Workers Pay the Price of Capitalism

Capitalism has survived despite a roller-coaster of crises for over two centuries. It uses many means to survive, but one of its greatest weapons is controlling the narrative and dividing the working class, to divert attention from the cause of all the crises faced by and paid for by the working class: namely capitalism. Ruling by fooling.

So we are told that there is a “labour shortage”. There is no labour shortage; there is a wage shortage. But the greed of employers to seek ever-increasing profit prevents them from increasing the share they give to workers for producing all the wealth of the world. Capitalist greed has reached such a level – wages are so low and prices so high – that workers cannot sustain themselves and their families on the wages being offered.

Billions are paid out every year by the government in rent and family income subsidies to subsidise the poverty wages paid by employers and the exorbitant rents charged by landlords . This is the capitalist state: subsidising low pay and high rents for the benefit of landlords and employers who make record-breaking profits.

Capitalism is devouring itself in a frenzy of greed. At one time it was the navvies, the poor and unemployed that left Ireland to work abroad. Capitalist greed has now pushed high earners onto the emigrant ship as accommodation becomes unaffordable and a decent life is beyond the means of the majority of workers in today’s Ireland.

There are vacancies across all types of work: bus drivers, teachers, craftworkers, nurses, etc., but still employers refuse to match wage increases to inflation. They are prepared to close pubs and restaurants or open for shorter hours rather than to pay staff properly. Many sell up and close, as profits soar in property, shares and the tech industry.

Inflation is bandied around as a term as if it is some sort of a mystery. The reality is it is caused by price increases which along with poverty wages lead to record  profits. Inflation is at a forty-year high and profits are at their highest for seventy years. The IMF studied the relationship between wages and prices over the last fifty years and found no evidence of a wage-price spiral.

There was a time when a reserve army of labour could be tapped into from abroad but the greed of the capitalist class and the commodification of shelter has led to a situation where it is unaffordable and impossible for most people coming into the country to put a roof over their head on the poverty wages being offered.

Despite this, the rise of the far right goes unchallenged. The ruling class are happy for them to be the boot-boys of capitalism, for them to blame immigrants living in tents for the housing crisis rather than the capitalist system which put them there.

The state is awash with money, with record corporation tax which is but a tiny percentage of the billions in profits made by global corporations on the backs of the workers of Ireland. The corporations can well afford to pay higher wages which would allow workers to pay some of the exorbitant rents demanded by landlords. But the landlords and the employers are one and the same: neither are willing to give a fair share of the profits to those who produced them.

The government is not on the side of the people, nor even neutral. Despite their best efforts to facilitate multinational corporations to evade tax, they now have to appear to be taxing them. This has resulted in a bumper cooperation tax booty despite them refusing to take over €13 billion from Apple. The state has so much money they are creating a “Sovereign Wealth Fund” to store it in rather than spending it on the workers who created it.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. In 2008, the “pension reserve fund” had €27 billion in it. This money was also collected by the state from taxes on the people in Ireland. The government told the citizens this money was to be invested  by the state towards paying the pensions of workers in the future. Instead this money was used to bail out the banks and not one penny went towards the pensions of workers in Ireland. The only pensions it contributed to were the golden handshakes to the likes of Fingleton, Fitzpatrick and Quinn who still managed to go on living a lavish life of luxury despite them being at the heart of the 2008 financial crash and subsequently declared bankrupt.

What about the pensions of workers? The state continually tries to increase the retirement age to fill the hole left by the plundering of the “pension reserve fund” used to pay for the banks debts.

What about the bailed out banks? As soon as they return to profit they are sold off to private investors – the same people who bankrupted them in the first place – in a merry-go-round of boom, bust, bailout, boom, boom for the rich.

What will the government do with this “Sovereign Wealth Fund”? Will they build public housing or an all-Ireland Health Service? Or will they keep it as an insurance policy to bail out the bankers when their greed leads to the next crisis in the capitalist system?

The system isn’t broken – this is not corruption or cronyism – this is simply how capitalism works. It works for those who designed it: the capitalist class. There is no crisis that capitalism cannot solve so long as the rest of us pay for it. The government, the state, is an essential part of how it all operates.

As James Connolly said “Government in a Capitalist Society is but a committee to order the affairs of the capitalist class.”