Es ist mein teil

Written By: - Date published: 12:46 pm, February 9th, 2009 - 28 comments
Categories: economy, workers' rights - Tags:

This year, the economy will shrink (at least) 1%. At the same time, the population will grow 1% (at least, growth may be stronger due to expats fleeing the UK). So, there’s going to be at least 2% less to go around (on top of a 2% reduction in GDP per capita last year). Now, a very important question arises as a result – who is going to become poorer?

Despite all the post-ideological claptrap one hears these days it is an inherent fact of our capitalist economic system that the products of economic activity are shared between two groups with competing and often contradictory interests. There are those who own the means of production (capital) and those employed to work using the capital (there’s also about 10% of people – superannuitants, beneficiaries – whose main income is government payments). Quite rationally, these two groups are always attempting to increase both the size of the economy (cooperatively) and their share of it (competitively). When the economy is shrinking, as it is now, this conflict is more obvious because it’s worse than a zero-sum game – if capital or labour doesn’t increase its share of the economy, the total economic production it can consume (and, therefore, standards of living) will fall. Naturally, each group attempts to maintain the size of their slice, necessarily, to the cost of the other. So who will bear the cost fo the recession the most? Will it be the workers, through wage cuts, reduced working hours, worse conditions, less secure employment, and layoffs? Or will it be the capitalists through smaller dividend payments and cuts to the pay for directors, CEOs, and management?

All signs to date are it is going to be the workers that get shafted. After all, it’s the capitalists’ party that’s in power, and they didn’t spend millions campaigning for them with everything from the Herald’s campaign to the Sensible Snetencing Trust to the truck strike for nothing. So far, they’ve cut work rights and delayed any decision on the minimum wage, while cancelling tax cuts for most working people and giving massive tax cuts to the wealthy. And, as Fran O’Sullivan notes: ‘there is no suggestion that boards of directors presented with ‘restructuring plans’ should ensure management does its bit. No sign either of any proposal to ask shareholders to take reduced dividends to help secure the long-term viability of their enterprise and its employees.’

Those who already have the largest slices of the pie will not take a cut during this recession. The self-proclaimed heroes of our society, the ‘wealth creators’ as they call themselves, will not let themselves suffer any of the cost of a recession that has largely been caused by the unrestrained greed of the capitalists. Instead, they will use their power to put that burden on the ordinary workers, those least able to afford it.

As a worker, you have to ask yourself whether you are being forced to make all the sacrifice and whether that is fair. And, then, you have to ask yourself what you and your fellow workers are going to do to protect your interests, and make sure the costs of the recession are borne by the capitalists too.

28 comments on “Es ist mein teil”

  1. Pat 1

    Was that last paragraph straight from the Russian revolution?

  2. No. There’s nothing extreme about saying ‘stand up for yourself, don’t roll over and let yourself be screwed’.

    Pat. I know your instinct is to reject this kind of analysis because if one admits that the power of capital in our society is inequitable or even that there is a conflict between the interests of thsoe few who own capital and the rest of us then one must ask how to address that inequity, which leads to thoughts of social democracy and worse, but how about stretching yourself and offering a substantive criticism. If you can’t, perhaps you need to reconsider your underlying premises. At least, that’s how I approach political debate.

  3. ieuan 3

    Complete crap.

    In a recession we are all going to suffer to a greater or lesser extent and the more you are exposed to ‘the market’ the bigger the fall in income you are going to see, just look at dairy farmers.

    If you are forced to lay off workers or reduce hours that means your business income is down and therefore your profits are down. I think a lot of businesses will attempt to ride out the storm and that will mean retaining staff, remembering how difficult it was to get them in the first place in the hope that things pick up sooner rather than later.

    Just try reading the business pages in your paper and you will see how hard business is being hit.

    The role of unions at this time is to understand the pressures businesses are under and to work to help retain jobs, not to point the finger and say ‘we are protecting our own interests – stuff you’.

  4. Pat 4

    Well SP, you haven’t provided any actual solutions. But I guess they would be:

    – Join a union.
    – Vote Labour next time.

    The trouble with such scare-mongering prose about evil capitalists, is that I suspect most people aren’t exactly sure who you are talking about. Perhaps you should name and shame a few, so we know the sort to keep an eye out for.

    .

