Nov 28 2011: British Printing and Communication Corporation: A Personal Message from Robert Maxwell (E. Hannibal Flexidisc, 1980s)
A bit of a curiosity here, as clients and businesses within the British Printing and Communications Corporation are sent a flexidisc containing a personal message from their new CEO, Robert Maxwell, on such matters as the redesigned logo and the repositioning of the business for a future that home video recorders, Ceefax and transponders are in the process of transforming. Of course, Maxwell’s criminality and dubious business methods are now well known, but I suppose when this was issued – probably in the early to mid 1980s – he was still regarded as a respectable and successful businessman: though from the perspective of 2011 hindsight it would seem that his methods might be seen as pioneering rather than atypical. The kinds of venal and short-term activities engaged in by Maxwell (in the light of the 2008 crash, and its exposure of the bleeding of pension funds, burdening companies with debt to pay shareholders and secure executive bonuses and all the rest) seem more like templates for much that is now standard corporate practice at a systemic level rather than ‘one-off’ instances of criminal behaviour.
Perhaps Maxwell’s own history, with the roots of his business empire in the Communist states of seventies Europe, also suggests that the market has become a kind of repressive ideology in its own right: one that, since 1989, has proved highly amenable to former Party apparatchiks in the states where Communism itself was displaced, and where similar justifications of failure to those peddled by Party officials through much of the 70s and 80s are routinely trotted out by market apologists in the West, to be dealt with by those well-tested former Communist Party methods of scapegoating and more of the same. Why else are we hearing from so many quarters in our own governments and business sectors that the solution to an abject failure of deregulated markets in 2008 is to return to the old Party standbys of ‘blame everyone else’ and ‘deregulate further’? In the light of all this, Robert Maxwell – whose speech on this disc (perhaps appropriately) skips in a few places, much as his official accounting and reporting practices did – might be seen as a precursor rather than a major exception to what came next in the world of corporate governance.