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Capitalism is doomed to collapse unless it learns to share

In preparation for the election, the Coalition have reverted to their safe space of “class warfare” and “the politics of envy” where they try to convince us that making the rich richer is good for us all and any questioning of rising inequality is just jealousy from lazy people.

In olden times, all the wealth of the world was owned by Kings, Queens, Emperors and the lords who supported them.  All the work was done by slaves and serfs and the privilege of the few was protected by indentured soldiers.

Various wars and revolutions diminished the power of hereditary rulers but the big change came with the Industrial Revolution which created a whole new ruling class as the factory owners and the merchants usurped the landed gentry’s control over society.

Technological disruption has continued apace ever since, widening the great divide between those who ‘own the machines’ and those who design, operate and work with them.

Workers are the ones who bear the brunt of this ever-changing landscape.  They are the ones whose jobs disappear through automation.  They are the ones who constantly have to learn new skills.  They are the ones who face uncertainty and the daily struggle to provide the basic essentials that allow them to be productive contributors to society.

Yanis Varoufakis sums it up this way:

While celebrating how globalisation has shifted billions from abject poverty to relative poverty, venerable western newspapers, Hollywood personalities, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, bishops and even multibillionaire financiers all lament some of its less desirable ramifications: unbearable inequality, brazen greed, climate change, and the hijacking of our parliamentary democracies by bankers and the ultra-rich.

Marx and Engels, in the Communist Manifesto, argued that “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other.” As production is mechanised, and the profit margin of the machine-owners becomes our civilisation’s driving motive, society splits between non-working shareholders and non-owner wage-workers. As for the middle class, it is the dinosaur in the room, set for extinction.

At the same time, the ultra-rich become guilt-ridden and stressed as they watch everyone else’s lives sink into the precariousness of insecure wage-slavery. Marx and Engels foresaw that this supremely powerful minority would eventually prove “unfit to rule” over such polarised societies, because they would not be in a position to guarantee the wage-slaves a reliable existence. Barricaded in their gated communities, they find themselves consumed by anxiety and incapable of enjoying their riches. Some of them, those smart enough to realise their true long-term self-interest, recognise the welfare state as the best available insurance policy. But alas, explains the manifesto, as a social class, it will be in their nature to skimp on the insurance premium, and they will work tirelessly to avoid paying the requisite taxes.

Is this not what has transpired? The ultra-rich are an insecure, permanently disgruntled clique, constantly in and out of detox clinics, relentlessly seeking solace from psychics, shrinks and entrepreneurial gurus. Meanwhile, everyone else struggles to put food on the table, pay tuition fees, juggle one credit card for another or fight depression. We act as if our lives are carefree, claiming to like what we do and do what we like. Yet in reality, we cry ourselves to sleep.

At this election, we have a choice.

We can continue down the path of unregulated capitalism to its inevitable conclusion or we can slowly start putting on the brakes in preparation to make the turn that takes us away from the cliff.

We can encourage accumulation for accumulation’s sake and, in so doing, condemn whole generations to deprivation, a decrepit environment, underemployment and zero real leisure from the pursuit of employment and general survival.

We can pursue the mindless mantra of investment, jobs and growth or we can choose another course where we care for human beings rather than commodifying them, where we share resources and the fruits of labour, where we protect the vulnerable and the environment, where we recognise how abominably we treat each other and do something about it.

We have the ability to change our direction.  Do we have the courage?


24 comments

  1. John O'Callaghan

    Thanks for this article and you have hit the nail squarely on the head,and if anyone needs any further proof just take a good look at the photo of Ms O’Dwyer on this page,that sheer look of arrogance and born to rule attitude,and the captopn above her head clearly says….. How dare you question me you insignificant little know nothing peasant.
    And i am just not picking out Ms O’Dwyer, her whole party structure and organisation have the same inherited attitude,and if things dont change soon then we will see a “storming of the Bastille” and it wont be pretty for anyone!

  2. RosemaryJ36

    This is a message I want to pass on.

  3. Ill fares the land

    Sorry Kaye. I can’t agree with you. I would like to think that we can move from the current dysfunctional mire that the world’s societies have descended into on te back of rampant capitalism, but the problem now is that the rich and powerful can rely on governments to protect them against any uprising. You can be sure that in any uprising, the military will be called out – as they were in China to quell large-scale dissent.

