Socialist Worker

Demand more than the ‘democracy’ of the rich

Issue No. 2439

Stefano Pessina, the head of Boots, criticises Labour

Stefano Pessina, the head of Boots, criticises Labour

From Athens to London via Edinburgh there are constant reminders of how the rich try to subvert democracy.

The bankers and their friends do not accept that people in Greece have the right to vote against austerity. For the global elite, elections are acceptable only if they produce a compliant pro-business government. That’s why they are trying to undermine the new Greek government with threats and co-option. 

Bankers pulled money out of Greece. More of the same will follow if Syriza continues to threaten austerity and inspire others to resist. 

We have seen a tamer version in Britain.

Before every general election businessmen try to scare people into voting Tory. Even the pallid challenge represented by the Labour Party is sometimes too much for them.

This week the Tory press seized on remarks by Boots chairman Stefano Pessina who predicted “catastrophe” if Labour was elected. Pessina lives in Monte Carlo with his £7.5 billion fortune, which helps him avoid taxes. Boots moved its formal tax residence from Britain to Switzerland following Pessina’s private equity-backed buyout in 2007.

Other businessmen “spontaneously” followed. Lord Rose, former Marks & Spencer boss, accused Labour leader Ed Miliband of being a “1970s throwback”. This hardly came as a surprise. The Lord Rose of Monewden is a Tory member of the House of Lords, and advises the government on how to make NHS cuts.

Then restaurant owner Luke Johnson trumpeted that the Labour Party is “ignorant of the way markets and capitalism works”.

Another group of bosses then ludicrously claimed that Ed Miliband had acted in a bullying manner by criticising Pessina.

We saw similar moves during the Scottish referendum. Tory and Labour leaders lined up chief executives to claim that a Yes vote would trigger disaster. 

Bosses threatened that they would pull out their money and destroy thousands of jobs if people dared to challenge the present set-up. Their blackmail must be answered by struggle and defiance. 

Every concession by Syriza in Greece or by those who oppose the Tories here will trigger demands for further retreats.

Labour leaders never miss an opportunity to insist they are the best friends of business. 

But when you embrace your sworn enemies, you feel it when they spit at you. Big business is the enemy of social progress. 

Real democracy means taking power away from a tiny elite and running society in the interest of the majority.


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What We Think
Tue 3 Feb 2015, 18:33 GMT
Issue No. 2439
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