A centre-stage slogan at the recent Conservative Party Conference in the UK actually made me laugh out loud. In huge letters behind the lectern and on it, could be read;
A COUNTRY WHICH WORKS FOR ALL.
Some senior figures within the Conservative Party, no doubt in conjunction with a few from the advertising world, must have decided this combination of sound-bite words was significantly better than any others they could come up with. Someone then obviously ordered the printing of this nonsensical phrase on a placard and pinned it up. Those who were to speak to the audience gathered in the conference hall, were obviously tasked with promoting this nonsensical phrase, for this they duly did on numerous occasions to enthusiastic applause from those listening. Bear in mind those suggesting this slogan, agreeing to it, articulating it, applauding it’s utterance, and mediating and broadcasting it, are all part of a ruling elite and support team governing a powerful country of some fifty million plus citizens. Yet no one amongst this variegated section of the right-wing British elite seemed able to point out the ludicrous nature of this ill-thought out abstraction, let alone it’s sheer hypocricy.
Let us consider the content of this slogan, which probably took hours, if not weeks, of meetings and discussion among grandees and media gurus. First of all a country doesn’t work. Not for anyone, let alone for all. The country implicitly being referenced is of course – Britain! But ‘Britain’ is an geo-political name identifying a specific geographical and political area. So Britain doesn’t work either, not in a literal or even a metaphorical sense. Given the high levels of unemployment and the number of parasites who live off the labour of others the slogan reveals a degree of hypocricy. Yet at this conference we are informed that a geographical territory can work and that it is possible that it could work for all! This slogan is complete nonsense. Only animated beings (including people) can ‘work’. That is to say the term ‘work’ is only used rationally when applied to people who labour at certain tasks in certain situations.
Clearly these elite politicians know the difference between a country and a being that works, but this slogan indicates that in some intellectual matters they rarely bother to critically think through what they are writing or speaking. And an elite which fails to seriously think things through are a dangerous breed to be in charge of anything let alone a country with weapons of mass destruction. Memories of elites waving papers signed by Hitler and asserting this meant ‘peace in our time’ come eerily to mind. No wonder catastrophic blunders like the invasions into Afghanistan, Iraq and bombings of Lybia, Syria and Yemen are still piling up and making the world unsafe for everyone who does not have elite forms of protection.
A global economy working for everyone?
Another Conference example of not thinking things through was in a speech referencing a commitment to wealth building and raised the rhetorical question ‘how our global economy can be made to work for everyone’. Here again an economy doesn’t ‘work’. The best that can be said of an economy (by itself a fairly meaninglessness abstraction) is that it functions. In this regard it is as plain as day to practically everyone by now that the global economy (the production and consumption of useful and necessary items – commodities and services) functions in a way that creates huge amounts of wealth for 1% of the global population. However, it is clearly known by the elite that the current economic system is a capitalist based one so once again they demonstrate the inability or a determined refusal to think things through. Bear in mind all this is from the combined intellect of a meritocratic elite.
The capitalist mode of production cannot work for all because it works in favour of those who own and/or control capital. In this case, as with others, the clue is in the name. Capital exploits labour. It does so in the following manner. Capitalists exploit workers primarily at work in order to extract surplus-value (value greater than the wages they pay) from what they produce in order to transform this surplus-value into monetary form which emerges as as profits. An economic system based upon the domination of capital over the means of production can do no other than this. It cannot be made to work for everyone. It never has been able to, and it never will be able to. The economic system of capitalism needs replacing, not propping up with ‘quantitative easing’ (ie printing money and giving it to the already rich) or any other such ill thought out fiddling while this corrupt system stagnates before it collapses.
The best that people running the system can do under certain circumstances – if they are so inclined – is to ease the burden of exploitation placed upon those who work but don’t control the means of production and distribution. And it cannot even do that for everyone as the example of the various welfare – state forms of capitalism have demonstrated. Even in the best of circumstances, in the post – second world war period, for example, the rich got richer and the poor stayed obscenely poor in all countries. It is true that a few sections of skilled workers experienced a short boom time in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but this was by no means universal. And this brief period was only possible because it came after a capitalist inspired war of commodity, infrastructure and human destruction. The systematic elimination of human beings by guns and bombs led to a shortage of skilled labour and an urgent need to rebuild the damaged infrastructure. That period has long gone – hasn’t it?
Clearly the Conservative Party since the Brexit vote have been trying to imply to the citizens watching and listening to them, that as a government in power they would govern in such a manner that their decisions would benefit everyone within the country of Britain. But of course they cannot. I suggest that the reason the slogan is so confused and abstract is because any government dependent upon the capitalist mode of production cannot but respond to the needs of capitalists above all else. However, its human agents cannot openly acknowledge this. They have to pretend they will work for all. They use words (in the form of abstractions) to promote that pretence in the hope that people will either be gullible enough to accept them or insufficiently awake to recognise that actions speak louder than words. And actions there were.
For the same week that the abstraction ‘a country which works for all’ was plastered across the front of the conference hall (3 – 9 October 2016) and rhetoric of making the global economy work for everyone, was gushing out of ministerial lips, the Conservative government also allowed fracking to go ahead in the north of England. This decision was taken in full knowledge that large numbers of people in the north had objected to this proposal and their elected local government representatives had voted to ban this dangerous and chemically polluting method of extracting eco-damaging fossil fuel from beneath the ground. Clearly Lancashire citizens are not considered part of the ‘all‘.
Later in the week the proposal to make British employers to publish the ratio of foriegn workers to indigenous workers was scrapped. This was not done out of sensitivity to the feeings of immigrant workers, but so as not to embarrass the owners and controller’s of industry and commerce who are exploiting desperate people as sources of cheap labour. If this ratio was published it would allow people to boycott certain industries and commercial outlets if they so chose. These two examples alone indicate that the Conservative government is not working for all, but working for the owners of large capitalist firms. And not just any large firms, but the ones which are paying the lowest wages and those who haved polluted previous places, and are looking for the next location to pillage and plunder before moving on.
Roy Ratcliffe ( October 2016 )