by Frank Hayes
The 2015 Budget for the Irish Capitalist State has been described by some mainstream economists as an exercise in smoke and mirror obfuscation, a do-nothing budget where the coalition’s cautious ‘give and take’ con-job protects the miraculous ‘economic recovery’ which they say they have managed to conjure out of the detritus of the 2007/8 crash. It is not!
Gently interviewed on RTE’s Morning Ireland, Labour Party leader and Tanaiste, Joan Burton offered statistics and hinted at better times in the future for the working poor who toil for less than a living wage, and the thousands whom her government have rendered jobless. Tame journalists refuse to press for the truth about the artifice in the Noonan/Howlin trick of the loop. The interviewer even suggested, amazingly, that The Troika dictators were ‘no longer in charge’. So who gave the instruction to end ‘The Double Irish’, so obsequiously complied with?
First things first, once again, when assessed in its functional outcomes, this budget takes money from poor people and gives it to the rich! Nothing new there! And the anti-social coalition partners retain their common hostility towards public service provision across the board. Even ‘social housing’ provision – the great feather in the cap of the ‘Labour’ Party, turns out to be a small form of grant aiding private profiteering builders, and will contribute nothing in terms of housing provision for the working poor (those whose wages have been cut and cut again to try restore profitability) or those on inadequate welfare payments, the tens of thousands on housing lists everywhere.
The loudest fanfare is for the Christmas Bonus. But this also, will not really be restored – but replaced by a small sop payment to the poorest of the poor – a social group created by the government’s deliberate policy legacy as instructed by the ECB/IMF/EU Troika. We should not, however, be surprised.
THEY’RE ONLY OBEYING ORDERS
The task assigned to Burton and Kenny is to preserve the status quo where human needs must be predicated on the ability of bond-holders to skim a few quid off every human activity. James Connolly described the varied apparatus of the capitalist state as a management committee for the owners of capital – the 1%. And his general analysis is confirmed yet again with this most recent budgetary strategic intervention by the Merrion Square administrative mandarins and their political frontmen. For them, system survival is the ultimate aim.
However, a great deal has changed since Mr Connolly coined his truism. A century ago, a rampant capitalism, typified by William Martin Murphy and his Dublin Employers Federation were in possession of a system of economic, social, and political rule which was still expansionary in its motion, and which could drive human social development – however cruelly – as its real profit growth potential was realised. That is no longer true today.
The Irish economy is just one small part of the whole global economic function of the capitalist mode of production. No matter what Howlin and Noonan and their mandarin ‘wise men’ come up with, their plans confront a globalised economy which has – in real terms – ceased growth. Regardless of the appearance of an exponential increase in the numbers used to express ‘growth’ in the national economies of nation states, or their much discussed and misleading statistical comparisons, the awful truth is that the only real thing they express is an increasing indebtedness.
Following the collapse (or negation) of the Bretton Woods arrangements in 1971 (itself an expression of the hidden and inherent contradiction between currency inflationary process and real value deflation, an aspect of Marx’s axiom, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall), the 1% had to turn to the creation of fictitious capital to facilitate the continuity of function in profit-taking as the mode of existence of capitalist production etc. Inspired by the devious creativity of Milton Friedman and his likes, the end of history was confidently announced, the era of unending ‘growth’ was proclaimed, and year on year, the numbers got bigger and bigger.
There were even a few crumbs (in the form of sub-prime lending) tossed to the hoi polloi to keep us onside. We took it because we had no choice, that was how the new world order operated, and we had no other functional options, being immersed within it. But it was seldom if ever, a willing embrace of this system of inequality and exploitation, even though the bourgeois media daily put such words in our mouths. And eventually, as Marxists had predicted, the whole rotten façade came tumbling down.
TIME AND UNEVEN CHANGE
It took forty years for the contradictions of this new moment of economic history to process from their initial unity to the fracturing of that unity marked by the Lehman Brothers and ensuing financial busts. What we now face is a new negation – a new set of contradictions which are emerging out of the new tipping point we are arriving at. A new situation, inaugurating new relativities within the 99% and between us as a class and the so-called 1% class whose economic system has now failed historically.
Rampant over-production resulting from the for-profit production mode, which has been the principle characteristic of the post-Bretton Woods period of capitalist history (in particular now, over-production of capital) has not just resulted in the abstraction from human society of a virtual and unimaginable quantity of fictitious capital, the huge mountain of debt destroying its own systemic function; It has also created unprecedented social inequality and the destruction of communities across the globe; And engendered an ecological crisis in which mankind immediately confronts the degradation of the living environment to such an extent that species survival may be threatened.
