The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King has assured us that unemployment will rise and the value of wages will fall as inflation lets rip, leading to the most dramatic assault on living standards since the 1920s.
What’s more, you’ll be pleased to know, it’s absolutely necessary. This is the price we are obliged to pay, says King, to smooth the path to growth and economic recovery.
In actuality, it’s the consequence of failed attempts to stave off the deepening recession and confirms that they don’t have a clue what to do, apart from the usual capitalist remedy of increasing exploitation and the share of national wealth that goes to the ruling classes.
It’s a similar story across the Atlantic as the rate of repossessions accelerates, driving millions of families from their homes and unemployment touches 10%. President Obama used his annual State of the Union address to warn that the US must mobilise to meet the “mortal threat of foreign competition from China and India”.
He is proposing to reduce government spending to the lowest share of the US economy since the 1950s. Despite renewed attempts to rehabilitate the policies of Keynes – who favoured higher spending in a recession – the crash of 2007-8 means that, for capitalism, the era of high levels of government spending is over.
Are these programmes of slashing cuts “ideological”? Yes indeed, they manifest the ideology of those whose job it is to sustain a society devoted to profit at the expense of the majority of people on the planet, and the planet itself.
Throughout the relatively short period in which capitalist production spread across the world, its inner dynamic forced its human agents to find ways to counteract the relentless tendency for the rate of profit to fall.
Investing in technology to increase productivity is one. Forcing wages down another. Together they lead to increases in productive capacity and the volume of goods and services. They call it “growth”.
Pretty soon production expands beyond the available marketplace of consumers. And then credit comes into play, stretching things beyond their “natural” limits – for a while. Then comes the crash. Surplus productive capacity is eliminated, and the process starts up, once again.
This time there’s a difference.
The period of growth called “globalisation” consumed the world’s natural resources at an exponential rate. Corporations spread production throughout the world by recklessly burning fossil fuels, unlocking energy and releasing it into the atmosphere and so intensifying weather patterns.
Early snow in Britain helped to reduce national output by an estimated 0.5% in the last three months of 2010. Floods in Pakistan and Queensland, Australia wiped out crops. Nature mocked capital as the floodwaters wrecked the extraction of coal.
But capital’s human agents are blind to these effects. They are tied into the historic logic of profit from which they cannot escape. Sir Richard Lambert, outgoing chief of the Confederation of British Industry accused the Coalition of having no strategy for growth.
But the Cameron-Clegg branch better reflects the needs of capital at this point in history. They are hell-bent on cutting the deficit, reducing capacity, shrinking incomes, eliminating jobs and services – every action aimed at facilitating the contraction without which “recovery” is impossible.
Rather than allow the destruction of the valuable results of a couple of centuries of human endeavour, it falls to the rest of us to bring the destructive system to an end before it threatens to end the conditions for life on the planet.
In the process of building a global network of people’s assemblies we can establish democratic stewardship of the world’s resources, utilising and advancing the science and technology for sustainable production, and setting ourselves the task of converting it to satisfy the needs of the majority.
26 January 2011
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