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“I will not serve” – Break the connection with capitalism

19/04/10

Fintan O'TooleIn his Irish Times article of April 6, entitled Bailout has turned us from citizens into serfs, Fintan O’Toole decries both NAMA and the bank recapitalisation scheme as measures that signal a return to conditions of feudal servitude for working people.

In the article, O’Toole correctly exposes the details and repercussions of the epic case of legalised robbery of a population that these measures represent. For example, he states how every worker in the Twenty-Six Counties will now annually have to “stump up an average of €4,600 just to pay the interest on the money the State is borrowing to fund the bank bailout”, and how, with the “annual €2 billion we’re putting into Anglo and Nationwide, we could almost double what the State spends on mental health services and disability services”.

Where O’Toole makes a fundamental error is in his failure to acknowledge and explain to his readership that the NAMA/bank bailout heist is nothing other than an extension and continuation, albeit in a more naked fashion and on a far more grandiose scale, of the politically facilitated, exploitative relationship between people and profits that exists at the very heart of the capitalist system.

Resorting as he does to comparing the mechanisms of capitalism in 21st century Ireland to the feudal economic and financial practices of over a century ago not only leaves him open to ridicule and accusations of economic illiteracy – it is also, it could be argued, a case of O’Toole neatly avoiding having to arrive at the logical conclusion that the fundamental underlying problem in all of this is to be found in the very nature of the capitalist system itself.

The real difficulty with the analysis proffered by liberal, mainstream journalists like Fintan O’Toole is that they have the uncanny, recurring and ultimately fatally flawed habit of misunderstanding the fundamental nature of the problem. In invoking the spectre of feudalism as an analogy with which to explain what is currently happening in the financial system, O’Toole misses the point completely – what is happening now is simply that which always happens during periods of capitalist crisis.

A message for Sean FitzpatrickThe only difference between now and all other preceding periods of crisis is the scale of the economic collapse and the subsequent ‘adjustment’ required to restore market ‘confidence’ in the banking system and wider economy, which is what all current government economic and financial initiatives are all about. It is in this context that the nature, scale and social consequences of the €100,000,000,000 [£88 billion] NAMA and bank bailout need to be seen and understood.

When O’Toole states that workers will now be required to “donate about five or six hours of free labour every week for 10 years to the banks” – (couching this ‘exchange’ as he does in terms of the classic feudal serf/lord labour relationship) – he essentially fails to acknowledge that this practice is, in fact, what happens in the relationship between workers and capitalists under the ‘normal’ rules of capitalism; working people are, and always have been, exploited in the course of the working day. They are exploited as standard and it is the duty of governments in capitalist countries to facilitate this.

The greater the need for working people to be further exploited in the interest of re-establishing ‘market confidence’ (i.e. profit margins), the greater the role that government plays in that regard. In this regard, James Connolly correctly identified the nature of the relationship between government and capital when he declared how “the modern state is but a committee of rich men administering public affairs in the interest of the upper class”.

This is what O’Toole really should be telling his audience directly, without the need for recourse to anachronistic feudal analogies. If he understood the mechanisms that are integral to the way that capitalism functions, (and one wonders why he doesn’t, if that is indeed the case), he would realise that workers have always, as he would term it, ‘donated’ ‘free’ labour to serve the interests of those who are economically and politically dominant in this society. It has ever been thus under a system that functions according to capitalist relations of production.

O’Toole concludes his article with a frank assertion as to the shame he would feel towards his two young adult sons “if they did not utter the cry of James Joyce a century ago: non serviam, I will not serve” in the face of the financial demands that the Dublin government will now make of them and the rest of the population in the Twenty-Six Counties by way of completing the ‘business cycle’ and restoring the economy to a state of profitable ‘growth’.

It behoves all those who profess to believe in a more just and stable socio-economic system to realise, once and for all, that the only way to avoid the state of financial enslavement, servitude and indebtedness that the NAMA/bank bailout scheme represents, is to realise, that we must break the connection with capitalism, once and for all. There is no other explanation. There is no other way.

Bris an Caipitleachas

 

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