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The U.K. Riots And The Coming Global Class War

(53 Posts)
ttosca Sun 21-Aug-11 18:20:28

Forbes magazine says: Capitalism isn't working

The riots that hit London and other English cities last week have the potential to spread beyond the British Isles. Class rage isn’t unique to England; in fact, it represents part of a growing global class chasm that threatens to undermine capitalism itself.

www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2011/08/15/u-k-riots-global-class-war/

Solopower Sun 21-Aug-11 19:52:38

I don't see it as a class war - unless you think having money = being upper class and vice versa - but there's definitely a problem between the haves and have-nots.

I'm no economist, but it seems to boil down to two main things: a hugely increased world population, plus globalisation. When resources are scarce, people fight and die to feed their families, and migrate to other places which then become overcrowded. Globalisation leads to some companies becoming so powerful that they are a direct threat to democracy. Loads of examples of that.

And the riots are already happening, all over the world. They are always sparked by some huge sense of injustice and then get taken over by people who have nothing to lose.

We need to make sure that people do have something to lose (not just their chains)!

Solopower Sun 21-Aug-11 20:25:49

So, I mostly agree with the article. But what I'm more interested in is what to do about it? If we reject rioting as a way of creating a fairer society - which I do! - then apart from taking a chance on voting for a party which may or may not honour its manifesto pledges, the only power we really have is as consumers.

ttosca Mon 22-Aug-11 01:49:37

I don't see it as a class war - unless you think having money = being upper class and vice versa - but there's definitely a problem between the haves and have-nots.

That's basically what the class war amounts to. For the most part, it's 'working class', meaning people who work for a wage and generally don't have the power to hire and fire themselves, and the ruling class, including Capitalists and the establishment.

'm no economist, but it seems to boil down to two main things: a hugely increased world population, plus globalisation. When resources are scarce, people fight and die to feed their families, and migrate to other places which then become overcrowded. Globalisation leads to some companies becoming so powerful that they are a direct threat to democracy. Loads of examples of that.

Globalisation has allowed neo-liberal ideology to proliferate. Part of the problem is the 'race to the bottom', where Capital has no borders and is flighty, so business always seeks to lower labour costs by moving overseas or threatening to do so. It also means it's easier to avoid paying tax.

And the riots are already happening, all over the world. They are always sparked by some huge sense of injustice and then get taken over by people who have nothing to lose.

Of course - and it's only going to get worse (or better, depending on your perspective).

We need to make sure that people do have something to lose (not just their chains)!

We need to stop the funnelling of wealth from labour to Capital, from the poorest to the richest. smile

ttosca Mon 22-Aug-11 01:55:56

So, I mostly agree with the article. But what I'm more interested in is what to do about it? If we reject rioting as a way of creating a fairer society - which I do! - then apart from taking a chance on voting for a party which may or may not honour its manifesto pledges, the only power we really have is as consumers.

Do you really think that the only alternatives are rioting and voting? Are you not familiar with the history of peaceful civil-disobedience? There are many things people can do, including sit-downs, occupations, walk-outs, refusing to pay fees, refusing to pay taxes, hunger strikes, union strikes, road blockades, wikileaks, etc. etc. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

We really have limited power as consumers. Many companies are not even consumer-facing (meaning they don't deal with the public directly), and consumer boycotts are undemocratic in the sense that your influence is directly proportional to your wealth.

That's not to say they have no part to play... but they should probably only play a small part of the bigger picture.

niceguy2 Mon 22-Aug-11 19:24:17

Capitalism isn't great. It produces people who are very rich and leaves those less fortunate to drag along the bottom. It's the economic version of nature's "Survival of the fittest".

The problem is that it appears that Capitalism is the best of a bad bunch. What other alternatives do we have? Socialism? Communism? No thanks.

If someone invents a system which is equitable to all without removing the incentive to work and nutures our aspirations rather than tramples on them then I for one would love it.

Solopower Mon 22-Aug-11 19:33:46

Yes, non-violent direct action can be very effective.

By consumers, as well as meaning people who buy things, I suppose I'm also including people who are at the receiving end of planning decisions that have a permanent effect on our way of life. Things like building a new shopping centre instead of low-cost housing, or allowing developers to plonk monstrosities in our neighbourhoods without even employing local people to build them. In a truly democratic society, these decisions would be open and transparent - which they rarely are - and local people would be given the power, not just the chance, to object.

