Friday, 19 October 2012

the dilemma of capitalism

Tinkering with the system won’t solve the fundamental contradictions
If anyone is in debt, they need to be helped to climb out of it. And the best way of doing this is to provide them with the means of earning sufficient income and ensuring repayment stages are realistic and feasible. Seems common sense, doesn’t it? But the IMF and the European Bank are doing exactly the opposite in their treatment of the chief debtor nations of the Euro-zone. This can only make a bad situation worse.

The main reason these countries are in big economic trouble and why most of the developing countries are too is the result of lax banking regulation. Priority number one should be for governments worldwide to impose proper regulation on banks’ lending and investment policies. Once that has been done, you’d think the next priority would be to redirect investment to public infrastructure projects. This would create employment, increase tax revenues and be a second step on the road to paying off the enormous debts. It would also ensure social cohesion. These are the sort of policies Roosevelt pursued in the thirties and what the Labour government did after the end of the war. These aren’t socialist solutions, they’re a means, if there are any left, of saving capitalism. But the dogma of neo-liberalism has penetrated so deeply into government psyches and economic thinking that such suggestions are viewed as the worst form of apostasy. Their view is that it would tantamount to admitting that ‘free market capitalism’ has not worked.

It is one of the central contradictions of capitalism that profits are most easily increased by reducing wage bills and cutting jobs through ‘efficiency’ savings, but the corollary of this is that workers have less income to spend, or little at all if they are unemployed. Thus there is less money in circulation to buy manufactured goods, so company profits are reduced yet further and the vicious circle continues. This is exactly what is happening in Europe and in the wider world now.

Taking the examples of Spain, Greece and Portugal, the austerity measures demanded by the bankers have meant drastic wage reductions, rises in unemployment to unheard of levels, while at the same time cut-backs in public spending are imposed. Young people are queuing up to leave these countries simply to find work. There is social breakdown, mass poverty and anger. There is no chance in hell of these countries being able to emerge out of the present mess through such policies. Where can the impetus come from? Who will invest in such unstable and volatile countries? Why can’t even the wise capitalists see this? The main reason is that the ruling elites are locked into a neo-liberal way of thinking, and also because, despite the chaos brought about by the financial institutions, and the flak they have taken for this, they are still calling the shots. The global financiers can only see Pound, Euro and Dollar signs in front of their eyes and can’t relate to real production, manufacturing and society. They want to squeeze interest out of the indebted countries come what may.

The increased financialisation of the whole capitalist system over recent decades has also meant that investors have sought more rapid returns on their money and bigger and bigger profits than can easily be obtained by investing in manufacturing or sustainable agriculture. This has accelerated the take-over frenzy, asset-stripping and closures. It is short-termism gone insane. It has meant companies are no longer able to undertake long-term planning as investments are now made on the basis of short-term profitability potentials. The insatiable greed of the big banking institutions means that they are demanding big returns now, and don’t care what happens a few years down the line. This attitude has been behind hedge fund casino economics, the derivative markets and price movement speculation in raw materials, shoddy building projects and internet bubbles.
These are the central contradictions and unless the leadership of the Labour Party is prepared to address them, no amount of tinkering at the edges, as Ed Balls appears to be suggesting, will help.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Fascism and police collusion

Fascism and police collusion
It has just been revealed that the Greek police have been advising citizens who are victims of crime to seek help from the Golden Dawn neo-nazi party. This party won 21 parliamentary seats the first time it contested national elections in 2012, and now has 18. Like our own home-grown neo-fascist parties, Golden Dawn recruits its supporters among the poorest sections of the population – those hit hardest by the recession. Those most desperate will always be more susceptible to simplisitic explanations for their situation and will be avid for easy solutions. Whether Jews, foreign immigrants or ‘leftist intellectuals’, there will always be a ready target. Human rights Watch reports that immigrants interviewed in Greece recently said they no longer go out at night for fear of assault and attack by ‘often black-clad groups of Greeks intent on violence.’

Fascist parties are always lurking in the wings, ready to take advantage of social breakdown. And, history shows us clearly that in times of economic crisis such as we are experienced at present, there is an increased danger from such parties. In stable times they are little more than irritants, even though one should never underestimate their role in promoting incidents of racist violence.

What is most disconcerting is the readiness of police forces in so many countries to give tacit or overt support to such organisations. We’ve even seen it here in Britain. In the thirties police gave protection to Oswald Mosleys blackshirts when they attempted to march through the East End, and in the heyday of the National Front, during the seventies, they did the same. In 1979 a policeman killed Blair Peach in Southall while he was demonstrating against the National Front. I have yet to hear of a fascist being hurt, let alone killed by the police.

In 2008 Merseyside Police investigated whether a serving constable was a member of the British National Party (BNP).  The name of PC Steve Bettley, a serving officer with the force, was one of thousands on a leaked BNP membership list, posted online.
Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, national co-ordinator of the police’s domestic extremist units, claimed police had to walk a ‘tightrope’ when targeting small groups which they believe are bent on violence. However, he claims that the neo-fascist English Defence League (EDL) is not his problem; it is ‘not a far right group’, he asserted. He clearly sees environmentalists and students as much more of a threat.
Last year it was reported that a suspected member of the EDL had been collecting names and of serving Muslim police officers. An investigation found addresses and surveillance videos of Muslim officers on his computer, along with fireworks and other explosive devices. However no charges were pressed. Concerned Muslim officers were told the man was a ‘lone wolf and not linked to any organisations,’ but a few minutes of Googling soon revealed his links with the EDL and details of his attending EDL rallies and meetings. All this demonstrates how institutionally right-wing our police are.
In 2003, on the tenth anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the then head of the Metropolitan police's anti-racism unit, Commander Cressida Dick said she believed the Met was still ‘institutionally racist’. Although, under concerted political pressure, police forces in the UK have attempted to tackle racism in their ranks, there remains much to be done. Our police forces do have a written policy stating that no serving police officer should be a member of a far-right or fascist party, but this is easily circumvented, and it doesn’t prevent police sympathising with right wing organisations.

The police, as the imposers of law and order in society, are almost by definition willing tools of the ruling classes. Clearly the recruiting and training policies favour those with a rightwing and militaristic mentality. We only need to see with what relish the police mete out gratuitous violence to those on progressive demonstrations in comparison with the kid-glopve handling of those organised by the rightwing.

This pattern can be seen in other countries too.  In Germany it has long been known that the Verfassungschutz (BfV) – the equivalent of our MI5 – had infiltrated right wing and neo-nazi organisations, but it became increasingly unclear how far the police were actually promoting and supporting the right wing or whtehr they were investigating it. This year it was disclosed that the Italian security police gave detailed information to its German counterparts of cross-border pan-European neo-nazi collaboration, but the Germans did nothing about it.

In a recent series of neo nazi murders of immigrants, the German security police again came under fire for doing nothing despite having infiltrated the organisation. It also come in for severe criticism after destroying official documentation concerning this case.

As in Hitler’s Germany, fascist parties only gain political traction when capitalism is seriously under threat and the ruling class lends them support to prevent the left gaining ascendancy. Invariably police forces play a key role in how far fascist parties are tolerated or, indeed, are given support. There is no doubt that democratic forces will have to maintain continuous monitoring of police behaviour and pressure on them to root out right-wing mentality, but it will be an uphill struggle.