    Consider what is surely one of the most vile acts ever carried out by an Australian Prime Minister – Bob Hawke’s complicity in the conter-attack on Australian pilots. An act which forever will colour my view of Hawke. He essentially crawled up the fat a** of the equally disgusting corporate mogul – Peter Ables – and sided with one of his rich mates against workers and he enlisted the military to help. Granted, the pilots were an example of a “white-collar union” but that only emboldened Hawke, because he felt people saw the pilots as “toffs” and he was politically safe attacking them. But it remains a stunning example of how governments protect the powerful. It is through the largesse of governments that the rich become more rich – tax concessions, bounties, subsidies, cutting “red tape”, oppression of the poor – these are all things that governments do because their rich mates want them to.

    The system might crumble from within, but the GFC was the most recent chance we have had to re-assess how we approach the slavish accumulation of wealth and power and guess what – post GFC the rich have become even richer. The collapse of capitalism would actually bring down the middle classes who are burdened with debt in their neurotic pursuit of the lifestyles they aspire to.

    I like the idea of a more gentle and socially democratic form of capitalism, but the powerful don’t want it and won’t let it happen.

  4. Kaye Lee

    I agree that while governments collude with the owners of capital, change is unlikely. While they are more worried about the power of media barons and their influence on their re-election, they lose sight of the point of being in government. Their focus is always on building up their war chest and tearing down their opponents rather than on recognising the discontent and deprivation in the community and the dangers of an ever-degrading environment and dwindling resources.

    I also understand that change cannot happen overnight. But it can happen. And it must.

    We must be patient and take small achievable steps towards a time when collective happiness means more than individual profit.

  5. townsvilleblog

    I feel that we are at the final stage of apathy with the next stage turning to anger, if this is so this mean and evil federal government will be swept from power and an incoming Labor government will feel the political pressure to implement many far reaching changes, especially to the company taxation regime. They may well reduce the headline tax rate from 30% to 25% but in the process eliminate a raft of taxation deductions that are grossly unfair to ordinary working people.

  6. townsvilleblog

    I have always believed that Hawke and Keating were the two best tory Prime Ministers Australia has ever had, or at least in my lifetime. The only Labor Prime Minister I have had the pleasure to live under was Whitlam, Shorten is as false as a three dollar bill, Australia badly needs a strong and decisive leader who, like Whitlam, is on the side of the people.

  7. Kaye Lee

    I wish Gillard had had a fair go. She is smart and was leading us in the right direction in so many regards. Abbott’s crap couldn’t have worked if her own party had done their job better rather than worrying about Murdoch and polls and Kevin Rudd.

    My real fear when I hear the Greens and Labor going at each other is that the progressives will sabotage us again through their own selfish internecine wars.

    Stop reacting to wedge politics. It’s a losers’ game. Preselect the right people. Try honesty rather than spin. And for pity’s sake, when you get there, don’t blow it by rorting entitlements, cosying up to big business donors, and caving in to employer and industry lobbyists.

  8. stephengb2014

    “We can pursue the mindless mantra of investment, jobs and growth or we can choose another course where we care for human beings rather than commodifying them, where we share resources and the fruits of labour, where we protect the vulnerable and the environment, where we recognise how abominably we treat each other and do something about it.”

    Can it be the later please.

    “We have the ability to change our direction. Do we have the courage?”

    Yes we do but we have to take it from the corpocracies, the Neoliberals, the obscenely rich and powerful – they are not going to give it up without a fight.
    It might even come to violence, (DOG I hope not).

    The Labor party can be a part of it or be left behind.

  9. guest

    Why cherry-pick a single incident in Hawke’s time as PM, Ill fares the land? The pilots were very well paid but were trying to brow-beat their way to an even greater pay packet. It looked as if the pilots were entitled to whatever they wanted. It is a common attitude; some call it greed.

    Perhaps the whole idea of constant growth in wealth and consumption is what is causing problems which some people will not acknowledge. Today in one of the MSMs there are two articles of pertinent interest. One is about Alan Jones asking Josh Frydenberg “What is climate change?” The other is about Mayer Hillman, a senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute in the UK, telling us we are “doomed” because of the continuing effects of climate change.

    I find it amazing that Jones can air his apparent ignorance in public, not just in conversation, but broadcast to the airwaves. What a lot of pompous nonsense. Frydenberg handled the situation well, although his NEG is far from convincing. He is at least right about some things, whereas Jones is just plain wrong. Jones has some homework to do.

    Hillman has been right on social matters before. It is interesting that what he says about climate change echoes Paul Ehrlich’s claim that the collapse of civilisation is imminent, just decades away.

    While we might be very sceptical about apocalyptic prognoses, there is clear evidence that not all is well. Charles Massy, in his book “Song of the Reed Warbler” (2016), points to a Mechanical kind of agriculture which is causing problems in the ecology of the world, echoing the warnings of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” (1962) and confirmed by numerous other writers.