The truth is that continued growth of profits (no matter that their form and content self-contradict in debt) now stands in the most extreme contradiction against the social, political, and economic needs of 99% of humanity. The old ways don’t work and a new roadmap for social emancipation must be embraced. Political interventions fashioned for the old conditions are now redundant. For this reason, correct education and training in the theory and method of Materialist Dialectics becomes a vitally necessary step towards identifying and creating the scientific and democratic alternative to collapsing capitalism.
IN THE THIEVES KITCHEN
Last Thursday (9th October 2014) ECB chief Mario Draghi spoke at the Brookings Institution, Washington, founded in 1916 with the object of becoming “the first private organisation devoted to analysing public policy issues at the national level”. Mr Draghi is worried. And he is not alone. The IMF (part of the un-departed Troika) said there’s a significant chance the Eurozone is about to fall into renewed recession, with real GDP virtually stalled and investment by private capital stubbornly stuck 20% below pre-crash levels.
Even the capitalists don’t see profit recovery as a possibility, and they won’t risk losing their shirts while net returns stick at a 20-year low. No investment means no new jobs for the millions ‘let go’ in the crash, and unemployment is at a 20-year high (the only area of real growth). Those who desperately want a job can’t get one, and youth unemployment in particular is alarming at 22%+. Burton and Kenny’s use of the term ‘job seeker’ is insulting in this context. They have victimised the jobless their system creates and now demonise their victims.
I have mentioned on several occasions that there will be no Germanic white horse riding to the rescue. August saw Argentina default, and a 4% fall in German industrial production, a five year high in the collapse rate. Even UK Tory Chancellor George Osborne admits “the Eurozone risks slipping back into crisis, and Britain cannot be immune from that – it’s already having an impact on our manufacturing and exports … we are not immune from what’s going on in the rest of the world”. So too, of course, for Ireland! Meanwhile, China would seem to be approaching the limits of its internal debt contradictions.
Quantitative Easing clearly has not worked, as easy money has spawned financial speculation rather than job creation to improve consumption and restart real economic growth. Japan sees recession again as ‘Abenomics’ fails, the US Fed dithers, not knowing which way to turn next. The IMF worries “there is a serious risk … that the Eurozone is heading for recession again. … But … if the right policies are decided, if both surplus and deficit countries do what they have to do, it is avoidable”. What Christine Lagarde means by this is unclear, but no doubt it will involve renewed transfers of money from poor people to the rich as usual.
Draghi is a little more decisive. For him, ‘structural reform means further ‘deregulating’ labour markets and creating an even less-controlled ‘free market’ (driving down wages even more, abolishing employee rights, replacing humans with new technology, removing rent and price controls, etc.) The very same neoliberal Austerity programme which has made things worse for workers and capitalists alike. The fact is that the system is broken, productivity is stalled, raising real profitability is unattainable, (although Draghi would be satisfied with bigger fictitious numbers).
That is why the ability to make a new scientific analysis of this new situation is so important. We must prepare for construction of the viable alternative to the failing profit motive, as the driving force of human activity. And that emancipation can only be achieved when the 99% become clearly conscious of their own real and existing power to make and remake the world. We do not need the profit-takers. In fact, they are clearly now an obstruction to human progress.
Neither do we need the failed recipes of social democracy in its many forms nor those of others who still insist ‘labour must wait’, who wish to fix and preserve capitalism.
Last weekend, perhaps as many as one hundred thousand people assembled and marched in Dublin to reject the latest water charge robbery plans of the Merrion Square capitalist state. In two by-elections, the capitalist state establishment parties – including Sinn Fein (the last chance saloon for the capitalist state) were rejected as an urban Socialist and a rural Community activist, both pledged to challenge the status quo were elected to the Dail. They will enter an undemocratic institution which is part of the problem, a tool of the Troika dictatorship!
However, a new generation is waiting in the wings, a generation globally connected as never before, a living network untainted by the exhausted limitations of twentieth century responses to the historic crisis of the capitalist system. As they embrace the need for system change, our task is to encourage their new, transparently democratic and mutually fair and honest approach. They have not been sullied by the manipulative dishonesty of old elitist self-interest, by the corruptions of clique and crypto-leftism.
They can and will, if provided with the correct theoretical foundation for their political and philosophical development, create a renewal of the great revolutionary tradition in this new century, to freshly examine, analyse and grasp the reality of human social motion, and to enable the collective and unfettered construction of that new and open democracy of the people which will bring progressive resolution to the massive contradictions we face.
We must learn to co-operate openly and prepare for system change. There is not a moment to lose, and those who refuse to learn will soon become irrelevant in the coming struggle. fh 15/10/2014