Thursday, September 14, 2023

A 'Ratner' moment


An Australian capitalist has brought a ‘Ratner’ moment upon himself.

Gerald Ratner was a jewellers CEO who, in 1991, cost his company five hundred million pounds when the Group’s value plummeted following his public remarks that items sold by the Group were cheap because they were crap.

Whilst everyone loves a bargain it seems people don’t like being told that many can only afford the tacky and shoddy which it what capitalists are more than happy to provide and profit from.

This new ‘Ratner’, goes by the name of Tim Gurney. He would appear to want to turn the clock back sufficiently that the most tooth and claw of early naked capitalism values could be reintroduced. He is, without doubt, a (insert expletive of your choice here). We are far too polite to say what we think. Of course there are (your words) amongst the minority asset-owning class, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the contempt which many of them have for the exploited majority property-less class who provide their wealth. More importantly, it’s the system which needs to be attacked, scrutinised, and explained so that it may be abolished and replaced.

Anyhoo, he’s said he’s sorrreeeee so that’s okay then.

Gurney said, ‘We need to see pain in the economy...(Australia’s) current unemployment rate of 3.7% should rise by 40-50% to reduce "arrogance in the employment market’. Further, ‘There's been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them...We need to remind people they work for the employer, not the other way around.’

That would see more than 200,000 people lose their jobs. Perhaps Gurney fancies himself as a political economist and would like to conduct an experiment to see what effect and how quickly, an immediate large influx of an industrial reserve army into the labour market would have?

The position may be summed up as follows. As under present conditions, all commodities are produced for profit, production must cease with the cessation of profit. As profit and wages between them constitute and have their only source in the value created by the worker, profit can only appear while wages are prevented from consuming the whole product of labour. As wages, the price of labour power, are regulated by the relation of supply and demand, a surplus of labour-power (the unemployed), is necessary to prevent wages swallowing up all profit. Therefore the unemployed army is a vital necessity to Capitalist production, and there can be no solution under Capitalism’.

(From the Socialist Standard, December, 1908.)

An Australian Liberal MP Keith Wolahan said, 'The loss of a job is not a number. It sees people on the streets and dependent upon food banks’.

Now there’s someone who recognises that under capitalism the vast majority have no choice other than to sell their physical/mental labour power in order to live. Unfortunately, despite his comments he probably doesn't campaign for the abolition of capitalism.

Some would seem to agree with Gurner -Minerals Council of Australia chairman Andrew Michelmore is quoted as saying,’Employees have got used to earning the same amount of money but not putting in the same hours’. Can you credit those greedy workers? Wanting something for nothing.

Tim Gurner btw is the chief executive and founder of Gurner Group and has an estimated worth of A$929 million (£479m; $598m).’ Practically on the breadline then.

He has previously spoken about how loans from his grandfather and former boss helped him get his start as a business owner.

Mr Gurner also previously made controversial comments criticising young home buyers for their spending habits, saying in 2017 that when he was saving for his first home, he "wasn't buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each"'.

A caustic article in The Guardian takes aim at the individual not the system.

Of interest in the article is the plaintive cry offered up that Australian workers ‘have never been so productive’ and ‘yet they are not being rewarded for it.’

Australian capitalists are apparently ‘taking more in profit than they give back in wages.’

Lots of capitalists no doubt would like to shift the balance even more in favour of themselves and their ability to extract surplus value from workers.

The September 2023 Socialist Standard quoted a private equity chairman who, using much less intemperate language, was arguing for deregulation of labour laws.

In a Bloomberg podcast, on 19 May, with Guy Hands, the billionaire chairman of a large private equity company, said, ‘I look at the UK and see that, in 2030, Poland will be wealthier than we are. In 2040, we will be the poor man in Europe’.

He opines, ‘the UK should not have left the EU, as the country needs rule of law and consistency, but not a single politician is talking about going back.’ He lamented that ‘Brexit has essentially thrown the country back 50 years, to the 1970s, a decade that is widely remembered as a time of crisis, with skyrocketing inflation, high unemployment, strikes and power cuts.’

Since the UK left the European Union, it has been competing on the world stage, but the country’s current laws are not suitable for the new environment.’

Now that the UK is out of the EU, the British government could take a radical approach and change some of its laws, Hands said, citing the country’s ‘extraordinarily complex’ labour laws that are a ‘nightmare’ compared to other European countries’.

In 1973, then Prime Minister Edward Heath, in relation to the Lonrho affair, came up with the phrase, ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism,’.

Those who benefit the most from it are still displaying the unalterable fact that capitalism will never have an acceptable face despite the considerable efforts that go into persuading the majority that there is no better alternative. Shame on you, or shame on me?

Smoothing it Over

‘Heath tried to salvage something from the Lonrho affair, which showed up another aspect of privilege, by making his instantly famous remark about the "unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism.” There are no reports of him choking on the words. The shareholders displayed their feelings by packing the company’s special general meeting and enthusiastically supporting the management policies, big handouts, tax avoidance and all, simply because they had produced big dividends. That is the normal face of capitalism, much more logical than Heath’s pathetic attempt to humbug his way out of the matter. The Tory leader, like any other politician, can accept any face of capitalism without a thought for the savagery of its exploitation. Beside that, there are no grounds for objecting to some company directors fiddling a few hundred thousand on the side’.

Socialist Standard August 1973

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