal operators used intimidation, harassment, espionage and even murder."
In the UK, strikebreakers were used in the 'Tonypandy Riots' in Wales in 1911 and troops shot dead striking miners. 

Capitalism is once again in crisis, and if you think the bad days of Blair Mountain are over think again. Those kind of clashes are still happening, and did recently in South Africa when the police shot dead 34 striking miners in the Marikana dispute. The reality is that the primary function of the police in capitalist economies is to defend the interests of business against the people they are exploiting, and the role of the media is to defend the police when they do it to the extent that this coercion has become 'normalised' and is accepted by most people. 

Capitalism has always depended up coercion and the threat of harm to people and communities which don't comply with the wishes of the capitalist class. Even if that coercion is just the threat to destroy jobs and livelihoods - as happened in Grangemouth in the UK recently. We need to expose this violence for what it is - class violence in the service of property and profits riding roughshod over what communities and people want. We need to fight back by campaigning and building up resistance to these atrocities and make them what they really are - totally unacceptable. 

Update 2017: the recent events at the Standing Rock camps where water protectors are protesting about the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is just the latest example of excessive force and brutality against peaceful people defending their environment and land against harmful and unwanted exploitation.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Unemployment: Labour and the Tories compete to blame and persecute the victims

Are you unemployed? If you are you are in a pretty tough situation. There clearly aren't enough jobs to go round, and many of the jobs that can be found are pretty poor. Add to that the fact that the minimum wage if you actually get paid it, is inadequate. The reason for this situation is a global economic crisis created by 'free' market capitalism. The great crash of 2008 is still reverberating around the global economy, and the response from western governments - austerity - has made the economic situation worse, not better.

But austerity is not intended to make things better for ordinary people. The intention with austerity is to make ordinary people pay for the mistakes and greed of the bankers, and the tame politicians which support them. To make people pay for a crisis which is not of their own making. For capitalists, the added bonus is that the crisis can be used to suppress wages and attack collective rights and agreements which have benefited workers, slashing pensions and terms and conditions. Its simple, the 1% have taken a larger slice of the economic cake, and have increased their share of wealth to 46% globally, and they have taken that wealth from the rest of  us.

You'd never believe it if you read the Daily Mail but being unemployed has never been easy. I was unemployed in the 1970s. Although I was better off than today's unemployed I still had to deal with the stigma of unemployment and go through the weekly humiliation of standing in the dole queue and signing on. And there were very few jobs going for young people then. I ended up getting a couple of jobs working outdoors on what was called the Youth Opportunities Programme, a government employment scheme. Not great, but at least I was working and being paid for it. And I didn't have to deal with the persecution of workfare and job clubs which today's unemployed are subjected to.

What the Coalition government and its supporters in the capitalist media are doing is seeking to vilify claimants and blame them for their own situation, they are blaming the victims of capitalism. What's worse is that we now hear that Labour are competing with the Tories at their own game in a benefit bashing race to the bottom which is taking us back to the workhouse. How any Labour Party members and supporters can bear this complete betrayal of what the party has stood for is beyond me. But what is certain is that Labour politicians are more concerned with out-Torying the Tories in the hope of being elected than doing the decent thing by the victims of the economic crisis.

There are solutions to helping the unemployed which don't involve workfare or forcing them to take jobs, but none of the three main parties have any interest in pursuing them. If capitalism can't create meaningful work for people to do - and why should it bother to? - then governments must. Those jobs must be green jobs, and they will not only benefit the young and unemployed but they will also help us fight climate change. The solutions, such as One Million Climate Jobs and The Green New Deal  are well thought through and planned alternatives. We need to be actively campaigning in parties, trade unions and wider society to get these solutions adopted otherwise millions face a very bleak future. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Tories have shown us that for them - its class war as usual

The greenest government ever; cuddling a Husky at the North Pole; and hug a hoodie? This is what we got from Cameron before the 2010 general election. Now, in government we can see what the Tories are really like, and we can see that nothing has changed - they are still very much the nasty party. At the Tory party conference this week, obviously rattled by both UKIP, and Milliband's pledge to freeze energy prices, David Cameron and the Tories retreated to their comfort zone, on the far right of politics. Cameron even had the audacity to claim that all people under 25 should either be in a job or education, and they should not get benefits, when it is his government which has failed young people, and failed to provide them with the jobs and education they desperately need.

Why? Because it's this government's fault that there are a million people under 25 who are unemployed, even taking into account the government's fiddled unemployment figures, which claim that people on 'workfare' are not on the dole. It's the gross failure of this government, in its mismanagement of the economy, which is the cause of hardship for many millions of Britain's people. This is a government which has imposed class war austerity on the poorest and most vulnerable in order to get it's chums in finance and banking off the hook for the greatest economic crisis since the depression. 

The perpetrators of the crisis and their supporters have no shame, no guilt and no remorse. As long as they continue to be 'all right Jack' everything is fine as far as they are concerned. This really must be the worst government in British history, given the times we are in. No government in my living memory has shown so much contempt for the people it governs, and such naked regard for the exploiters who make up its natural allies. No government has set out so brazenly to destroy the institutions which its people love and upon which they depend.

Make no mistake about it this is an ideologically extremist  government. The forced labour, the openly racist attacks on immigrants, the destruction of collective provision, the attacks on trade unions, the worship of corporations and warmongering - this is a form of twenty first century fascism, fascism-lite maybe but fascist nonetheless. What the people who govern us have demonstrated is that you don't need jackboots to be a fascist. In the twenty first century fascists wear suits not boots. If you think I'm over-egging this take a look at this post by Henry Giroux about the rise of a new fascism in the USA. Here is a quote:

"The American political, cultural, and economic landscape is inhabited by the renewed return of authoritarianism evident in the ideologies of religious and secular certainty that legitimate the reign of economic Darwinism, the unchecked power of capital, the culture of fear and the expanding national security state. The ghosts of fascism also are evident in what Charles Derber and Yale Magress call elements of "the Weimer Syndrome," which include a severe and seemingly unresolvable economic crisis, liberals and moderate parties too weak to address the intensifying political and economic crises, the rise of far-right populist groups such as the Tea Party and white militia, and the emergence of the Christian Right, with its racist, anti-intellectual and fundamentalist ideology."