  5. BeShakey 5

    I’ve got to line up with the right wingers who are calling out ‘bullshit’ on this one. I thought most of us had managed to dispatch the idea that everyone acts rationally and out of self-interest (and that they should do so). I don’t know about you, but my voting is based on what I think is morally right, and what I think will have the best effects for the country even if (as at this election) my self-interests would have been better served by voting differently.
    The idea that theres a ‘capitalists party’ (and therefore labour is anti-capitalism?) also sounds like rubbish. While their support may come largely from those who own the means of production, it only requires an extremely basic analysis of voting patterns to see that support isn’t split anywhere near as neatly as that.
    It’s probably a bit of a waste of time pointing out all the problems with this post, I imagine the right wingers will do so much more completely, and vociferously than me. At least it’ll be interesting to see whether you actually debate them or not.

  6. Felix 6

    “evil capitalists”, Pat? I must have missed that part.

    It’s about conflicting vested interests, not good and evil. It’s about people trying to hold onto what they’ve got and get a bit more, and that’s just the reality of our society whether you like it or not.

  7. Peter Johns - bigoted troll in jerkoff mode 7

    SP – what has fair got to do with it? Tell me what fair is, go ahead define it in monetary terms?

    Capitalism has worked much better than communism. This is a rough patch we are going thru and there will be losers from all sides. Most employers are good people who will do their best for their workforce as they do care about them. Also, small employers will take salary sacrifices to help keep THEIR companies afloat and keep as much staff as possible, but there will be carnage coming to a place near you soon.

    I know of at one trucking company where everyone has taken a 5% pay cut to keep the company afloat and there was acceptance by the workforce for this as they know they would rather keep their jobs and get paid less than be on a benefit. Ironically, the burden was lower for employees with families as this increased their WFF allowance so the pay cut was lower than 5%!

    In the end Steve, workers want to keep their jobs and taking a 5% pay-cut was fighting for their jobs.

  8. Pat. I’m not saying capitalists are ‘evil’ I’m saying they are acting to protect their interests, as we should expect. The problem is that, in a shrinking economy, one person’s protected wealth comes at the cost of someone else losing more. All we hear at the moment is that there have to be job cuts and wage freezes, the burden is to be put on workers, while business gets tax relief. It is telling, however, that you find the idea that the owners of capital would defend their interests first ‘evil’, so much so that you don’t want to believe it’s true.

    Beshakey. National is the party of big business and farmers – the two largest capitalist groups in our country – always has been. That doesn’t mean that Labour is anti-capitalist, it is for what Blair called ‘capitalism with a human face’ using the undoubted wealth generating capacity of capitalism but trying to see the wealth produced spread more equally – the Workers’ Party, they’re anti-capitalist.

    There are two major economic blocs in society and two major parties, each set up by those groups to promote their interests – the Labour Party by the labour movement in 1916 and the National Party by business and the farmers in 1936 (with an express goal of keeping Labour out of power and maintain the pro-capital status quo). They were set up to promote their groups interests and they still do. Of course voting patterns don’t split perfectly along class lines, there is such a thing as false consciousness after all (we see a lot of it on this blog), and National, in particular, works hard to make elections about things other than the distribution of wealth – but that doesn’t change the fact that the parties have a core economic constituency whose interests they were set up to promote. I’m sorry if you disagree but this is not a radical analysis, it’s a very dull, mainstream one.

  9. Ag 9

    The National Party isn’t just the capitalist party, it is also the authoritarian party, such as New Zealand has one. Plenty of poor people who are more interested in religion, Maori bashing or combating the “homosexual agenda” vote National.

    Fortunately for the rest of us, New Zealand isn’t really very authoritarian, so that side of the party doesn’t dominate as once it did.

  10. Quoth the Raven 10

    Pat – What’s wrong with joining a union? Your anti-market, hence pro-capitalist attitude is shining through here. Unions are part of the market. Unions are constrained by anti-market regulations. I think you, as with most on the right, love market interference on behalf of the elite.

  11. Pat 11

    Quoth – There is nothing wrong with joining a union. A assume that was the point of SP’s post, when he calls on workers to “stand up for themselves”.

    Maybe I have assumed too much. Certainly you have, if you think you have described me.

  12. Quoth the Raven 12

    Pat – That’s good. It just appeared by the tone of your comment that you were implying that.

  13. BLiP 13

    Your piece is a timely call to arms.

    As the capitalists’ running dog, the current government needs to be monitored closely. National has already started breaking election promises but, in this instance, the one that worries me most is privatisation, especially in areas relating to the provision of social welfare.

