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How low can they go

By: 
John Bell

September 26, 2015

From the hysterical media attacks on newly elected British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to the #PigGate scandal; from the boardrooms of the auto giants to the naked greed of big pharma; the question of the day is: how low can they go.

Judging from the recent evidence, pretty damned low.

Corbyn, the left-wing Labour MP, was elected leader of his party with a smashing 60 per cent of the vote. He campaigned hard against the vile waste of militarism and war, and the cruel austerity cuts unleashed against Britain’s workers. It is hard to know who was more terrified by his success: the Tories or the Blairite hacks who have held sway in the Labour Party for almost a generation.

Contempt for democracy

The corporate media didn’t miss a beat. They unleashed a campaign of vilification, from the silly to the outright slanderous. One paper accompanied a picture of Corbyn, who rides a bike to work, with a caption describing his “Chairman Mao-like” bicycle. Everyone knows that it was Lenin who was the cycle enthusiast. C’mon gutter press—factcheck, factcheck, factcheck!

Corbyn’s refusal to sing God Save the Queen at a public ceremony was shocking, shocking I tell you, as was his sartorial crimes (sport jacket and slacks instead of pin-striped suit).

The “impartial” BBC constantly referred to him as “the left-wing Labour leader,” prompting a petition campaign to have the Beeb start addressing David Cameron as “the right-wing Prime Minister”.

Its all fun until someone threatens a military coup. The Sunday Times quoted an unnamed senior army general doing just that. Corbyn has said, if elected he would stop Britain’s nuclear weapons program, begin to withdraw from NATO, and immediately pull out of wars in the Middle East. The anonymous General threatened “direct action”: “You would see a break in convention with senior generals directly and publicly challenging Corbyn over vital policy decisions ... to emasculate and shrink the size of the armed forces. The Army just wouldn’t stand for it. The general staff would ... use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that.”

For Britain’s military elite, democracy is just a “convention” to be tossed aside if necessary. All the elites, corporate, political and military—let’s call them the ruling class just for fun—are united in the horror at Corbyn’s vision of left social democracy.

Then came PigGate. The scandal quickly moved beyond exposure of David Cameron’s individual creepy behaviour; laid bare is the soul-sick cynicism of the class he belongs to and represents.

The PigGate scandal should give Corbyn and his supporters some breathing room, but it won’t stop the back-room plotters and mutineers. Their contempt for us, for the collective power of democracy, is total and bred in the bone.

Deadly profits

There is no difference between Cameron and his schoolboy buddies, gleefully burning 50 pound notes in front of homeless people, and the sociopathic behaviour of Martin Shkreli. He’s the hedge fund billionaire who bought the rights to a long-available drug essential for the treatment of cancer and HIV.

Overnight the cost of the drug rose from $13.50 to $750 per dose, a 5500 per cent jump. Shkreli was genuinely bemused, laughing as he defended his right to exploit the misery of others. “I think profits are a great thing,” he said.

Social media notoriety quickly earned Shkreli the title of “the most hated man in America,” but he was just doing what the whole pharmaceutical industry does every day. Sufferers of a rare condition that destroys the body’s red blood cells can either pay drug company Alexion $500,000 a year for Soliris, the world’s costliest drug, or they can die. Capitalism offers them a free choice. What more do they want?

Admittedly, sometimes there are rules to keep capitalists on the straight and narrow. You know, like the emissions testing that auto makers must submit to. Volkswagen knew its diesel vehicles could not meet the standards, so they were faced with a choice: redesign their cars or cheat. They did the only thing that made sense in terms of profit—they cheated.

They programmed their cars to reduce emissions under specific test conditions, but spew out 10 to 40 times the legal limit of pollutants when actually on the road. This went on for eight years before they were caught. They will be fined, but the fine will barely cut into their profits. By cheating to meet industry standards, Volkswagen was simply meeting industry standards of cheating.

In 2012, Toyota was forced to pay $1.2 billion in fines and recalled 9.3 million vehicles worldwide. It seems their cars might accelerate to dangerous speeds of their own volition. The problem surfaced in 2009, but for three years the corporation blamed driver error, and poorly maintained floor mats. In fact executives knew there was a potentially deadly design flaw in their accelerators and did nothing to correct it.

As early as 2004 GM knew that ignition system flaws in its Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G5s could cause the cars to turn off while in motion, deactivating airbags and braking systems and causing deadly accidents. But they also knew it would cost too much to fix the flaw, so they covered it up.

The GM cars have caused over 90 deaths, and a $10 billion civil suit is before the courts. GM lawyers argue that the crimes were committed by the “old GM,” before the market crash of 2009 resulted in bankruptcy and bailing out with public funds. The “new GM” is blameless.

The boardrooms of the car companies and drug corporations—and every other business you could name—are staffed with the mercenary clones of Martin Shkreli. Capitalism requires them, it trains them, and is prepared to discard them if they get caught.

David Cameron and his debauched, inhuman brethren prowl the corridors of political power the world over. The threat of democracy, even one as mild as that embodied by Jeremy Corbyn, drives them to slander and the threat of naked violence.

How low would they go? They’d throw any of us into a meat grinder if it would turn a dollar or preserve their class position. We have to know that as we move, inevitably, to face them.

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