AFSCME 444 Retired
Oakland CA http://www.weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com
And they are on the ropes---just ask them
“A reckoning looms if ordinary people come to believe that US capitalism is a rigged system run by insiders for their own benefit.” So writes Matt Miller in today’s Financial Times.* He is attributing this understanding to “patriotic chief executives” who he sees as different from the bad executives that have acted with abandon and taken $100 million dollar bonuses as they drove their companies in to the ground.
Miller is a strategist of capital, one of their theoreticians. He is a management consultant and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Like many of them in the midst of the worst crisis since the great depression, he is concerned about the future of the system. Progress for Miller, is a stable environment for the accumulation of capital, stable in the sense that the exploitation of human beings can take place with the least resistance. There is a need to curb some of the excesses that might threaten this stability.
Miller is no egalitarian. What scares him is the potential power of the working class, not just in the United States, but also throughout the world. He appeals to the “patriotic” capitalists to curb the excesses of the greedy ones; those who have given themselves exorbitant bonuses and executive pay. To those capitalists who are concerned about the public flaunting of wealth and unrestrained plunder but have said nothing he warns them that this is not the best form of class solidarity. They think it is not “their fight”. Their fear, although he doesn’t admit it, is that curbing profit taking in any area could spread; a daunting prospect. But the risk is worth it. “I have news for this silent majority” he writes, “If you care about the future of American business, the brewing revolt makes it your fight now.” The “brewing revolt”. We should take note; Miller is not a sensationalist, but a sober representative of the capitalist class.
Along with curbs on pay-----an issue of note primarily because it is information more easily accessible to the public as opposed to profit rates and all the other forms of plunder hidden between the pages of business ledgers------Miller wants a more progressive capitalism, a better “social contract”. He stresses the need to make American workers feel “more secure in an era of accelerating change”. The new capitalist visionaries who can pull the system out of the quicksand must deal with health care, a basic human need. He wants the outdated system where business is a major provider of health coverage changed and the burden shifted to the taxpayer; it has become too expensive for business and is a tinderbox waiting to explode on to the streets if something isn’t done about it: “14, 000 people a day have lost their health coverage during this recession” he adds. The state of health care in the US is abysmal. In 1993 health care spending was $912 billion and there were 37 million uninsured. In 2008 health care spending was $2.5 trillion with 47 million uninsured, a failure by any measure. See Facts For Working People at: http://www.clnews.org/forums/showthread.php?p=16101#post16101
This crisis along with job losses and home evictions is a major factor in the family annihilations that occur almost daily in the US. People who have worked all their lives, done everything right, and have found themselves without access to medical care or a roof over their heads simply snap. With no significant social movement to which people can turn, the future offers only darkness and with the dominant ideology that we are in control of our own destiny and solely responsible for our condition, the guilt and feeling of personal failure is overwhelming.
Miller is basically calling on a section of the capitalist class to show a way forward as many theoreticians of capital have done in response to the crisis of their system; which amounts to the failure of the US model and discrediting of its heroes like Alan Greenspan. He recognizes the freedom of capital to go where it pleases throughout the globe and that this means a loss of manufacturing jobs in the west but he hopes the service sector can provide the benchmark for entry in to what he calls the “middle class” as auto did in the past.
This mobility is crucial: “How can the US turn this kind of work into jobs that can sustain a family?” he asks his readers. He adds, “Failure to acknowledge the centrality of this question will only deepen the perception that there is a corrosive gap between the interests of US based corporations and those of Americans.” There has always been a corrosive gap between the interests of workers and capitalists, their goal is to soften this experience, to convince people that that gap can be bridged, that it is not a chasm---this is, after all, the land of opportunity.
One commentator stated that if you want the American Dream, go to Norway. The end of the post second world war upswing has seen a steady decline in living standards and opportunity for American workers. There have been within organized Labor attempts to drive back the offensive, particularly during the eighties, and while the leadership of these efforts bear some responsibility for their failures, the main reason for these defeats is that every strike, every struggle was faced with a powerful opponent, a combination of the employers and the heads of organized Labor.
The capitalist class, their political representatives in the Republican and Democratic parties and the trade Union officialdom, are equally terrified of the revolutionary potential of the working class. There is a daily ideological war being waged to convince workers that the system is not at fault, it is just a few rotten apples. Union leaders, local officials, academics and politicians are all soldiers in this ideological war, a war to contain class hatred and anger at the system and those that benefit from it. It is a war waged to prevent us from seeing our existence as it really is.
But in the last analysis, consciousness has a material base. They will not contain this anger forever. This is a lesson we should learn from our enemies, bourgeois strategists like Matt Miller. They read history. They remember the factory occupations of the 30’s, the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s and the rich militant history of the American working class that has been driven underground. They know better than the liberals who see the American working class as this reactionary mass incapable of acting in our own interest and that needs to be led----by them. The capitalist class is concerned, afraid of the potential power of the working class, as is the Union hierarchy, that, like rotten apples on a tree would fall with the first strong gale.
Miller warns his colleagues, the captains of industry, “Chief executives face a choice. They can help bolster workers’ security, or they can hire more security guards and hunker down.” These words alone confirm the real state of things, the ever-present class divide, and reveal why the patriotic nonsense about national unity and all being in this together is a con game. Capitalism will emerge from this crisis in the absence of an alternative. It will almost certainly pass through a period of some restraint and regulation. But the system itself drives it to exploit Labor power in is rapacious thirst for profit and will enter deeper crisis ahead.
As a representative of capital Miller is telling us that we are strong, stronger than we think. That we can bring down this rotten system, this so-called free market. Even when anger takes the form of indiscriminate rioting as it often does in its early stages, political currents inevitably develop as people begin to question the system itself and look for alternatives. Miller appeals to his rescuers to step forward, appeals to the new leaders to take the helm. We are in a similar position, but our goals are different.
If we have doubts about the fragile nature of the system in the present crisis we should heed Miller’s parting words: “With business nearing the brink, who will answer the call?”
* Business Needs To Speak Out Against Greed FT 4-21-09