Monday, March 19, 2012

The Whole of Capitalism is Unacceptable (2012)

Editorial from the March 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

Following the 2010 General Election, the new government published the Conservative- Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement. In this initial policy document were proposals to reform banking, which stated: “We will bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector...” But what is an “unacceptable bonus”?

Should RBS bank boss Stephen Hester have been forced into waiving all his bonus, worth almost a million pounds? Is it okay that Barclays Bank Chief Executive Bob Diamond is getting a bonus estimated to be around £2million: or should it be less? The total amount of bonuses to be shared out around the City for the 2011-2012 period is £4.2 billion – that’s £2.5bn less than in 2010-2011 but peanuts compared with profits that capitalist firms rake in. Is that still too much? What should the amount be?

When it comes to answering questions like these, to paraphrase Rhett Butler, frankly, any socialist or right-thinking person won’t give a damn. Not about the greed and gross inequality, but about trying to come up with palatable reforms.

How much bankers get paid compared to teachers, nurses or refuse collectors is a distraction from the real problem, which is that a tiny minority have a right to own vital natural resources and industrial assets that provide the majority with all of the products and services that make life possible and acceptable and only allow those resources to be used if there is a profit in it for them.

Politicians encourage people into wanting, believing or hoping that capitalism can actually be made fair, when it can’t. For this deception they employ a we’re-all-in-this-together rhetoric and insincere calls for “responsible capitalism”, “performance-linked pay”, “value for money for taxpayers” and “rewards for success, not failure”. Reactionary newspapers and broadcasters play their part in spreading and reinforcing this futile reformism with their sole focus on capitalistic so-called ‘solutions’. And to be seen on the side of the austerity-penalised majority during an economic crisis, populist exercises are undertaken, like taking away an ex-banker’s knighthood or pressurising a few out-of-favour executives into trousering less money than usual (which can always be got back when the heat’s off).

If most voters just want to see the pay and bonuses of bankers cut back because their greed helped crash the economy, or because they don’t deserve the sizeable amounts they get, or because there’s such a thing as a fair profit, then there’s never going to any meaningful and lasting progress made. While capitalism carries on, there’ll always be widespread inequality in incomes and living standards because capitalism is irreversibly a system that exploits the many to benefit a few. Always has been. Always will be.

The alternative – a classless, moneyless socialist society – is actually very easy to achieve and maintain. A clear majority just knowing what it is and wanting it can bring it about. And as a much more efficient, unwasteful and uncomplicated system, compared to the present one, keeping it going certainly isn’t going to be a problem (not something that can now be said about outdated, failing capitalism).

Seeking to reform the bonus culture will achieve nothing because capitalism can never be made nice. It only thrives on inequality, ruthlessness and selfishness. Only completely replacing capitalism with real socialism will permanently end the disgusting inequality and greed seen in the present class-divided society.

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