It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.
When Charles Dickens wrote his Tale of Two Cities, he saw a world divided by poverty and excess. But even his alcoholic anti-hero Sydney Carton isn’t a scratch on today’s super-rich soaks.
Last week in Mayfair, two oil magnates fought a “full-on Champagne war”. Stunned witnesses described the competing capitalists ordering “more and more” bubbly. Their contest for biggest bill totalled £131,000, or a decade on the minimum wage, in just one night.
For many minimum-wage workers, the “war” seems permanent – and the enemy is want. At the same time last week, the Red Cross announced plans for emergency hunger relief in Britain. Better known for work in the war-torn third world, the charity has not distributed food here since World War Two. More than half a million rely on food banks for meals, many in ‘gainful’ employ.
According to the Mirror, the “Bollygarchs” bought so much booze that a third went untouched – only to be poured away at the end of the night.
The Guardian recently reported on working class Liverpudlians faced by the “heat or eat” dilemma. Unemployed chef Peter Browne detailed his £2-a-week food budget, subsisting on noodles, spaghetti and short-dated bread. He, like many of us, has been forced into fuel poverty by rising prices, job destruction and welfare cuts.
While the Peter Brownes of this world scrimp and struggle, the elite parasites down Dom Perignon in exclusive hideaways. Under capitalism, based on exploitation and inequality, they have plenty to celebrate.
Private firms are siphoning off tens of billions from an NHS shackled to crippling, decades-long PFI contracts.
Since 2009, wholesale energy prices have increased by around the same measly amount as net household income. Yet dual fuel charges have exploded by eight times as much!
And last week’s deeply unpopular sell-off of Royal Mail could pay for more than one new helipad. Day one saw traders make an instant 38% profit. Meanwhile posties face ongoing attacks on pay, pensions and conditions.
Dickens’ masterpiece conclud-ed with the French Revolution. That event showed how the poor masses booted out their oppressors.
Today we again need to build a mass movement, this time based on the potential power of the organised working class, to end this ‘them and us’ society.
The Socialist Party fights for socialism – a democratic society run for the needs of all and not the profits of a few.