Freedom for Whom?
Since the 1970s there has been a proliferation of free market institutes paid for by the likes of the billionaire Koch brothers. In 1973, businessman Joseph Coors contributed $250,000 to establish The Heritage Foundation. In the US, free market think tanks have spread like the plague. The Free Market Institute started at Texas Tech in 2013, is backed by more than $11 million in funding from entities and individuals in the Koch network. Free market think tanks are generally set up as private, tax-exempt, research and advocacy institutes, and are largely funded by foundations and corporations.
And these free market institutes are economically powerful. The Heritage Foundation has a budget of over $25 million per year of which almost 90% comes from more than 6000 private donors. These donors include corporations such as automobile manufacturers, coal, oil, chemical, and tobacco companies.
In Australia the most powerful free market institute is the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). Almost one third of IPA's $1.5 million annual budget comes from mining and manufacturing companies. The IPA produces articles challenging the global warming scientific consensus.
In the United States many of the free market institutes, like the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, also cast doubt on the science of climate change, undermining scientific research or denying the environmental problem exists at all. They care little for science and scientific investigation. These institutes boast "scholars" and "fellows" to give themselves an air of academic respectability but there function is to defend capitalism against its critics or against those they perceive as a threat to the market and the interest of capitalists.
In desperation at having large sectors of the capitalist economy shut down, some capitalists have funded a front organisation of 'scientists' who then signed the 'Great Barrington Declaration' calling for lockdowns to be abandoned. Many of the signatories did not even exist. The petition was championed by THE SPECTATOR, proprietor, the Barclay Brothers. Sky News had to admit that many of the 'medical' signatories of the open letter were homeopaths, therapists or used obviously fake names such as 'Dr Johnny Banana' , 'Dr Person Fakename' and 'Dr Johnny Fartpants' (GUARDIAN 19 October 2020).
The eight-paragraphs of 'The Great Barrington Declaration' cited no scientific data and did not seriously attempt to argue its case. It is, rather, a series of assertions constructed retroactively from the demand by US corporations to abandon public health measures to contain the pandemic. It was embraced in Britain as an attempt "to open up the economy" and let the capitalist class make a profit again not just Jeff Bezos (net worth US$185.6 billion).
The Declaration was sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), a "libertarian" free market think tank. In 2019 it received a $68,100 donation from the Charles Koch Foundation who underwrites several other free market think tanks.
In intellectual falsehood and ignorance, the ideas and beliefs of the free market institutes are similar to the Christian Evangelicals who deny Darwinianism and the Holocaust deniers who deny that the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis in World War Two ever took place. However, unlike the Christian Evangelicals and fascists, the free market institutes are primarily driven by considerations of profit and commercial interest. As the sociologist Keith Khan-Harris wrote:
"Global warming denialism have not managed to overturn the general scientific consensus that global warming is caused by human activity. But what they have managed to do is provide support for those opposed to taking radical action to address this urgent problem" (â€˜DENIAL; THE UNSPEAKABLE TRUTHâ€™2018 p 4-5).
In the UK, free market institutes have been used by 'Brexiteers' as propaganda platforms to provide arguments to leave the European Union or to establish "free ports" along the lines of Singapore. The Singapore Freeport is a high-security storage and display facility with a majority stake held by Natural Le Coultre S.A. of art dealer and shipper Yves Bouvier. The facility opened in May 2010 in a duty-free zone near Singapore's Changi Airport and is modelled after similar institutions in Geneva and Luxembourg. In 2016 Rishi Sunak wrote a report "The free Ports Opportunity" for the free market Centre for Policy Studies. Four years later the Johnson government implemented his proposals by allowing towns and cities to tender for free ports in the UK on the grounds that the tax relief they will enjoy will help drive jobs, growth and innovation by having simplified customs procedures and duty suspensions on goods.
Clients to free market institutes are usually commercial outlets like the tobacco industry where smoking cigarettes association with cancer is well known. More than 100 free-market think tanks from North America to Europe and south Asia took positions helpful to the tobacco industry or accepted donations in their struggle against government regulations (GUARDIAN 23 January 2019).
The most notable free market institutes in Britain are the Adam Smith Institute founded in the 1970s and the Institute of Economic Affairs founded in 1955. Lesser known is the 'Tax Payer's Alliance', the 'Legatum Institute' and the Tory controlled 'Centre for Policy Studies'. They pretend they are value-free academic outfits with 'research fellows', but they are just propaganda machines defending private property The IEA spent decades undermining climate science (GUARDIAN 10 October 2019).
In their efforts to influence and become part of the policy-making process, free market institutes have more in common with pressure groups than with university researchers giving objective information free from bias and commercial influence. Nevertheless employees of free market think tanks are given free access to state their biased position across the media, often without the listener knowing who they are or what commercial interest they are representing. They are giving greater weight in their opinion than any other ordinary member of the public.
And they are highly incestuous; the same names appear again and again across these institutes and they are used as convenient spring boards for political careers and progress up the greasy political pole from researcher, MP to Cabinet Minister. The Westminster address, 55 Tufton Street, is home to numerous think tanks and lobbying outfits. Among them until 2015, the pro-Brexit groups, Business for Britain, and the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which denies the overwhelming scientific consensus about human activity primarily being the cause of climate change? The IEA boasts links to several members of Boris Johnsonâ€™s cabinet (GUARDIAN 10 October 2016).
In the US it is known who funds the free market institutes. These institutes are capitalism's paid street walkers. The same is not true in the UK. Who funds them? Who funds think tanks such as the Institute of Economic Affairs? It is dark money. Their charitable status means they don't have to declare their individual funding sources. It is one of life's mysteries that defending capitalism has a charitable status!
