Social Warfare keeps Johann Rupert awake at night

Social Warfare keeps Johann Rupert awake at night

Recent comments by South Africa’s most powerful business tycoon, Johann Rupert, gives interesting and penetrating insights into the current state of mind of the bourgeoisie. Rupert is clearly very disturbed by the current state of affairs, even admitting that they are keeping him awake at night.

Rupert-Johann-2004In a recent speech at the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit in Monaco, a gathering for senior executives of the luxury goods industry, he said tension between the rich and the poor is set to escalate as robots and artificial intelligence fuel mass unemployment. “We cannot have 0.1 percent of 0.1 percent taking all the spoils,” he said to his fellow bourgeois friends surrounded by $130 million yachts, Macallan whiskey and Almas caviar.

He proceeded to ask his audience a loaded question: “How is society going to cope with the structural unemployment and the envy, hatred and social warfare?” This shows that Rupert has a clear grasp of the crisis his system is facing. The capitalist system has long ago ceased to be a progressive system, it now staggers along at an appalling cost to society. One of the key manifestations of this is the phenomenon of organic, structural mass unemployment which in South Africa officially stands at 25 percent. Rupert understands that this is a clear recipe for class struggle, and he admits that this is giving him sleepless nights: “We are destroying the middle classes at this stage and it will affect us. It’s unfair. So that’s what keeps me awake at night.”

He said that conflicts between social classes will make selling luxury goods more tricky as the rich will want to conceal their wealth. On this point, the Financial Times chipped in to give the rulers of our world some amusing advice: “Perhaps discretion will be in more demand: minimalist jewellery instead of bling; Audis instead of Ferraris; silver watches instead of gold chronometers. A yacht is hard to disguise, but it can be sailed out of sight of public beaches.” But it is unclear how wealth is to be concealed in a country like South Africa where the class divisions are so glaring that they are evident to the naked eye. Rich and poor literally stare each other in the face every day and both are disgusted at what they see. Rupert concluded his speech by giving his audience some disturbing advice: “We are in for a huge change in society. Get used to it. And be prepared.”

Johann Rupert knows a thing or two about “disturbing” changes in society from a bourgeois perspective. Together with the Oppenheimer family, the Ruperts were at the heart of efforts to  quell the revolutionary events of the 1980s and 1990s in South Africa, which nearly overthrew their entire system. In the end they were prepared to give all democratic rights to the masses as long as Capitalism as a whole was maintained.

Rupert knows the bourgeoisie intimately well. He is the chairman and chief executive officer of the Swiss luxury goods company Compagnie Financiere Richemont, which manufactures and sells jewellery, watches, leather goods, writing instruments, and menas and women’s clothes to the richest people on Earth. Their most famous brands include Cartier, IWC International Watch Co. AG, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Montblanc. Rupert also serves as Non-Executive Chair of VenFin and Remgro Ltd.

Johann Rupert can clearly hear the alarm bells going off. A few months back, he berated South Africa’s government for failing to address corruption and electricity shortages: “The leadership of this country, quite frankly, is becoming very, very hard to defend abroad,” Rupert told Remgro’s annual general meeting in Somerset West, near Cape Town. “The people who are running the country now were not given proper education [!]. Wherever you look we have got stagnation and really worrying signs.” Of course, this is rich coming from Rupert. The corruption which he is complaining about is of the bourgeoisie’s own doing. In their endeavour to stabilise South African Capitalism after the fall of the Apartheid regime, corruption as a means of controlling the new political elite and tying them to the bourgeoisie, was one of the main tools used by the ruling class. The problem now is that this has reached epidemic proportions. In the context of a sharp rise in the class struggle, the daily revelations about corruption which involves some of the most senior ANC leaders, including the Nkandla scandal which involves the president himself, is becoming a major cause for instability by enraging the tested South African masses.

