January 2012        

Wealth and power monopolised


The recent “Global Wealth” report by Credit Suisse shows in numbers what Socialist Voice has been saying since the beginning of this crisis: that the rich continue to get richer and there is an abundance of capital in the world, which can’t be productively invested because of over-production and monopolisation, and that this is concentrated in the class of monopoly capitalists, who are using this crisis as an opportunity to attack decades of hard-won rights and services and to make us pay for their crisis.
     According to this report, global wealth increased to $231 trillion in 2011, from $195 trillion in 2010, and they expect it to reach $345 trillion by the end of 2016.
     Wealth has more than doubled, from $113 trillion in 2000. The top 1 per cent—those with more than $712,000—account for 44 per cent of that $231 trillion, with the top 10 per cent owning 84 per cent of the world’s wealth while the bottom 50 per cent have barely 1 per cent of this wealth. This is how uneven, unequal and monopolised capital is.
     North America and Europe, the centre of monopoly capitalism, with only 20 per cent of the world’s population, hold 62 per cent of the world’s wealth. The share of the world’s millionaires “rises sharply” in the United States to 34 per cent.
     The report also draws attention to the worrying level of household indebtedness in the United States and the European Union, noting a “significant rise in household debt relative to income since 1980.”

Crisis as opportunity

This crisis has been used to transfer wealth from labour to capital and to transfer debt from private financial institutions and individuals to the public, while wealth continues to concentrate in those few hands.
     Bank bail-outs, guarantee schemes and massive payments to unsecured bond-holders have ensured that global wealth has increased, and has increased in the right direction: upwards.
     Tax increases on working people, with little or no increased taxation of the wealthy, the privatisation of public wealth and cuts to public services are intended to ensure the solvency of the state for future bail-outs, including the permanent EU bail-out fund to which Ireland will have to contribute more than €10 billion.
     Pay cuts, reduced pension contributions by employers, the financialisation of pension schemes and the introduction of legalised “free labour” (job-bridge scheme) ensure increased profits, not jobs, for monopolies.
     These are not tools for increasing production, and so increasing the number of jobs, because, without any substantial increase in demand being possible, production can’t be substantially increased. They do, however, increase the rate of exploitation and the profits accruing to these companies.
     The crisis has been used to undermine democracy and sovereign controls and to concentrate further power in the hands of unelected financial “technocrats” in the EU member-states. In short, it is being used by the monopoly of the few to further increase their power and wealth.
     Greece and Italy are now ruled by unelected technocrats. Ireland is ruled by gombeen-men imposing the EU-IMF conditions. The EU prepares the text of a further treaty that will submit its signatories to budgetary and tax control and ultimately direct economic control by the EU while creating a permanent bail-out mechanism for the European banking system.
     And we hear increasing talk of “national unity governments” to replace bourgeois democracy, as the role of member-states will increasingly be to oppress and subdue their working masses.

The flaws of the “left”

Sadly, the crisis has also exposed two serious and linked flaws within some “left” theories and movements in Ireland, leading to confusion in tactics and demands, resulting in the lack of a serious working-class resistance.
     The first flaw is that some on the left continue to view the state and the EU as neutral forces, which have merely to be convinced of their errors by wise neo-Keynesian economists and responsible trade unionists.
     The second, and linked, flaw is the continued refusal by some to see capitalism as being in its monopoly or imperialist stage, maintaining an illusion that by increasing competitiveness or Ireland’s “attractiveness” we can somehow redirect the economy away from unproductive speculation and back to the glory days of industrial development and manufacturing growth.
     These two flaws must surely lie exposed by the experience of this crisis and the aggressive class war that is being waged by employers and the state, united in interest. To peddle the line of “partnership” or stimulative policies through further corporate donations is to deny the reality that exists.
     The only solution for working people is to control capital, to control our natural resources, and to democratically plan development. None of this can be done in the context of the euro, the EU, or the odious debt imposed on the people by the ruling class.
[NL]

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