Sunday, June 14, 2009

'What's being taken over by whom?

The means of production are being seized -- for the sake of the ruling class

The Globe and Mail: Leo Panitch knew that Marxism was back, brothers, when he was asked by AM640 ('Home of the Leafs'), a sports-mad radio station in Toronto, to talk about the GM deal. The Canadian people suddenly own a few levers of the means of production, and some of the comrades wanted to know what they'd gotten themselves into.

CEOs aren't abandoning their bonuses for worker committees and the power of the people. But Prof. Panitch and others point out that Marx predicted this collapse -- right down to credit default swaps and other kinky tricks of finance. Marxism, they say, is a powerful tool with which to understand the mess we're in -- so powerful it will make us question the system that produced the crisis in the first place...

He saves his deepest scorn for Stephen Harper. The spectacle of the Prime Minister, a free-market economist once bankrolled by the insurance industry, admitting that governments had no choice but to take over the North American car industry was rare redemption for a Marxist. 'What does that say? What it indicates is that these huge corporations, while they may be legally private, are incapable of operating as private institutions. And if they can't function without being public, then the state has to maintain order.'

Canadian taxpayers and the Canadian Auto Workers now own more than $10-billion worth of GM stock. But neither the union nor taxpayers have a real voice on the board, and GM executives are still pretending the own the joint, refusing to disclose financial details and vowing to close 2,000 dealerships, regardless of whether they're profitable.

'That shows you how bizarre it is,' Prof. Panitch says, 'that we call ourselves a democracy, but we have all these 'private' corporations that control our lives. Who owns them? The shareholders? Who are the shareholders in this case? Who owns GM? What's being taken over by whom? And the fact that that question hasn't been asked is frightening. Really, it has nothing to do with being a socialist. It has to do with being a democrat.'
Image source here.