The Labour Party has jumped on the bandwagon of the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution', but there will be no overturning of Labour's neoliberal policies and politics.
|Grant Robertson: "No socialism please, we're the Labour Party."|
AGAINST THE BACKDROP of a new report from Oxfam that confirms again that the world's wealth is being increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, government and business leaders at the Davos Economic Forum are talking, among other things, about 'the future of jobs'.
The trendy catchphrase is 'Fourth Industrial Revolution'. You may have already come across the term. When socialists talk about revolution it is quickly characterised by the political establishment and the corporate media as something to be avoided, like a dog turd in the middle of the pavement. In stark contrast, we are told that the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' is shiny and bright and new - and can't be avoided.
In a nutshell we are being told the world we live in will become increasingly different as we embrace artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology. All this will have a huge impact on 'business models' (ie capitalism) and also on 'labour markets (ie the working class). Indeed some commentators have even gone as far as to argue we are heading to a postcapitalist world - a bold argument when you consider that fewer and fewer capitalists are gobbling up all the wealth.
But you can quickly see how this sort of stuff would be attractive to political parties that have abandoned any notion of socialist or even mild social change and identify with 'the market' instead.
Like the New Zealand Labour Party, for instance. Back in the 1980s it tried, theoretically, to justify its support for neoliberalism via the half-baked politics of the 'Third Way'. Even as it was busy privatising everything, Labour claimed its policies were neither socialist or capitalist. It was the Third Way!
So, naturally, Labour has jumped on to the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' bandwagon.
Through its 'Future of Work' commission, its hoping to develop polices for the brave new (capitalist) world we're all heading to. The commission is headed by deputy leader Grant Robertson , a man not in favour of policies that might upset 'the market'.
In terms of policies, we know where this is all heading because Labour signalled its intentions in a paper which it released last year and which was partly plagiarised from the conservative magazine The Economist.
There will be an emphasis on education, upskilling, data technology, new technology. I'm suppressing a yawn as I write this, because we've heard this kind of market-friendly stuff from Labour before - like, at the last election.
We read: "More needs to be done to prepare our workforce for the changes to come, including looking at universal teaching of computing and coding in schools and improving how we teach technology,"
The proponents of the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' make all kind of claims and assumptions that are simply wrong, not in the least that the new information /technology 'revolution' has somehow by-passed the contradictions of capitalism. This is simply untrue - the unresolved contradiction between socialised production and capitalist appropriation remains.
Labour could have gone down a different path - one signposted by the likes of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the United States. It could be advocating polices that swing the levers of economic and political power back toward ordinary people, rather than ensuring that they remain in the grip of the business sector. They are the kind of polices that have revived Labour's fortunes in the UK and have Bernie Sanders threatening to upset Hilary Clinton's bid to become the Democrat's presidential candidate.
But we know what Labour thinks. After Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, Grant Robertson was quick to dispel any notion that New Zealand Labour would be going down Corbyn's path. According to Robertson, polices that might be 'suitable' for the UK may not be 'appropriate' for New Zealand'.
Needless to say, this is a totally fatuous argument. But it looks like Labour is determined to remain loyal to the extremism of centre and which has seen it lose three elections in a row. They can try to wrap it up differently, but the message remains the same.
A few days ago the noted American Marxist Ellen Mieksins Wood passed away. To conclude, I'd like to quote her:
Capitalism will also always restrict the scope of democracy. It can never permit a truly democratic society where there are no oppressed and oppressing classes; where “accumulated labour is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer” and not just to enhance capitalist profit; where reproduction, child care, and relations between the sexes are not deformed by capitalist imperatives; where no nation oppresses another; where culture is free of distortion by the market; and so on. As long as we live under capitalism, we will live in a society where the needs and actions of undemocratic and unaccountable capitalist enterprises, both by the direct exercise of class power and through the “market,” shape our social and natural environment and determine the conditions of life for every living being that comes within their global orbit.
Now more than ever it should be obvious, as it was to Marx and Engels, that a society driven by the imperatives of capital accumulation has to give way to a more humane and democratic social order. For such a transformation to take place, the main moving force will still have to be class struggle.