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labor | political theory

Steve Miller, Bono and Angela Merkel—What An Act

As US capitalists intensify their offensive, the global club to which they belong meets in Davos with poster boy Bono offering them a cover.
Richard Mellor
AFSCME Local 444, Retired
1-26-06

Delphi, North America's biggest auto parts maker is expected to ask a bankruptcy judge today to, as the Financial Times puts it, "tear up labor contracts with its 33,000 US blue collar workers".

Those workers fooled by the United We Stand mantra that dominated the media immediately after 911 should draw conclusions from this. The auto bosses, restrained by a negotiated contract, will, as they did in the airline industry, use the judicial arm of the state to free them from this restraint. In the event of non-compliance by the victims of this robbery, 33,000 US workers, that other arm of the sate, the police will be called upon to enforce their wishes. It is important for us to stand united. It is more important to understand who we are united with and about what.

Delphi bosses will not impose new labor contracts for at least two to three months reports the Times. Like the destruction that follows missile strikes on civilian populations and in the terminology of Rumsfeld and co., this first blow is aimed at "softening up" the enemy. "You need to create the environment for consensual agreements. That means continuing with talks," says one of Delphi's mouthpieces. He adds, "Everybody understands that labor is going to be restructured." This is military strategy at work on the job and at home-----soften 'em up and then talk. Delphi management has some reliable allies in the UAW, one of the unions that represent Delphi workers. "The fact that Mr. Miller is not negotiating publicly is a positive." UAW President Ron Gettelfinger tells the media. Dick Shoemaker who heads UAW negotiations with GM is ecstatic, " The tone so far has been constructive and we hope that continues to, be true." How can anyone even consider tone when jobs, pensions and wages are on the chopping block? The employers feel very confident with such allies, Bankers, politicians, the courts and the Union leaders, whose jobs, pensions or obscene salaries will escape the same fate.

The front man for this offensive of the capitalist class on American auto workers, Steve Miller, said last October that Delphi's labor contracts were "unaffordable and must be changed". Miller doesn't mean that society cannot afford these contracts. He is not claiming that the wealth generations of workers have created in this country in the factories, workplaces and plantations where wages were not paid for a few hundred years, is not enough to provide us with a secure life and a secure future for our children. What Miller means is that the capitalist class can't afford them. The increased offensive of big business is a crisis of capitalism. Global competition, overcapacity due to the tremendous productive power of industry, and the private ownership of these productive forces; these are the cause of the crisis. The fact that we live in a world economy that is politically divided in to nation states is a contradiction that is inherent in a capitalist world and cannot be resolved. Since the collapse of the Stalinist dictatorship in the Soviet Union this contradiction, the competition between nation states for control of markets has intensified.

The Delphi bosses cannot afford the labor contracts because it will cut in to their wages, profits. After all, labor is cheaper elsewhere. In their other economic activity they are doing rather well and, like us, don't want to take cuts. I am talking about investment banks. In New York City alone, investment banks paid their employees a record $21.5 billion (yes billion!) in bonuses last year, a 15.5% increase from the previous year. Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers reported record profits in December. These profits are directly tied to the destruction of workers' living standards in the various unionized industries and the poverty wages that are paid the unorganized. Then there is the massive exploitation in the third world. The Financial Times reports that "a partner level managing director at Goldman Sachs would be paid a salary of $600,000 and would then be given a mixture of stock and cash that could easily be seven figures and possibly eight." This is blood money.

As the war on workers around the world continues at a fast pace the thugs in charge have to meet to coordinate this offensive. This week they are in Davos Switzerland. They meet there to plan their offensive against the world's workers amid attempts to overcome their own rapacious need for profit- taking that forces them to devour each other at times. Angela Merkel, the new German chancellor calls for "international rules to frame global competition". Meeting in Davos are the representatives of the capitalist classes of different nations. German capitalism is represented, British, US, and the emerging giants, China and India. They are united in one thing and one thing only, the exploitation of labor; maximizing profits at the expense of the workers of the world. But each capitalist class can only rely on the nation state to defend its interest in the last analysis; hence the competition and distrust. They recognize this and have learned from history. They remember the 1929 depression and Smoot Hawley, the devastating protectionist measure that exacerbated it and led to world war. But the forces of production have become too great, too productive; they have outgrown the nation state that once nurtured them and even the world market in which they find themselves has reached its limits.

Merkel's attempt to form some sort of world body to regulate the plunder and keep a semblance of unity between the plunderers is an attempt to overcome this contradiction------ the existence of nation states within a global economy. It is an attempt by the strategists of capital to plan their system in some way, but this is not possible except in the short-term. It is impossible where social production is privately owned and set in to motion on the basis of profit and not social needs. Merkel's suggestions are not new. But the nation state has not gone away and the various capitalist classes of the competing nations are very defensive of their sovereign rights. The idea of some sort of plan or regulation also prickles the hairs on the backs of the banker's necks. "This is not a socialistic approach with central planning", Merkel assures her partners in crime, "But there needs to new be a new interaction of the various players". Merkel calls her plan 'responsible liberty", liberty being the freedom for unbridled capitalism to rule the world, each national component in harmony with each other. She is advocating sharing the spoils but Bush and co. have other plans.

The emergence of China and India is increasing this desire for a world body that regulates production and trade; the established bourgeois democracies are nervous. China has just surpassed the UK and France and is the world's fourth largest economy behind the US, Japan and Germany. The encroachment of China on Latin American soil is threatening US capitalism in its own back yard and doesn't go unnoticed.

All scenarios have comedic moments and surely the presence at the Davos gathering of their court jester, Bono, must have warmed the banker's hearts. One of the key front men for global capitalism, Bono has joined forces with the likes of American Express and Converse to sell new products under a different brand name, "Red". The traditional brands have become so loathed by millions of people around the world, particularly in the former colonial countries where low waged workers under horrendous conditions make their products. But with a new name and Bono as a partner, they can charter new waters.

There will even be a "Red" credit card that will please the moneylenders. "Red is a 21st century idea" says Bono, who owns the brand, "I think doing the Red thing, doing good, will turn out to be good business for them." The new business will donate "some" of its revenues to fight Aids in Africa becoming part of the "Global Fund" a private public entity that has donated $4.5 billion for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria since it was created in 2002 according to the Financial Times. Perhaps Bono will write a song about his friends' generosity, giving $1.5 billion a year to the continent of Africa. Wow! That's one fourteenth of the amount investment banks paid their New York employees in bonuses last year.

Keep up the good work, Bono. Bye the way, try reading Engel's book, Socialism Utopian and Scientific.

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It's about what I would expect from Bono 27.Jan.2006 07:58

Antinomias Vermont

Bono is one hypocritical piece of shit. Several years ago, when U2 toured and came to Eugene, the promoter hired a non-union stage crew, and were paying them minimum wage, unless of course, the workers were "interns"; i.e., slaves, and were working for nothing. Bono and company (and Rage Against the Machine, BTW), had no problem with crossing a picket line to perform.

HUH? 28.Jan.2006 22:00

rATso

so were the union stagehands on strike? What chapter? Why were they on strike? Did U2 really know the facts? Did Rage A.T.Machine know the facts? Can you back up any of this? I might buy this about Bono, but accusing RAGE of crossing a picket line is a serious charge, deserving some certifiable background. I await your completed report. (I'm shocked that a small town like Eugene even has a stagehands union. Must be a lot of big shows there to keep a union chapter alive)