    Thanks to National, we now have a generation of workers who have grown up without knowing the benefit of having a union alongside when push comes to shove. The power has shifted greatly in favour of the bosses and there is little doubt the dole queues are going to quickly lengthen – the plight of the unemployed will, even more quickly become dire if the government starts a piece-meal process of contracting out its services. Not only will the unemployed have lost thier jobs due to capitalists’ greed, they will also have their unemployment controlled by the capitalists’ greed.

    The UK experience with this has started falling to pieces but they are already a long way down the track. So much for Tony Fucking Blair. So much for the UK Labour Party

    As well as workers having to learn to look after themselves and restore the union culture, the rest of us have to maintain an active resistance to any moves by National to start feeding its mates the tidbits off the top of the pie. Disguising these moves as PPP’s or one-off contracts or whatever else nonsense their marketeers and spin doctors try to sell them to the public as.

    Its not so much as matter of standing up as taking back.

  14. QoT 14

    SP, if that’s a Rammstein reference in the title, I may have to form a small crush on you. That being said, the T of “Teil”, should be capitalized as it’s a noun. 😛

  15. Dean 15

    “Or will it be the capitalists through smaller dividend payments and cuts to the pay for directors, CEOs, and management?”

    Or will they wear top hats and smoke cigars? Your analysis is purile to say the least. You’re harking back to the days when such extremes were believed.

    “Beshakey. National is the party of big business and farmers – the two largest capitalist groups in our country – always has been. That doesn’t mean that Labour is anti-capitalist, it is for what Blair called ‘capitalism with a human face’ using the undoubted wealth generating capacity of capitalism but trying to see the wealth produced spread more equally – the Workers’ Party, they’re anti-capitalist.”

    Do you really think the sucessive ministers of small business Labour put up really understood what it was to be capitalist-friendly? I mean, come on. Rick Barker was probably the worst but the rest weren’t exactly sympathetic. Labour weren’t at all unfriendly to the top hat wearers, but they weren’t exactly courting their votes. Unless you count what happened to you-know-who BEFORE he spilled the beans about Winston.

    You’re on a hiding to nothing on this line, SP. Good job for you there’s a sympathetic echo chamber surrounding you or you just might see exactly how wrong you were, and that would never do.

    “Beshakey. National is the party of big business and farmers – the two largest capitalist groups in our country – always has been.”

    Strangely enough it’s also the party that won Auckland Central the last election. As well as most of the other electorate seats.

    How long has it been since National won Auckland Central previous to the last election, SP?

  16. Capitalism is a producer, too. It makes capital.

    So where’s the argument?

  17. QoT. thank god someone got the reference – chocolate fish for you.

    I wasn’t sure about the ‘t’ in teil – my german is worse than awful. I thought it might be with a capital but the references I saw online didn’t have it, my bad

  18. Felix 18

    SP my german is worse than awful

    I’m going to resist the obvious cheap shot here Steve, but I am thinking it.

  19. RedLogix 19

    So I had to google Rammstein…. ah very, very quirky.

    This I can love about the net, I may live in on a cultural archipeligo, made of my age and temperament, but now and then a crack opens up and something wholly unexpected seeps through.

    “We all live in Amerika….vunderbar”… indeed. Watch that without cracking.

    Thanks SP. (Yeah I know I’m wholly a decade or two dated.)

  20. infused 20

    Oh yes they will,

    Like my one client who has, last year, paid out over 800k in wages to 8 other staff and only been paying himself $500 a week and is about to go under. Yes these rich scum, they all need to be shot.

    After 8 years, paying 4m in total wages and paying himself around 300k in that time, he is going under. Losing a house, has split the marriage (and kids) and he is very depressed and suicidal.

    And you’re still bitching about the workers. What about these many small to medium business owners who have put everything in to these businesses and hired a number of staff?

    You know what? He can’t even get assistance from WINZ.

    I bet your thinking it’s the fault of the business, well yes and no. For the 8 years business has grown from a 1 man band to the 8 full time, 15 part time. The recession stopped the business in its tracks. Nothing can be done. There’s no work out there. People are *buying* work. They are losing money just to create cash flow. Retarded.

    Many of these people who made these businesses like myself just made them to be a little better off. And why not, after all the work you have to put in to a small business, I really think you lot have no idea. All of this just to get shat on by Labour.

    This is one of 6 businesses I know of in just the past two months that are in similar situations. And you guys want to raise the minimum wage to 13-15 and hour? What planet are you on?