It seems to me as if this government sees everything in terms of the market place, in which the value of something is only as much as someone is prepared to pay for it, eg university education, health care, etc.

Btw your definition of working class seems to mean anyone who gets paid for their work hmm ...

Basically, capitalism is working very nicely, thank you, for a few people. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the trickle-down effect is simply not happening.

Solopower Mon 22-Aug-11 19:39:57

Niceguy, I think we need 'left' and 'right' for a healthy society. Socialism that looks after the vulnerable and conservatism that preserves what's valuable. What we don't need is a rampant free-market, a survival of the fittest.

Typing this it occurs to me that I have already written it somewhere. Sorry to repeat myself. (But not sorry enough to delete it. Actually I'm rather proud of it. I think it comes as near as I'll get to an original thought, so I don't want to waste it ...)

ttosca Tue 23-Aug-11 16:38:05

Solopower

The point is, in fact, that Capitalism (especially neo-liberal Capitalism) is not just failing the vulnerable, but the vast majority of the public.

Not only does 'trickle-down' effect not occur, the exact opposite is happening, with levels of wealth disparity unseen since the 1930s.

Solopower Tue 23-Aug-11 18:33:33

Yes, it's had its day. Now what?

aliceliddell Tue 23-Aug-11 18:38:52

Ah, now Solo that is the question.

aliceliddell Tue 23-Aug-11 18:41:23

Got to go out now to an Anti Cuts meeting. Back later with fresh supplies of fervour, zeal etc

Solopower Tue 23-Aug-11 19:24:50

Niceguy, I meant to say that I agree there is no ready-made model system that we could adopt instead of capitalism. I doubt Russian 'socialism' would go down well in the Home Counties. But what about a pic'n'mix approach? A little bit of old-style communism from the Chinese (just the bits we like, eg a sense of community, incredible organisation, hard work ethic, perhaps?); a drop of democracy from the Swiss (voting in referendums every few months); we could model our education system on the Finns' - and of course, keep our own fine NHS. Sorted.

We need a new -ism, is what I'm saying.

niceguy2 Tue 23-Aug-11 19:49:25

Solo, I couldn't agree more. And when a party comes along with those sorts of policies then I for one will vote for them.

Capitalism is crap. It's just less crap than the current alternatives.

OneMoreChap Wed 24-Aug-11 11:51:37

Solopower

A little bit of old-style communism from the Chinese
high levels of execution, corruption, and try having a riot there...

a drop of democracy from the Swiss
banning mosques, women voting since 1971

model our education system on the Finns
rising income inequality, violence, alcoholism and drug abuse, children going into care
[http://users.jyu.fi/~mmantys/soc-prob-kalvot-4.pdf]

our own fine NHS
Well, if that's what you believe it is...
Some parts of it are, for certain. Stafford? PCTs in general?
GP salaries vs hours - the inability to get a night visit from your own GP. Huge improvement.

sakura Wed 24-Aug-11 14:32:13

"Capitalism is crap. It's just less crap than the current alternatives."

niceguy, this sentence doesn't make sense.
It's not capitalism, the ideology, per se, that is the problem here. I believe you are talking about pure, unregulated capitalism, the type we've been seeing in Russia since communism collapsed, or have been witnessing in the USA and the UK over the past few years with the greediness of bankers.
This type of unregulated capitalism is, of course, a disaster for society, not least the environment.

All you need is more social democracy, the type you see in Iceland or Sweden. More taxing of the rich and giving to the poor, making sure we live in a meritocracy. These things are fairly achievable. You just need the political will.

Did you know that in Japan, for example, no CEO earns more than 6 times the lowest earner in the same country? in the US a CEO earns over 240 times the lowest earner. This is an incredible wage gap, created by unregulated capitalism. Japan also has a hefty land tax so it's quite difficult for the rich to get richer while the poor get poorer. It's structurally impossible

And that is what we're talking about: the way society is structured. Businesses, especially banks, must be regulated, transparent, legitimate and democratic. Right now they are not, in the UK at least.

