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Britain - a failed state

A system that produces a government intent on forcing people to cut their own throats is a failed state and we ought to find a democratic replacement for it as soon as possible.

The Conservative-led coalition of public school-educated ministers wants to make the whole of the British electorate party to decisions that will “change our way of life” over the next few years.

Cameron and Clegg’s already damaged coalition – together with the entire media circus – are engaged on a campaign of attempted mass hypnosis. If they had their way, they’d draw the entire population into a self-inflicted tsunami of devastating cuts in wages, jobs, pensions and public services on a scale never seen before. This is change for the very worst.

As the government’s new “independent” Office for Budget Responsibility will reveal, the economy is on much shakier ground than previously thought. Treasury growth forecasts which, if true, would have cut the budget deficit, are pure invention by the outgoing New Labour government. The OBR, by the way, is headed by Sir Alan Budd, who, in 2005 became a director of IG Group, which trades in financial derivatives and spread betting. Very “independent” then!

Attempts to restart economic growth through the printing of money inevitably came to nothing, both in Britain and in the United States. The crisis of the capitalist system has not gone away. Far from it, as John Authers writes in his new book for the Financial Times, The fearful rise of markets:

“The financial disaster of 2007 to 2009 … has not cured any of the underlying factors that led markets to become intertwined and overinflated and to endanger the world economy. This does not mean that another synchronised bubble followed by a crash is inevitable, but it does mean that such an event remains a distinct possibility.”

The global capitalist system has failed – economically and politically. So what follows is a short list of the changes to the social relations that define “our way of life” we think are worth considering.

First to go should be the profit-based financial system and all the associated wasteful, absurd activities that turn reasonable, well-educated, clever, potentially socially-useful people into crazed traders and wild-eyed speculators. They have gambled with everyone else’s pensions, savings and futures, and now hold governments around the world to ransom. Sure we’ll need a system of credit and money, but why not run it as a not-for-profit community service?

Then there’s the system of land and property ownership. This has survived more or less intact in Britain since the Middle Ages. It ties millions of people into paying the major part of their income as rent or interest in exchange for temporary occupation and use or the mirage of security as a house owner. It’ll be better, much better when all property is held in common. Socially-owned land and housing for all!

And that also applies to the ownership of capital – factories, offices, machines, tools, knowledge – all the durable things we’ve created that help us to produce what we need to live. As Marx explained, capital is value accumulated from many workers’ labour. For little more than 350 years the ownership of capital has given employers control over their employees.

Life will be better when private ownership, production for profit and the wages-for-labour employment contract is ended, and capital is under the control of the people who do the work that produces it.

We’ll need a new democratic process to make this happen. When Cameron’s campaign of persuasion meets popular opposition, he’ll either resort to force or the coalition will be driven out of power. Let’s build a real, much more democratic system of Peoples Assemblies that can make this new “way of life” a reality.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor
9 June 2010

Your Say

Jonathan says:

All social property held in common, and as value this is a developing part of the debate. As to the article I would draw attention to the being of value, it is not immediate, and part of that makes it ‘historical’; laid down, well, at any time throughout capitalism; it, itself is a relation, expressed as an ‘article’ of production i.e. property. “As Marx explained, capital is value accumulated from many workers’ labour”; and it is well worth going to those explanations. Over time a wealth of value laid down must be distributed and ‘accounted for’ as social labour. Social ownership is the relations on the surface and not hidden distorted under and behind 'private property' and that expression (mystification) in Law. 'Formal exchange' is but the movement of 'articles', of 'products', or relations around the globe, simultaneously, passing each other 'with a nod'. One does not 'Nationalise' relations they are expressed in their immediacy of production, are made objective, and an integral part of that, an element, is the democratic voice. Another is the administration of its material parts, relations made objective.

A part of the above article draws attention to the very real process by which the dominant ideology in one of its expressions, control of the media, and in the other great element, how they see objective development, is avoiding by a heave that would be Herculean if it were not the actual shit it expressed, the 'ouch' of the people in this crisis: here, Italy, Greece, Spain, and on. A failed network of states, failed because of their own ‘oneness’ in terms of world capital, that has within them the seeds of the new. The 'Media Circus' is planned by the state and the 'board of Directors' of Capitalism; the Cabinet, as the headline of 45 minutes was by Campbell. The supplicant media, or an Integral part of Capitalism (in crisis remember) shrink in fear at the implications of exposing the reality, and therefore their role in hiding it previously. Now they tell everyone what they knew before! Now its cuts, cuts, cuts, 'lend a hand.'

