From the I do not believe what I am reading file.
The right think that the solution to all of society’s woes is more market freedom. Problems are evidence of a restriction of the free operation of markets. Whether it is failing education standards, diminishing environmental protection, declining terms of trade or faltering growth the cause always is a failure to adhere sufficiently to a neoliberal market model.
An element of this is the right’s hatred of trade unions. Making sure that ordinary workers’ families can live in dignity is an anathema to the free market model. It is only when ordinary workers struggle and fight each other for sufficient resources to look after their families that the benefits of the free market are unlocked. Workers get less and less and the owners of capital become richer. What could possibly be wrong with this?
I always thought that the undermining of the trade union movement was a particularly first world problem. But recent news from India suggests that capitalists are eternally vigilant and eternally active.
India, the world’s largest democracy and the home of an ancient and intensely sophisticated culture, has recently had an election. Superficially the results are impressive. Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party is in line to win 282 of the 543 directly elected seats in India’s lower house. Allies’ wins will drive the figure of supporting MPs to over 340.
But the result is a clear example of why MMP is a far superior electoral system. Bharatinya Janata won 31% of the vote but over half of the seats. The previously dominant Congress Party, the party of Mahatma Ghandi, won only 19% of the vote. But despite getting about a fifth of the popular vote it is in line to win only 42 seats which is less than a tenth of the seats on offer. Why is it that Commonwealth nations tend to have the most barbaric of electoral systems?
The aspect of the election that really struck me is that Modi campaigned on labour market reform. In one of the poorer countries in the world he advocated for a reduction in union protection so that market forces could operate in a “cleaner” environment.
As the leader of the Gujarat State Modi has been responsible for the establishment of areas reminiscent of a Chinese Special Economic Zone where businesses could rely on a quick decision on investment and tailored infrastructure and a migrant labour force to support business growth.
As an example of his thinking there is this transcript of comments that he made at a recent meeting:
Among labour issues, one industrialist raised the issue of the manufacturing sector incurring losses due to the national rural jobs guarantee scheme, MGNREGS. “We feel India’s productive labour has become unproductive. What do you have to say?” asked S K Poddar, chairman of the Adventz Group. In his response, Modi said, “When liberalisation was being talked about, labour law reforms should have been talked about, too, but we lost that chance. Today, there is a need for the next generation of NREGS, which should focus on asset creation. China says it wants to create jobs. I believe India should focus on job creation, too.”
No doubt Modi’s win will have international capital flooding to India in search of even cheaper labour. But this shows how broke the system is. When countries decide to compete against each other by reducing the quality of return for their employees the winner will be whoever is able to smash their workforce over sufficiently to make sure that their workers will accept any sort of employment conditions just so they can have the dignity of feeding their families, well sort of. And the mantra is growth. If we just consume even more then all of our woes will be taken care of. We may trash our environment and make a misery of the lives of those at the bottom of the heap but at least the corporate balance sheets will appear to be healthy.
And the formula for success is interesting. You just have to get someone that the right wing media will crown as a charismatic leader and fund his campaign. Then anything is possible, even if the actual proposals are ludicrous.
India may be in for a difficult time. Although its wealthy may think that nirvana has arrived.