Voice From the Back
Another Example Of Exploitation
Capitalism distorts everything it touches. It even distorts the English language. The use of the term ‘earned’ is a case in point. ‘Jonathan Ruffer, the philanthropic fund manager, is believed to have earned close to £12m last year after another bumper performance by his boutique investment firm. Pre-tax profits at Ruffer Management rose 6% to £115m’ (Sunday Times, 22 December). How did Ruffer ‘earn’ a million quid per month? He didn’t of course. He exploited men and women of the working class by that staggering figure. That is the basis of the capitalism system.
A slight fall in the unemployment figures has led to politicians talking about an economic recovery, but for large parts of the British population this is a complete myth. ‘Advisers at the homeless charity Shelter are taking 500 calls a day from distraught people. … The anxiety and emotion that pours into the headsets of crisis advice workers in this crowded fifth-floor Sheffield call centre offers a snapshot of the UK’s worsening homelessness crisis. Advisers at Shelter’s helpline are processing more calls than ever. Last year there was a 15% increase in the volume of calls – a reflection, staff think, of the degree to which people are struggling with rising house prices, soaring rents, cuts to housing benefit and the long shadow of the recession’ (Guardian, 23 December). Perhaps a shift answering these desperate calls to the Shelter helpline would help politicians to get a better picture of the real situation for thousands of homeless workers.
Amassing A Fortune
At a time when millions of people are trying to survive on the equivalent of $2 a day it is worthwhile looking at the immense wealth of the super-rich. ‘Warren Buffett spent most of 2013 amassing fortunes of over £23 million a day through investments into food manufacturing giants like Heinz, which he bought earlier this year. The investor topped the Wealth-X ‘gainers’ list for 2013, having made a staggering £7.7 billion since January to bring his estimated net worth to a cool £36 billion’ (Independent, 25 December). At least the Independent did not insult its readers by claiming he ‘earned’ £23 million a day but used the term ‘amassing’.
Upper Class Arrogance
The arrogance of the owning class knows no bounds. Take the case of Yevgeny Chichvarkin the Russian reputed to have a fortune of £150m, who now lives in London and has opened a wine store in Mayfair for the super-rich called Hedonism. He currently offers a bottle of wine priced at £120,000 and has on offer a bottle of 55-year-old Glenfiddich whiskey at around £123,000. He blithely boasts of his customers. ‘It’s a present for somebody who has seen everything in this world. For some people who have been rich for a long, long time. It is quite hard to make an impression’ (Guardian, 28 December).
Mind That Gap
At a time when many workers are concerned about losing their homes nothing better illustrates the gap between them and the owning class than the housing market. ‘The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead, or ‘Billionaire’s Row’ as it is commonly known, has been named by Lloyd’s Bank as the second most expensive street in England and Wales – the average house price of £6.2 million still, incredibly, putting it below Egerton Crescent in Kensington and Chelsea, where houses sell for an average of £7.4 million’ (Times, 31 December). Not much concern here about the ‘bedroom tax’ or difficulties in meeting the mortgage payments unlike these unfortunates. ‘Rising bills and high costs are pushing many household budgets ‘to breaking point’, with one in 11 people worried they will not be able to afford their rent or mortgage this month, according to research from Shelter’ (Guardian, 3 January).
The Profit System’s Awful Cost
The development of capitalism grows at breakneck speed in China, but at a terrible human cost. ‘Between 350,000 and 500,000 Chinese die prematurely each year because of the country’s disastrous air pollution, says China’s former health minister. The equivalent of the population of Bristol dies each year in China because of lethal air pollution, according to Chen Zhu, who was the country’s Health minister until last year’ (Daily Telegraph, 7 January). In the mindless drive for bigger and bigger profits for the owning class the working class have to pay in ill health and premature death.