Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

Masking the Blame

Political enemies of President Trump were triumphant when he was forced to wear a mask. He had failed to wear a mask in the misguided belief that by downplaying the coronavirus it would go away. He thought he could change reality by believing in something different. Such is the problem afflicting narcissists. The same delusion was found in the political rants of the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, who then went on to catch the virus. The virus has no political allegiance as it is sweeping through the whole continent of America. 136,000 dead in the US where many believe prayer is the cure.

The same fortune has befallen another popularist politician, Boris Johnson. He hides behind "British exceptionalism". He believes he is great politician, following in the footsteps of his hero Winston Churchill. His administration has been rightly accused of incompetence and contributing to the deaths of thousands of people in care homes. His administration is now busy trying to blame everyone else except themselves: nurses, care workers, doctors and scientists.

Johnson too is now wearing a mask. He wants workers to go out to spend money. He wants workers to use public transport, restaurants and pubs as though this will kick start the capitalist economy. He is wrong. Blaming consumers for capitalism's woes may appeal to the ignorant but it is wrong.

The policy of getting the workers back into employment without a vaccine will most probably increase the virus and cause more deaths. But what option does any capitalist politician have? They administer capitalism where profit considerations dominate everything else.

It was Marx, in a letter he wrote in 1868 to Engels, who wrote:

Every child knows a nation which ceased to work, I will not say for a year, but even for a few weeks, would perish. Every child knows, too, that the masses of products corresponding to the different needs required different and quantitatively determined masses of the total labour of society. That this necessity of the distribution of social labour in definite proportions cannot possibly be done away with by a particular form of social production but can only change the mode of its appearance , is self-evident. No natural laws can be done away with. What can change in historically different circumstances is only the form in which these laws assert themselves. And the form in which this proportional distribution of labour asserts itself, in the state of society where the interconnection of social labour is manifested in the private exchange of the individual products of labor, is precisely the exchange value of these products.

Under capitalism, only labour creates value. However value is not created by people who control its production and use. Under capitalism, the ownership of the means of producing value is in the hands of a minority while the vast majority owns nothing except their ability to sell their labour power. Under capitalism, value is appropriated by capitalists as a surplus over and above the value need to keep workforce alive and functioning. The power over investment, incomes and employment is with capital, not labour. That surplus value - unearned income - is then divided among the industrial capitalist as profit, the finance capitalists as interest and the landlords as rent.

Capitalism is not driven by consumption despite what is written in economic text books. The politicians have it all back to front. Capitalism is driven by investment for profit. Profit-making is the name of the game. And if there is little chance of making a profit, capitalists will not invest. And capitalists not investing means workers will not be employed and so will not have the wages and salaries to spend on consumer goods.

Politicians are not to blame for how capitalism behaves and the trade cycles it goes through. This is capitalism behaving normally even if it leads to periodic economic crises and high levels of unemployment.

How would Starmer, Corbyn, Biden or any other opposition politician behave if they were in power? All the policies in their economics tool box are erroneous. They have been used before and failed: free market capitalism, monetarism, Keynesianism and state capitalism. All have failed to do anything about the consequences of commodity production and exchange for profit.

However, by blaming politician for not wearing masks only masks the root cause of the problem for the working class and its solution. And that is the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by socialism. If we are forced to wear masks, have inscribed on their face: "abolition of the wages system.

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