Say something

Last year, on May 7, more than 60 percent of South Africans voted for the African National Congress, the party of the people. All they got in return was another dose of pain and misery. Even under apartheid black people lived ten years longer. On May 7, this year, Britons go to the polls. Same date, and there will be the same outcome for the working class. Elections almost everywhere are now entirely about acquiring the power to loot the state and fleece the poor.

Researcher Shawn Hattingh calls a spade a spade. South Africans were never liberated. Mandela’s black elite essentially cut a deal with white corporations giving them control of the economy in exchange for ‘political power’. White capitalism is now able to exploit black labour, filch national resources, rape and plunder the economy in cahoots with government ministers driven by greed. This is fascism, crony capitalism and organised crime dressed up as democracy.

“Many within the working class can see how white capitalists have held onto their ill-gotten wealth and how a black ruling class has joined them in a massive drive for self-enrichment. With massive unemployment, low wages and mass poverty, large sections of the working class are growing impatient and angry at the situation and are facing heavy repression for expressing their grievances…What South Africa really needs is a proper challenge to the system that privileges wealth accumulation for the few.”

So does America. In the land of the free and brave voting is a useless activity. Last year a prestigious peer reviewed study found “economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” In short as everybody knows – or should – the republic is really an oligarchy.

The ANC’s betrayal of ordinary South Africans has been matched by Syriza which won the Greek elections in January pledging to end austerity and immiseration. Professor James Petras reports that in the space of six weeks the party has reneged brazenly on every electoral promise. It now works quite unashamedly for the European bankers that are gutting Greece. In France and Brazil ruling left parties enthusiastically follow the ANC model.

The forthcoming British general election is a graphic illustration of chicanery. Although there is absolutely no crisis of public spending the electorate is being sold the idea that austerity is necessary to strengthen and grow the economy. The real point of this elaborate charade is to assure bankers and corporations that they have an open invitation to smash and grab when the business of state resumes. Political parties just want a slice of the action and cash.

Claims like this arouse disbelief. After all Britain is not a banana republic and there must be oversight. Indeed there is. In 2010 George Osborne, Britain’s finance minister, decided he needed some advice and founded the Office for Budget Responsibility. The OBR “is an advisory non-departmental public body established by the UK government to provide ‘independent’ economic forecasts and ‘independent’ analysis of the public finances as background to the preparation of the UK budget…It is one of a growing number of official independent fiscal watchdogs around the world.”

Coincidence perhaps, but in December the OBR fully endorsed George’s austerity plans for the next five years. Richard Murphy at Tax Research UK was gobsmacked. There was not a shred of evidence to support the policy  and the OBR showed no concern about how ordinary citizens would suffer with a further 44% cut in services – and at least another million public service workers unemployed.

“This is not trivial stuff. This is defence, the police, social security and most spending that protects the vulnerable. It is the environment, foreign relations, housing and day to day flood defences. It is business regulation and health and safety (including things like food). It is the basic infrastructure on which our society is built… We will have a break down in law and order, in public health, in housing, in safety and more. We will have bankrupt local authorities. We will have massive numbers of people homeless, children living on streets.

“We have no deficit crisis…  Economically, all the objectives of this plan and all the analysis in it are wrong. But worse, it is a recipe to destroy society as we know it just as the government is trying to destroy democracy as we know it… to take us back to an era where fear was pervasive for most, with a few being able to exploit that for gain…We’re not dealing with the small stuff any more. Society is at threat. What are we going to do about it?”

In short the most decisive battle in Britain’s class struggle has begun. It will be won or lost, as in South Africa, by a failure to clearly distinguish between them and us. James Meadway at the New Economics Foundation provides a lucid overview of why the functionaries of the Labour Party and its union backers are now part of an oppressive class. He places his faith in the potential of ‘The Peoples Assembly” – a national liberal coalition against austerity.

This was the trajectory of the UDF in South Africa before it was displaced by the ANC returned from exile.There is much to be learned from that experience. The reality says Ron Amann is that Britain is a totalitarian state.

Obviously, there are important contextual differences between contemporary Britain and the former Soviet Union; for example, in terms of the ownership of productive assets, configuration of social classes and associated ideologies. But many aspects of the overall mode of political and managerial control are disturbingly familiar – not least in a prevailing ideological narrative that represents this form of managerialism as a source of individual empowerment (when the hearts and everyday experience of those who are exposed to it in schools, hospitals, universities, local government and elsewhere clearly tell them otherwise, and who find it soul-destroying to have their professional autonomy and judgement so systematically squeezed). In Milovan Djilas’s memorable phrase, these are the “vampire ideas” that linger on after death to suck the blood of later generations. All this has given rise to a huge amount of private grumbling, a certain amount of refreshing satire and black humour (which is, of course, characteristic of totalitarian regimes!) but relatively little public theorizing on the scale required.

So go on, say something.


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