    But who listens to experts in their fields these days? The “wisest” people now are those who listen to the vague voices in their heads. Or the opinions of shock-jocks on radio.

  10. diannaart

    One of the most obvious reasons the LNP will rarely put up a candidate in a safe Labor or Greens held seat is the opportunity to watch the continuation of Labor versus Greens, which, no doubt provides hilarious times for the neo-cons, wagers are made while the divide between Greens and Labor becomes more entrenched.

    Anyone who dares suggest Labor move more slightly to the left on policies such as refugees, sustainable energy (which means no more coal mining), increasing the pensions or welfare onto something liveable… are accused of being Greens voters and, therefore, only worthy of scathing contempt.

    Meanwhile, Turnbull and Abbott, put aside their differences (long enough) to fall about laughing about the hopelessly divided left.

    Neither Labor nor the Greens appear interested in actually mounting a concerted attack on the LNP – for example the squandering of multi-millions of dollars for another war museum while not spending anything on returned vets, many of whom are homeless, or even the generational impact on the families of WW1 and WW2 returned soldiers.

    If the LNP manage to win the next election – it is our warring “lefty” politicians who are to blame.

    No bully (capitalism) ever learned to share until they were definitively opposed and had no other choice but to “play nicely”.

  11. Zathras

    The real reason for police and armies is more about protecting the wealthy and their property from the marauding poor rather than protecting the poor from each other and the reason for aggressive war is to capture resources and markets to feed the economy.
    Despite being dressed up as being about “good and evil”, war is an economic tool and always about the bottom line.
    Soldiers follow the flag while the powerful follow the money.

    Once all resources have been depleted and all markets have been exploited, Capitalism cannot exist. It a system that ultimately devours itself.

    The difference between modern wage slaves and plantation slaves is that the former have to feed and clothe themselves and it no longer matters if slaves run way when there are replacements eagerly lining up to fill the vacated position.

    Life is not really so different from feudal times, except that the serfs had shorter working hours than modern workers and less shiny trinkets to to keep themselves distracted and amused. There’s no longer any grassroots will to overthrow or change the system and the rich know this.

  12. Leonard D

    Another insightful article Kaye, thanks. If only the general public had access to such articles.
    Re slaves, serfs and unregulated capitalism, aren’t we lucky to be having a Banking RC?

    Banking today = neo-feudalism = poorly regulated capitalism.
    We need to understand it before we transmute it into something useful.
    Basically, correcting poor regulation is the responsibility of govt.

    Long story short:
    New workers enter the economy and one of the first things they can be greeted with is the hospital pass of neo-feudal financial enslavement in the form of financial contracts.
    The nature of these contracts needs to change.
    In China, getting rid of such dangers is called ‘cutting the head off the snake’.

    Solution:
    The govt works to remove the worst parts of the financial system.
    Social media can help and power this drive.
    If needed, default borrowers can launch Class Action(s) against ‘The Triad’.

    Short story long:
    Banks pretend they are acting in the interests of the economy and consumers. They claim to be helping borrowers with home ownership, or with strategies to build wealth or with helping out with lifestyle choices, supplying credit for toys and holidays, etc. However, read a lending contract and one walks away with the idea that feudalism never really died, it just morphed into ‘banker-speak’ – a formalized list of demands that reads like an enslavement rite.

    Banks have an agenda – one NOT in the interests of the general public.

    From evidence given at the Banking RC it’s obvious the banks are not up to the task of helping make stable the economy. They are a danger to shipping. But so too are the government and its appointed agencies that are supposed to be supervising.

    There appears to be a triad of irresponsible parties that have now exposed the Australian economy, inclusive of all householders but particularly recent home buyers (last 5 years), to the potential of broad-based mortgage defaults.

    ‘The Triad’
    1. Banks with their ‘liar loans are good to go’ mentality;
    2. APRA/ASIC as somnambulant regulators;
    3. Treasury/ATO arguably directed by Ministers who have a conflict of interest

    Banks/APRA-ASIC/Treasury-ATO have flouted all caution. Just one example – Interest Only loans, designed exclusively as an inflationary tool to maximize loan sizes so as to max out interest repayments, were green-lighted by govt and govt entities. Only recently has APRA attempted to rein in lenders.

    Treasury-ATO and APRA-ASIC bear most of the responsibility for the current situation.
    Banks on the other hand, like any good parasite, are just taking advantage of a free lunch.

    Class Action
    In the event of any wide-scale mortgage default, I believe borrowers have a right to launch a Class Action(s) against ‘The Triad’ – the lenders, regulators and responsible Minister(s) for Treasury-ATO.

