Fiddling while the planet warms
The Socialist Party has always said that capitalist society is based upon the exploitation of one class by another, the capitalist class who own the means of production and distribution and derive their wealth from the unpaid labour of the working class, who have only their labour power to sell to the capitalist class for a wage or a salary. This accumulation of social wealth in the hands of a minority class inevitably makes for huge disparities between the living conditions of the two classes. Richer capitalists live lives of luxury and opulence, while many workers struggle with various degrees of relative or absolute poverty. That we live in an inherently unequal society is obvious and the media provides plenty of material to back it up.
The recently leaked Pandora papers are a case in point. They comprise 11.9 million files from businesses that set up offshore companies on behalf of their wealthy clients to avoid paying tax on property deals, hide financial assets from regulatory bodies and use shell companies to own luxury items such as yachts. They lay bare the financial dealings of many public figures.
One prominent client is King Abdullah II of Jordan, who rules over a country whose inhabitants suffer from widespread poverty and which is a recipient of international aid, including from the UK. However, this hasn’t stopped him from accruing a secret $100 million property fortune, much of which, ironically, is invested in the London property market. There is Andrej Babis, current prime minister of the Czech Republic, who used an offshore company to purchase a chateau in the south of France for $22 million. Funnily enough, he came to power on a populist anti-corruption ticket. We have also found that Tony and Cherie Blair were able to avoid paying £312,000 stamp duty when purchasing a London office property through an offshore company. It is worth remembering that it was Tony Blair’s government that, in 2001, launched a series of ads targeting so-called ‘benefit cheats’ and encouraging workers to grass on them. Tina Green, Sir Philip Green’s wife, went on a spending spree buying property for millions of pounds while BHS, owned by the Greens, was going under, wrecking their workers’ livelihoods.
The working class, on the other hand, have had to struggle with the effects of the pandemic, many have lost their jobs or got reduced wages while being furloughed. Millions of workers are facing a £20 cut in their Universal Credit payments. This is on top of ten years of austerity and a fall in real wages. The Tories like to lecture the workers that there is no ‘magic money tree’, while Pandora reveals they’re happy to take huge bungs of cash from dodgy Russian oligarchs via ‘magic offshore funds’.
People right now are desperately demanding radical action on climate change. The problem is, capitalism richly rewards its political leaders for not doing anything, for maintaining the status quo, for allowing the ruling class to continue making money without interference or even public scrutiny. Given this, we say it is simply unrealistic to expect governments to do anything serious about capitalism and the problems it causes – like climate change. What is needed is a democratic revolution to get rid of capitalism.