Small Business – “Our” Problem Child</heading> Ruthless Criticism

Small Business – “Our” Problem Child

[Translated from a radio broadcast by Kein Kommentar! December 11, 2002]

If the government opposition accuses the government of always bailing out only the big corporations while “small business” quietly dies; if the re-elected government publicly promises to go to any length to “promote small business”; if the media testifies with the relevant statistics to the impending “fall of the middle class” – this much is certain: here are conditions that need and deserve our concern and sympathy.

“Small business” deserves our concern and sympathy

They are the basis of “our growth” on which we all live, the many “small” but better quality businesses employing between 5 to 500 people. They constitute “small business” and compile the largest part of “our Gross National Product.” When they pursue their business, they increase not only their own private wealth. The profit they gain is the backbone of “our economy.” With their business activity, they carry out the all-important national service: they increase the national wealth.

They are also the ones who donate the scarce commodity on which so many in this nation depend: “jobs.” Who constitutes 99.7 % of all national enterprises, who employs 60 % of all those employed? If they employ and dismiss people according to their cost calculations, if they invest in more or less workers for their profit, then they untiringly create – and at enormous personal expense – the desired “jobs” as a service to millions in the country.

They are not among those capitalist beneficiaries who only invest their money. They are capital that “produces,” so they are beyond everyone’s quiet suspicion that they are undeserving of their enrichment. Finally, they are not the big anonymous corporations in which employee managers oversee the fates of businesses in pursuit of “shareholder value.” They personally take on the risk of competition for financially sound customers, and risk their own money when they have it increase. Surely, they invest not for themselves, but untiringly overwork themselves in their business pursuits.

Employees may be grateful if their users – quite “personal” in their positions as owner and boss – set up working conditions that are simply required by the tough business of successful profit maximization. Command by these bosses ensures a personal working atmosphere. Even if they do not always carry a collective bargaining agreement under their arm, they make their earnings as a genuine operating family in which the boss, as far as time and circumstances permit, still keeps contact with his “co-workers” and appreciates their proven employment for the enterprise – also personally.

The dedication of these many untiringly creative and daring entrepreneurs is what makes the national location a “blossoming landscape.” Because their business has its “homeland” here, they are not subject to the suspicion, like the multinationals with their international location decisions, of neglecting again and again their obligations to growth and the interest in jobs for the nation. They are closely connected to the community, rooted in the country, regionally or nationally engaged. They are reliable national businesses, striving to cooperate with the program for the recovery of the country so that it goes according to plan; they fulfill their political responsibility by filling orders, even if they procure cheap foreign workers, use the local grounds for expanding their business abroad and strive for increased export successes.

And as “small” employers, they are always threatened by the powerful, competition-controlling companies and by the foreign competitors that try to make the traditional national market contentious for them. If they have no other goal than to expand their profitable business, to open new commercial opportunities with credit, to conquer new market positions in the country and abroad, in short: to become larger – to create and sometimes equal their jump on the stock exchange – then they only fight to withstand the often superior competition and assert their talent and abilities to survive in a difficult market.

This honorable condition, from the craftsman up to the mechanical engineering firm with billions in sales in family hands, is the personalized symbol of successful private enrichment that constitutes the wealth of the nation; it represents the national interest in the capitalistic use of country and people, thus in the extensive increase of this wealth on the location taken care of by it and for it – that means capital as a national institution, the epitome of the interest in the global success of the capitalist competition taking place on the national soil. And as such, the preferred object of national concern.

“Small business” needs our concern and sympathy

Because even with all their tireless striving, it is notoriously difficult for them. No wonder. In the end, they are, as said, “small” and thus probably endangered companies. If they make their best efforts to promote their business, capture market shares and fill market gaps, edge out competitors from the market – in short, if they compete for profit maximization and to increase their profits – then they are always having difficulties because they are always much too small, only regional or national, involved in risky ventures only with their own private business instinct and their own capital, compelled to constantly make special efforts in competition, special “innovations” and business “moves,” without having the whole world and limitless credit available for successful “commitment.” They are threatened with the punishment that their success declines, and they want to assert themselves in an always particularly difficult environment. In short: they are the epitome of capital in need.

That's why it's in all our interest that they need special government welfare. They need not only state orders and subsidies, but a welfare service that comprehensively takes care of their competitive emergencies and is concerned with them. Namely, so that their competitive power is ultimately promoted, despite their notorious lack of capital, in conditions that guarantee their profit-yielding success. This success depends not so much on innovation, boldness and financial risk as on capital and credit to finance “jobs” which guarantee profitable employment of labor. Because of the smaller size of their capital, they lack the means of business advance – that is, the “technological innovations” and “rationalizations” that make workers redundant – on the same scale that the big companies have at their disposal, so they are all the more entitled – here in agreement with the compassionate public – to compensate themselves by falling back on special measures against their workers. They have a particularly high number of employees – and thus a “portion of labor costs.” So it is also certain that they suffer more than all the other businesses from the obstacles they face as employers, with all the payment and work regulations in the way. A state that grants the trade unions much too many rights and influence, which only makes business difficult all the time for free employers with regulations for normal work times and overtime, grounds for firing and industrial safety – and taxes too. They simply need more freedom to make use of their beloved co-workers as mercilessly as is simply necessary for the success of their business. One can see that they are notoriously in shortfalls from the facts that they create the worst working conditions in their companies and pay the lowest wages, that they constantly exceed the legal limits to work times and payment, or they disregard them entirely. Therefore they must think about how their cost burden, which is just their workers, can be lowered without a cost-cutting technical increase in productivity. And they see that they can do this only if they challenge, daringly enough, the long established social protections that growth-oriented “small business” never simply abides by anyway. If these entrepreneurs, in their operational practice as employers, already so irrefutably clarify what freedoms to take – state sanctioned or not – when profitably managing their valued employees, then they also stand for liberating the state from the burdens of laws about wage payment, limits to overwork, and restructuring and layoffs: in short, simply the cheapest and freest command over the workforce. Small business can't afford too much consideration for the employees when it is simply fighting for sufficient profits so as to follow its duty to “create jobs.”

Finally, “small business” is the recognized cutting edge in cheaper wages and freedom from regulations; it is a synonym for the economic necessity of lower wages. And for this reason, it is not an antagonist to the “big guys,” the national and international corporations; it is a synonym for the universal claim of capital to unconditional state support: for the requirement of state-regulated exploitation conditions that guarantee the merciless mobilization of unpaid work for capital.

Always, whenever “small business” is spoken of

politics is on the test stand

as to whether it follows orders seriously enough. Newspaper-reading workers may worry whether “small business” gets the promotion that “we” need. And whether or not, with much too many workers still having it too good with all their grandfathered “living standards,” they stand in the way of the growth on which we all depend.