One of the city pundits used by the BBC and previously by The Money Programme when asked whether it was the result of New Labour responded with his take that it is a result of the last hundred years. In the article quoted from above the quoted writer says: “The Shanghai Surprise, we now know, marked the start of the worst global financial crisis for at least 80 years, and plunged the global economy into freefall in 2009 – the most truly global economic crash on record.” If we take that as the view of the city, in both cases, struggling for a grip on statistics, then what happened in Europe then, a hundred years ago? A mass of strikes, intensification of competition of national capital, then International Capital, then a struggle for new markets, new recourses to exploit, new rapid developments in the sciences, and THEN WAR, a massive destruction of people and capital (that is these relations). The speed took nearly, but not everyone by surprise; certainly Imperialism (though not their military), which felt the ever increasing tensions still thought it could resolve this or that contradiction. Inside the Second International, as can be seen from the writings (See Marxist Internet Archive), there was a developing split as to how to analyse the living reality, how to maintain links with the masses and draw lessons from the struggles.

And 80 years ago started the Wall Street crash. Whichever date we take, ‘we’ would not have seen this Tsunami coming as they didn't report it in any depth, if not for the method of dialectics. Their media play a dangerous role. The not-for-profit organisation of society, and how it must spread worldwide, and has as a legacy of Imperialism, unevenness, would bring with it the release of new, hidden relations inside this, either suppressed under capitalism or not yet realised to even out development: this is the 'goal'. It is wrong to see the ‘goal’ in the seed. The withering of all previous historical forms, including bureaucracy, is a process, and that process can draw on the lessons of the role played by the rise and entrenchment of the Bureaucracy in the Soviet Union caused by the isolation of that embryonic regime, which left the Bureaucracy in such a hierarchical position. In Marx’s Grundrisse he refers to the tendency of capital to shorten time and distance in all aspects of its process. In terms of accountancy Uriah Heep is replaced by the computer and the web, and with power dissolved mischief is reduced with the increased ‘socialisation’ of relations. Bureaucracy (administration), transparent and circulating as a responsibility has reduced chance to become entrenched. But the development of the productive forces, and by that we mean relations, are as delicate as a hothouse plant. Don’t be impatient.

Fiona says:

I agree with what you say as to the necessity of planning and of a great deal of forethought. My use of the word "eventually" is precautionary and as you say I do accept the need for a transitional period towards a new type of society - with some of the better elements of the old retained also. My wish however is to see the abolition of the state and of money sooner rather than later, although obviously no timescale can realistically be prescribed in the present state of things. Sooner, because 'stages' have a way of hanging around and becoming "politically bureaucratised."

All sorts of issues, positive and negative will undoubtedly be thrown up in the process I am sure, but at this stage right at the beginning of what we hope will be start of this process, it is no harm I think to discuss the society 'on the other side' of these revolutionary changes. What is it we are hoping for? Socialism, collectivism, communism or what? Now is the time for speculation and prefiguration of the new world that is still (just about) possible.

Ray says:

Fiona, by the very inclusion of the time-scale quantum of 'eventually' in your questioning of the necessity of credit and money (reserved value), you thereby accept surely that this is a 'stage' in the socialisation and, by extension, the communilisation of society. This transformation of the social and economic basis of ownership, control, distribution and exchange in the immediate future society will, if it is to work toward an equitable society, require planning. To make a plan for the most pressing needs of those involved in that society, to meet their/your/my needs, it would accept that part of an administrations' tasks is setting aside an amount of surpluses for this foreseen and unforeseen eventualities. This is to dialectically consider the needs of today and the morrow. It is also part of the process to amass data regarding raw materials for use in the multi-faceted requirements on both a national and global scale.

Despite trying not to sound like a technocrat, I understand that this process of changing from the anarchy of the profit markets that exists today, requires planning the many stages of work itself, from scientific design engineers right through the intermediate, that is the essential parts of conception and production. In concrete reality there shall be many aspects of the presently 'imprisoned society' that will revolutionise itself and parts of the benign bureaucracy in society will decline and wither away. We must distinguish between and simultaneously fight manifestations of politically bureaucratic dangers whilst acknowledging that the socialisation of society will undoubtedly throw up other facets of bureaucratic tendencies.

Fiona says:

Why the need for "a system of credit and money" at all? If all land and property is held in common, eventually surely any system of credit and exchange will become redundant. That would be communism - why not use that word, we tend to avoid it, but that is what the AWTW political and economic philosophies would, or should lead to. The question here is the use of terminology I think, what does "social ownership" really mean? Is it the same as nationalisation, or does it signify something far more radical? The something more radical would be "all property held in common"!

Also saying that "capital is under the control of the people.." can lead to ambiguity because workers' control of their work is not necessarily the same as workers complete ownership and management of their work or the products they produce. Under communism (not of the Soviet type obviously) 'from each according to their ability etc.' the need for formal exchange would not be necessary, nor would the stuff we use to symbolise the value we put on things, i.e. money. We would be saved an awful lot of bother I think!

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