At the same meeting in Somerset West, Rupert also had some gloomy news regarding the global economy. Asked by a shareholder about the company’s prospects, Rupert said the global economic outlook “is not looking too rosy”: “It doesn’t really matter who you listen to, whether it’s the IMF or whosoever, they are petrified,” he said. “The only way to get out of this is economic growth. I see nothing on the horizon to pull Europe out of its malaise.

These comments, by one of South Africa’s most influential bourgeois, strikingly confirms that some of the rulers of our world are deeply concerned about the state of their system. Some of them are overcome with a sense of dread and foreboding. Everywhere they look, they are confronted with a deep malaise in society. As a South African bourgeois, Johann Rupert can see nothing but trouble ahead. Recently he recalled author Ernest Hemingway’s quote that “man goes bust gradually … and then suddenly”. He believes South Africa was in the gradual stage, but the “sudden stage” could come at any time. It is not exactly clear whether or not Rupert knows it, but it is actually a profound dialectical quote, although from a deeply pessimistic point of view.

Johann Rupert only sees doom and gloom. But the bourgeois has every reason to dread the future. More than two decades ago the revolutionary South African proletariat came within a hair’s breadth of overthrowing capitalism. Only the lack of a revolutionary leadership prevented them from doing so. But today, the bourgeois faces a massive dilemma: whereas the ANC leaders of the past had enormous stature and authority, today’s leaders have very little of both. It would be very difficult for the current leaders to hold the masses back once they move to change society.

The capitalist system is in the middle of its deepest crisis ever, and it is global. Together with this, come roaring revolutionary mass movements from Egypt, Turkey, Brazil and Burkina Faso. On the other hand, Marxists look to the future with enormous optimism. Where the Johann Ruperts of the world are petrified by the advance of modern technologies like robots, Marxists welcome technological advances wholeheartedly. Under Capitalism advances in technology are solely aimed at improving the rate of profit and the bottom line. But under socialism, robots and other technologies will be used solely for human advances and needs. It would be a terrible mistake to believe that the ruling class will give up their position in society without a desperate fight to the finish. They will fight, claw and scratch to keep their privileges, interests and positions as the ruling class of society.

class warfare captain

Monopoly Monetary Elite Man

But all of their attempts would be no match for the strength of the workers and poor once they start to move. It is not the sudden “going bust” of mankind that Ruperts is prophesising, but the doom of his own class which is terrified by its own impotence in the face of the rising class struggle.

Reprinted from Bloomberg

‘Wealth creators’ are robbing our most productive workers of profits from productive work

‘Wealth creators’ are robbing our most productive workers of profits from productive work

George Monbiot

Lives are being trashed by klepto-remuneration: theft through excess rewards to rapacious bosses, instead of productive workers.

Carly Fiorina
‘The former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina, features prominently on lists of the USA’s worst bosses. Where is she now? About to launch her campaign as presidential candidate for the Republican party.’ Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

There is an inverse relationship between utility and reward. The most lucrative, prestigious jobs tend to cause the greatest harm. The most useful productive workers tend to be paid least and treated worst.

I was reminded of this while listening last week to a care worker describing her job. Carole’s company gives her a rota of, er, three half-hour visits an hour. It takes no account of the time required to travel between jobs, and doesn’t pay her for it either, which means she makes less than the minimum wage. During the few minutes she spends with a client, she may have to get them out of bed, help them on the toilet, wash them, dress them, make breakfast and give them their medicines. If she ever gets a break, she told the BBC radio program You and Yours, she spends it with her clients. For some, she is the only person they see all day.

Her experience is unexceptional. A report by the Resolution Foundation reveals that two-thirds of frontline care workers receive less than the living wage. Ten percent, like Carole, are illegally paid less than the minimum wage. This abuse is not confined to the UK: in the US, 27% of care workers who make home visits are paid less than the legal minimum.

Let’s imagine the lives of those who own or run the company. We have to imagine it because, for good reasons, neither the care worker’s real name nor the company she works for were revealed. The more costs and corners they cut, the more profitable their business will be. In other words, the less they care, the better they will do. The perfect chief executive, from the point of view of shareholders, is a fully fledged sociopath.