    ‘The Triad’ has gone to great lengths to facilitate reckless lending over the last 2 decades. They are each far-advanced in understanding the ins and outs of financing. For example, Treasury models possible outcomes to various tax setting scenarios. These are then typically ignored by the Minister (eg, only 3 of 138 recommendations of the 2010 Ken Henry Review saw the light of day).

    Debt entered into by Banks (foreign or local) is NOT the responsibility of less informed home buyers. Any Class Action should aim at the cancellation of the Lenders Terms of Contract. Hopefully that will mark the beginning of goodbye forever to financial feudalism.

  13. Davdi Bruce

    Turn off your TV, iPhone, iPad and stop buying the glossy magazines. If capitalism fails, the next step in this country is National Socialism.

  14. helvityni

    Kaye Lee
    April 27, 2018 at 12:10 pm.

    Totally agree with your post; Gillard worked well with Bob Brown, and with those wonderful Independents Windsor and Oakshott.
    Now nobody agrees with anyone, we have two Liberal leaders, neither of them good at their job….
    Senate is full of all kind of strange creatures..

    Mal is busy with Museums, both home and overseas…Pauline doesn’t know if she’s for or against something…

  15. Peter F

    Kaye, I agree with your comment about Julia Gillard. We now have out government using the PRRT as a means of bringing in more funds over the next decade or so. This from a party which campaigned against Gillard’s MRRT.

    Can you find out how much the MRRT would have produced over the same period as is proposed with regards to the PRRT? ( or even to date, for that matter)

  16. stephengb2014

    The Greens are in an internal struggle for ideology.

    Labor does not anyone close to a Jeremy, or even a Bernie.

    If the LNP get another term, Dutton or Morrison or Bishop will challenge and I think the Right extremists in the LNP will go for Dutton.

    So when you progressives are thinking of a Greens / Labor Coalition forget it, that will help the LNP.

    The only chance progressives have of buying time untill our own Jeremy surfaces is to ralley around Labor, and keep the LNP out.

  17. diannaart

    stephengb2014

    Could you please explain exactly how;

    a Greens / Labor Coalition forget it, that will help the LNP.

    At present a divided Labor, Greens and other left-wing parties is working very much in favour of the LNP, please pay more attention, at least to why the LNP is still polling so well in spite of doing virtuallly nothing for the nation.

    … as for waiting for our own “Jeremy Corbyn” … Do nothing? Just wait for “another hero”?

    Not attack the LNP for their unaffordable policies for the top ten percent?

    Refrain from pointing out how inequities between the majority of the populace and a tiny percentage is uneconomically sound and ultimately unsustainable?

    There are many more areas where a united left can and should attack the LNP and we don’t need “another hero” – just women and men of integrity and resolve.

  18. nexusxyz

    Cant’t bothered to write many words about the neoliberal economic bollocks only to say sharing is not an option and collapse is inevitable.

  19. Andrew Smith

    IMO the wealthy, corporates, oligarchs et al. have become owners of govt., especially LNP, through making and influencing policy for their own interests (think tanks and media), while the parties have become hollowed out and starved of funds and/or members; too easily manipulated if lacking any real grounding in policy and constituents.

  20. Phil

    Thoughtful writing Kay Lee. Thanks again.

    Varoufarkis’s article was illuminating. The societal changes looming on the horizon are as inevitable as day following night.

    Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are a ‘Changing’ – is eternally prophetic.

  21. PK1765

    Pfft Gillard was NOT heading in the right direction at all she was/is a neoliberalist… and thd ALP under Shorten are still neoliberalist… neoliberalism is designed to ensure the 1%benefit… that wealth is fed to them…

    Saying capitalism is the issue shows a complete lack of understanding of the real problem… capitalism under a stocial democrat polices like those of Bernie Sanders is a very different kettle of fish to capitalism under neoliberal policy that BOTH sides if our political parties follow.

    As soon as someone says taxation funds Federal Government spending you know they are neoliberalist…

    https://youtu.be/sOMo3xuSyWM

  22. Glenn Barry

    Wonderful article Kaye Lee – makes me wonder, strip away the technology – what has actually changed?

  23. townsvilleblog

    http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/superrich-and-us/ We are not wrong to complain about the super rich and their lavish lifestyles, they are not paying their way, and that’s not fair. For example Malcolm Turnbull is said to be worth $200 million, taxation for high earners is 49% so in theory he should be paying $198 million in tax, but he doesn’t and that is where the unfairness comes in. Now if you are earning $35,000 per annum, you pay 20% of your income in taxation, no ifs buts or maybes that is the situation. These rich parasites get away with murder when it comes to paying taxation, and they are laughing at us, all the way to the bank.

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