From Socialist Voice, December 2009

Giving in to big business

The capitulation by Dublin City Council to pressure by big business to reverse the introduction of a bus-and-taxi-only traffic flow in Dame Street is a micro-example of how capitalism can never solve its own inherent problems.
     Here was a progressive move to get working people through a very congested area on their way to and from work, cutting between half and three-quarters of an hour off their journey time. But the demands of shop-owners in the city centre for the reintroduction of cars, because they claimed that sales were down, was what won the day.
     Firstly, this is only an assertion, as they could not know definitely that this was the cause of the drop in sales. Sales have been down all year; and this was the time when schoolchildren and students were going back to school, so there is less money around. It took only a few weeks for this demand to be met—unlike when people march in protest about hospital services and are ignored. The Green Party say they want fewer cars on the streets but have done nothing to radically change the situation.
     Secondly, the effect of the change on commuters was not assessed, nor were studies done to find out whether the shop-owners’ analysis was correct.
     A related example of the inability of capitalism to introduce measures that could save the whole planet from the disasters of climate change is the supposed solution to the collapse of the car industry in the United States. Obama is giving billions to the industry to go on making cars, while economists are saying that cars are the most serious cause of pollution and the most wasteful use of the remaining stocks of the world’s oil.
     The trade unions under a capitalist system have no choice but to defend the rights of their workers in this field, even though objectively it is bad for the planet. Each side is caught up in a system that is completely destructive.
     A rational solution would be for a planned changeover to public transport, and for a cleaner means of transport where no other choice is possible. Then workers could be retrained and employed in the new systems, instead of being made redundant. But that would involve public ownership, and planning.
     Nebulous ideas of individual freedom are what keep people from believing that such a society would be far superior. But freedom is relative: if you have no money and no say in how society is run, and control is in the hands of powerful business interests, then freedom does not exist in reality. One could hardly call being made redundant “freedom.”
     The constant refrain that a fairer society would be great but that it couldn’t work in practice is hindering progress towards a better world. Inherently, people want a fairer and more just society, and they laud those people in the past who fought against injustice. These contemporary issues are also worth fighting for.
     By mistakes we learn; by passive inactivity we allow a destructive system to destroy the lives of the majority of people on the planet.
     Those in power want us to believe that we are powerless and that nothing can be changed; but we must prove them wrong.

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