As the deaths from the pandemic increased to over 230,000 the US electorate voted in record numbers for Joe Biden as President of the United States of America. Did Biden win the election? Socialists disagree.
So who won the election? If it wasn't Biden, who was it?
The winner was capitalism. It was the profit system. The election means capitalism for another four years. Wall Street was pleased. Industrialists smiled. Landlords looked happy. Bankers, Hedge fund owners and financiers looked relaxed. There is to be four more years of wage slavery for the working class, and four more years of profit, privilege and comfort for the capitalist class.
The capitalist class have nothing to fear from Biden. He will run the United States in the interest of the capitalist class. As do all Presidents. That is their job.
Black Lives won't matter. The poor will remain poor. The working class will still be exploited. And the need for decent housing and health provision will go unmet. Roughly one in 8 Americans is considered "officially poor" (U.S. Bureau of the Census 2019 1-year estimates).
Then there is the poverty associated with housing. According to The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, more than 40 million American families find themselves in a situation where housing consumes more than 30 percent of their income, forcing them to maintain a nearly impossible balance by making hard decisions about food, transportation and health. Do not think Biden will resolve this problem.
And what about 'Black Lives Matter'? What about police violence against blacks often resulting in death? What about the millions of blacks disproportionately imprisoned in the United States? Again nothing will be done. Biden knows that the police, the National Guard and the military exists, foremost, to protect private property. He will do nothing to endanger the prime function of the coercive forces of the government from defending the institution of private property over which he is in charge. The private ownership of the means of production and distribution will be safe in his hands.
Biden will be a prisoner of the profit system. Profit is all that matters.
Will Biden end war? No, he will continue wars and start new ones. He already has form as Vice President under the Obama administration.
The US is engaged in war and conflict across the globe. According the SMITHSONIAN Magazine (January 2019) the U.S. is now operating in 40 percent of the world's nations in its War n Terror. The war isn't being waged by the military alone, which has spent $1.9 trillion fighting terrorism since 2001. The State Department has spent $127 billion in the last 17 years to train police, military and border patrol agents in many countries and to develop antiterrorism education programs, among other activities. This will be continued by President Biden.
There is also the question of capitalist Russia and China. Biden will maintain the tensions between the US and Russia in the Ukraine and against China in the South Seas. Wars reflect the determination of governments to gain or to maintain the mastery of territories where there are rich mineral deposits, vital land, sea or air routes or areas where commodities can be sold or capital invested. As commander in chief, President Biden will pursue the interests of the United States across the globe even if it means conflict and war; death and destruction.
What of the environment? What about the much touted 'Green New Deal'? It will be watered down by conflicting interests within the capitalist class. It will go the way of Truman's New Deal: and become a failure. You cannot reform capitalism in the interest of the working class. The environmentalists will be disappointed just as they will be on the politics of climate change.
Most countries play lip service to the reforms pursued by the United Nations and will not introduce legislation which will harm their capitalist interests if it does not equally affect the capitalist interests of other countries. The United States is no different. We will see President Biden being photographed with Greta Thunberg. But then she will find that it was just a publicity stunt. Publicity stunts cost nothing. To resolve the serious environmental problems affecting the world requires the abolition of capitalism and its replacement with socialism.
What about the capitalist left who Trump says will own Biden? They are irrelevant. They will be ignored. Biden will appoint hard-nosed administrators to run his capitalist policies. How quickly will the capitalist left become disappointed with Biden? Very quickly: within months.
Then there is the capitalist economy. Biden will be powerless to prevent economic crises and trade depressions. He will be unable to prevent the bankruptcies and the high level of unemployment. He will be powerless to do anything to arrest the economic laws of capitalism.
Capitalism has won for another four years. It needn't be the case four years from now. Workers should understand that capitalism can never be run in their interest. They will always be disappointed by political leaders. They should not elect political leaders in the first place.
Workers have to understand that the problems of poverty, violence by the state, poor housing, class exploitation and inadequate health provision and war all flow from capitalism and the profit system. It flows because the means to life, resources, land, factories, transport and communication system, distribution points and what is produced in the form of commodities for sale are all owned by the capitalist class to the exclusion of the rest of society.
Production under capitalism only takes place if a profit is to be made. This means that most of us, the working class, have to eke out an existence on a wage and salary. There is only one privileged class in society and that is the capitalist class; white, black, Hispanic, male, female, Jewish, atheist and Christian fundamentalist.
Biden or Trump was no alternative. The Republicans and Democrats are on the same side when it comes to defending the profit system. For the working class there was no fundamental difference between Trump and Biden. Biden won and he will now run capitalism just as Trump would have done. It may not be as crude, racist and authoritarian as Trump, but Biden will run the same system. There will be no basic change to the capital-labour relationship. Workers will still be forced into employment and the wages system. There will be no revolution. Workers will continue to be exploited. And if workers are not profitable to employ then they will be made unemployed with all the social discomfort this brings with it; break up of families, ill-health, drug abuse, petty theft, homelessness and stress. They will still be required to fight in capitalism's wars.
So what would an alternative for the working class look like? It would be a socialist alternative made up of the conscious and political action of a socialist majority towards a socialist object. This socialist movement would have to take place in a principled socialist party with socialism and only socialism as its object. And socialists would have to send socialist delegates to form a majority to the institutions of political power in order to replace capitalism with socialism. That is, to replace the profit system with the common ownership and democratic control over the means of production and distribution by all of society. That is the socialist alternative to capitalism and the socialist alternative to Biden and Trump.
Object and Declaration of Principles
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
Declaration of Principles
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN HOLDS:
1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.
5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.