One of my pet hates

I’ve posted a revised article on the impact of neo-liberalism on economic performance. This was originally written around 1997/8 after New Labour got into office and it was clear that Blair was going to continue the Thatcherite assault on the unions and denouncement of strikes.

I had just finished section J.4.2 of AFAQ and thought Black Flag would be interested and they ran it. Now I’m revising section J.4 onwards, that article was out of date but what got me motivated in republishing it was this discussion on the Tobin Tax (Is the Robin Hood Tax a good idea?) on the BBC webpage. The amount of people expressing dismay that the elite will be taxed, that we should not discouraging the wealth to invest, that the banks will simply pass on the tax to consumers and the usual anti-union rants was just sickening. What a bunch of fucking serfs!

That is one of my pet hates, those who attack those working class people standing up for themselves while, of course, complaining about “rip-off Britain.” It is best summed up by the sadly all too regular letters in papers when people go on strike. They are always along the lines of Oh, I’m paid a pittance but you don’t see me going on strike!” No shit, Sherlock! Maybe those two facts are related? Or the idiots who proclaim that all strikes should be made illegal or suggest “sack the lot of them”! Our notions of freedom have been so degraded by capitalism that the idea that it should not stop at the workplace entrance is alien to them. Particularly as the net result of such anti-union regimes have been so poor (As can be seen from Chile and, as the article shows, neo-liberal America and Britain). My favourite, though, was from a Divinity student at Glasgow Uni who opined in a letter during a strike at the university by staff that the strikers were being "selfish" -- "what about my degree" he whined... Priceless!

Given the net effects of such serf-like kow-towing to the capitalist class, Rage Against the Machine were right: "If we settle for nothing now, we will settle for nothing later..."

The role of economic “science” should not be downplayed, of course. As mentioned in AFAQ, states have explicitly organised economic lessons for the masses in order to ensure that they are aware that anything they do will be counter-productive and that the best they can do is obey their masters. Proudhon, in volume 2 of System of Economic Contradictions, has some excellent ironic words on this kind of nonsense:

“Work, the economists repeat ceaselessly to the people; work, save, capitalise, become proprietors in your turn. As they said: Workers, you are the recruits of property. Each of you carries in your sack the rod that serves to correct you, and that may one day serve you to correct others. Raise yourself up to property by labour; and when you have the taste for human flesh, you will no longer want any other meat, and you will make up for your long abstinences.

“To fall from the proletariat into property! From slavery into tyranny, which is to say, following Plato, always into slavery! What a perspective! And though it is inevitable, the condition of the slave is no more tenable. In order to advance, to free yourself from wage-labour, it is necessary to become a capitalist, to become a tyrant! It is necessary; do you understand, proletarians? Property is not an optional thing for humanity, it is the absolute order of destiny. You will only be free after you have redeemed yourself, by subjugation to your masters, from the servitude that they have pressed upon you.”

And it is amazing how “objective” capitalist economic “science” has always shown that attempts by working class people to improve their position or end wage-slavery are counter-productive… And, when such “science” suggests anything else then it is quickly refined to fix that… As Proudhon suggested: “Political economy, as taught by MM. Say, Rossi, Blanqui, Wolovski, Chevalier, etc., is only the economy of the property-owners, and its application to society inevitably and organically gives birth to misery.” As such, the role of economic “science” plays the role Proudhon suggested it did back in 1846:

“I find in an article published by M.Leon Faucher, in the ‘Journal des Economistes’ (September, 1845), that the English workers lost some time ago the habit of combining, which is surely a progressive step on which they are only to be congratulated, but that this improvement in the morale of the workers is due especially to their economic instruction. ‘It is not upon the manufacturers, cried a spinner at the meeting in Bolton, that wages depend. In periods of depression the employers, so to speak, are only the lash with which necessity is armed; and whether they will or no, they have to strike. The regulative principle is the relation of supply to demand; and the employers have not this power.... Let us act prudently, then; let us learn to be resigned to bad luck and to make the most of good luck: by seconding the progress of our industry, we shall be useful not only to ourselves, but to the entire country.’ (Applause.)

“Very good: well-trained, model workers, these! What men these spinners must be that they should submit without complaint to the lash of necessity, because the regulative principle of wages is supply and demand! M.Leon Faucher adds with a charming simplicity: ‘English workers are fearless reasoners. Give them a false principle, and they will push it mathematically to absurdity, without stopping or getting frightened, as if they were marching to the triumph of the truth.’ For my part, I hope that, in spite of all the efforts of economic propagandism, French workers will never become reasoners of such power. [The notions of] Supply and demand, as well as [of] the lash of necessity, no longer have any hold on their minds. England lacked this poverty [of reasoning power]: it will not cross the channel.”

Sadly, too many people in Britain seem to “reasoners of such power” and are happy to blame everyone bar the ruling class for their serf-live existence… Although, on a more optimistic note, this mentality still has not managed to cross the channel…

(I should note that Marx turns Proudhon’s very obvious sarcasm into: “‘Well and good,’ cries M. Proudhon, ‘these are well developed model workmen, &c., &c. The poverty we have here does not exist in England; it cannot cross the Channel.’” His claim that “M. Proudhon is so unfortunate as to take the foremen and overseers for ordinary workmen, and to urge upon them the advice not to cross the Channel” is equally misleading as is the notion that Proudhon “cordially agrees with the foremen of Bolton because they determine value by supply and demand.”)

All of which should, I think, explain why I’ve worked on the Proudhon Anthology for the last year… For all his faults, when he gets it right he is memorable! It would be a shame to forget why he was the most important socialist thinker of the mid-19th century and why he influenced the likes of Bakunin and Kropotkin!

On a sad note, as I’m sure yous are all aware Howard Zinn died in January. He was a great historian and the world is much poorer without him. In tribute, I’ll link to this: An Interview with Howard Zinn on Anarchism: Rebels Against Tyranny. Needless to say, the SWP somehow failed to mention that Zinn considered himself an anarchist. At least they did not proclaim him a Marxist!

Finally, my other big pet hate are those people who use the words English and England when they mean British and Britain (and vice versa, for that matter)… Perhaps understandably from an American, but too many English people seem to be confused what their country is (I guess that is why so many of their flags at football matches have "England" written them...)

Until I blog again, be seeing you…


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