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Capitalism :: Enron
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HOW DOES big business get influence with top politicians? After your firm's share prices soar by 1,700% in 16 years, your fortunes fade - how can you lie about your profits to keep those share prices looking healthy?
If that fails, how do you destroy evidence to hide the truth? How can you get yourself a windfall while your workers lose their jobs and livelihoods?
Ask American energy giant Enron! When this company became the biggest bankrupt in US history, it showed up how the world's biggest capitalist enterprises rule political parties both sides of the Atlantic.
Last autumn Enron shares plummeted from $90 each to around 60 cents, but the company's executives sold over $1 billion worth of shares and got rich. Ordinary Enron employees weren't allowed to sell the share options which they relied on for retirement pensions. So when the lights went out at Enron thousands of workers were sacked and impoverished while their bosses made fortunes.
Enron however subsidised US President Bush by more than $500,000 after he first stood for governor of Texas in 1994. Other Bush administration members also got Enron gold.
These political place-men helped push Enron's interests in government. They'd helped deregulate energy markets. Bush's tax breaks for the rich saved Enron $254 million - more than any other company. But even Bush couldn't save Enron.
Enron wanted political influence in Britain too. Tory peer and former cabinet minister Lord Wakeham was a director of the company.
Enron Europe paid out £36,000 in a "charm offensive" to become Labour's sponsors. They also hired Labour chancellor Gordon Brown's former adviser Karl Milner's firm to win a deal to build a huge privately owned gas-fired power station in Teesside.
Enron got the deal after Peter Mandelson lifted the moratorium on gas-fired power stations, which had been banned to try to save Britain's coal industry. Mandelson also gave the green light to Enron's purchase of Wessex Water.
New Labour even gave Ralph Hodge, head of European Enron, a CBE in last year's new years' honours list.
Some pro-big business papers are worried about the message that's coming across on who calls the shots in business and politics. But corruption is normal in capitalism.
If you want to stop our lives being ruined by big business and our governments dominated by corporate interests, you should join our fight for a socialist society!
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Article dated 1 February 2002
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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