The Importance of Non-Participation in Times of Crisis
By Eric Hayes at Oct 06, 2008
It's so simply represented above yet we hardly ever see it reported like this in the mainstream media. The unneeded complexity or purposeful avoidance of real or ideologically uncomfortable analysis, leads to thoughts of Naomi Klein's reference to the use of a democracy free zone during times of crisis(2) to exclude certain unpalatable options or alternatives. People did not have the choice of a number of different bailout plans or of giving their preferences to change each plan prior to voting on the final plans. Outside of a limited range of changes, there was one plan and one plan only. Your corporate and political elites will decide the plan for you -- a completely non-participative, restrictive version of democracy.
Something which is most apt here in Ireland -- even more so than the US bailout -- as our politicians seemed to have learned from the US difficulties and made sure that they made their bailout announcement to the world before asking the Irish people what they thought about it. Hence the abrupt anouncement of a 400 billion euro ($557.9 billion) pledge of liabilities (3) to the major financial institutions.
Meanwhile the media analysis of the situation is very hard to watch as it tends to be even more nakedly filtered in times likes these. The stultifying bluster of 'analysis' comes mainly from the talking-head boosters of the boom which are 'countered' by acceptably supine critics, albeit, critics who just so happen to be followers of the same neoliberal ideology an intrinsic part of which is low to light to nonexistent regulation. The Irish media monitoring site, mediabite, outlines how homogeneous the spectrum of talking heads is in "The Media and the Banking Bailout" (4)
You need to go online to find anything remotely rational, informative or outside the acceptably filtered 'spectrum', such as Kieran Allen's piece (5) "What's Behind The Global Finance Crisis?"
"Different studies have come up with somewhat varying estimates but two French writers, Duménil and Lévy state that "the profit rate in 1997" was "still only half of its value of 1948, and between 60 and 75 percent of its average value for the decade 1956-65".
In response to these combined problems, capitalists have reacted by intensifying the rate of exploitation within the workplace and by encouraging a debt-induced growth among the population outside the workplace.
Everyone is aware of the former trend as we are constantly confronted with demands for ‘flexibility', ‘downsizing' or cost cutting. But less attention has been paid to how the latest stage of neo-liberal capitalism relies heavily on debt. Yet the connection is absolutely intrinsic."
These activities have become so obscene that even the right wing French President, Sarkozy is calling for a return to ‘a regular and regulated capitalism'. Yet this dream of returning to the Golden Age when capitalism appeared to respect the rules is a fantasy.
For one thing the sheer scale of the funds controlled by corporations means that any government would find it difficult to control them. Lehman Brothers, for example, made a loss of somewhere between $30 billion and $80 billion. To get that in proportion, the GDP of Kenya is about €30 billion. In other words, more wealth was wrapped up in one secretive speculative company than was possessed by the 40 million people of a middle sized African country. Lehman Brothers may have lost out but others such as Goldman Sachs survive and their man, Henry Paulson, has effectively become the economic dictator of the US. The resources that giant corporations control allow them to evade or re-write regulations in a variety of ways. They employ lobbyists to bribe or buy politicians; they promote their views through a corporate media to shape public opinion; they threaten economic sabotage if any measure decreases their profits. In brief, they engage in a perpetual game of economic blackmail because they hold the vast majority of the resources of society in their hands. Far from states controlling corporations, it would appear that corporations control states and make them serve their purpose.
Secondly, as we have seen speculation is intrinsic to capitalism and this is why every panic over speculation never leads to change - but rather a new speculative bubble. The only answer that capitalists give when their system hits a crisis is to ask working people to accept greater sacrifices. In Ireland, most trade union members are being asked to do without a pay rise for eleven months to ‘help the country'. The €1 trillion that US taxpayers stumped up to rescue the speculators will be taken from budgets for welfare recipients, government employees and the poor generally. But these cries to make the poor pay only exacerbates the problems of over-accumulation and creates ever more surplus capital which seeks new avenues for speculation....."
The fairly obvious conclusions that there are serious flaws and inefficiencies in the process of ‘accumulating for accumulation's sake' and attending debt-induced growth, and more generally of consumption, allocation and production in our capitalist economies, -- not to mind a dearth of any relevant and rational participation by consumers and workers (or the vast majority in other words) in the workings of the economy, -- is almost completely absent from most newspapers and corporate media. But then, this should not be surprising,
"We did not expect the Soviet Communist Party's newspaper Pravda to tell the truth about the Communist Party, why should we expect the corporate press to tell the truth about corporate power?" ~ MediaLens (6)
"The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them." ~ Karl Marx
References & Notes:
(2) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
(3) Irish Bank Guarantee Plan Approved, Scope Widened
(4) The Media and the Banking Bailout
(paragraph: Discussing the Market - A 'procession of the powerful')
(5) What's Behind The Global Finance Crisis?