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RIGHTING THE MEANING by Ken Howell

posted 23 Apr 2014, 14:48 by Gerry Kangalee

In everything that we think, say or do, there is a meaning which we want to, or try to, establish. Think about it. From the very moment that man mastered the discipline of recording his thoughts and observations, and perhaps before that, man has been curious about the meaning of everything around him.

 

It is that determination to find the meaning of the secrets of his environment which has led to man’s ability to progressively gain an understanding of and some control over his space. So, it is the power of thought which when put into action, has led to the result being good or evil.

 

Finding the meaning of things and getting it right has always been a human obsession. All of the great thinkers, scientists, philosophers and historians, throughout the history of civilizations past and present, were all obsessed with the task of getting the meaning of our existence and the environment in which we exist, right.

 

That process of arriving at the point where the idea in one's head, which one begins with as a theory, is then subjected to the investigative approach, where through the process of elimination and sometimes trial and error, one stumbles on the answer, was the standard approach adopted in the process of finding out the true meaning (truth) about things generally.

 

In the discussions and debates which ensued, particularly in the field of philosophy, there were two schools of thought; the metaphysical and the materialist. The advocates of metaphysics argued like this: what appears to be real is but an illusion of that which you cannot see because it is spirit. On the social and political questions they argue that man cannot solve the ills of society; it is only through the spiritual intervention of God that these ills can and will be eliminated.

 

The materialist however, sees the world and the ills therein, not as an illusion, but as the creation of the particular system of society in which we live. As a consequence, the materialist believes that the task is ours to solve them.

 

For the past few years, we have been witnessing the system of capitalism in decay and the trade union movement which is also a creature of the capitalist system is also affected by this capitalist disease. As a consequence of these developments it has become necessary to get the meaning of these happenings right, in order to set the agenda for economic and political change in our society.

 

A good starting point would be to recognize that the metaphysical school lost out to the materialist. The evidence of this can be found in the reality of the history of the development of civilization. Karl Marx was the first to get the meaning right when he concluded that “the history of the development of all hitherto societies is the history of class struggle”

 

Before capitalism there were other forms of societies. Capitalism came into existence as a consequence of class struggle within feudal European society. In the bible one can find several accounts of previous civilizations and nations which do not now exist. Were it not for these periodic social and natural convulsions which occur from time to time many of these civilizations would be around today.

 

So that capitalism as we know it is on its way out and that is a fact whether we choose to believe it or not. It has arrived at a place where it is now incapable of pretending that it is a force for good. And that is because those who pull the strings and manipulate the various international institutions through which the global system of capitalism functions are bent on taking capitalism back to its primitive beginnings hoping also to prolong its existence. What we must realise, is that in the cut and thrust of the struggle which constantly occurs between capital and labour, the capitalist ideologues are always looking for ways to defeat the working class.

 

That is what explains to some extent the collapse of the financial system in the period 2008 -2011. The process started since 1985 but the virus became full blown in 2008. The virus which I am talking about is the virus of neo-liberalism.

 

Neo-liberalism is what Naomi Klein described in her book of the same name as “Disaster Capitalism” Globalization and neo-liberalism are just new terms used to describe the barbaric, backward systems that were in use by people like Rhodes and others who in the primitive days of the development of capitalism, stole lands in Africa, India, the Middle East, and the Caribbean in order to strengthen the economies of their countries.

 

The ideology of the neo-liberals is just as barbaric. It was the resources that were stolen from these countries which laid the foundation for the industrial revolution in England and for the emergence of capitalism.

 

The ideology of neo-liberalism is that of the most extreme right-wing elements of the capitalist class. They represent a throw-back to the bad old days when the new class of capitalists were putting down uprisings in England where the new oppressed class which Karl Marx called the proletariat was fighting for rights to form trade unions and because of this fact many workers were sentenced to serve time (hard labour) in Australia and New Zealand which were then known as penal colonies.

 

The objective of the neo-liberals is to take control of state power and to use that power to control natural and human resources and also destroy the political and economic rights which the working class was able to win for itself from the beginning of the nineteenth century. The neo-liberals believe that it is only the wealthy in society who should have rights.  They also believe that working people should not have the right to form organisations such as trade unions.

