“Companies are sitting on huge cash reserves”, reports a writer in the Financial Times (3 October). “In the US, for example, companies had $1,200bn (€880bn) stashed away in cash and short-term liquid investments at the end of last year”.
The banks, bailed out by governments in 2008, are sitting on even huger cash piles. Central banks anxiously stuff more and more cash into the commercial banks, hoping that this will ease up credit and stop a new sharp economic downturn.
And yet global capitalism is on the brink of a new crash, and set for a long period of economic depression and high unemployment even if the new crash is avoided.
On 3 October, the Greek government announced it would not meet its targets for cutting its budget deficit. Euro-leaders and the IMF will now decide whether Greece gets its next chunk of “bail-out” funds.
They will push the Greek government to agree even sharper cuts as a condition. On 2 October the Government said it would slash another 30,000 public service jobs in just the next two months.
The “bail-out” funds do not go to the Greek people. They go via the Greek government to banks which have lent the Greek government money and demand it back with interest.
The aim is as much to enable those banks to get their money back — and so arrange that if or when Greece finally does say it just can’t pay its debts, the cost is carried by European public institutions, ultimately by taxpayers, rather than by banks.
At the same time, a movement like Spain’s “real democracy” and Greece’s “indignant citizens” has burgeoned in the USA.
“Occupy Wall Street” has been demonstrating in Zuccotti Park, near the global financial epicentre of Wall Street, in New York, since 17 September.
The movement demands “democracy, not corporatocracy”, and says: “We are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends...”
In Britain as in Greece and in the USA, services and jobs are being cut, wages are being kept down, and speed-up is being enforced at work, in order to keep feeding banks and big business with cash while keeping governments credit-worthy on the global financial markets.
To use the word thrown out by Ed Miliband in his Labour Party conference speech (27 September), the lives of millions are being cramped and ruined to feed the greed of economic “predators”.
The labour movement should mobilise against the predators.
The first step is to join strike movements like the 30 November strike against pension cuts, and demand they be extended into campaigns of rolling and selective action with the power and urgency needed to win.
The second step is to demand taxes on the rich. While Greek workers and pensioners suffer, rich Greeks have €600 billion in Swiss banks — more than enough to settle Greece’s debt repayments without trouble.
In Britain, while benefits, services and jobs are being slashed by cuts of £18 billion from benefits and £16 billion from education and other local services, over five years, just one thousand of the wealthiest people in the country hold a total of £400 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
Taxation alone would leave the ultra-rich, the predators, with the economic power that they so abuse.
The third step is to seize the wealth from them, and redirect it, under democratic control, to goals of social provision, improving services and jobs, and bringing social equality — rather than to profit, greed and exploitation.
Expropriate the banks. Take them into public ownership, and don’t leave them to be run by the same bankers with the same profit priorities, as in 2007-8, but establish democratic and workers’ control.
Expropriate the big corporations sitting on their cash piles, and redirect production, under workers’ control, to social aims.
The labour movement, currently fed only bland slogans like “close tax loopholes” and “a Robin Hood tax”, should demand a real debate on economic policies. We should set the aim not of a Lib-Lab coalition after Cameron has done his five years, and not of a Labour government which goes on from where Cameron left off, just softening it slightly, but of a workers’ government.
In other words, a government based on the labour movement, accountable to it, and pursuing the interests of the working class as Thatcher, Blair, Brown and Cameron have pursued the interests of the predators.