Making the poor pay

Friday, 6th February 2009 at 9:00 UTC 2 comments

A couple of articles from the BBC really ticked me off, and reminded me how completely unjust our economic system can be. Predictions are being made that 600,000 jobs will be lost this year (and I suppose the cynical might think to round that up to a million) and now bosses want those of us with work to suffer real-terms pay cuts.

That the world and its favourite economic systems and structures are unjust hardly need be said. Those in the highest echelons of the troubles can clearly be blamed, yet those at the bottom must bare the brunt of the troubles.

Where once I thought taking on staff was meant to be a sign of bullishness and thus likely to result in share prices rising, Naomi Klein, in her ever-useful tome No Logo, reminds us that the opposite is very often true: if you want to make your company attractive, you fire people.

I once thought to myself that there were basically four reasons to run a company; to make profit, to make products or services, to employ people or to serve customers. Perhaps I was being naive in this. Rarely does anyone, it seems, actually want to sell the product they’re making, ever more likely to believe in its profit-producing ability, less so in the worth of the actual product.

As for helping people, whether as customers or as employees, again, if one subjects oneself to the laws of modern economics, it must all be about the ultimate profit, which tends to rely on giving customers as little as possible and employing as few people as possible.

Whilst I realise that this announcement by the CBI that I referred to, demanding a freeze on the minimum wage, came at a bad time for mobilising people to do stuff (and at a very cruel time indeed, given it was at Christmas). The part of me that believes in the ability of the collective British masses to defend themselves deludes myself with the thought that had this come at a more accommodating time, there would have been a large, noisy (and where possible, peaceful, though not compliant) protest in the City of London over this statement alone.

Of course, in reality, the values of capitalism are so normative, that for most people it is more important to guard one’s own future than to work with others to defend collective interests. Indeed, collective interests just don’t seem to exist anymore, a mere figment of an outdated imagination.

This normativity, coupled with the current Climate trends, gave rise to Turbulence declaring in its Summer 08 edition that it is now “easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of Capitalism”. We have simply forgotten what a world where people do not live to exploit one another looks like. We have convinced ourselves that such a world is in fact only a pipe dream, and that the proper way to do things is to compete with our colleagues, squeeze our subjects and try to suck up to those who employ us for fear we might overstep some or other line of worthlessness.

And essentially that’s what job cutting and wage stagnation at the lowest ranks implies. To do the same at the top might be considered some kind of justice, but our world doesn’t work like that, and sadly British workers have no collective spine (which, if one were to assume the visions of the SWP, would involve a trade union leadership capable of acting).

Job cuts will be used to justify wage reductions, yet the failure of the richest to protect the poorest will justify end of year bonuses. Somewhere, someone must have hope that this needn’t always be the way?


Entry filed under: Economics, Politics, Workers.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lois  |  Friday, 6th February 2009 at 14:02 UTC

    The fact that the news of job cuts comes soon after all the announcements about getting people off benefits seems to me to show the same concern for protecting one’s self whatever the cost to other people. Many people just can’t find a job, no matter how hard they try, many others aren’t fit to work. Making them jump through extra hoops just because they’re unfortunate isn’t going to help them find jobs, especially in the current situation.

  • 2. bettty  |  Friday, 6th February 2009 at 20:32 UTC

    do you have a copy of no logo? could i borrow it? i’m in york, ish, i could collect? on sunday, some kind of pre-post church handover?


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