When Nationalisation Isn’t Enough

When Michael Moore is doing the complaining:

But if they’re not laying people off yet, they’re also not hiring.

During the first half of 2010, GM made $2.2 billion in profit, yet according to The Wall Street Journal, they’ve only added 2,000 jobs in all of North America, taking their workforce from 113,000 to 115,000.

And what’s true for GM is true for the country. The government stepped in with trillions of dollars in cash and guarantees to keep Corporate America from collapsing due to its own stupidity, short-sightedness and greed. And it worked—for Corporate America. You may not have noticed as you were being foreclosed on, but the profitability of the Fortune 500 is almost back to normal. It jumped to $391 billion in 2009, up 335 percent from 2008. And the 500 biggest non-financial corporations are now sitting on $1.8 trillion in cash, more than at any time in the past 50 years. (That’s what the business press always says—that they’re “sitting” on it—although as far as I know this is not literally true.)

It used to be that nationalisation was considered “the deal” on the road to social justice.  Take the profit motive out of the picture, eliminate capitalists exploiting the surplus value of the workers, make the corporation work for the public good–these were the goals of nationalisation.  That was one of the appeals of the Soviet Union–they nationalised everything.  Their counterparts in Western Europe weren’t slackers at it either, if one considers the enterprises formed by the state or nationalised: British Leyland, British Steel, British Rail, Renault, ENI, and so on.

Although it’s against the grain in the US to do anything in a direct, straightforward way, GM (along with Chrysler) was basically nationalised.

Leaving out the simple observation that nationalisation frequently doesn’t work, the basic problem here is that the nationalisers are too much in the back pocket of their well-heeled elite donor base.  It’s a strange form of socialism, but that’s what we’ve got these days.  Even Michael Moore is agitated about it.

But he, along with many others on the left, should have thought about that before they backed change they thought they could believe in.

P.S. Moore’s griping about not creating jobs has some merit, but doesn’t take into consideration the fact that advances in automation and manufacturing always lead to the production of the same amount of goods with fewer workers.  Marx predicted that this, combined with the ability of capitalists to pocket the snowballing surplus value that resulted, would lead to revolution.  The problem people like Moore can’t figure out is why the revolutionaries these days are all flocking to the Tea Party and not to the Communist (or at least the Democrat) one.

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