“To him that hath, more shall be given; and from him that hath not, the little that he hath shall be taken away,” wrote Percy Shelley in 1821, two hundred years ago. “The rich have become richer, and the poor have become poorer.”
What has changed? Today, despite modern advances, the gulf between the classes has never been wider. It has become a gaping chasm.
People are going hungry to feed their children. The old workhouses have been replaced by the new workhouses of benefit sanctions and precarious work, where our every movement and second is monitored.
While millions exist on the breadline, even facing destitution, the rich are living on another planet – one of extreme opulence and unheard of luxury.
Payouts for parasites
The grossly overpaid governor of the Bank of England has urged wage restraint for struggling workers. At the same time, the bankers – who are “doing God’s work”, in their own words – are reaping obscene bonus payouts.
“We have had quite the run on champagne,” says the bartender at the New Moon in the City of London, where the parasites go to celebrate.
These leeches produce nothing socially useful. They exist to cream off the wealth, nothing more.
While the living standards of the working class are being driven down, the wealth of the boss class is being driven ever upwards. “There is a class war. And the rich are winning it,” observed Warren Buffet, the billionaire investor.
London’s big four banks – HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, and NatWest – are expected to pay bankers’ bonuses worth more than £4 billion this year. This is the biggest payout since the crash of 2008.
Some 3,519 UK bankers ‘earned’ more than €1m-a-year last year. In 2019, 27 bankers ‘earned’ more than €10m. One merchant banker was paid €64.8m.
NatWest, which is still 50% owned by the state, following the post-2008 bailout, is expected to pay bonuses of £300m, up from £200m last year. They milk the taxpayer and reap the rewards in the bargain. For them, it is a case of nationalising the losses and privatising the profits.
Greg Guyett, co-head of HSBC, justified the rises. “We’ve got to keep pay across the board competitive,” he said smugly.
What an insult to the millions of low-paid workers doing essential work, but crippled by rising prices and stagnant wages. The latest figures show that in the public sector average pay rose by only 2.6% – well below the headline rate of inflation.
Marx explained this growing divide between rich and poor with his theory of ‘increasing misery’. This was ridiculed by the right-wing reformists, the forerunners of Sir Keir Starmer, who said that capitalism had changed, and that everyone was now becoming middle class.
“Marx’s doctrine of the increasing misery of the working class has simply proved to be a fantastic miscalculation,” stated the wiseacre Harry Schwartz.
Well, today, the facts speak for themselves, and confirm that Marx was right.
As Marx explained, the growing polarisation of wealth is driven by the laws of capitalist accumulation. There is a constant drive to squeeze more profit out of the labour of the working class for the benefit of the capitalists, bankers, and landlords.
“The capitalist process of production is essentially a process of accumulation [of wealth],” he wrote. “Avarice and desire to get rich are the ruling passions.”
In other words, the increasing polarisation of wealth is part and parcel of the nature of capitalism.
Nail in the coffin
While we don’t object to greater taxes on the super-rich, no amount of progressive taxation is going to resolve this in-built law. The wealthy always find a million-and-one ways and fiddles to get around such measures.
Laith Khalaf, head of investment analysis at AJ Bell, which advises the rich, says that: “By using tax shelters shrewdly, you can at least hang on to more of your profits rather than paying them over to the taxman”.
Offshore accounts, shell companies, and trusts – where wealth is hidden – are a way of life for Britain’s rich. That is why the billionaires pay little or no tax.
But this outrage is provoking a political backlash everywhere. Anger and bitterness at the ruling elite has become widespread. Last year, the Financial Times even warned of the pitchforks coming out – a euphemism for revolution.
This is dangerous stuff, as it threatens to bring down the entire system. All the pillars of the capitalist establishment are being discredited, one after another. The whole system is being brought into disrepute. The increasing wealth of the super-rich is only another nail in their coffin.
For planning, not profit
Of course, the working class, through its trade unions, have no alternative but to battle for pay rises, especially in this period of high inflation.
But this fight is a fight-and-a-half, with the employers attempting to hold down wages. Everytime they are forced to give concessions with the left hand, they try to take them back with the right.
As we have explained many times, the whole problem lies with capitalism and the domination of the economy by a tiny elite, who are motivated only by greed and profit.
Whether it is inflation (rising prices) or deflation (cuts and austerity), it is workers who pay.
The only way that the working class can break out of this vicious cycle is to break with capitalism.
Only by nationalising the giant monopolies, the banks, and the finance houses can the resources of society be democratically-planned for the benefit of all, and not for the wheeling and dealing of the billionaire class.
It is high time this dog-eat-dog system was thrown out and placed where it belongs: in the dustbin of history.