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Proletarian issue 71 (April 2016)
The rich are getting richer but fewer
As the gap between the rich and poor widens, some of the rich find themselves being kicked downstairs.
On 1 March 2016, there appeared a short article in the Financial Times by Hugo Greenhalgh, the paper’s ‘wealth correspondent’, entitled ‘UK’s billionaires are fewer and poorer’. Before readers dab their tearful eyes and rush off to organise a whip-round among their local benefits claimants, a close look at the article might prove instructive.

First, Mr Greenhalgh tells us: “There are fewer billionaires in the UK and they are almost $10bn poorer than last year, according to Forbes’ annual ranking of the global super-rich.”

Capitalism, as a system based on the exploitation of the poor and on cut-throat competition between the rich, is characterised by a widening gap between those at the very top and those lower down and by the gradual sinking of the level of most people I society, relative to those at the top. Within this picture, we do of course also see movement in different directions and at different speeds through all three classes and among every stratum within those classes, and we also the almost instant crashing out of people from a stratum and even from a class when times of crisis bite and the ‘throat cutting’ gets even more intense.

So it is not so much that all the ultra-rich are getting poorer, but that some will have been targeted by others, and some will have been hit by other adverse circumstances beyond their control.

There are those such as Lakshmi Mittal, for example, whose wealth is derived from the steel industry, currently afflicted by crisis, who have seen the still obscene level of their wealth decline relative to that of others among their fellow parasites. So when an overall measure of wealth is used to analyse a certain group, it can show a collective decline, even if the majority of individual members within it have seen their wealth increase.

The Financial Times’ wealth correspondent also informs us: “UK-based billionaires saw their collective wealth drop to $161.8bn, $9.3bn down on last year, hit by turbulent stock markets and currency market fluctuations in advance of the UK’s June vote on whether to stay in the EU.”

The stock market is a lottery that the ultra-rich play, sometimes winning and occasionally taking a loss, so, once again, some may have been hit very hard while others have increased their wealth. The 0.1 percent who really call the shots with regard to the political and economic affairs of most of the world can, in normal circumstances, and for the most part, manipulate markets to bring about results that they desire.

However, capitalism cannot but drive towards a crisis of overproduction, and the bigger and more widespread, across both the world and various industries, this overproduction crisis becomes, the more even these elite imperialist vampires can only hope that they and their particular fortunes survive as they thrash about trying to bring down others in order to save themselves.

This is the driving force behind imperialist wars, as millions die to increase or safeguard the bloody maximum profits of these ghouls.

Greenhalgh also informs us that, according to Forbes, “the UK has 50 billionaires, three fewer than 12 months ago”, while internationally the number of billionaires “fell by 16 to 1,810, with overall wealth also falling to $6.48tn – down from $7.05tn the year before.”

Some might think that this is proof that we really are “all in this together”, but 16 fewer billionaires, who most likely will still be multimillionaires many times over does not compare with the billions around the world going homeless, dying of starvation or from readily treatable illnesses or being worked to death as slaves and wage slaves. Nor does it compare with the countless numbers who die in wars of brigandage and at the hands of puppet terrorists doing the dirty work of imperialism.

The world that we all depend on for life is being poisoned for profits, and it is only the million times condemned and universally hated (by every imperialist and all their puppets) theory of Marxism Leninism that can save both us and our planet.

Mr Greenhalgh quotes Lee Goggin, the founder of Findawealthmanager, a financial technology company, as saying: “The general commodity crash and wider emerging markets struggle will have claimed a lot of victims in the past 12 months – not just some billionaires, but also a fair few British multimillionaires ... But they’ll bounce back when prices recover, so I don’t imagine many tears are being shed for them.”

There will certainly be no tears for them, but neither can we take any joy from a situation that will destroy so many of us. This system must be done away with no matter how much the cost to our class, as it will never be as high as the cost we pay and will continue to pay by failing to act decisively.
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