Cooking the Books 1 – Taking back what control?
In his New Year speech on 5 January, the Labour Leader, Sir Keith Starmer, uttered the following empty promise about what a future Labour government would bring about:
‘A fairer, greener, more dynamic country with an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. And a politics which trusts communities with the power to control their destiny’ (bit.ly/3w3XtKL).
In other words, the same old reformist illusion that a Labour government can change the capitalist economy so that it ‘works for everyone, not just those at the top.’ As if previous Labour governments hadn’t repeatedly tried and failed to do this. They failed because it is a ‘Mission Impossible’ to make capitalism work other than as a profit system for the benefit of the profit-takers and to the detriment of those who work for wages.
Starmer made it quite clear that a future Labour government would accept the profit system, declaring at one point that ‘for national renewal, there is no substitute for a robust private sector, creating wealth in every community’.
He denounced the Tories for practising ‘sticking-plaster politics’ which ‘sometimes delivers relief. But the long-term cure – that always eludes us’. But that is precisely what the Labour Party has always aspired to do. To try to mitigate the effects of capitalism that confront the wage-working class while leaving the cause — the class ownership of productive resources and production for the market with a view to profit — unchanged. In short, to patch up capitalism by sticking plaster over its effects.
But it wasn’t just the Tories that Starmer said were engaged in ‘sticker-plaster politics’ but ‘the whole Westminster system’.
His solution? To carry out yet another re-organisation of local government in Britain: ‘a huge power shift out of Westminster can transform our economy, our politics and our democracy.’ This would change politics to some extent, if only by providing more paid posts for professional politicians, but how will it ‘transform’ the economy?
The economy will remain capitalist, which will mean that those making political and economic decisions, whoever or wherever they are, will still have to take into account that profits must be the priority as the pursuit of profits is what drives the capitalist economy. It doesn’t make any difference who makes these decisions or where.
Starmer is making the same mistake here as the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, who think that the problems of workers in those regions are caused not by capitalism but by the decisions about how capitalism has to be run being taken in London rather than in Edinburgh or Cardiff. He thinks that it will make a difference to the way capitalism works if the decisions are made in Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Bristol, etc. instead of in London. But it won’t. And it certainly won’t give those living there ‘the power to control their destiny.’
In a cynical move to win back Brexit voters, he promised a ‘Take Back Control’ Bill that would even be ‘a centrepiece of our first King’s speech’. A stupid title anyway since people never had any control in the first place to take back. Even national governments can’t control the way capitalism works, local mayors and councils even less. It is the other way around. Capitalism controls what governments can do, by obliging them to abide by its economic law of ‘profits first’ on pain of provoking an economic downturn.
It’s why they all fail and why the promises they make are empty. And why changing governments changes nothing, or, to borrow Starmer’s own words, when this happens ‘nothing has changed, but the circus moves on. Rinse and repeat’.