rhondda riots

Abide the Bosses’ Law by Gemma June Howell


Image by Ricardo Liberato*

At which point the butterfly of globalisation first flapped its wing has been the focus of historical debate for many years. Some suggest that it goes back to Roman times and the imposition of ‘foreign’ forms of economic and social development throughout Europe – hence ‘what did they ever do for us’! But I see modern globalisation being about scale and worldwide integration of all forms of capital, some of which are good (raising levels of empathy and understanding of different cultures), some of which are bad (where capitalism soaks the pores of every crevice).

In more recent times globalisation reached its potential through deregulation during the Thatcher/Reagan era that released the bats of profiteering we see today in the long tail of economic inequality. This followed the shock oil price controls by OPEC, in the early 70s; which was the beginning of non-Western hegemony with the spread of global assets by today’s new economic powers from Dubai to Dehli to Beijing. Capital flows as quickly as the oil through transcontinental pipes, so we now have Indian companies owning British-based manufacturing and deciding the fate of Welsh and English steel workers. The origin of ownership doesn’t matter per se. But global capitalism is run in the same way whatever the cultural heritage as we see with ‘communist’ China. Owners may be hedge funds or political dictators, they are all driven by profit and their managers are their enforcers.


Image by John Briggs

Gemma June Howell’s poignant ballad, ‘Abide the Bosses’ Law’, inspired by the Rhondda Riots (aka Tonypandy riots) over one hundred years ago, resonates to this day. Our women cradled flasks of tea/while we clasped wooden sticks. /The kids looked on with hungry eyes,/We miners had thrown down our picks!” An oligopoly of mine owners had set prices and wages to the obvious detriment of the workers. “Though starving half to death out there/our wills were strong as iron./We wouldn’t take this lying down,/each man with the heart of a lion.” (more…)