Pinochet, Hillary Clinton, and Theresa May’s Proposal for Worker Directors

I found this very interesting paragraph in a piece by Michael Hudson ‘Obama Said Hillary Will Continue His Legacy. And She Will!’ in this weekend’s collection of Counterpunch articles:

Obama’s brilliant demagogy left many eyes glazed over in admiration. Nobody is better at false sincerity while misrepresenting reality so shamelessly. Probably few caught the threatening hint he dropped about Hillary’s plan for corporations to share their profits with their workers. This sounds to me like the Pinochet plan to privatize Social Security by turning it into exploitative ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Programs). The idea is that wage withholding would be steered to buy into the company’s stock – bidding it up in the process. Employees then would end up holding an empty bag, as occurred recently with the Chicago Tribune. That seems to be the great “reform” to “save” Social Security that her Wall Street patrons are thinking up.

Hudson’s article is a sustained demolition of the liberal image Shrillary and the rest of the establishment Democrat Party have promoted. She is not remotely on the side of the increasingly impoverished Middle and working classes, but a neoliberal corporatist concerned with promoting the profits of her donors in Wall Street and Big Business at the expense of ordinary Americans. She stands for more austerity, further cuts to education and welfare programmes, including Medicare, and the TTP and TTIP free trade agreements, that threaten to outsource more American jobs.

She’s also an extremely militaristic hawk, who has supported a series of bloody interventions from Iraq, Libya, and Syria to Honduras. She promises a further escalation of American military action around the globe. To divert attention from the corrupt machinations in her favour by the Democrat party machine, headed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she has attacked Putin for supposedly hacking into the Democrat’s computer, which held details of these underhand deals. She’s also using Trump’s friendship with the Russian leader to attack him, in which Hudson sees as a return to the Red-baiting antics of the McCarthy era. He describes how she has appealed to Republic voters against those of Bernie Sanders and the progressive Left. And how Bernie Sanders has also ill-served his own supporters by endorsing her, despite the fact that she stands for everything he opposes.

Hudson also makes the wider point that many, if not most of the policy positions Hillary adopts are exactly the same as Obama. Obama was no radical: he described himself as a ‘moderate Republican’. The only radical feature about him was his ethnicity. He was Black, and this constituted a liberal point in his favour, just as Shrillary’s biological femininity is a point in hers. But Hudson makes the point that Shrillary’s biological gender is irrelevant to her politics. She does not embody the traditional female characteristics of empathy, but a very masculine aggressive militarism, in which she is ‘one of the boys’ with the other army hawks.

See http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/29/obama-said-hillary-will-continue-his-legacy-and-indeed-she-will/

There is much here that parallels the political situation over here in Blighty. Owen Smith and the Blairites in Labour are also neoliberals, standing for austerity, welfare cuts, aggressive militarism and pursuing the aims and enrichment of the super-rich at the expense of the poor. It’s not even remotely surprising, as Blair modelled his New Labour project on Bill Clinton’s New Democrats. And both parties based their electoral strategy on trying to win over Conservative voters through the adoption of corporatist, anti-working class policies.

But the piece also indicated very strong parallels with Theresa May’s Conservatives. They’re even more corporatist than New Labour, but May announced when she entered No 10 that she was in favour of workers on companies’ boards of directors. This is a radical socialist policy. It’s one so radical, that leftwing Labour MPs like Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone were ruthlessly pilloried for endorsing it in the 1970s and 1980s. Now May, an arch capitalist, says she’s in favour of it.

She clearly isn’t, at least as far as it is conventionally considered. It may well be, as I’ve said before, just rhetoric, a piece of left-wing guff to make her sound more progressive than she actually is. David Cameron, her predecessor, did the same before he became prime minister. He and Ian Duncan Smith opposed New Labour’s welfare cuts, including the privatisation of the NHS, and made noises about supporting Green policies. Cameron’s political mentor, Anthony Blonde, claimed that neoliberalism had failed, and that the Tory party would support pro-worker policies in his book, Red Tory. He even made approving noises about the great 19th century Russian Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin.

Except that it was all rubbish. Once in power, the Green policies were swiftly jettisoned and fracking and nuclear power wholeheartedly endorsed. Neoliberalism was declared to be the only way forward. And he made deeper cuts under his austerity campaign than Labour, and, if anything, stepped up the privatisation of the NHS.

It looks like May is repeating that strategy: first appear a bit left, then, when your position has been consolidated, get rid of it all and carry on as normal.

But it may be that she does mean something about worker directors. If she does, it won’t be for the welfare of the working class. Hudson states that Hillary’s call for profit-sharing sounds like Pinochet’s attempts to privatise social security through turning it into a employee share scheme. Something like this is also likely over here with May’s worker directors. The Tory party has already tried to promote one scheme, by which workers were able to acquire shares in their company, if they signed away their employment rights. It looks very much to me that May will try something similar under the pretense of introducing industrial democracy. If she ever does anything like that at all in the first place, that is.

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