I mean, we are living in an age of pure capitalism where it is acceptable for a man to buy a woman's body . This is a perfect example of what happens when capitalism is unregulated and market forces prevail over the health and well-being of a country's citizens (being murdered is an occupational hazard of prostitution, for example, as is accidental pregnancy and contracting STDs such as AIDS)

Solopower Wed 24-Aug-11 17:20:32

My point is that we choose the bits we like, Onemorechap!

jackstarb Wed 24-Aug-11 20:09:41

I'm not sure there's much anyone [country] can do about global capitalism. It's evolved over 100's of years and is the main way the countries of the world interact with each other.

The resulting global economy is unbelievably complex. Even the the most simple products are often made by 100's or even thousands of collaborating people. See this video It takes a civilisation to make a toaster to see how we are so frighteningly dependent and reliant on others for our way of life.

As the Forbes article discusses - the problem for 'first world' countries is the movement of the 'lower value' stages of production to developing countries taking the 'lower skilled' jobs with them. The answer is supposed to be a highly educated workforce who can work in the new high value industries. So in the UK we have spent heavily on education & increased university places......

Anyway, those equipped for the high value industries - the well educated, talented and intelligent get the [limited number of] well paid jobs. With a decreasing number of lower skilled well paid jobs available for everyone else.

This is nothing new - but the last Labour government managed to paper over much of it by vastly increasing public sector jobs and benefits.

I don't know what the answer is. But I doubt there is any alternative to capitalism (especially 'global' capitalism).

Of course there could always be better and cleverer regulation. However, from what I've seen, it's often government's trying to be too clever with this control which causes the biggest failures (subprime mortgages being the obvious example).

niceguy2 Wed 24-Aug-11 21:14:06

Social democracy sounds great. If someone has a sensible plan for how this would work, especially in the context of global markets then I'd be all for it.

I hate the fact that capitalism encourages waste. We have finite resources and pollution issues. But capitalism and free markets mean we end up with crap like rubber dog poo and vibrating vaginas! Is that really how we want to be using Earth's resources? We have food mountains in Europe whilst the poor starve in Africa.

Of course governments are meant to control the excesses of capitalism and in the past you may argue they were more successful. But nowadays multinational corporations can hold entire governments to ransom. Some have larger turnovers than entire nations. They can threaten to pull out of a country and take all the jobs with them. Or in NI's case can threaten to ruin politicians. They play countries off against each other and get laws changed to be in their favour.

The only solution in my view is to have a single government running the world, where regulation can be applied fairly across the world. But how do we ensure those who would be in charge remain honest and don't get corrupted? And let's face it, it'll never happen in our lifetime.

LemonDifficult Wed 24-Aug-11 21:26:06

There's a real apocalyptic fervour going around at the moment.

Are posters here hoping for a class war? This whole thread has a whiff of housepricecrash.com, where everyone seems to be wanting disaster to strike in the certain belief that it'll be comeuppance for the Etonian Politicians/Evil Bankers/Feckless Aristos but just peachy for all the housepricecrash.commers.

Desiderata Wed 24-Aug-11 21:30:12

Well, according to some of these comments, the working class obviously ain't what they were. The working classes, when I grew up, were decent people who worked hard and earned a low wage.

Most of the rioters don't have a job. They don't want a job. They can hardly be called working class. They are an underclass.

Those riots had nothing to do with politics. I doubt whether most of them have ever voted in their lives. They're just thick knob-jockeys, plain and simple.

Solopower Wed 24-Aug-11 21:40:37

Not a class war, LemonD - too last century. What we need is a more equitable redistribution of wealth. It's not impossible, given the will to do it. However, governments do have to agree to stand together against the global companies.

Solopower Wed 24-Aug-11 21:46:30

And as individuals, something we can do is consume less. We can also agree to pay higher taxes and insist the government spend our own money on us - our NHS, our schools.

There is no proof that the 50% tax rise has directly caused anyone to move abroad (the stats aren't available yet, I believe? - heard on Radio 4). They all say they will, but they don't. It's just bullying and brinkmanship.

Desiderata Wed 24-Aug-11 21:49:17

I repeat.

The recent riots had nothing to do with money, or class.

LemonDifficult Wed 24-Aug-11 21:50:27

"However, governments do have to agree to stand together against the global companies."

Eh?

Oh god, please let the government not 'stand against' the 'global companies' that are just about hanging on in my area and employ lots of people and without whom this part of the world would be seriously stuffed.

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