Where we stand‎ > ‎News & Comment‎ > ‎

WELFARE STATE UNDER ATTACK By Ken Howell

posted 7 Aug 2018, 04:12 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 Aug 2018, 04:34 ]
It is interesting how the former colonial masters were able to manage the transition from them having to ensure that the natives knew they were directly in control of state power, to one where they maintained that power through elements who believed that they had the power.

That is the nature of the relation between the former colonial masters and the former colonies, which remain enclaves of capitalism, in the era of neo-liberalism.

Those who believed that PNM nationalism was the ideology which provided the foundation on which this country would be built are no doubt having second thoughts, because, nationalism is but one of the disguises which the advocates of capitalist ideas wear.

When we were granted independence in 1962, the Constitution which accompanied that event was the contract which our leaders signed promising to manage the colonial capitalist enclave in the same manner as their colonial masters.

That is what successive governments have been doing. Were it not for the revolt of 1970, the Welfare State, which is due to be dismantled, through the use of an aggressive divestment programme will become the vehicle through which the citizens will be lured into believing that they still have a stake in enterprises which the State is currently holding in trust on behalf of the people.

The NAR under the leadership of now deceased ANR Robinson had proposed such a scheme in 1989. The National Investment Fund (NIF) represents a fig leaf behind which the deception of the PNM will be perpetrated. That is how Dr. Rowley intends to sell the structural adjustment policies which he is about to implement.

We can expect to hear spokesmen for the neo-liberal institutions lurking in political parties in and out of government, in the Chambers of Commerce and in some of the trade unions, the University as well as NGOs singing the praises of the government.

Even when some may appear to be critical of the government or its functionaries, they aren’t opposed to the policies, but instead with the slow pace at which it is proceeding. What is common to all the political parties, is that they all support structural adjustment.

CL Financial has become the template for the privatization of State Enterprises. Obviously, the response will be that it is a private enterprise which the Government was forced to bail out. Because it is indebted to the state, government, in addition to the legal steps which it was forced to take to recover the debt, now has in place a mechanism through which citizens can continue to own the enterprise.

Obviously, the process will be phased-in, over a period of time. In order to test the extent to which the population is sufficiently indoctrinated into the belief that the replacement of the welfare state by extreme capitalism (neo-liberalism) is the goal to which they should aspire. For the scam to work, leaders of interest groups such as the trade unions must be supportive of the perpetrators wittingly or unwittingly.

The enactment of legislation in the colonies and even after independence always followed events which threatened the established order, or as the lawyers would say to correct some mischief. That was the case in the 1960s, when the ISA became law.

But there was also the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to which many countries, including England, the former colonial master and many former colonies like 
Related imageTrinidad and Tobago, were members after World War 11. But why the ILO?

The ILO came into prominence as an international instrument which has been proven to be extremely useful for the protection and advancement of the rights of workers and also to bring into the work environment, new rights and benefits for workers of the world. But more than that was that the balance of forces in the geo-political arena was conditioned by the devastation caused by World War II and the strength of the workers movement.

The movement was strong, because it had an entity at the helm, which controlled state power. It was in these circumstances that the ILO came into existence.

It represented the compromise which world capitalism had agreed to enter into. The ILO represents a middle road, or what is sometimes described as creating conducive conditions for “the Lion and the Lamb” to lie down together. Of course, such conditions are impossible to create because labour/capital relations are inherently antagonistic. Since then, the balance of forces has changed in the geo-political arena.

These changes began to appear, in the 1980s when the price of oil collapsed. The capitalist world saw the opportunity to launch an offensive against the unions in order to affect, negatively, the benefits which the Unions were able to win for their members.

Image result for trickle downSome of us may recall the leading role which President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher played crafting and executing the attack against the Unions in the USA and England and also setting the tone for the government and employers of this country to attack the terms and conditions which workers enjoyed.

As you will recall the leaders of the unions had the good sense to come together, in unity and solidarity, to beat back that attack by calling a national strike in 1989. But as fate would have it, the world is facing another economic crisis marked by instability in the commodities sector, the collapse of the international finance system and the looming prospect of all out trade war.

These developments have created the conditions not only for the government and private sector employers to reduce recurrent expenditure through the creation of redundancies, but also to tamper with the fig leaf covers provided by some sections of the IRA.

What our trade union leaders must begin to understand is that political initiatives taken in the international arena will and have always impacted the behaviour of the ruling elites and the governments of the region and by extension the working class.

We are currently feeling the impact in our pockets, in the work place through job losses and the increases in the price of food and transportation.

So what better time for the government and employers to seek to make changes to the laws governing industrial relations, while ignoring the numerous proposals submitted by several Committees formed to make recommendations for the amendment of certain sections of the IRA?

Make no mistake, the attack on the trade unions and by extension the working class will be multi-pronged. To implement structural adjustment policies several legislative changes must be made.

In fact, without the union leaders realising it some or most of these changes have already occurred. The recent assault which the Royal Bank of Canada launched with the willing assistance of the High Court on the practice of unions organising workers for legal recognition is but the latest in a new set of attacks which the Trades Union Movement must be prepared to counter.

Therefore, the advocates of structural adjustment policies, which are the tools of neo- liberalism, have been favourably positioned in institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to persuade targeted countries to comply with already prescribed and packaged policies. It said that they can be very influential and have the wherewithal to ensure that their points of view prevail.

The only obstacle to their success is usually a well informed and organised united working class led by a trade union movement whose leaders are committed to the cause of labour. The time may appear to be short but it is not beyond the ability and competence of our people to cause the forces of neo-liberalism to retreat from that place where it is now poised to attack.

In so doing, we will be able, once again, to save the Welfare State as we prepare the people for the dawn of a Workers State.
Comments