After the G20: Panitch on the future of the Left

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Jacob Richter
After the G20: Panitch on the future of the Left



Excerpts from the Rabble article:

SL: For the Left to come up with solutions which don't hark back to a golden age that may not have existed, what solutions do you think we should be looking at? One of the focuses of the demonstrations in the streets of London have been around the banking system and in its most spectacular form, protestors stormed the Royal Bank of Scotland. There's been calls on the streets to make banks a public utility. What do you think of that demand by the Left?

LP: I am very much in favour of that. And the main reason that I'm in favour of it is that taking the banking sector, the whole of the financial sector, into the democratic public domain -- however limited our democracies are -- would remove the economic power of that fraction of the capitalist class that are the bankers who have enormous power. They're not the only ones who are powerful, but it would remove their power. And that's the most important reason to take capital away from them.

Now that could also be said of the importance of nationalizing other sectors. But let's just address this. That's the main reason, that you shift the balance of class forces in this society by doing that. And the failure to do that means that Obama needs to say, while at the same time as saying that there is a scandal in giving AIG executives their million dollars in bonuses, he needs to say, we need to find a way of preventing that, while not preventing getting the cooperation of the private bankers in getting the banking system back on track again, that's the way he put it last week.

That's exactly what Paulson said. Paulson was the Treasury Secretary before Geithner, under Bush. And he had the gall, having been the highest paid CEO on Wall Street with the largest bonuses before he became Treasury Secretary, back when he was head of Goldman Sachs, he had the gall when he was trying to get his TARP plan through Congress to say that he thought salaries on Wall Street were unconscionable and we needed to do something about it. But in the same breath he said we need to find a way of doing that that doesn't get in the way of the TARP program working.

Now, what all that means about not getting in the way is simply a reflection of the inherent class power on Wall Street that is linked to the American state. So the most important reason for making banking a public utility is to shift the balance of power in society.

Now on top of that, banking ought to be a public utility insofar as banks can't exist without state deposit insurance; that's been proven since the 1930s and every government in the world has them and follows the American state in having them. Insofar as we can see that a volatile global financial system constantly produces financial crises in which central banks immediately act as lenders of last resort, using public funds to do so, you can see why this shouldn't be something private.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

I like the way Panitch describes things in terms of the balance of class forces ... even for something like democratization/nationalization of the banks and financial institutions.

Panitch: this financial speculation was absolutely necessary to the kind of dynamic globalization that capitalism produced -- to the cost of a great many people around the world...


The Editor of Monthly Review, John Bellamy Foster, in a recent book, The Great Financial Crisis, covers this issue very well and shows how financialization was, itself, a response to past problems in capitalism's functioning. So the crisis had an inevitable quality about it. Political leadership, OTOH, isn't inevitable at all, and can be squandered by class traitors who are more interested in themselves than in the social class they purport to represent (when they're not denying social class altogether, that is) .


I read the article at rabble and thought it was very good, using understandable language.  combined with some items over at the progressive economics forum recently, i think there are some useful discussions happening which help people get a sense of what is going on with the economy.  i ran some of the content past my dad yesterday, and he was listening.  the troublesome element is the reaction by financiers- they'll tank stocks as they did last fall.  so i mentioned the option of having the CPP buy up the firesale companies, to deal with financier shock doctrine.  that seems a realistic way of keeping people's senior years out of absolute poverty, thus making room for the broad transformation of finance into a public utility, which will bring sanity to the economy and more stability to people's lives.

other than that, i joke about having a good crop of potatoes in the ground, but that's not much good if i can't pay the bills to keep the farm.

anyway, i think a bigger crunch is going to come.  and i hope people have educated themselves on the situation.  all the good folks here and elsewhere are certainly make great contributions in that work.



and i just saw the unemployment numbers over at the PEF forum. not good.

this is one of the reasons why the mystical economic turnaround won't materialize.

the environment is another.

massively increasingly poverty, destitution, lack of food and water around the world is another.

the bottom line is that there is less and less to shovel up to the pyramid feeders at the top.

so there is simply no logical way for the structure to sustain.

all that's happening now is that the pinnacle parasites are squeezing out at much as they can before the rest of us wake up.

their real problem is that neither they nor those they care for (if any) will really want to live in the world that's left.

whatever happened to that still small voice for these people?  guess it takes large collective voices from the rest of us, for them to hear.




and i guess too, as the rabble article indicated, that an equally important part of the transformation to public utility finance is that those who are on the boards should NOT be private sector financiers.  seeing, of course, as they're the ones who are systemically committed to squeezing out every last drop of blood from the rest of us. 

the people who do the management can be actual public civil servants.   decent unionized folk with real jobs who are accountable to the people at the very practical levels of their presence in communities, as workers, and as members of structures where there are verifiable public mechanisms of checks and balances.  Instead of having private bubble-bust financiers running pension plans like the CPP, we need actual public servants filling the boards.