 

Their concept of freedom and democracy is no different from what existed in the dark ages when women did not have the right to vote. It is no different from what existed here before 1946 when the former slaves and persons who did not own property in a certain amount, did not have the right to vote.  If the neo-liberal philosophy is to be taken to its logical conclusion, it is surely going lead to social upheaval and civil wars.

 

 The fact of the matter is that the centre can no longer hold. A process of collapse has already started. Steps would be taken to stop the collapse but that would only delay the inevitable. Steps that have been taken recently by western capitalist powers to change religious and cultural practices in the Middle East in order to replace them with capitalist religious and cultural practices and values are not going to work. The people are recognizing all their bogus schemes.

 

Although the method of approach has changed somewhat from the days of Alexander the Great, the invasion of Iraq, and the intervention into Afghanistan point to the fact that the objective is the same. The capitalist is seeking to open up new frontiers in order to prolong the life of the system but times have changed. Not even the exporting of capital to the U.S.A. by Chinese millionaires; the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime or the Assad regime in Syria or the declaration of war on Iran will help to prolong the life of the capitalist system at this current stage of its decay. 

Austerity measures which are designed to steal from the working class to save the financial institutions which are owned and controlled by the wealthy 10 million (.14286%) of the world's population will not save the system.

 

Let us examine some of the other strategies used by the neo-liberals in their efforts to prolong the life of the capitalist system. There are the micro and macro economic and political strategies. At the industrial level the strategy is aimed at removing the trade unions from the negotiation process as representatives of the workers in the labour market. In order to achieve this, greater emphasis is placed on contract labour which provides the opportunity to engage the services of the worker on an individual basis.

 

Upon engaging the services of a worker, that worker has to decide whether he will sell his labour power by entering into an individual contract with the employer.  In the current industrial relations climate the worker usually enters into these kinds of contracts. Additionally, in order to cut cost the employers have also introduced into job specification - multitasking; this means that a worker must be skilled at many job functions but for the same pay. 

 

Privatization/divestment is one of the political tools currently in use to steal financial resources from the working people to give to the wealthy because of conditionalities the government must adhere to as part of loan agreements which stipulate these conditionalities.  A good example of this is the divestment of First Citizens Bank; plans to privatise the Water and Sewerage Authority; National Gas Company Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance, PLIPDECO and so on.

 




ANR Robinson
What most people do not remember is that it was the National Alliance for Reconstruction, led by the late A.N.R. Robinson, who outlined in a letter to the then head of the International Monetary Fund (the I.M.F.) the structural adjustment conditionalities he was prepared to impose on this country. The PP government which is now infested with former NAR politicians is clearly bent on finishing the job which Robinson started.

 

The question which is now being asked is why in the face of the economic crisis facing the industrialized capitalist world is a government which talked about representing the interests of all the people seem bent on representing the interest of the wealthy few?  That is why we must get the meaning of these developments right.

 

The truth is that it is the hand of the international financial institutions which is on the steering wheel of this country and this has been so for quite some time now. There has always been a team of I.M.F. officials in this country, whose responsibilities are to manage the implementation of the conditionalities within the parameters of the prevailing political environment.

 

It now appears as though the prognosis is that the current political climate is conducive to the completion of the task of implementing the remaining conditionalities. And this is because the trade union movement is no longer regarded as a threat in that regard.

 

This brings me to the point where we must also get the meaning of the role of the trade union movement right. The role of the trade union movement is not to be a partner in the crime of the exploitation of the working class. It has a political role to play, not as a political party, but as a watch dog over all aspects of the political and economic interests of the working class.

 

It is a defender of the rights of workers. Its leaders must see themselves not only as fighters on behalf of the workers, but also the ones who will teach the workers how to fight. President Generals do not win struggles for workers; on the contrary, it is the workers who always win or lose struggles; because they were well trained or because of the absence of proper training and planning before the battle. That is why we must (right the meaning) get the meaning right.

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