Monday, 16 May 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn: the hypocrisy of the superiors

Newsreaders and television journalists are aghast. Journalists in New York are said to be in shock. However, being journalists and simple reporters of events they have managed to retain their collective 'objectivity' and ensure that just the facts are reported. Of course great concern has been shown by journalists with regard to his alleged activities... concern for the markets that is. As the shock waves reverberated around the globe journalists reported that the financial markets had dropped with the Euro falling half a cent to $1.0463. They also demonstrated even greater concern that a pre-arranged meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel scheduled the same day now had to be cancelled. Many of the same pundits have demonstrated considerable distress as his electoral chances in the forthcoming French presidential elections in 2012 appear to evaporate by the hour. 

Oh yes, and if you'd missed it, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is alleged to have attempted to rape a female hotel worker, and committed a violent sex attack against her. The victim is of course only a low-profile cleaner.

The Impeccable credentials of Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Dominique Strauss-Kahn on the other hand is rather high-profile and has impeccable credentials. In the last twelve months or so, as Head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he has overseen so called 'bail-outs' of faltering economies in the West.(1) This in practice means that unelected ratings agencies such as Moody's can choose to downgrade a country's credit rating. Pracically this means a government of such a country that wishes to borrow money on the international markets at low rates of interest finds it becomes increasingly problematic. Enter stage right Mr Strauss-Kahn with the IMF cheque book. He and his acolytes propose radical surgery meaning a restructuring of the economy of this country in return for organising a loan which of course has strings attached. These strings are usually huge cuts to public spending and privatisation. It also means loans to the government with the faltering economy from those that are buoyant (such as the UK, France and Germany) at interest rates well above the usual rates. It's a process that's proved very successful in the so called 'developing world' which largely remains stubbornly under-developed. Its success can be measured in the untold tens of billions it has shifted from the pockets of the poor in sub-Saharan Africa, to the less-than-lean wallets of the wealthy bankers and shareholders of banking institutions in the West. It will achieve the same in the West as ordinary people in Europe suffer this Western brand of structural adjustment. Like their counterparts in Africa and Latin America, many will find themselves out of work as government and local authorities slash public sector services ready for wholesale privatisation. It's a future where many will be forced into low-paid precarious employment as welfare benefits are scrapped or severely restricted. Many more will find themselves out of their mortgaged-up-to-the-eyeballs homes as a consequence.

Jacques Sprat ate no fat...

Strauss-Kahn who according to reports earns in the region of $431,000 tax free as head of the IMF has no need to worry about such trivial matters. It's reported for example that the suite in which the alleged sexual assault occurred - the exclusive Sofitel hotel near Times Square - cost $3,000 (£1,850) a night.(2) His arrest was of course widely reported where he was wrenched from his Air France seat and handcuffed. It was of course a seat located in First Class.

Pretender to the throne

Oddly, it appears that the irony of Strauss-Kahn's political ambitions and political trajectory as potential President of France in 2012 is lost on journalists and commentators alike. It also appears to have by-passed those in his own political party the Parti Socialiste (Socialist party) which is the French equivalent of Britain's New Labour. Why? The IMF has since the 1970s, epitomised that peculiar brand of aggressive capitalism known as neoliberalism itself championed in political and economic terms firstly by the dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and later Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. It was known for its fire-sale attitude toward wounded capitals who had encountered difficulties in a global economic downturn of the stagflationary 1970s. It also struck a bellicose approach towards working class organisations such as trade unions (and in Pinochet's case working class political opposition and democracy itself). It was defined by its intrinsic hostility towards public services, public sector workers and a theoretical antipathy towards state intervention in the economy or elsewhere. For the neoliberals, state interventionism = socialism. Hostility towards state intervention meant outright hostility towards its ideological epitome socialism or communism. This was more widely played out on the broader canvass labelled the 'Cold War'. In reality it was a clash of two ideologies: not capitalism versus communism but free market capitalism versus state directed capitalism or more simply put - free markets versus closed markets. It did however suit the ruling classes on both sides at an ideological level. Despite its appellation it was quite often characterised by the intense heat it created and in the case of Korea, Vietnam, Africa and Latin America the many millions of corpses. 

Poacher turned egg-whisker

The Independent today can report that Strauss-Kahn's arrest for alleged rape has 'plunged France's socialists into turmoil' (see related articles) yet should it not be Strauss-Khan's leadership of the above institution that provides the crisis for the French socialists? Strauss-Kahn has often been described as a 'Champagne Socialist'. Yet does it not seem at all odd that a person who was planning to stand as a presidential candidate for a socialist party, could head an organisation that is stridently antithetical to the principles of socialism? This is even more trenchant particularly as many advanced Western economies including the UK, France and other less industrially developed countries such as Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, are mired in a period of deep austerity imposed from above. One might have thought it would have at least given the Parti Socialiste apparatchiks and supporters pause for thought, as Strauss-Kahn's variety of socialism appears to be champagne socialism without the socialism - it's unabashedly champagne and it's the most expensive money can buy. If we could take a knife and slice the Parti Socialiste in half like a stick of rock, like it's British Labour counterpart, the word 'capitalism' would run along it whole length. And like a stick of rock, there's no way of removing the 'capitalism' without destroying the whole.

A necessary sacrifice for the future or a future sacrificed?
They got him a shirt of the very, very best...

Should we be surprised at this turn of events and the details of Strauss-Kahn's luxurious lifestyle? Hardly. Many accept that this type of activity is not simply the prevail of high profile political pretenders. How often are workers told that it is they who have to make essential, almost inevitable sacrifices, usually by millionaire policiticians? Everyday across the country and the continent, a tiny group of very well salaried unelected types who wield immense economic power, decide that it is you and a significant part of the workforce who must either lose their livelihoods or accept a lowering of the terms and conditions of employment. Yes it's you who may have to reapply for your job on worse terms - your boss certainly won't. Indeed the opposite is often the case as this corporate elite in their luxurious offices with the concomitant trappings of economic power may because of their strident ideology of restructuring clad in a florality of words such as 'transformation' or 'reform' receive much acclaim and possibly an increase in their remunerative packages and retire to prosperity with maybe a nice title to boot. Yet we're told that these necessary sacrifices are for some future good - our good. It's an uncashable chip. 

No we should not be at all surprised. Nor should we forget that their apparent power is based wholly on the fact that we remain passive, as recent events in Egypt and beyond have demonstrated. We should nonetheless take the hollow cant of our own everyday superiors with a large pinch of low-sodium salt.

Notes and References

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1 comment:

  1. Excellent stuff, Gary. Wouldn't it have been very slightly satisfying to have been the cop who laid his/her hand on this person's shoulder at the airport.
    Jim Granter