Consequences of the Lefts focus on 'minority rights'

Sometime earlier in the year, a Dr Les May from Rochdale in a letter to The Observer, wrote: Forty years ago the British Left was concerned with economic and social justice for the mass of ordinary people. Finding this too difficult a task, the Left fell under the spell of the politics of 'gender', 'sexuality' and 'ethnicity'. The payoff for the Left was that it gained the endorsement of the so-called liberal elite. This paved the way first, to having a hearing in the media, and then to power. The great triumph of this alliance has been to convince so many people that making sure a few more women, homosexuals and non-whites get cosy, well paid jobs 'at the top', is a major contribution to producing a more equitable society. It isn't."

When precisely the Left lost the plot is a matter of conjecture. What is undeniable, is that for all the brouhaha about minority rights since, a more equitable society it ain't.

While it is true there have been concessions to the gender/sexual/ethnic lobbies, these advances have been allowed only when any perception of threat to the status quo has been extinguished.

So while their may be gays in the military and in the US a black Secretary of State, (who proved a safe pair of hands, by covering up Mai Lai) anything approaching social or political much less economic equity is long past. Mainstream gains by 'minorities' have not been in addition to a general working class advance on all fronts but - but instead of them.

Accordingly what we are witnessing today are the governing classes bustling about, recovering what was conceded to the spectre of communism in economic reforms in the previous hundred and fifty years. What in stark economic terms this redistribution amounts to is staggering. In America, the land of the free, statistics reveal that "Between 1979 and 2000... the wealthiest one per cent of Americans saw their share of the country's assets double, from a fifth to approaching half." (The Guardian, 13.1.01)

So as their share of the loot is increasing, it is not rocket science to figure out who is losing out.

Now, many on the Left would have you believe that the American working class, as a labour aristocracy par excellence, have been largely immune to the corroding power of capital. "Yet it is a fact that between 1973 and 1998, in spite of a period of economic nirvana for many, the hourly wage of the average worker fell by nine per cent. Adjusted for inflation it remained roughly the same as in 1967." Needless to say, as with the share of the country's general assets, the rise in the hourly rate the American worker might normally have expected, went of course to someone else.

As Jeremy Campbell reported in the London Evening Standard: "While wages went nowhere, economic inequality increased. In 1974 the richest five per cent of American families earned about 15 per cent of the total US income. By the end of the century, that share had risen to 21 per cent." (21.2.01)

But far from being sated, the new President Bush appears determined to increase the yawning disparity even further. 'It's conservative to cut taxes' says Bush, 'it's compassionate to let people keep more of their money.' But who is to 'keep more of their money?'

For a clue, contrast the federal tax system with that of former Governor Bush's Texas. At a federal level, an American family in the bottom fifth income level, pays less than nine per cent in tax; the top one per cent give 37 per cent of their income to the government. In Texas the tax burden actually drops as income rises: the poorest pay 13 per cent tax while the top one per cent pay 5 per cent. Now Bush has declared that he intends to bring the Texas tax model to Washington as, wait for it, a 'priority'.

And again, of the '$1.8 trillion tax cut planned, the top one per cent have been promised a 43 per cent share'. As might be expected, 'reforms to social security' the most drastic since the New Deal in the Thirties, will pay for the windfall.

In Britain too, the gap between the richest and the poorest, already 'the largest since records began' when New Labour came to power, is actually increasing. In 1999 the wealthiest 5 per cent owned 44 per cent of the UK's wealth, compared with 36 per cent in 1981. Between 1979 and 1998 the number of pensioners with less than half the average income doubled, while the total of all kinds of people in the same kind of poverty trebled. "Our child poverty", Observer columnist Neal Ascherson writes, "is the third highest of 25 nations. It is far higher than in Hungary and Spain, outstripped only by Russia and by our free-market paradigm, the United States." The only possible conclusion to be drawn from the new Breadline Europe study of the free-market economy is that "neo-liberalism is now creating poverty which is not only shallow and widespread but deepening into permanence. It [Breadline Europe] warns that the new prosperity of the few goes with the degradation of the many. It shows that a nations' economy can be glorified as successful when the living standards of its people are falling... A century ago, nice, caring people talked anxiously about the 'the problem of poverty'. How was it possible that the massive increase of wealth was accompanied by an equally massive increase in destitution? Could it be - frightful thought - that the growth of wealth actually depended on that growth of poverty".(11.3.01)

But what does that matter so long as the liberal Left have 'frontline women troops', 'racial equality in prisons' (the emphasis on minorities in the context, a surely threadbare tactic to camouflage and minimise the depth and scale of the deplorable conditions which exist for prisoners of all colours) and that final barrier to the sexual revolution, the 'age of consent scrapped' as a pay-off?

Reproduced from RA vol 4, Issue 11, May/June '01