Jeremy Corbyn made an effort to reassure bosses at their CBI conference on Monday that a Labour government would not threaten their profits.
Striding onto the podium, Corbyn was much more confident than at the same conference last year.
“We all know that the economic model that allows a few to grow very rich while the majority face falling incomes and rising indebtedness,” he said.
He promised a “new economic model that will create a fairer, richer Britain for all”.
Yet his appeals to supposed common interests were futile in front of an audience of people made rich by capitalism, privatisation and the free market.
CBI president Paul Drechsler briefly cradled his face in his hands as Corbyn talked about getting tough against tax dodging corporations.
Corbyn stressed that proposed nationalisations of public services, such as railways, were designed to help British capitalism. This is not about being anti-business, anti-enterprise or closing ourselves off to the rest of the world,” he said.
And he tried to woo business by positioning Labour as the real defender of the pro-big business European Union single market.
There was anger among bosses at the conference about how weak and divided the Tories are at the Brexit negotiating table.
Before Theresa May’s speech, Drechsler said that it was the time for the “spirit of unity again”.
And Ford Motor Company boss Steven Armstrong raised the spectre of Ford leaving Britain if it didn’t remain competitive. Bosses hope to force the Tories to get a Brexit that protects their profits at all costs, not jump ship to Labour.
Corbyn has inspired people with his radical policies.
He should tap into the anger against the bosses, not make concessions to their agenda in the vain hope of getting them on side.
The bosses were nervous about the rampant inequalities that capitalism had produced—which is fuelling a backlash across the world.
As OECD secretary general Angel Gurria warned, “These inequalities erode trust in governments, in business, in markets, in modern capitalism and democracy itself.
“They also contribute to the rise of a dangerous environment where all the wrong -isms grow and spread.
“We urgently need to reverse these trends.”
Yet while bosses understand that there’s anger, they won’t look for real solutions to inequality because that would see their wealth and privilege challenged.
The best solution Gurria could point to was German labour market “reforms” from 13 years ago.
But those reforms, pushed through by the Labour-type SPD, led to stagnation of wages and strengthened the right.
And, farcically, Gurria suggested that Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy showed the way to save capitalism.
“They are now creating 750,000 jobs a year notwithstanding their latest turbulence on the political side,” he said, referring to the political crisis over Catalonia.
The people at the top have no solution—apart from defending a system that brings inequality and climate catastrophe.
The only solution lies in the fight for a different society.