RMT general secretary Mick Lynch turned the tables on the BBC when he accused it of “never showing any admiration for the fight that working people are putting up for our country, for the re-balancing of our economy, for the country. You never criticise the super-rich.”
Correctly Lynch stressed the breadth of the current industrial action. It covers virtually all public services. This week will have seen ambulance drivers, paramedics, postal workers, nurses, airport baggage handlers and bus drivers all taking strike action — sacrificing pay immediately before Christmas. Workers in education and local government are likely to join in the new year.
They do so as Frances O’Grady of the TUC warns of a shocking erosion of wages in government statistics released today — a decline of 8.4 per cent in real terms for public-sector workers in just the last two years.
What about the super-rich? If inflation erodes wages, it tends to boost the wealth of those who own capital. On Monday investors in the New York stock exchange ended the day 1.5 per cent richer. In London today it was only 0.5 per cent — but not bad for a single day.
Shares can go down as well as up. But the trend over the past decade has been for share values to rise disproportionately — based principally on two factors.
One is intensified monopolisation. Even the International Monetary Fund over recent years has documented the growth of monopoly dominance within all the major economies.
In the United States three-quarters of all industries have seen increased monopolisation. The names are familiar: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, the Musk empire, the tech companies, the oil and energy monopolies, mining and armaments.
Additionally, over and above these stock exchange quoted companies, are the investment companies which dominate their share ownership. The two biggest, Black Rock and Vanguard, control around $17 trillion (Musk is only worth $2bn). These investment companies handle the money of the super-rich. They have over recent years insisted on “shareholder value”: dividends and share “buybacks” at the expense of investment, productivity and growth.
Aiding them has been the legal assault on workers’ rights, the drastic reduction in collective bargaining across Europe (there was previous little in the US anyway), casualisation and changes in the composition of the workforce.
This has already seen a reduction in national income going to labour of about 5 per cent across Europe and the United States since the 2008 crisis. Now an even bigger decline is threatened — the biggest shift of wealth in favour of the wealthy for the past century.
This was why Lynch was quite right to draw attention to the super-rich. They don’t have to strike. Governments do their work for them. Health Secretary Steve Barclay was claiming today that striking nurses were withholding surgery for those who need it. Jeremy Hunt at the Exchequer claims to be protecting other workers from inflation.
Yet it is the workers in the public sector who have already suffered the worst. It is precisely low wages that have caused the problems in the NHS because of an inability to recruit. And wages don’t “cause” inflation in the NHS anyway because there are no direct “prices.” It is precisely low wages that cause an inability to recruit.
It should be quite obvious to anyone that that current inflation is caused by the monopoly power of a few big firms in energy and those that control supply lines in IT equipment, minerals and food.
Those on strike are, as Lynch said, indeed “fighting for our country.” Only by swinging purchasing power back in favour of working people will investments be made, productivity increase and growth resume — and perhaps some people won for the necessity of social control, socialism.
From the Morning Star