It is customary for leftist solutions to concrete problems to be dismissed as little more than the dew-eyed ramblings of cloistered academics. In particular, unions are dismissed as 'irrelevant', the by-product of a long-dead industrial reality, and socialism is dismissed as self-evidently absurd. Faith in the 'market' as an all-purpose 'solution' is one of the few dogmas that brings a whole range of anti-leftists together.
With this in mind, I was struck by two recent articles illustrating the costs of the supposedly 'free' market.
China is in the process of 'freeing' up its markets for the exploitative labour of migrant workers. We have seen recent reports of slave labour literally occurring at the hands of indifferent, budding capitalists. In addition, last week a strike-busting squad, armed with shovels and other weapons, lead a vicious attack on workers. The workers were protesting the fact that they had not been paid in four months.
One of the victims of the assault is currently brain-dead, but is being kept artificially alive, lest his assailants face murder charges:
Of course, the employers had their reasons for withholding workers' wages:
Mr Xiang says most of the six seriously injured were, like him, singled out
by the Fuyuan thugs because they were team leaders. His dead colleague, Mr Lei,
was a safety monitor for Qiutian Construction, the subcontractor that brought in
Qiutian says it has been unable to pay workers because Fuyuan
has refused to compensate it for losses suffered last summer when the site
flooded. Qiutian says that legally the developer is responsible for losses
caused by acts of nature.
This is, apparently, 'capitalism with Chinese characteristics'. Such things were not uncommon in Western capitalist countries not so long ago. Today, union-busting in Australia takes place via legislation, and is held by the Government to be in everybody's best interests, other than self-serving 'union bosses'.
Courtesy of our American friends at Crooks and Liars, I noticed this article (also being featured at Larvatus Prodeo). In contrast to the allegedly destructive Bolivarian socialism of Venezuela, free-market utopia Colombia has made the news once again for its treatment of union members:
The bus had just left Drummond Co. Inc.'s coal mine carrying about 50
workers when gunmen halted it and forced two union leaders off. They shot one on
the spot, pumping four bullets into his head, and dragged the other one off to
be tortured and killed.
In a civil trial set to begin Monday before a
federal jury in Birmingham, Ala., union lawyers have presented affidavits from
two people who allege that Drummond ordered those killings, a charge the company
Multinationals operating in Colombia have admitted paying right-wing
militias known as paramilitaries to protect their operations. But human rights
activists claim the companies went further, using the fighters to violently keep
their labor costs down.
Colombia is being treated as a mere colony for US Corporations, as are some of its northern neighbours. Yet pointing out the fact that corporations do not always act in humanity's best interests is virtually anathema in the mainstream press, and likely to result in accusations of 'anti-Americanism', or, still better, 'socialism'.
The existence of Stalin and Mao appears to be enough for some to dismiss any leftist doctrine - critics simply cite a figure of those killed under the relevant dictators, and consider the matter finished. When will the same critics turn their attention to the failed doctrine of capitalism, starving millions for the profits of a few, and crushing the resistance of those who stand in the way?
It is not that capitalism is inherently 'evil', (even if moralising had anything to do with it). The raison d'etre of capitalism is simply to generate capital. The inevitable by-product of this generation is that more or less people will be exploited, starved, and, in the cases we see above, killed.
But at least our plasma screens are relatively cheap.