Businessmen – what a bunch of fucking bastards, eh? Yeah, that’s right, I’m dissing businessmen, in fact, I’m being anti-business. Heresy, I know, in today’s political climate where we’re all meant to worship at the feet of the great god of commerce, but the fact is that businessmen and their businesses are no good. Trust me, they’re no good for society, no good for workers, no good for democracy and no good for the economy. But we’re not supposed to utter these truths. If you are ‘anti-business’, them you fall outside of the ‘norm’ these days. A while ago I did one of those tests on the BBC website which can supposedly determine your political leanings. I came out as considerably further to the left than average. Which surprised me, as the answers I gave to their questions were based on observed fact. The answer that tipped me over the edge into be significantly left wing was, I think, that I thought that employers exploit their employees for their own benefit. Well, of course they bloody do – I see it all the time! It’s the whole basis of the capitalist system! But apparently this is no longer deemed an incontrovertible fact, but rather an ‘anti-business’ sentiment. And being ‘anti business’ is rapidly becoming the new paedophilia: to be accused of it puts you beyond the pale of civilised society.
Of course, you don’t have to shout your opposition to business from the roof tops as I’m willing to do, to find yourself branded as ‘anti business’ these days. It says something about how far to the right that political discourse has been pushed in the UK that the press can try to characterise Ed Miliband as being ‘anti business’, because he dares to criticise multinationals which evade paying tax in the UK, despite making huge profits here. Apparently we’re now living in a society where suggesting such outrageous things as workplace rights for employees, including the right to strike, job security, sick pay, or even a decent wage is to be ‘anti business’. Indeed, not just ‘anti business’, but positively treasonous because to demand such things, Cameron and Osborne tell us, is to threaten that economic recovery they keep telling us is underway, but which no one actually feels the benefit of. But to turn things around – why would it be so bad to be ‘anti business’? Why is it assumed that what’s good for business is automatically good for the community? After all, by their very nature, businesses are interested in pursuing their own private profits rather than the wider interests of society as a whole. In fact, they are quite willing to subvert the interests of the community where those interests threaten their profits. Believe me, if they could get away with it, they would have no qualms about using slave labour, as wages for employees eat into their profits. (Arguably, through their use of South East Asian sweatshops to produce their goods, many multinationals are already doing this).
To argue that privatisation or the out sourcing of public services to private providers is bad is to be ‘anti business’ as, apparently, it is wrong to try and restrict private businesses from getting their hands on tax payers’ money and running public services for profit. One only has to look at the decline in quality of those services out sourced to realise what poor value to the public that such policies represent. What these private businesses call ‘greater efficiency’, I call ‘cutting corners’. The truth is that we’re lucky if all they do is ‘cut corners’ in their pursuit of profit – in reality they’d like to be able to take the money and not fulfil the contract at all. I mean, just look at G4S’s failure to provide the security guards they were contracted to furnish for the 2012 Olympics. Or the Ministry of Justice being billed by private providers for the tagging of prisoners who didn’t exist. But the idea that calling for corporations to pay their taxes or upholding employees’ rights is ‘anti business’ is just another fabrication that the government, with the assistance of the right wing press, has succeeded in perpetrating. Another is that there is no alternative to ‘austerity’. Or that ‘austerity’ is actually working – this Tory government is now borrowing more than the last Labour government and has failed to eliminate the deficit, as it pledged to do by the end of this parliament. Really, why are you all putting up with it? Why aren’t you all out on the streets rioting?
Probably because you’ve happily bought all the pro-business crap. How businesses are the creators of wealth and jobs, not to mention innovation. How, somehow, their existence guarantees our democratic rights. How they provide efficient services and support the community. All bollocks, as I’ve already tried to show you. But they effectively control the media as well, ensuring that their propaganda takes precedence over the truth. Just look at how the global recession was entirely the result of the profligate public spending of the last Labour government, whereas it was actually down to the reckless activities of the financial sector. But that’s their narrative: public bad, private good. Despite the fact that governments (in most of Europe and the US, at least) are democratically elected and electorally accountable, business has succeeded in convincing people that unaccountable private enterprises are somehow more trustworthy. The long media campaign to discredit elected politicians and undermine public trust in them is a key part of their plan in this respect. It just reinforces their attempts to brainwash the electorate into believing that public institutions can’t be trusted to spend taxes or deliver services.
By now, you are probably assuming that I’m some kind of God damn Commie, hell bent on destroying the capitalist system and nationalising everything. But you’d be wrong. Far from wanting to see the implementation of state collective farms, I’m one of those old fashioned moderates who believes in a mixed economy: some things are clearly better in the public sector, others in the private sector. Far from wanting to see capitalism overthrown, I simply want to see it properly regulated, so that workers aren’t ruthlessly exploited, the environment destroyed and minorities marginalised, all in the name of profit. Business needs to know its place – which isn’t trying to subvert the democratic process and public institutions for its own benefit. All of which, remarkably, makes me some kind of dangerous radical in the current poisonous political landscape. So, down with business, the bastards!