Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Contradictions of Capitalism

Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property,
A society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world, whom he has called up with his spells
Marx and Engels- The Communist Manifesto

As election placards are hoisted throughout the country urging the masses to vote for this or that party’s bogus policies, their own particular tint of the same colour, the spectre of Ireland’s recent industrial past has once again reared its ugly head: unemployment. For a while, it seemed that this problem was a class room matter, something which the insouciant nouveau riche of the Celtic Tiger generation read about when studying economic history. The consensus of the last few years has been that Ireland has become one big happy middle class family. Everyone has money, so it seems. Therefore any talk of real left-right politics is scrupulously circumscribed. However, this year’s political concert rehearsals have been surprised by an unexpected cacophony: unemployment. Could this become an election issue before the curtain is raised in a few months time? The announcement of new job losses in Cork last week came as a shock to those who faithfully imbibed the government’s economic propaganda; ie those who had got married, bought property and booked their two weeks in the sun.

Today’s Ireland is a nation of multinational mobile companies who set up shop when wages are low and abscond when better opportunities arise elsewhere. As Marx and Engels put it
‘The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.’

It is well known that the most central feature of capitalism is the boom and bust phenomenon. Marx and Engels spoke of ‘ the commercial crises that by their periodical return put on trial, each time more threateningly the very existence of the entire bourgeois society’. For a while now we have heard that the property market, the internal combustion engine of the Irish economy, may be showing signs of slowing down. This is hardly surprising, as those who are building the houses, ie the property developers are renting them out at inflated prices, flagrantly ignoring the needs of the majority of the population.

The whole property market has become a bauble for speculators and millionaires, instead of shelter for the populace. The average couple is forced to work over a 40 hour week to satisfy the lucre-lust of the multinational conglomerates who run this country, and to repay the borrowed money which they need to keep the whole property charade going. With all the stress, fast food and convenience foods become more common with their resultant ill-health, diabetes, depression, heart disease etc, the maladies of the hypercapitalist era. But not to worry, the government provides. That is to say, it provides for those who can pay for everything has its price. It seems the answer to the pathetic joke that calls itself the Health Service Executive is to build more private hospitals where people with money can get top service while the rest of us are consigned to death. After all, privatization has proved to be an astounding success, it’s most outstanding examples being the M50 toll bridge (subsequently bought back by the government at an astronomical price) and Eircom. But fear not, there’s plenty more on the way.

Eircom deserve special mention here. Many of those made redundant who are living in rural parts of Cork will find it harder to look for new jobs as they do not have a broadband internet connection. Ireland has one of the worst records in the developed world for the provision of broadband. We are at the bottom of the European table here, shamelessly traipsing behind countries such as Finland and Estonia. Eircom have recently announced a new initiative to provide an ubiquitous broadband service but such pronouncements have been dogged by procrastination on monetary grounds for years now. Eircom will not connect rural areas as they do not deem it profitable enough to do so. There was a time when Telecom Eireann existed to provide good communication for the state. The aim of the company then was to provide a service for the people. Eircom’s goal now is simply to make a profit. Service has nothing to do with it. The problem here however, is one of pure myopia. If I may allude to Marx and Engels once more
‘constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones’.
The government by failing to ensure the provision of the internet to every citizen of the state has weakend Ireland’s ability to be a competitor in the global information economy. What we have in the case of Eircom is an example of capitalism being hoist by its own petard, which is of course its very essence.

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