Cooking the Books 1 – Entrepreneurialism
In an article in the Sunday Telegraph (2 December) appealing for Tories to vote Labour, subtitled ‘My party extends the hand of friendship to those who voted for the Tories but feel let down by their failure to act’, Sir Keir Starmer praised Thatcher for having ‘set loose our natural entrepreneurialism’. Entrepreneurialism, what’s that?
One dictionary defines it as ‘the ability to start new businesses, especially when this involves seeing new opportunities to make money’. This is not what most people remember the Thatcher government of the 1980s for. Selling off nationalised industries and council houses, cutting social benefits, mass unemployment and hammering the miners come more readily to mind.
Thatcher is on record as declaring:
‘I set out to destroy socialism because I felt it was at odds with the character of the people. We were the first country in the world to roll back the frontiers of socialism, then roll forward the frontiers of freedom’ (tinyurl.com/mus4fr9v).
By ‘socialism’ she meant of course the sort of restrictions on the workings of private capitalist enterprises that the Labour Party used to preach. Private capitalist enterprises supported her because they wanted more ‘freedom’ to choose how to make profits. In writing of ‘our natural’ entrepreneurialism Starmer even agrees with her ridiculous claim that this accords with ‘the character of the people’.
Entrepreneurs are people who invest money in producing something or providing some service with a view to making more money in the form of profit. This is not necessarily their own money but is frequently money borrowed from a bank or some venture capitalists or even the state who reckon that the entrepreneur has identified a potential way to make more money in which they can share.
In chapter 23 of Volume 3 of Capital on ‘Interest and Profit Enterprise’, Marx discusses how this extra money is divided between the lender of capital and the entrepreneur who actually uses it:
‘The functioning capitalist is here assumed as a non-owner of capital. Ownership of the capital is represented in relation to him by the money-capitalist, the lender. The interest he pays to the latter thus appears as that portion of gross profit which is due to the ownership of capital as such. As distinct from this, that portion of profit which falls to the active capitalist appears now as profit of enterprise, deriving solely from the operations, or functions, which he performs with the capital in the process of reproduction, hence particularly those functions which he performs as entrepreneur in industry or commerce. (…) [P]rofit of enterprise appears to him as the exclusive fruit of the functions which he performs with the capital, as the fruit of the movement and performance of capital, of a performance which appears to him as his own activity.’
Entrepreneurs, especially those who succeed in making lots of profit, have a high opinion of themselves. They see themselves as ‘wealth creators’. They are certainly more involved in this than the mere owner of capital but only because they identify some new way of making money by organising workers to produce wealth.
Entrepreneurs are obviously more useful from a general capitalist point of view than mere coupon-clippers living off dividends or interest as they are an active section of the capitalist class identifying new ways of making profits, the driving force of capitalism. Which is why governments, as the guardians of the overall general capitalist interest in a particular country, seek to encourage them. It is part of their remit. Thatcher recognised this. So does Starmer. Labour is now more than ever an avowedly capitalist party and is openly saying it will govern as such.