The tenuous link between Capitalism and “freedom” grows ever more thin recently. The rather beleaguered past two decades of Haitian history; Haitian Capitalism; Haitian Freedom and American sponsored terrorism in Haiti will be commented upon in the next few days on this blog. But first, more locally, I feel the need to comment on the reasons why Capitalism and Freedom are seemingly more juxtapositioned than ever before.
Whatever you felt about the proposed strike action of BA staff over the Christmas break, your opinion is irrelevant. The right to strike lies at the very heart of human freedom. If I feel my labour, that I rent out, is being abused, I have the right to withdraw that labour. Collectively, labour is the reason the guys at the top are able to drive home in their rather expensive penis extensions. Clearly, I subscribe to Marx and Keynes theories of Surplus value). And so if the guys who create that surplus value are being mistreated, and when 12,500 Union members working for BA are balloted, 92% of them vote to strike, then they should strike. When 92% of those balloted believe something is fundamentally wrong with the way the company is ran, then they have a collective right to strike. Surely the vote is the very basis of democracy? Why shouldn’t democracy be extended to work places? I’d suggest it’s purely because democracy, in it’s true sense, would threaten a certain class of person.
Whatever you may think of the chaos the strike could cause (although the suggestion that a potential strike could cause chaos only works to strengthen the workers claim, that they’re very very valuable to the greedy bastards running the firm), it is not your decision, it is not my decision, it is a basic human freedom to withdraw labour. The High Court decided otherwise, it found in favour of British Airways. The High Court basically told BA Staff that they either carry on working, or they quit. The High Court indirectly decided that life is about acquiescing to the demands made by “management class” regardless of how outlandish they may be; an unquestioning, keep-quiet mentality, if we do not like it, we don’t have the right to complain. Who decided that this disastrously neoliberalist, anti-democratic, rather Fascist mentality was how I should view life? The High Court, since it’s conception, has been the “official” law machine for big business; or as one of my favourite bands The Enemy put it “Hello we’re the generation, we do what we’re told by the Corporations, hello”. Does Capitalism precede freedom and democracy?
Today, the managers at Millford Haven Port managed to get the High Court to agree to an injunction, banning strike action by it’s workers, after workers unanimously voted for strike action in order to raise awareness of their campaign to reform the companies pension policy. The High Court is becoming a dangerous entity, it would seem. The balance is tipping further and further in favour of business. Surely, workers ARE the business. At what stage of social evolution did an abstract concept of “business” gain more rights than its workforce?
Why doesn’t the High Court employ the same logic when big business vows to cause chaos in local communities? Why do Corporations get away with acting against the interests of the public as a whole? Lloyds Group, which is 43% taxpayer owned is set to reach the 16000 job losses mark recently. Why? Because Lloyds was greedy, and thought it’d get a cheap deal by buying HBOS. What it got in fact, were a mountain of debts. Whilst cutting jobs, Lloyds then employed Andy Hornby on….. £720,000 a year as a consultant. If you don’t know Andy Hornby, he is the man who plunged HBOS into a mountain of debt and is partly responsible for the banking crises. And yet, Lloyds re-employed him (this is around the time Hornby refused to give back £2.2mn pension package he took, when he left HBOS having destroyed it) after taking over HBOS.
The sad thing is, whilst 16000 job losses has a huge impact on local communities, and whilst the heads of Lloyds Group live in obnoxious luxury; we the taxpayers own 43%. Why isn’t the Government stepping in on our behalf and saying “yeah, you’re not going to be pulling this kind of shit any longer, neoliberalism is dead“. More to the point of the blog, why isn’t the High Court having a say on this? They seem to spend most of their time attacking Unions.
The High Court late last year favoured the Banks in their quest to be legally allowed to charge extortionate penalty fees for unplanned overdrafts. Whilst banking has always confused me anyway (If I deposit £2,000,000….. i’ll get a substantial amount of interest…. despite the fact that I don’t need it. If I go 1p overdrawn, because i’m poor, and need to live, they charge me £15 a day, until I pay it back… confusing!), it confuses me even more that whilst the average consumer who goes a few pence overdrawn can be charged huge amounts of penalty fees, a bank itself can go £10.8bn overdrawn, bring the entire economy to a grinding halt, force mass job losses, home repossessions, see the suicide rate double in less than two years, and yet still be allowed to leave with a lovely big pension pot, a bonus package, and a free ride out the Country.
Perhaps Capitalism isn’t as great as it’s been made out to be. Perhaps it’s fundamentally geared toward honouring fucking awful people.
Big business is the cancer of the planet. It’s advocates now seem to propagate both sides of Parliament, and the Courts. How wonderful. It began with the Thatcherite revolution giving away key institutions that govern our lives (water, electricty etc) to private hands; unelected hands, answerable only to their shareholders. How is that, in any way democratic?
It seems that if you wear a suit, and own a lovely big car, your freedom is far more important than anyone elses.