Such people will soon become very rich. They will be praised by the government as wealth creators. If they donate enough money to party funds, they have a high chance of becoming peers of the realm. Gushing profiles in the press will commend their entrepreneurial chutzpah and flair.

They’ll acquire a wide investment portfolio, perhaps including a few properties, so that – even if they cease to do anything resembling work – they can continue living off the labour

oligarchs economic power elite overlords

Economic Power Elite

of people such as Carole as she struggles to pay extortionate rents. Their descendants, perhaps for many generations, need never take a job of the kind she does.

Care workers function as a human loom, shuttling from one home to another, stitching the social fabric back together while many of their employers and shareholders, and government ministers, slash blindly at the cloth, downsizing, outsourcing and deregulating in the cause of profit.

It doesn’t matter how many times the myth of meritocracy is debunked. It keeps re-emerging, as you can see in the current election campaign. How else, after all, can the government justify stupendous inequality?

One of the most painful lessons a young adult learns is that the wrong traits are rewarded. We celebrate originality and courage, but those who rise to the top are often conformists and sycophants. We are taught that cheats never prosper, yet the country is run by spivs. A study testing British senior managers and chief executives found that on certain indicators of psychopathy their scores exceeded those of patients diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders in the Broadmoor special hospital.

If you possess the one indispensable skill – battering and blustering your way to the top – incompetence in other areas is no impediment. The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina features prominently on lists of the worst US bosses: quite an achievement when you consider the competition. She fired 30,000 workers in the name of efficiency yet oversaw a halving of the company’s stock price. Morale and communication became so bad that she was booed at company meetings. She was forced out, with a $42m severance package. Where is she now? About to launch her campaign as presidential candidate for the Republican party, where, apparently, she is considered a serious contender. It’s the Mitt Romney story all over again.

The inverse relationship doesn’t always hold. There are plenty of useless, badly paid jobs, and a few useful, well-paid jobs. But surgeons and film directors are greatly outnumbered by corporate lawyers, lobbyists, advertisers, management consultants, financiers and parasitic bosses consuming the utility their workers provide. As the pay gap widens – chief executives in the UK took 60 times as much as the average worker in the 1990s and 180 times as much today – the uselessness ratio is going through the roof I propose a name for this phenomenon: klepto-remuneration.

There is no end to this theft except robust government intervention: a redistribution of wages through maximum ratios and enhanced taxation. But this won’t happen until we challenge the infrastructure of justification, built so carefully by politicians and the press. Our lives are damaged not by the undeserving poor but by the undeserving rich.

reprinted here from The Guardian, in London.

The Roots of European Racism is Slave Trade, Colonialism

mineral wealth of Wyoming

The Roots of European Racism is Slave Trade, Colonialism

Europe has viewed the people of Africa through the distorting veil of racism and racial theory.

There is a view that discussions about modern Africa should be forward-looking. They should be about trade, entrepreneurship, expanding markets,Chinese investment and the commercial and cultural dynamism that undoubtedly characterises many of the continent’s 55 nations. This future-facing philosophy is an admirable attempt to free the spirit and imagination of the continent from the weight of its own history and the legacies of colonialism.

While there is much to commend this apparent pragmatism it is, perhaps, more viable in Lagos and Kinshasa than in London or Paris. Europe’s image of Africa, although changing fast, is too firmly tethered to history to be easily or quickly recalibrated. To historians, who inevitably take the long view, the modern relationship between Europe and Africa is merely the current chapter in an enormous book.

For much of the period from the 15th century till now, during which Europeans and Africans have been connected through trade, empire and migration, both forced and voluntary, Europe has viewed the people of Africa through the distorting veil of racism and racial theory. In the British case much of the jumble of stereotypes, pseudo-science and wild conjecture that coalesced to form racism arose from the political battles fought over the slave trade and slavery, during the last decades of the 18th century and the first decades of the 19th. The men who set out to defend slavery assembled a vast arsenal of new claims and old theories about black people, which they then codified, refined and disseminated through books, pamphlets, cartoons and speeches.

