Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The bank that wants your democratic rights

Once or twice, I've used the Thomas Mann quote that “Everything is politics”. Today, in prefixing a piece with that, I'm going to do something unusual for this blog and ask you all to do something political – or at the very least, to be aware of some things and pass a message on.

I'm long enough in the tooth by now to think that few things could shock me.

But thanks to Richard J Murphy (and one thing that you can do is to follow him on Twitter or read his blog regularly), I have today found myself absolutely seething.

It seems that JP Morgan has decided to publish a document that calls for 'progress' to be made in a number of fields.

The main thing that should concern us all is that a part of this 'progress' would be to ditch all employment rights and even things like the right to protest.

The bank declares, quite openly, that such rights were reactions against dictatorships such as those of Franco and Hitler, that this was unfortunate, and that now is the time for these things to be 'corrected'.

It beggars belief that a non-democratic and, therefore, unaccountable corporate body is even discussing such things as desirable – let alone (presumably) actively pursuing such policies.

I want to start simply by asking: who the hell do they think they are?

The motive is obvious - corporate greed and power. We already live in a supranational corporatocracy, where the bankers remain unpunished and unchastened for causing the global financial crisis that is having a continued, real impact on millions of people's lives across the world.

That's millions of people, it should be reiterated, who did not cause that same crisis, although some did buy into the culture of greed and rampant consumerism that were created and promoted in the 1980s and that laid the foundations for it.

In the UK, successive governments have followed a neo-liberal ideology, backed up by the bulk of the mainstream media, to the extent that now, there is not a single mainstream political party in the UK that does not bow down to the orthodoxy of austerity for the many and continued, increasing riches for the very few.

Let's deal quickly with an accusation that rears its head on such occasions: is this the politics of envy?

Quite simply, no.

I won't be disingenuous: like most people, a few more bob wouldn't go amiss. But I'm fortunate enough to be in a better position than at any time in my working life. For the moment. Insecurity abounds.

I look at my niece, though, who worked hard for a good degree, and now finds herself struggling; underemployed in a job that, frankly, she's over-qualified for.

What this entire, far-reaching approach is though, is anti-democratic, utterly counterproductive in terms of local and national economies, damaging to social stability and well-being and, ultimately, just downright unfair.


What a simple, small word, and one that can often sound really rather twee and unrealistic.

Which is, in part perhaps, an element of the problem.

A few years ago, in 2009, Richard G Wilkinson and Kate Pickett published a book, The Spirit Level. It's dry, but the key premise is that the more unequal a society is in terms of income, the less good that society is for everyone: not just those at the bottom or even in the middle, but even for those at the very top.

Outcomes on health and education are lower for all; crime and social problems such as alcoholism and drug abuse are higher.

The work was done across the developed economies – plus a subsidiary survey comparing  all the states of the USA.

Some of it seems counterintuitive - not least negative impacts educationally and health-wise on those at the top of the income tree - but the findings are consistent. And, as far as I know, nobody has yet been able to debunk those findings - and there have been efforts to do precisely that.

So fairer societies become something that we all seek, even if we ourselves seem to be doing well. Call it enlightened self-interest, even if not a philosophical commitment to fairness.

Yet for all that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have signed up to the language of The Spirit Level, this country is seeing quite the opposite.

And when you see huge multinational corporations such as JP Morgan demanding a pound of flesh from the majority of the population, one's heart is hardly lifted. Because big finance and big business already have far too much say in national economies and in how many national governments behave a irrespective of the will of the people.

Just think how difficult it is for a community and the council that is supposed to represent it to defy Tesco when that company (or any other that is massively financially powerful) is determined to open a new store.

Ad pleased do not fall for the fallacy that UKIP is an alternative. That party wants to do away with all employment rights too - and scrap public services. Nigel Farage and his fellow spivs are little different from the likes of JP Morgan – they just add anti-Europeanism into the mix, while Farage himself is sucking on the teat of taxpayers as an MEP.

The idea that the post-war settlement was an unfortunate mistake is frankly disgusting.

But the crisis we face goes further than some statement from a bunch of bankers.

At the same time, we have the farcical situation of a government being caught out spying on millions – and then insisting that the whistleblower is the criminal and a traitor!

A situation where the police are accused of spying on the family of a victim of murder, who are campaigning for justice, never mind targeting infiltrating and having sexual relationships with those that they ‘think’ is opposed to the system.

Where does it end?

Do we sit there, thinking that at least we can choose to buy from a vast range of jeans – sweat-shopped produced in factories with no 'elf 'n' safety – or do we say that enough is enough?

Grassroots politics is boring and soul-destroying and difficult. But the very least we all need to do, if we consider the current situation as bad, is to inform ourselves and pass the message on.

Isthmus about saying that profit is bad? No.
s. And that, in other words, is people who work.

Indeed, over 80% of all housing benefit is paid to people who are in work – as is over 60% of the entire welfare bill. So in other words, taxpayers are subsidising the profits of private landlords – and private companies.

And here we have JP Morgan, suggesting that it would be ‘progress’ if our right to protest, and our employment rights were withdrawn.

Make up your own minds what you think about such corporations – and the individuals that constitute them.

And pass the word on.

Richard J Murphy on JP Morgan’s declared policy (includes a link to the entire document from JP Morgan).

@RichardJMurphy on Twitter.


  1. Fine stuff wellput I will post the link to this on my site http://johndwmacdonald.com

    1. Hi John – that's absolutely fine.

      Thank you.