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Highlight keywords  |Print this articlePrint this article
From: The Socialist issue 1005, 8 August 2018: Tories and Blairites must go

Search site for keywords: Technology - Tax - Facebook - Amazon

Tax-dodging tech bosses make billons... while 6m workers fear the scrapheap

Nationalise the big tech firms

Billionaire Bezos would be nothing without his workers, photos reynermedia, Steve Jurvetson, Scott Lewis, all CC

Billionaire Bezos would be nothing without his workers, photos reynermedia, Steve Jurvetson, Scott Lewis, all CC   (Click to enlarge)

Stephanie Hammond

Every ten seconds, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos makes the median salary of one of his employees: $28,000.

Bezos, the richest man in history, has a net worth of over $150 billion. Meanwhile, workers at Amazon's 'fulfilment centre' warehouses are subject to total surveillance and impossible quotas pushing them to the limits of human endurance.

He is just one of the billionaires of Silicon Valley who hoard exorbitant wealth. They represent a new type of technocratic oligarch, with zero accountability, able to dictate the trajectory of technology and how it impacts everyone else, for better or worse.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently lost over $15 billion in net worth overnight. That's more than most people can earn in a thousand lifetimes, and it won't affect him a bit.

How many quality, affordable homes could be built for what the casino-house markets removed in a day? How many illnesses treated, mouths fed, classes taught, and public works funded?

The source of his wealth, perversely, lies in the freely given data of Facebook's more than 2.3 billion users. We are paid infinitely less than the chief executive who trades on our lives being abused for advertising revenue or political capital.

Tesla founder Elon Musk has consistently union-busted, with injuries, poor pay and conditions at his plants - while he dreams up personal pet projects of colonising Mars.

These people barely pay a crumb of tax, and in fact count on subsidies when they open new factories or offices. Last year, Facebook paid just 2.6 million corporation tax in Britain. And Amazon's payment halved - while it posted record profit in its most recent financial quarter.

However repulsive these figures are, the question is not of individual morals - or even of technology - but how society is organised.

The internet has offered unprecedented access to information, and a means of forming bonds between people everywhere in the world.

But like the great new machines that fuelled the industrial revolution, the question is roughly the same: who overwhelmingly benefits from these amazing new technologies - the bosses, or the rest of us?

The bosses want to use new technology to maximise profit, but also fear the social consequences. Over six million workers in Britain worry new tech will destroy their jobs, according to a parliamentary commission.

But automation would not be a problem in a democratically planned, socialist world. It could lift countless burdens from the backs of workers. The working class could collectively reap the rewards: better living standards, more leisure time and the opportunity to pursue other, creative work.

Why should this new digital oligarchy, or any capitalist, have the final say? The Socialist Party says: nationalise the tech giants and top corporations. Plan production to provide plenty for all - not opulence and vanity projects for the billionaires.

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