1 May 2012     

Still a world to win

By John Malloy

A description sometimes used about May Day is that it is the “worker’s Christmas,” and amidst its activity it is a good time to take stock of the “balance of forces” in the world in which we live.
     In this world we see the continuation of US-led imperialism, which, hiding behind its phony crusade against its once and future agents in the “war against terror,” continues the mass slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan while beating the drum for war against Iran. This “highest form of capitalism” is in operation and driven by the same demands that see millions being put on the rack of “austerity” while the millionaires continue to profit, in every sense, from the plunder of exploitation that their wealth is built upon.
     In the UK alone, as the BBC has reported, “the UK's richest people have defied the double-dip recession to become even richer over the past year, according to the annual Sunday Times Rich List. The newspaper's research found the combined worth of the country's 1,000 wealthiest people is £414 billion, up 4.7%. It means their joint wealth has passed the level last seen in 2008, before the financial crash, to set a new record.”
     This is not a surprise, as the whole mission of the last 30 years has been an attempt to wrest back any collective gains won by organised labour. This retreat from any social democratic concessions has accelerated in the light of the Free Market paradise offered by the “race to the bottom” of de-industrialisation policy and the deregulated economy that succeeded it. The Thatcher and New Labour years, synonymous with, in Mandelson’s phrase, contentment “about people getting filthy rich,” have led, as a recent review in the Guardian, captured, to ”the ratio of the total rewards enjoyed by chief executive officers of FTSE 100 companies to the pay of the average UK employee rising from 45:1 in 1998 to 120:1 in 2010. By contrast, over the past 30 years the share of national income going to the bottom half of earners in Britain has fallen steeply. Real wages nearly doubled overall during those 30 years, but only 8% of that growth went to the bottom earners. The wages of the top 1 to 5% of the working population have gone on zooming into the stratosphere, recession or no recession, while wages at the bottom remain virtually stagnant . . .
     “Incomes Data Services reported at the end of October 2011 that the pay packages of directors of FTSE 100 companies had soared by 49% in a single year, to an average figure of £2,697,644. Chief executive officers collected rather more, an average of £3,855,172.”
     The shamelessness of this robbery is being played out as the same pampered elite scream for the fiscal compact among the Eurozone nations. In effect this calls for the surrender of sovereignty by nation states, so that transnational decisions can be taken in the interests of the Troika of IMF, European Central Bank and the European Union. In the Republic of Ireland, the transfer of private debt to sovereign debt has seen, as the CPI highlight, “the debt of a tiny number of individual developers, financiers and their political sponsors—the Golden Circle—socialised and imposed on taxpayers and on future generations of our people.”
     Resistance to this treaty, while “national” in activity is inevitably international in its struggle as, however the particular threat to individual nations may differ, the attack springs from the same source: a ruling class resistance to any democratic demands that attempt to take any sovereign control over economic policy and in so doing reduce the ability of the “markets” to operate unfettered.
     How democracy is viewed by the elites is shown by the fact that they have already dismissed Governments in Greece and Italy for daring to challenge them, and replace them with ex-Goldman Sachs puppets. The panic whenever it is suggested that these matters are put before the people also shows how, for the plutocrats, democracy, however limited, is a “revolutionary” threat. As Michael Parenti has commented previously, “for those local and international elites who maintain control over most of the world’s wealth, social revolution is an abomination. Whether it is peaceful or violent is a question of no great moment to them. Peaceful reforms that infringe upon their profitable accumulations and threaten their class privileges are as unacceptable to them as social upheaval imposed by revolution.”
     This point emphasises the scale of opposition to any proposed change and the vehemence of those who, in Castro’s words, “have almost destroyed the planet and poisoned the air, the seas the rivers and the earth . . . [those] least interested in saving humanity.”
     The enemy are far from invincible or invulnerable, however, and it is useful to reflect on advances made since the core neo-liberal theories of “the end of history” and the “triumph of capitalism” have themselves proved far from “too big to fail.” We use this May Day, therefore, to celebrate, learn from those who have continued to struggle, those who have shown that a better world is possible and those who continue to lead the anti-capitalist resistance.
     As Azad comments, “Communists . . . have no choice but to learn from the past in their continued struggle for socialism and communism. They are fully aware that in their difficult struggle, they are bound to face other, similarly difficult, obstacles, that they could be struck down again and again and that they may feel the bitter taste of more setbacks along the way. But they are also equally aware that, as in the past, they shall overcome all obstacles, they shall rise once again; and they shall continue to add to the roster of their great achievements. As Lenin emphasised after the victory of the October Revolution, ‘We have made a start. When, at what date and time, and the proletarians of which nation will complete this process is not important. The important thing is that the ice has been broken; the road is open, the way has been shown’.”

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