Capitalism's wealth gap grows

According to the British chancellor, Philip Hammond, austerity is apparently over. But for the super-rich it looks like it never even began! The latest figures reveal that the international billionaire class made more money in 2017 than in any year in recorded history.

Whilst workers, the youth, and the poor have had to tighten their belts in yet another year of crisis, the wealthy elite have increased their fortunes by 20 percent, making a total of £6.9tn according to a recent report by UBS.

Stagnant economy

With all this money in the hands of just 2,158 people, one wonders: what exactly are they doing with it? Certainly not developing the economy, lifting workers out of poverty, or creating jobs.

In the UK, home to 54 billionaires, productivity growth is at its lowest level for 200 years. Real wages have fallen more in the last decade than at any time since 1750. And whilst unemployment is officially at a historically low level, this masks the reality of chronic underemployment and bogus self-employment, with workers everywhere seeing their rights and stability stripped away by zero-hours contracts.

HammondMayBudgetDespite British Chancellor, Philip Hammond’s assurances, austerity is very much alive and kicking for the working class / Image: Socialist Appeal

Of course, despite Hammond’s assurances, austerity is very much alive and kicking for the working class. And these attacks on workers are the mainspring of profits for the billionaires.

Capitalism has overreached itself. The world economy is crippled by overproduction. The only way the parasitic capitalist class can continue to expand their profits is through an all-out assault on wages and working conditions.

According to a report from the Resolution Foundation, for example, weekly pay has fallen by as much as 1.5 percent for those in the bottom 20 percent of UK earners since 2017.

Crisis looms

One striking feature of the UBS report is the growing number of Chinese billionaires, which now stands at 373 – up 57 since 2016, and gaining fast on the USA. These new robber barons made their fortunes on the back of privatising the Chinese planned economy, built (like everything under the sun) by the working class.

China came to the rescue of the world economy in 2008, with a massive Keynesian government stimulus keeping production and construction expanding. But the Chinese economy is now itself extremely unstable, with a ‘debt bomb’ of $34tn – some 266 percent of GDP according to Bloomberg.

Robin Li Image Flickr Kevin KrejciOne striking feature of the UBS report is the growing number of Chinese billionaires. (Pictured: Robin Li, one of the richest men in China, net worth US$18.5 billion) / Image: Flickr, Kevin Krejci

Like the rest of the world economy, Chinese industry is crippled with overproduction. For example, Chinese steel production is some 130 million tons above what can be absorbed by the market. This looming crisis is reflected in rapidly declining growth figures, down to 6.7 percent (from 12.1 percent) since the post-2008 rally.

When this debt bomb explodes and brings the Chinese and world economy crashing down with it, one wonders: who will be made to pay? The billionaire gangsters at the top, or those in China and beyond who create their wealth through sweat and toil?

The answer is obvious: until the working class takes power and organises society along socialist lines, it will always be the 99 percent who suffer for the privileges of the 1 percent.