UK Uncut and unmasking the banks’ informal power structures….

Jo Freeman, writing in the 1970s, argued that despite rhetoric ‘structurelessness’ did not exist within the women’s movement’s practices, and rather such a rhetorical facade resulted in the creation of powerful informal structures that masked the damaging power relations involved within activities such as conscious raising. In explaining this, Freeman refers to a similar process regarding the justification utilised re neoliberalism, which is still current today:

This means that to strive for a ‘structurelessness’ group is as useful and as deceptive, as to aim at an ‘objective’ news story, ‘value-free’ social science or a ‘free’ economy. ‘Laissez-faire’ philosophy did not prevent the economically powerful from establishing control over wages, prices and distribution of goods; it only prevented the government from doing so. Thus ‘structurelessness’ becomes a way of masking power, and within the women’s movement it is usually most strongly advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious of their power or not).

This analysis of the power of ‘structurelessness’ as an ideology for masking power can be applied to the way neoliberal discourse is utilised to mask the power of economic institutions such as the banks and their informal structures (to be discussed, primarily in relation to the tax laws’ ‘governing’ them). We are told that imposing regulation upon the banks, taxing them through measures such as the Robin Hood Tax, or even cutting their bonuses, all ‘threatens’ the recovery of the banks (as RBS Hester put it). In arguing the banks should be free from structural control, in pursuit of a ‘free market’, banks attempt to mask the processes through which they amass economic power at the subjection of the population.

However, as Freeman destabilises ‘structurelessness’, groups such as UK Uncut and Young Greens (and the Green Party in general) are tackling the fallacy of neoliberalism and the informal structures banks’ utilise through undemocratic and inequality ridden practices. Whilst I was personally unable to make the Spring Green Party Conference this weekend, the Young Greens took part in the UK Uncut action by staging a protest within Cardiff on Saturday (details at the end). The action was also marked by US Uncut action, with American protesters targeting the Bank of America.

UK Uncut were focusing upon RBS/Natwest partly because:

In 2009 RBS was bailed-out by the tax-payer to the tune of £20bn. That’s enough money to cover every single cut to public spending this year. But instead of being made to pay for the crisis they caused, RBS (which owns Natwest) has just announced bonuses of close to £1bn.

And as the Guardian proclaims:

More than 100 bankers at Royal Bank of Scotland were paid more than £1m last year and total bonus payouts reached nearly £1bn – even though the bailed-out bank reported losses of £1.1bn for 2010.

Remember, RBS is 83% owned by the tax payer. Stephen Hester is due to receive £2.04m bonus as the Chief Executive of RBS whilst 21,000 front line staff, according to McCluskey, have been cut.

As this information enters the public domain people start to fight back, as they did when hearing about Barclays’ pathetic 1% corporation tax contribution of its 2009 profits. Despite this 1% being due to Barclays’ offsetting their loses through the financial crisis against their future tax bills resulting in an extremely low corporation tax, and despite RBS still not paying their corporation tax, Osborne has dropped plans that would end this practice. Given that the drop in corporation tax cancelled out the bank levy (which in 2014 will be 24% and the lowest out of the major western economies), this adds further insult to injury. George Monbiot has recently written a couple of good articles exposing the truth behind the relationship of the government with the City (after all, half of the Tories’ donations are from the City). For instance, in new deliberately detailed plans the government is set to change tax laws for companies so:

At the moment tax law ensures that companies based here, with branches in other countries, don’t get taxed twice on the same money. They have to pay only the difference between our rate and that of the other country. If, for example, Dirty Oil plc pays 10% corporation tax on its profits in Oblivia, then shifts the money over here, it should pay a further 18% in the UK, to match our rate of 28%. But under the new proposals, companies will pay nothing at all in this country on money made by their foreign branches.

Not only is this the epitome of economic inequality and ideological commitment to egoistical neoliberal principles, it is economically illogical, as jobs will be outsourced to countries with cheap labour. Alongside this, the Tory MEPs are trying to undermine an EU directive designed to outlaw, within the EU, naked short selling, which is even more dangerous than short selling. Short selling is the practice of borrowing shares, selling them, hoping the share price reduces then buying the same number of shares to return them to the broker to make a profit. Naked short selling is when the seller doesn’t even have the shares, basing economic transactions on an economic guess. Monbiot even found that the MEPs’ actions reflect the government’s own belief.

Through such informal structures, banks have been able to mask a wealth of economic power – but groups such as UK Uncut are explicit in their goal to expose the draining capacities of the banks’ role within the global political structure. Young Greens, and the Green Party at large, are also committed to fighting the hypocrisy of the current system; banks should not be allowed to get away with such blatant acts of greed whilst the government enacts economic sadism upon the rest of us. Measures such as a Robin Hood tax and high taxes on bankers’ bonuses are central to creating a fairer economy. We have to fight the nonsensical view that the bankers will just get up and go if we tax them more (see here for a really good blog dispelling that myth); this is a mere attempt to divert attention from the inroads the public is making upon the banks’ power base. A power base that has been steadily withheld by self-interested governments for years.

Along with the Young Greens, green party councillors, MP Caroline Lucas and our MEPs are campaigning and pushing for change against the economically illiteracy of the Govt and the greed of companies such as RBS/Natwest.


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