From the March 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard
Spin doctors are a modern input into the political industry - and politics is now a vast and profitable industry offering a market to various commercial pimps and an assortment of professional liars.
The function of the spin doctor is to bamboozle the public. His or her main devices arc lies, falsification and concealment, together with truth, where it suits. In fact all the things that comprise the armoury of what is known, by those with a need to inform or hoodwink people, as ‘public relations’.
But spin doctors are the smart asses of public relations. Their function is to project a word or phrase, a ‘sound bite’, that absolves people of the need to think about a situation. Thus, ‘feel-good factor' becomes a lying short-cut through economic reality and ‘If it isn’t broken don't fix it’ becomes John Major’s way of telling us that everything is fine, there are no major social problems and therefore no need to spend time or money on repairs!
To support the argument that ‘it isn’t broken', Major and his fellow Tories tell us that the unemployment figures are coming down. In round figures, there are only about two million people now whose poverty is grossly aggravated by unemployment.
Opponents of the Tories quite rightly point out that these figures are unreliable, that since 1979 Conservative governments have manipulated the way unemployment statistics arc obtained more than twenty times in order to conceal the real numbers of unemployed. Additionally, the government now retains ministerial control over the Office of Central Statistics which facilitates the packaging of statistical information in a manner most useful to the government. There is too, the new ‘enterprise culture' in which selling hamburgers to one another has become a national industry. Millions of people are engaged in morale-breaking low-paid work, often part-time work, and many of those engaged in this low-paid work have to receive state support in order to live. Now, too, thousands of people working for the DHSS have to degrade themselves administering the infamous Job Seeker’s Allowance under the terms of which they are obliged to make life even more intolerable for the most impoverished section of society in order to drive them off the unemployment register.
In a Party political broadcast on behalf of the Tory Party, broadcast on the 13th February of this year, we were told that BMW management, along with many other European and Far Eastern industrial bigwigs favoured Britain for investment. The reason? Labour was cheaper in Britain and workers had fewer legal rights than they had in other EU countries. Older readers will remember the time establishment politicians used to tell us how lucky we were not to be working for a bowl of rice, unlike our fellow workers - whom the politicians called ‘our competitors’ - in other countries.
Last November, under the heading Living in the real world, this journal dealt with the appalling social problems in the United Kingdom - and, indeed, throughout the rest of the world. Billions, millions and hundreds of thousands, these are the terms that article used to tell readers the terrible statistics of destitution, death from hunger, poverty, homelessness and, of course the casualties of capitalism’s ongoing violence.
The statistics quoted in the Socialist Standard article were garnered from public sources and it is reasonable to suppose that the Prime Minister was aware of them when he was telling us that everything in the United Kingdom's garden was fine, that nothing required fixing. Undoubtedly, too, the news that the British Red Cross was distributing food parcels at Christmas to the poor in Britain for the first time in fifty years had come to his attention.
This might well indicate that Major is simply a complete idiot; that when he stands at the dispatch box in parliament cat-calling at Blair and his cohorts on the opposite side of the House and telling us about the changes Tory policy is making and that there’s a ‘feel-good factor’ just around the corner, he doesn't know what he is talking about.
Unfortunately, we can very safely predict that if, as expected, Labour wins the next general election, it will be Blair who will be standing at the dispatch box defending the indefensible and claiming that Labour’s policies are working well for the nation. With equal certitude we can predict that a future Labour government - like the previous eight Labour governments this century - will fail utterly to remove even one of the basic problems that capitalism throws up.
Governments come, here and elsewhere: Conservative, labour. Liberal, ‘Socialist’, ‘Communist’, et al. And governments go, governments of every hue right across the globe and right across the political spectrum. But never, ever, has a government solved a single basic problem of capitalism!
That very obvious fact, that capitalism can not be made to function without the awful social problems which have attended it since it became the dominant form of social organisation, is the justification for our existence. To express our view with a ‘sound bite’, we might say that with capitalism what you see is what you get! Ironically, John Major is right when he claims that it isn't broken! Capitalism in the United Kingdom today is functioning in its normal manner, the way it has always functioned: poverty, unemployment, waste, destruction of the environment, homelessness, alienation, crime, violence and its foul military priorities, these are not problems of capitalism; if they were simply problems they could be solved. These are aspects of capitalism, natural and inevitable social responses to its nature; its uncontrollability, its anarchy of production and the competitive lust of its owning class for profit.
Capitalism was once the cruel medicine of social improvement but its benefits quickly evaporated and today it is a prison for the working class. It is a prison precisely because it holds sway over the thinking of the great mass of people through its educational system, its religious ideologies and its vital control of the media.
But it is an open prison which we can leave as soon as a majority has decided that it is a no-hope society politically and economically engineered to ensure the interests of a relatively small class of profit takers at terrible cost to humanity at large.