Both Jeremy Corbyn and his deputy, shadow chancellor John McDonnell, unveiled their ‘radical’ new plans for saving British capitalism from the anger of the working class. On Sunday, Corbyn announced plans to force private businesses to reserve one-third of the seats on their board of directors for workers they employ.
He attacked the ‘reckless corporate culture’ saying he wants to give employees a ‘seat at the table’ so that they could reduce the ‘exploitative practices’ of these companies and reduce the excessive pay and bonuses of the bosses.
He said: ‘In workplaces across the country, working hours have got longer, productivity has nosedived, pay has fallen and insecurity has risen. ‘Labour will turn the tide and give workers more control and a real say at work. ‘By ensuring businesses reserve a third of board seats for workers, we’ll help transform our broken economic model, as part of our plans to rebuild Britain for the many not the few.’
In case anyone is fooled into thinking this is a radical socialist demand, it should be remembered that Tory prime minister Theresa May came out with a similar plan in her disastrous election campaign of 2016. She, too, publicly attacked bosses’ pay and the way they were running companies saying: ‘If I’m prime minister we’re going to have not just consumers represented on company boards but workers as well.’
Opposition from the bosses’ organisation, the CBI, soon kicked May’s proposal into the long grass but the fact that a Tory leader could propose it proves conclusively that this is not the ‘revolutionary’ answer to wage-cutting and closures that Corbyn is claiming.
In France, where the law insists on employee seats on the boards of all large companies, a detailed analysis by Oxfam discovered that the bosses’ pay and bonuses have rocketed the same as in the UK and that shareholders get even higher dividends than shareholders in British companies.
According to Oxfam: ‘While rewards for shareholders and CEOs have rocketed since the financial crisis, workers have seen their pay stagnate’. Having workers’ representatives on the boards has made not an iota of difference in France and it will make no difference in Britain.
All it will do is provide a cover for the trade union bureaucracy to sit back and wash its hands of any fight over closure or wage-cutting, while the minority one-third of workers’ representatives will be used as nothing more than tea boys and girls by the bosses. That’s why the TUC bureaucracy is so ecstatic about them.
The reason May embraced this scheme was that she knew it was a useless gesture that she hoped would placate workers who were seeing their lives destroyed by a capitalist crisis that is smashing up British industry.
Now Corbyn is following the same road of hoping to avert a revolutionary confrontation between the working class and the capitalist class, where the issue is not having a few ‘worker directors’ but the working class taking over and expropriating the bosses and placing industry and the banks under the control and management of the working class in a planned socialist economy.
This same desperate reformist attempt to head off revolution is contained in McDonnell’s proposals of a Labour government bringing in an ‘inclusive ownership Fund’, where all companies with over 250 employees would have to give shares in the company into a fund for the workers who would be paid a dividend and have a say over the ‘direction of the company’ like all other shareholders.
This is the old reformist utopia of making capitalism work at a time when the crisis of the system, as revealed by the Bank for International Settlement only yesterday, is about to explode, bringing the capitalist world crashing down. Corbyn and McDonnell deliberately ignore this crisis in their desperation to convince the working class that there is a peaceful way out and that capitalism can be reformed.
The only way out for the working class lies not in workers on the boards or a few shares but through the overthrow of capitalism and going forward to a workers government that will expropriate the big companies and industries along with the banks under a socialist economy.