A new report from Credit Suisse has confirmed that the richest 1% of the population owns more than half of the world’s wealth and is grabbing an ever bigger share of the pie every day, all at our expense. Jonathan Lees of the Leicester Marxists looks at the growing economic inequality under capitalism and discusses the need for a revolutionary way forward.
A new report from Credit Suisse has confirmed that the richest 1% of the population owns more than half of the world’s wealth and is grabbing an ever bigger share of the pie every day, all at our expense.
“The share of the top 1% has been on an upward path ever since the 2008 crisis, passing the 2000 level in 2013 and achieving new peaks every year thereafter,” conclude the authors of the report. Indeed, the document goes on to note that, “the number of millionaires, which fell in 2008, recovered fast after the financial crisis, and is now nearly three times the 2000 figure.”
So now the top 1% own 50.1% of the world’s wealth, amounting to a colossal £106,000,000,000,000 (£160 trillion). The world’s poorest 50%, meanwhile, own just 2.7% of the world’s wealth – an equivalent amount to the combined wealth of just the world’s eight richest individual billionaires.
In the UK, the top 1% own a quarter of the wealth, while the poorest half own only 5%. This increasing wealth inequality is happening at a time when millions in Britain are struggling to survive.
The highest number for 20 years is now trapped in poverty; many parents are routinely skipping meals to feed their children; and homelessness is skyrocketing. We are living through an epoch of austerity, with harsh attacks being carried out against the working class and cuts to our essential services. And yet tax evasion by the rich is reaching new heights, as the recent Paradise Papers show.
The Credit Suisse report also finds that, “[t]hose with low wealth tend to be disproportionately found among the younger age groups” – so young people should not expect to become as well-off as their parents and are facing less opportunities and less access to essential public services.
This huge disparity in wealth is a clear and unacceptable symptom of the brutal nature of the crisis of capitalism – a crisis the system cannot escape from.
The various parties of the ruling class repeatedly claim that they will try to tackle this wealth inequality. Former US president Barack Obama even went as far as to call it the “defining change in our times”. But this is just for show. The capitalist parties continue to reduce taxes for the rich and subsidise big business.
This inequality is inherent within capitalism – a system where the profits and privileges of the few is built upon the exploitation and poverty of the many. Under capitalism, there is an inevitable tendency for wealth to concentrate in ever fewer and fewer hands. Any reforms or regulations to the system will only be a temporary alleviation of this trend, and will be fought tooth-and-nail by the capitalists through economic sabotage and threats.
A worldwide revolutionary movement of the working class to expropriate the wealth of the 1% is the only real way to tackle this inequality; to abolish the current unfair and exploitative system; and to bring about a socialist society that benefits the many and not just the few.