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16th April 2012
Big Society, Big Government, Big Business – The Corporate State
Posted on April 16, 2012
On the 3rd May local elections take place: already propaganda leaflets and newsletters are tumbling through letterboxes on their way to the recycling bins. The three main parties desperately strive to maintain the fiction of genuine differences between them.
Local councils are being effectively emasculated by central government bent on ensuring the state has no effective counter to its operation. What municipal responsibilities remain are hedged around with regulations preventing independent action.
Whichever party wins control of a local authority gains kudos and little more. It will be expected to enact policies in line with national diktats. The burgeoning academy/free school programme, often in the teeth of parental, student and council opposition, is an example of the primacy of state power.
The electorate is perfectly free to vote for whosoever it wills, but must do so in the knowledge that it can make no substantive difference. There may well be local issues presently beyond the scope of government concern, but council action will be circumscribed by economic necessity.
The ConDem coalition government, and PM Cameron in particular, have promoted the concept of the Big Society. This is portrayed as the state stepping back to allow civil society to willing shoulder social responsibilities.
Libraries run by volunteers, charities providing services for the elderly, concerned parents setting up their own free schools, whatever – the dead hand of public bureaucracy is to be amputated.
Only, this is not the state voluntarily withering away; quite the contrary. In the phrase, “The Big Society”, the key word is not “Society”, but “Big”. For it sits alongside other crucial “bigs”, such as big business, big government and big media: it is the social expression of the corporate state.
The corporate state first manifested itself most obviously in Mussolini’s Italy of the 1920s. There the state concerned itself with every aspect of economic life, setting wage levels and working conditions, regulating and licensing commercial activities and closely controlling political activity.
Mussolini’s rather blunt and belligerent approach was refined in the 1930s USA by President Roosevelt who gave a democratic façade to very similar economic policies. The New Deal was the corporate state of big government working with big business in the context of the great depression.
Of course, the reality is that governments and business have been interacting since capitalism became the dominant economic system. The Anti-Combination Acts of 1799/1800 was the British government acting on behalf of industry against the working class and its trade unions.
Today, the corporate state is so effective many don’t even realise it exists. When people vote for a party they become disillusioned when, on assuming office, it acts against their wishes, usually in much the same manner as the previous government or council of a different party.
This is often cynically dismissed by electors regarding politicians as, “in the end they’re all the same just in it for themselves”. This may well be true, but not crucially so, because it suggests all that is required is to find honest politicians.
If every MP was obviously scrupulous at all times fundamentally nothing would change. The problems facing everyone in society arise not from corrupt or corrupted politicians and officials, but capitalism itself.
The on-going issue of extravagant boardroom bonuses has been recently joined by many of the very rich using charitable giving as a way of reducing their tax liabilities to 20% or so, rather less than their very much more modestly paid employees are expected to pay.
Even the present Tory Chancellor has spoken out against such fiscal sleight of hand and attempted, be it in an apparently ham-fisted way, to counter it. He could be being disingenuous, of course, but even if his disquiet if genuine and his policy works, the few extra millions to the treasury, though welcome, again changes nothing fundamentally.
Indeed, it would be a demonstration of the corporate state in action, defending the broader interests of capitalism against the personal greed of some individual capitalists. It could also have an ideological spin off, demonstrating how capitalism is being run fairly in the common interest.
The big media will certainly propagate such notions. It may well be highly critical of government and greedy businessmen, exposing scandals and corruption, but always in the interests of preserving capitalism.
Come the possibility of the working class organising itself to take action on its own behalf and a united front of media vilification can be guaranteed. Big business and big government can rely on the media’s support should any significant confrontation with a trade union be in the offing.
Not that labour relations have been left to the self determination of union members. The corporate state has regulated trade unions to the point where action is legally hedged around to the point of being almost ineffectual. This has resulted in a dramatic fall in union membership.
The reaction has been for unions to construct amalgamations to form multi-occupation super or big unions. Perhaps without realising it, big unions providing a multiplicity of services and insurance to their members become enmeshed in the corporate state. Maybe they did so once they began to bankroll one of the major constituent parts of the corporate state, the Labour Party.
By the 4th May most of the votes will have been counted and the results announced. Actually, and exclusively, the overall result can be revealed here: the corporate state will continue in power and will remain there in perpetuity.
Unless, of course, the working class of Britain can find its voice and make itself heard, outside and beyond the stifling ballot booths. That would be the voice of the people – Democracy!
16th April 2012
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