Super-rich pocket £18 billion

Build a socialist alternative

FAMILIES who lost their savings due to the collapse of the company Farepak struggled to have a good Christmas. At the same time London’s top financiers were living it up with bonuses totalling £9,000,000,000 (£9 billion). Across Britain as a whole, the bonuses received by directors were estimated to be double that figure, a staggering £18 billion.

Judy Beishon

More than 4,000 London financiers received over £500,000 each. One of them walked away with £25.5 million, an amount that could only be earned by a worker on the minimum wage if he or she worked for 2,618 years with no break!

And it is not just obscene bonuses that mark the difference between the best and worst off; the wage gap has also continued to rise. Top directors have seen their pay packets more than double since the year 2000, while ordinary workers have had an average increase of just 6%.

The huge disparity continues with retirement. A director of one of the UK’s top 100 companies can retire at age 60 on a final-salary pension of nearly £3 million. At the same time, a majority of UK workers face retirement at 65 or later on pensions that will not provide a decent quality of life; with a single person’s state pension a paltry £84.25 a week.

When trying to justify the level of city of London bonuses, the Lord Mayor of London argued that hospitals and schools benefit from tax paid on the bonuses. But it is common for the super-rich in Britain to base themselves in tax-free havens abroad, commuting to London by private jet, or to hive off their money into offshore accounts, precisely in order to avoid financing our hospitals, schools and state pensions.

Many of these tax-avoiders have given money to Tony Blair’s New Labour, such as steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, so that they will not face government obstacles to continuing with their opulent lifestyles. They know from Labour’s entire record that this funding is falling on fertile ground. Blair has even offered seats in the House of Lords to super-rich individuals who do not pay any British taxes at all on their income, as was exposed in last year’s cash-for-peerages scandal.

A number of national newspapers carried articles during the Christmas period deploring the escalating inequality that exists, but ending with no suggestion of how it can be prevented. This is because they are papers owned by big business that deliberately offer no alternative to the capitalist system and the three main capitalist parties. To read about socialist ideas – the alternative that would place working class interests first – it is necessary to turn to the pages of this paper, the socialist.

So add to your New Year resolutions a decision to buy and read the socialist every week of 2007, and better still to get involved in building the Socialist Party and the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party, as the most concrete way of changing the future!