Today a report was released by Oxfam on the state of wealth inequality in the world. And boy is it not a pretty sight. We already know that the top 1% of the global population holds the same amount of wealth as the other 99%. This has been the case since at least 2015. But what we not know is the severe, acute nature of wealth concentration under capitalism. We now know that a grand of total of 8 men hold as much wealth as the bottom 50%, over 3.5 billion people, combined.
You didn’t misread that.
It’s not 8,000,000
And not just that, if that wasn’t damning enough, it showed that over the next twenty years, 500 people will hand over $2.1 trillion dollars in wealth to their heirs. To put that in perspective, that’s greater that the GDP of Brazil. And what’s in my mind even more damning is that fact that we could eliminate 3/4 of all hard-core poverty RIGHT. NOW. with the resources that have. Why haven’t we? Well, it comes down to how income has grown for each class. While the poorest 10% have seen incomes rise a paltry $3 a year between 1988-2011, the richest 10% saw incomes rise by $546 a year, 182 times as much.
That’s a difference between having incomes grow by $87 in over two decades and $15,834 in that same time frame.
Capitalism requires that there are people in starvation. It requires that people live in poverty and misery. It establishes and it’s no coincidence that millions still starve while we have more than enough food to feed everyone. It is no coincidence that millions die from homelessness when homes lay vacant. This is the so called “efficiency” of the free market, where unprofitable food is thrown out or destroyed because it’s unprofitable to meet human need or when an oligarch can buy a condo they never live in while working class families have to scrounge and scrimp just to pay the rent. And all this in a backdrop where a handful of individuals have control of trillions of dollars of wealth.
Imagine all that wealth concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite. Imagine a tiny elite using that wealth to wield enormous power, to be able to influence ostensibly democratic institutions and to be able to get our so-called “representatives” to do their bidding, effectively creating an oligarchy that answers to the highest bidder, where parties are obligated not to popular will, but to the will of their financiers.
Well, you don’t have to imagine it. This is the world we are living in. A world where we could be staring extinction right in it’s face and fossil fuel giants are still trying to extract more profit. Hey, the atmosphere might be unbreathable, clean water is nothing distant memory and sustainable agriculture is impossible now but just look at the prices on the stock exchange!
This level of wealth concentration is nightmarish. It reads like the pages of a dystopian horror book. This is why capitalism must be fought against. This is why now more than ever, is resistance against capitalism necessary. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “There has to be a better distribution of wealth … we can’t have a system where some people live in superfluous, inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty”.
Socialism, meaning the complete abolishing of capitalism, class society, the wage system and hierarchy and it’s replacement with a democratic system run by and for the working class, isn’t about liberal ideas like “equality” * but with justice and liberty for all peoples. Now, more than ever, with the capitalist class more than willing to sacrifice humanity in the name of profit and capital, we resurrect the cry of Rosa Luxemberg. When once it was “socialism or barbarism”, it is now “socialism or extinction”! Our fight now is not just for a better world, but for our very survival.
*As Lenin pointed out in “Soviet Power and the Status of Women”, we must always question who gets equality? Equality between which classes? Equality between which peoples? How is it possible for the oppressed and their oppressors to be “equal”?