Monday, 12 January 2015

Exploiting the gullible electors

In a lengthy piece in Saturday’s Western Mail, Labour’s shadow Secretary of State for Wales gave us the benefit of his views on the economy.
(As an aside, the Western Mail’s change in the use of language between the printed version and the online version is interesting.  The online “shafted” became “not getting a fair crack of the whip” and “exploited” in the print version, both versions being shown as direct quotes from Owen Smith.  I wonder which version he actually used – and what it says about the accuracy of reported speech in the Western Mail.)
One of his pearls was this: “Who is our economy meant to serve?  What’s it there for?  It’s not there to serve governments.  It’s not there to serve corporations.  It’s there to serve people”.  It is, of course, complete nonsense.  Our economy is there to serve those who control it; a capitalist economy serves the capitalists, not the people.  It wasn’t developed to serve the people, and no-one should be in the least surprised if it doesn’t do so.  And that’s a point which those who founded the Labour Party understood very well, even if, sadly, their modern-day successors do not.
If he’d presented the idea that the economy should serve the people as a proposal, with a plan to get there – or even as an aspiration – I’d have had rather more sympathy with his argument.  But trying to suggest that changing the party and people in government and passing a few laws giving workers a few more rights is somehow going to change the nature of the economy and make it work for ordinary people is utterly disingenuous – and made more so by the fact his party contributed to the weakening of workers’ rights and the strengthening of the power of the capitalists when it was in power.
I actually agree with one of his key statements in the interview, when he says “But the reality is that is exactly the base of our economy: people’s work.  What they do day after day is what drives corporations, is what drives an economy.”  Followed to its logical conclusion, it’s an argument for a fundamental change in the nature of our economy, a change precisely of the nature which he and his party are not proposing.
All in all, the whole interview succeeds only in exposing the basic fallacy which underpins the concept of social democracy, which is that there is no alternative to a capitalist economy, and that the best we can hope for is a few minor legislative changes to mitigate some of the worst aspects.  There is little in what he said which could not have been said by members of any of the four social democratic parties with members representing Wales, of course, so perhaps it’s unfair to pick on him – it’s simply that he’s the one who’s been interviewed on this occasion.
But what we need is an alternative paradigm, not just a few bits of stick on veneer.  Economic relationships in society are based on power, and power is in the hands of those who own and control capital.  Without changing that, those who sell their labour will continued to be shafted (or exploited, for Western Mail readers of a more delicate constitution).  And the Labour Party is clearly planning to continue to aid and abet that shafting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"so perhaps it’s unfair to pick on him" No it's not. The man is a cynical purveyor of spin.