That propaganda campaign, along with the institution of British slavery itself, was ultimately defeated by the moral energy of the abolitionist campaign, and by the determination of the slaves of the Caribbean to resist their enslavement, yet the ideas about the nature of African peoples and the cultures of Africa that had been marshalled by the pro-slavery lobby lived on. Some, in more subtle forms, are still with us today.

Recent debates about slavery in Britain and the United States have understandably focused on the toxic legacies those systems bequeathed to the black peoples of the Caribbean and the US, the descendants of the slaves. What is sometimes overlooked is that the racial ideas of the pro-slavery lobby were also aimed at Africans in their home continent. The impact of Atlantic slavery on Africa can be measured not just in terms of underdevelopment and depopulation, but also in the way in which the continent came to be imagined in Europe in the post-slavery era, during which all but two of Africa’s nations were colonised by the competing European powers.

The book that, arguably, did the most to disseminate racial ideas about Africans was written by a man who never set foot on African soil. Edward Long was a slave owner and the son of a slave owner, his family having been in Jamaica since the middle of the 17th century. His ideas about black people and Africa were widely accepted as being rigorous and scientific, although Long had no scientific training. The book that made him famous, his History of Jamaica (1774), was not a history book but rather a strange hybrid; part travel guide, part discussion of British colonial rule and economics in the Caribbean, and part political score-settling. But it is also the classic text of 18th-century European pseudo-scientific racism.

Its key sections are Long’s vitriolic denouncements of Africans as irredeemably inferior and perhaps not even human. Despite his obvious self-interest, the fact that he had spent 12 years in the Caribbean gave Long’s views a supposed authority that goes some way to explaining why his ideas had such longevity.

Though lacking any first-hand experience, he dismissed the continent as backwards, concluding that it was the source of “every thing that is monstrous in nature”. Long’s racism was flexible enough to make the transition from being a defence of slavery to a justification for colonialism: he was a vital strand in the connective tissue that links the history of slavery to that of colonialism. Echoes of Long’s most venomous passages can be heard in books written by men of later generations who did venture to Africa; their views of the African societies they encountered were contaminated by Long and other racial theorists before their ships had even landed.

Of the many ideas and theories that seeped out of the debates around slavery, the one that still casts a shadow over the image of Africa is the notion that tyranny, war and chaos are the natural condition of the continent. Long asserted that Africa was so barbaric and chaotic that Africans were better off as slaves, since slavery saved them from the worse fates that, he claimed, would otherwise have consumed them in their homelands.

That idea was generated by men who were attempting to justify their trade in human beings, yet today there are still well-meaning, progressive-minded people, in Europe and in Africa, who speculate as to whether democracy, the rule of law and human rights can ever properly take root in Africa. Such views are testimony to the power of history and the potency of the race idea.

Liberals Love to Talk

Things Liberals Love to Talk About:

  • diversity
  • equality
  • progress
  • development
  • innovation
  • democracy
  • representation
  • charity and volunteerism
  • success
  • “Politics”
  • racism as something everyone is guilty of, not a construct enforced and perpetuated by oppressive power structures
  • feminism as equal pay

Things Liberals Won’t Talk About:

  • resistance
  • decolonization
  • liberation
  • rebellion
  • militancy
  • radical love, healing, and vulnerability
  • The State
  • directly challenging imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy
  • any sort of critique that actually helps us get free

Will Not Happen Under Capitalism

13 things that cannot happen under Capitalism:

  1.  Full employment
  2. The end of poverty
  3. World peace

    Why Do I Care ?

    Why Do I Care ?

  4. Decolonization
  5. Full equality of all social classes
  6. A lastingly stable economy
  7. Abolition/effective reformation of prisons/schools
  8. Ethical consumption
  9. Permacultural and fair global food system
  10. Retirement of all senior citizens
  11. Functional anarchy (looking at you, an-caps)
  12. Free association
  13. Direct democracy