Some statements are spoken so frequently they lose the power that their meaning should convey. One of the consistent, factual, accusations of recent times has been that the UK has suffered the longest period of decline in recorded economic history. Levelled often at the Tories it should carry the power of a Mike Tyson uppercut but its constant repetition without explanation has softened it. “Recorded economic history” could mean anything; is it the last few decades, is it since we started using spreadsheets, is it post-war, is it the 20th Century? No, recorded economic history goes back to the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. No generation of workers has suffered such a steep or prolonged decline in their real income in all that time, until now.
Also, something that is never mentioned in conjunction with this is the reason why we have suffered such a drop in our wages. We were told austerity was absolutely necessary to balance the books, that we all had to tighten our belts because of the global financial crisis and people largely accepted this. The levels of quantitative easing flooding the banking system was essential to keep the banking system afloat, with some notable flotsam and jetsam. However, at no stage have those at the tip of this giant sub-prime pyramid scheme had to tighten anything, excepting their desire to lend to one another in good faith, unless that loan was guaranteed by the state.
While we, and by which I mean the homeless, the precariat, the working class, the squeezed middle and whatever box you want to put people in who aren’t obscenely rich, continue to see our ability to afford what we used to afford disappear, those at the top see quite the opposite. According to the latest Sunday Times Rich List the wealthiest 1000 families in the UK have seen their income increase by an eye-watering 180% since the financial crisis; they are worth, collectively, £724bn or the same as the bottom 40+% of all society. So while the vast majority of us have lost around £1000 per year in the last 10 years, the super-rich have been laughing all the way to the bank; the bank they own the profits of but have passed on the losses to us.
There is more money now than ever before in the global milieu, and we are told that absolute poverty is declining the world over. Some of that last point is subject to interpretation of what constitutes poverty – a previously happy subsistence farmer in the third world forced from his land and into a sweatshop now no longer lives in “absolute poverty” only because he has now become a member of the global proletariat instead of having his plot of land with which he feeds his family but earns no quantifiable money. Nevertheless, the fact that more people are earning money is true, however small and we are told that in the west we are in a global race now with the workers of the world; who must not unite but separate and fight, fight one another in a race to the bottom. The rich are taking no hit on this, they are still scooping up commodities and securities all over the world, indebting new swathes of populations to profit from, keeping more people under the jackboot of capital with the goal not of servicing traditional market economies and thus society, but to service the rich with their labour. The simple basic Marxist economic principles remain true whether condensed into one factory or the impending global workshop; the surplus capital goes to the owner of the means of production; the worker as soon as that surplus is created is then alienated from the use value of their labour, it continues and renews and solidifies with each passing crisis.
We were told by Margaret Thatcher that a rising tide lifts all boats and that wealth trickles down. The wealth has never trickled down but has consistently been funnelled upward in to a psychopathic class of leeches at the top of our societies, who run politics, who own the means not only of production but of the ability to print money when they need it (not when we need it), and who run the media. The capitalist class is an enormous vampire, and unburdened by the threat of global socialism it has been able to turbo-boost its blood sucking activities knowing that revolution is now a distant option for many.
We are kept on low and declining wages because we must then turn to easy but restrictive forms of credit flows, because indebted people don’t demand their rights, or strike, or rise up; no surprise that unions are being targeted across the world with ever more restrictive legislation. We are told it will be all OK tomorrow; the pain is necessary for the pleasure later or Jam Tomorrow as it used to be called. We must flagellate ourselves before the alter of extreme wealth like some kind of Opus Dei off-shoot that has written god out of religion and replaced him with a balance sheet.
Once upon a time the rich invested in building great structures aimed at the betterment of society. The Carnegie’s and the Rowntrees may have been red in tooth and claw capitalism but they understood that a civilisation needs certain basic structures if it is to succeed. Libraries, railways, schools, hospitals, in short public services. The modern capitalist class, with its hidden wealth mountain estimated to be $8.7trillion, is absolving itself of all such responsibilities; this is all money that should have been tax, and thus the publics. The only way to get at any of this is to have international cooperation across boundaries and financial institutions; but the people hiding this money own those very states and institutions.
The British are past-masters at tax avoidance but what government would be foolish enough to try and throttle the banks in search of their financial skulduggery merchants? The financial sector in the UK is currently 10 times that of our GDP; the bank, as philosophical entity, is now bigger than the state; that’s before you look at the shadow banking economy; banking done by companies that don’t have a formal banking licence and are thus unregulated; the size of this economy is estimated to be £160trillion – twice the size of global GDP. Nobody has the guts to tackle any of this, we don’t even yet have the vocabulary to tackle this, let alone the skills.
The question I have is how much longer will people take it? How long before people stop caring about their indebtedness and start wrecking the machinery of capital. There is a tipping point; it has arrived at different points throughout this short period we can call “modern history” and it will come again because the controllers of wealth don’t know how to stop kleptomania. The rich live in their gated communities behind security fences but they won’t hold back a mob, they won’t hold back a revolution, and they won’t hold back an idea. Communism was once the shadow that made capitalists squeal and give a little back. That shadow is gone and they are unafraid of the people they exploit now; it’s time they were afraid again, it’s time we had a seat at the table and didn’t just get the crumbs that fall from it.