    How about all you lefties get off your high horses for once and look at the big picture here.

  21. Felix 21

    Two quick things, infused:

    1. Anyone paying paying their staff 100k per year is not going to be hit with a bigger wage bill just because the minimum wage goes up 50 cents (9 real cents) per hour.

    2. It’s National in government, not Labour.

  22. RedLogix 22

    Infused,

    I too am pretty close to a company very similar to the one you describe. Your typical SME owner is a very courageous and decent individual who works very hard in his business, and is very, very loyal to good staff… who are often more like family than employees. This downturn will hit these good folk harder than anyone else.

    But as much as these people are nominally business owners, I wonder if they are really capitalists? Sure they may well be owners of the means of production, but the reality is that they are also workers in their business, equally as much as their employees. The capital they have invested is often a secondary consideration to the fact that the business only exists because of their skill, knowledge and the enormous commitment of time and energy they put into it.

    The real capitalist is a rather more removed creature, someone whose participation in the productive process is one almost entirely of a monetary/predatory nature.

  23. Quoth the Raven 23

    Didn’t get the Rammstein reference. One thing about those guys whether you like the music or not you’ve got to admit they can actually put on a show a concept completely lost on many of your contemporary bands. I’m partial to a bit of Japanese noise music myself – now Hanatarash they knew how to put on a show. We must lament what rock music has become, with a few bright exceptions. Some of these people nowadays wouldn’t even know a how to die of a drug overdose or a destroy a stage – for shame.
    Just to be off-topic.

  24. Steve,

    Teil means just that mein teil=my share but with a capital as in “Teil” it means “my dick” as in reference to the Rammenstein song in which cannibal guy and his consenting intended victim (true story) eat the private parts of said victim before cannibal guy kills victim.

    Don’t worry RedLogic I had to google it too, not the German but the reference.

    QtR. So true. LOL. I did grow up next to Germany though and their weird sense of over the top hard rock and I mean HARD rock never made it across the border other than in some backwater rural black holes (precious few left in Holland, it’s mostly one city now) close to Germany where extremely bored 18 year olds got pissed while head banging to them in the local barn just to piss off their parents who still hated the Germans.

    Come to think of it, I think German hard rock bands where mostly kids who started to play hard rock just to piss of their parents too who still hated all things American. LOL.

    Ah, ain’t that nice.Hard rock unites. LOL.

    Infused,

    If your client only pays himself $ 500,- while paying his staff $100.000,- a pop he deserves to go under because he clearly doesn’t know how to play the Capitalist’s game (which is when you run a business you get the biggest cut for taking the trouble. At least that’s their argument).

    That doesn’t mean he is not a nice guy but he should really reconsider his priorities.
    I’ve run a business for twenty years together with my husband and we paid our staff consistently more than we got out off it and we finally had to admit that we just did not want to be in that world, we were no good at parasiting on other people’s labour (and we had a million dollar business) and we had to find a life that agreed with our temperament and one that would makes us just simply happy.

    I bet you your guy is a nice, loving self sacrificing guy who worked his ass off for his people, his wife and his kids and he doesn’t get why he is being so royally screwed.

    I suggest you get him to go through bankruptcy as fast a possible and into therapy to deal with his feelings of inadequacy which got him in this mess in the first place.

    You might yet save his life and get him into one that will allow him to live simpler and more balanced and perhaps even find a wife who doesn’t need the world and just wants to be with him for loves sake.

  25. RedLogic,

    That’s the nice way of saying it.

  26. It thought it was a pretty good title myself. 🙂

    In the chorus, the two men are arguing over who gets to eat part of the ‘part’ – “Es ist mein Teil – nein” – appropriate, jah?

    Rammstein are great – their subject matter is often quite horrific but they don’t take it too seriously, they’re not some kind of dumb death metal band, there’s quite an element of parody to their work, at least, that’s how I see it.

    I love that line in Amerika ‘this is not a love song’

  27. Peter Johns,

    Capitalism has worked much better than communism. This is a rough patch we are going thru and there will be losers from all sides.

    Would it be helpful for me to point out that the suffering and sufferance of your term “going through” has little to do with capitalism. And a great deal more to do with eliminating the lunacy of leverage… that unscrupulous players derived as credit from mindless deregulation of the financial sector.

    So as not to confuse you understand..

  28. QoT 28

    RAMMSTEIN ARE GODLIKE WONDERS. Ahem. Any band with not one but TWO songs based on poems by Goethe do it for me.

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