How big corporations control the country

The neo-liberal reforms that have been inflicted on Aotearoa since 1984 are by any measure of public opinion the most unpopular economic reforms ever enacted in this country. Understanding the rolling back of the welfare state and the privatisation of public assets forces us to come to terms with how corporations control the country.
It is midnight on the summit of Mount Eden. Five spectres have gathered together at the summit. They are morose. They pass a joint between them and stare out over Auckland City. The traffic is quiet but still cars flow along roads and motorways. The lights of the CBD rise out of black depths. They soak up the view. From the dark Waitakere mountains looming over the western suburbs to the mechanical arc of the Harbour Bridge the city lights light up their eyes. They’ve gathered together to discuss the question that looms over all revolutionaries how the minority of capitalists control and exploit the vast majority of working people.

Karl Marx, revolutionary philosopher and economist sucks smoke into his lungs and turns his eyes on his companions.

'The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.'

The capitalists promote their ideas to the working class and the working class suck it up! Just read the NZ Herald from the other day, ‘More than a fifth of tertiary students expect to earn $100,000 by the time they're 30, according to a survey. The figure is much higher than the average wage for those with a bachelor degree, but the Employers and Manufacturers Association has welcomed the result, saying it shows ambition.’

We think this world of war and poverty is awful but the capitalists with their control of the TV networks, the newspapers and the schools have convinced us we are all going to be rich one day soon. Three quarters of university students think they’ll earn more than $60,000 a year before 30. But sadly less than half of them will. They have been duped by the capitalists.

Vladimir Lenin, Russian revolutionary and communist politician interrupts with a shout. 

But Marx the capitalists cannot rely just on their control of the media and universities to control the public! They also require an organisation to step in and crush any resistance to their power. This organisation has been evolving since the birth of capitalist society it is the state.

‘The state is a product and manifestation of the irreconcilability of class contradictions. The state arises where, when and to the extent that class contradictions cannot be reconciled.’

The state steps in to mediate where necessary, to smash where possible any forces that resist the capitalists. Your university middle class might be brainwashed by the glittering propaganda of the capitalist but the restless working class and all those other social forces in the world have to be contained as well. Boat people and refugees stopped at the border. Maori tribes and environmentalists who protest oil drilling arrested. Workers who picket their employer for higher wages trespassed from effective picketing. Your students are right in the middle of the ruling class’s propaganda machine the university. But the ruling class equally requires the prison and the army to enforce its domination. Look at what happens in Glen Innes when people try and oppose to the cleansing of poor people from their homes. The police come and lock up those who oppose the property developers and their Government.

Antonio Gramsci, the Italian anti-fascist and revolutionary philosopher takes a drag from the joint and chuckles. 

Hahaha, if it was all that simple. Then perhaps it would be as simple as distributing the Communist Manifesto to convince the workers to unite and tear off their chains. Or as simple as leading a revolutionary army of workers councils against the police to break the capitalists hold over their workplaces. But the big corporations and capitalists hold sway through a combination of force and consent and they’ve made capitalist ideas common sense. The bosses have control by exercising hegemony over society.

‘The “normal” exercise of hegemony is characterized by the combination of force and consent, in variable equilibrium, without force predominating too much over consent. Indeed, the attempt is always made to ensure that force will appear to be based on the consent of the majority, expressed by the so-called organs of public opinion -- newspapers and associations -- which, therefore, in certain situations, are artificially multiplied.’

But in certain situations, where the use of force was too risky, ‘between consent and force stands corruption and fraud, that is the enervation and paralysing of the antagonist or antagonists.’

Look at SkyCity it can buy the support of the Mayoral contenders through anonymous donations. Allowing anonymous donations is just legalised corruption! Look at John Key he can lie about not raising GST. Look at the massive protest march against asset sales. Was there a media blackout against it? Sure! How many other 10,000 person events in the city get zero publicity in the days leading up to it? None! The lies told over The Hobbit to smash the actors union! The lies told by the Ports to try and smash the wharfies! All proof corruption and fraud keep this capitalist system running! They cover over the weak points in the system. They allow the bosses to sway the public behind them. This is how the capitalists retain their power!

‘Pfft!’ says Russian dissident intellectual and insurrectionary Leon Trotsky. 

Gramsci’s view is too deterministic. All he sees is various social forces fighting out wars of position and manoeuvre. We need to look at the individual characters, the political organisations too.

‘Political leadership in the crucial moments of historical turns can become just as decisive a factor as is the role of the chief command during critical moments of war. History is not an automatic process. Otherwise why leaders? Why parties? Why programmes? Why theoretical struggles?’ 

Look at New Zealand. People are angry and fed up with low wages and asset sales but the Government is still popular. Explain that via hegemony! No we must also look at the weakness the workers’ movement. A Labour Party that opposes the crooked capitalists in words and not deeds. A party still engaged in factional infighting and lacking the critical mass of activists and crusading MPs to turn the tide. The Labour Party has too many lazy, incompetent fools in safe seats who make no contribution to the struggle. The union movement that does not have the confidence to confront employers with direct action. If the political leadership of the workers was better, if the unions more energetic, if there was a mass of student militants well-organised enough to take on this Government then the budget day cuts to student allowances and the austerity policies being forced through by boss and by bureaucrat could be stopped.

Palestinian Jew and unorthodox Trotskyist Tony Cliff declines the smoke being passed around. The founder of the British SWP Cliff doesn't want his vision clouded. He surveys the four leftist ghouls slumped against the Mt Eden trig. 

Yes, of course we need better political leadership Trotsky. But what type? We need political activists that can face up to the harsh reality of this world of capital without mystification.

 ‘If you sit on Marx’s shoulders you see far, but if you sit on Marx’s shoulders and close your eyes, you don’t see very far at all.’

The corporations control the country because they have the means of mental production, the armed bodies of men, the means of corruption and fraud and the workers right now lack the leaders necessary to overthrow the corporations. But too many of those who say they are fighting the system or fighting the Government refuse to see what is right in front of their eyes. They hide behind French philosophy; they’re suckling at the teat of reformism without reforms, playing identity politics or repeating the slogans of last centuries revolutions. They need to open their eyes and look at the world afresh. Take the overview of society. Maybe a few more of them should be up on this hill with us. Sucking in this fresh westerly, trying to figure out what needs to be done. Instead they’re playing Farmville on Facebook or watching reality TV. We need thinkers. We need people who can see the world as it is, not as they want it to be. They’re going to need to start doing this now. They can’t wait for some distant revolution. They need to start working to build an organisation capable of overthrowing the capitalists right now.

‘The future starts, not in five months time, it starts here and now. We have to shape the future.’

-Socialist Aotearoa


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