It is only when faced with downturns and recessions that it really becomes clear how much the world is a slave to capital. Every ordinary person with an interest in this crisis, knows deep down that if they are not a banker or a major financial player, they are really only an impotent observer from the sidelines. Outside of the big financial cities people simply watch nervously as markets fall or rise based upon the latest cash fix-it doled out by national governments. And President-elect Obama – the man they like to call socialist (either as proud description or insult) agrees that massive cash injections are the only way to kick-start the economy.
The injection of capital into Citigroup yesterday caused the Dow Jones to soar to to one of its greatest highs since the 1987 general downturn. Everyone in finance loves a good government bailout, indeed the exact words of Brian Gendreau, an investment strategist at ING: “The markets love a bailout. It seems to have instilled a bit of confidence in the sector itself” (Reuters). Of course they love it, just like the gamblers who have some other mug paying their debts, so that they never really feel the consequences of their actions in any meaningful way. Now that everyone is caught up in the immediate task of trying to stop a sinking fleet, all the analysis of blame and responsibility has been swept aside. The heat is off every less-than-straight trader, company, trading practice as governments ‘hammer out’ early Christmas gift packages for the city.
This is simply economic Aid, no more and no less. If it was being donated to Africa it would be done very grudgingly on the basis that it would possibly be frittered away, or fall into corrupt hands or simply that it would provide no real, lasting positive economic effect. Instead the neo-liberal economic advisors encourage ‘growth’ and market solutions in place of aid. Unfortunately, this panacea is a little embarrassing for the western economic crisis because the obsession with ‘growth’ and market solutions sits at the root of the problem. Now the majority sits quietly and accepts the usually hated “government intervention”. A few other cranks devoted to ‘free-markets’ still bleat their opposition.
In some measure almost the whole of the developed world has massaged this crisis through, to some extent. The general acceptance of the reckless economic models developed in the last 20 years, or the frenzied glee among consumers, has spurred it all on. Throughout the “boom” years, when the West was buying new computers, dirt-cheap clothing and filling supermarket trolleys without a care, people elsewhere stayed destitute. Nigerian slums remained (and remain) slums; broken-down Indian textile communities are still broken, despite the much vaunted ‘Indian democracy’ and its economic miracles; the west itself has seen its own less-fortunate fall further, with access to glossy consumer crap, but with no prospects or economic input. The western world has again been hoodwinked into believing that everyone now controls capital, rather than the other way around. It bought all the guff about stakeholder capitalism and flexibility. And now it is helping or standing by as the shady plumbers patch up the leaks. We will tighten our belts, waste five years of our lives as the mess recovers. And then what? Will people still accept financial slavery, or will there be a revolt?