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Proletarian issue 77 (April 2017)
The rich still get richer and the poor still get poorer
There is no solution to poverty and inequality under capitalism.
The charity Oxfam released its latest report into the scale of global inequality to coincide with the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, in January, once again highlighting the staggering inequality that exists under the ruling imperialist system, in which those at the top happily deny food, shelter and medicines to billions of people at the bottom in order to hold onto and increase profits for the tiny handful of super-rich who rule most of the globe through their bought-and-paid-for ranks of puppets of varying degrees of power.

The Oxfam report, An Economy for the 99 Percent, shows that just eight super-billionaires, six Americans, a Mexican and a Spaniard, together have as much wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world, and that the top 1 percent of the world’s people own more wealth than the other 99 percent combined. Last year, Oxfam published a similar report, but its conclusions were flawed. Apparently, not all the debt of the poorest people was taken into account, so when they reported that 62 people owned the same as half the world, they should have realised it was in fact nine people who owned the same as half the world!

Just in case anyone is worried that the ninth person has become poor this year, the fact that the number has dropped to eight is due to the phenomenal increase in the wealth of the extremely rich, probably including that ninth parasite, and a decrease in the wealth of the poorest.

These richest eight individuals, based on information from last year, had a net worth of $426bn compared with the $409bn owned by the poorest 3.6 billion people of the world. While we cannot name those 3.6 billion or give their individual net worths, we can do this with the top eight.

They are: Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, $75bn; Amancio Ortega, founder of Zara, $67bn; Warren Buffett, CEO and largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway, $60.8bn; Carlos Slim, owner of Grupo Carso, $50bn; Jeff Bezos, founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon, $45.2bn; Mark Zuckerberg, chairman, CEO and co-founder of Facebook, $44.6bn; Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, $43.6bn; and Michael Bloomberg, founder, owner and CEO of Bloomberg, $40bn.

According to Mark Goldring, the chief executive of Oxfam GB, one of the biggest problems driving this extreme disparity of wealth is the activity of big businesses, which “are structured to dodge taxes, drive down workers’ wages and squeeze producers instead of fairly contributing to an economy that benefits everyone”. Or, for those who prefer to tell it like it is, the imperialists are acting like imperialists!

We do not accuse Mark Goldring of being uncaring. On the contrary, we are sure that he is a very caring person and his organisation ferrets out information that is very useful, but giving these facts to the ultra-rich and their puppets and then expecting them to somehow mend their ways is naive in the extreme. Imperialists cannot stop being imperialists unless we forcefully depose them – they will certainly not step down voluntarily.

The rich and their minions know only too well that the majority of the world’s people live in the most painful and depressing poverty, and it is the fear of joining the ranks of those poorest, most broken humans that keeps the minions of the rich on their toes and doing exactly what their masters tell them to do. It is the masses of the working class and oppressed who need to understand the whole system so that they can then appreciate that they have a historic mission to fulfil by destroying the imperialist vice that is relentlessly squeezing the life out of them during the present world capitalist crisis, as well as driving the world towards a new and even more horrific world war.

Mr Goldring, in his plea for the imperialists ‘not to be so greedy’, also correctly states: “It is beyond grotesque that a group of men who could easily fit in a single golf buggy own more than the poorest half of humanity.” Again, we could look at the problem from a slightly different angle, which is that just one well-aimed hand grenade could take out the owners of the wealth equivalent to that owned by the poorest 3.6 billion humans.

However, that would not end imperialism and the massive wealth would merely end up in the hands of other rich people. The problem is systemic, not primarily one of this or that individual. Clearly, the working classes must organise themselves to take down the whole lot, overcoming both the members of the capitalist class and their minions, and destroying the capitalist state machines that are the means by which the proletariat and the oppressed masses of the world are ruled.

We must then set up working-class state power – the dictatorship of the proletariat – to replace the current dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. This is extremely hard and will meet extreme bloody resistance, which will have to be beaten down by force. But as long as we don’t allow ourselves to be divided along the lines of race, colour, ethnic origins, language, gender or age, it is perfecetly achievable.

The proletariat needs only to understand the problem and its solution, and to rally around a party guided by scientific principles (namely, by Marxism Leninism), and its determination and collective strength can begin to reverse this ‘grotesque’ inequality in a way that appealing to the ‘common’ decency of the fabulously rich and powerful never will.

The leader of Oxfam GB further waxed lyrical telling our oppressors and tormentors how very unfair they were all being and sought to recruit the help of Prime Minister Theresa May in doing this when he said: “Inequality is not only keeping millions of people trapped in poverty, it is fracturing our societies and poisoning our politics.”

“It’s just not right that top executives take home massive bonuses while workers’ wages are stagnating, or that multinationals and millionaires dodge taxes while public services are being cut,” he continued, urging the prime minister to ‘address’ the problem of global inequality in her keynote speech at Davos. “Oxfam welcomes the prime minister’s pledge to tackle inequality in the UK – we’d like to see her make a similar commitment on the global stage,” Mr Goldring said – one presumes with a straight face.

Hypocritical bourgeois statements on tackling inequality

So what is the commitment of the British PM to ‘tackling inequality in the UK’ that has garnered such a ‘welcome’ from Oxfam? To help us look at this issue alone, we have consulted another recently released report, this time from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which tells us that in Britain today 19 million people are earning less than the minimum income standard (MIS) – that is, four million more than six years ago.

The MIS is a measure of just how much income households need for an ‘acceptable standard of living’ – a standard that has been characterised by Prime Minister May, as describing families who are “just about managing”. Eleven of those 19 million are recognised as being at high risk of falling into poverty. The report also suggests that the cost of living could be 10 percent higher by 2020, which should drive many more families below that ‘just about managing’ line.

It makes the prediction: “Inflation is projected to return, driven by increases in the prices of commodities such as food that make up a relatively high proportion of a minimum household budget,” and that this will “limit real wage increases, and cause the value of benefits and tax credits to fall. The result will be to create a highly challenging environment for families whose low incomes mean they are, at best, only just managing to make ends meet.”

The last six years has been a downward spiral, the report tells us, regarding wage growth, which has not kept up with the cost of living, and there is nothing, apart from the PM’s ‘commitment’, which looks set to change that pattern. The price of a minimum ‘basket of goods’ has risen by about 27 percent since 2008, and those who find themselves at the greatest risk of slipping into poverty, or further into poverty, depending on the individual starting point, are working-age adults with children, and, in particular, children with lone parents.

The charity’s report says that a couple living outside London with two young children at primary school would need an MIS of £17,681 each; in outer London, that figure would rise to £27,156 each. That ‘welcomed by Oxfam’ commitment by the PM to ‘tackling inequality’ in Britain is proving very hard to find!

Still searching for some evidence of Theresa May’s commitment to reducing inequality and ending poverty, we turned to the Resolution Foundation, a body, according to their website, founded in 2005 to conduct authoritative analytical research on living standards in Britain and to produce effective policy solutions that help shape the debate on economic and social policy.

We found this recent quote from Laura Gardiner, a senior policy analyst, who, following the news of a rise in jobs, said: “The encouraging news on jobs isn’t feeding through into earnings, which have shown no sign of responding to fast-rising inflation. Unless this changes Britain is set for a fresh pay squeeze later this year.”

In short, there will not be any meaningful relief under capitalism. Only socialism can permanently transform the lives of working people for the better. We can and must speed up the process of bringing this understanding to the mass of our fellow workers.
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