01 February 2019 22:10

Following Davos: Millionaires are bothered, so what about the millions?

The managers of monopolies, billionaires and politicians under their order came together in Switzerland’s Davos town and talked about capitalism.

Photograph: Dursun Aydemir/AA


The deepening contradictions worldwide between the rich and the poor continue to bother millionaires. The managers of monopolies, billionaires and politicians under their order who come each year by private plane to Switzerland’s Davos town and stay in luxury hotels talk on the one hand about how they can get richer and on the other how they can stifle the anger of the poor. The social movements being experienced worldwide in tandem with the deepening contradictions are clearly bothering them. They are consequently articulating, if only verbally, self-proclaimed proposals as solutions.

There is basically nothing new in what they have done and said for years. Their sole concern is to mask the contradictions and further their wealth. Despite this, certain journalists and commentators are harping on about how the rich are also ready to assume responsibility and have humanist feelings and allege that they, too, are concerned about the future of humanity.

In a three-page interview he gave to Tuesday’s Handelsblatt newspaper, one of these millionaires, CEO of the German Siemens monopoly, Joe Kaeser, speaks of his concern at the widening to this extent of the gulf between the rich and poor and calls for a “new capitalism.”

To the question, “What went wrong in classical capitalism?” Kaeser, who maintains his relations with Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian regimes despite all the criticism and has a salary of around seven million euro, says, “The rich and poor have moved too far apart. This applies not only within national economies but also between industrialized and developing countries. Inequality has now reached a level that is no longer accepted.” (Handelsblatt, 29.01.2019) Kaeser proposes “inclusive capitalism” as the remedy for this. What he means is high-earning monopolies giving their employees a greater share and following the social market economy.

He proposes nothing new concerning the need for the contradictions to be reduced. There is but one truth from among what the manager of the Siemens monopoly, which can be considered to be Germany’s digital brain, says: “Digitalization will further deepen division within society.”

The manager of the monopoly which is working on “artificial intelligence” or “humanless factories” and describes with praise the ground it has covered accepts that in the future monopolies will not share the wealth they obtain thanks to robots with the broad masses and this will increase unemployment and poverty. Consequently, for as long as capitalism exists, it is impossible for monopolies to voluntarily renounce profit. It is essentially this truth that underlies the deepening contradictions. The stress placed on the ever-widening gulf between the rich and poor in the report the British charity Oxfam published last week also shows this. With billionaires’ wealth increasing worldwide by 12% (2.5 billion dollars per day) in 2018, the wealth of 3.8 billion people fell by 11% in the same year.

Even these two figures show that enrichment comes at the expense of the impoverishment of billions of people. Despite this, ifo Institute Chair Andreas Peichl is capable of saying in an interview he gave Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “The thesis that the rich are compounding their wealth because the poor have grown poorer is incorrect. It cannot be said that for one to become rich another must become poor.” However, the basic source of their enrichment is known to be the impoverishment of the working classes through increased exploitation.

The situation of Europe’s strongest economy, Germany, is particularly instructive in this regard. Social injustice is higher among industrialized capitalist countries as opposed to other countries. However, Germany boasted for many years of being the stronghold of the “welfare state.” According to Oxfam, the wealth of billionaires in Germany increased by 20%, eight points above the average. Put differently, the wealth owned by the country’s most wealthy people is equal to the wealth owned by 87%. The number earning more than one million euro per year in Germany was determined to be 19,000 in 2017. The average annual income of the super-rich, conversely, is 2.7 million. While the average monthly income of a working person is 1000-1200 euro, the CEO of the Daimler monopoly, Dieter Zetsche, whose annual income was 13 million euro in 2017, gets a pension of 4200 euro a day and 126,000 per month. By contrast, the monthly pension of the former manager of the VW monopoly, Martin Winterkorn, is 100,000 euro.

According to a report in Süddeutsche Zeitung (30.01.2019), with managers’ remuneration standing at fifteen times workers’ average wages in the 1980’s, this has increased to a factor of sixty today. The number of people living in poverty amounts to 15.8%. Similarly, one in every five children is poor. In 2017, 3.6 million people were working in two jobs at the same time.

All of this shows that the contradictions between the rich and poor will continue to deepen, while millionaires will search for a self-proclaimed “remedy” before the accumulated anger of the millions explodes. Well, as to the poor who are in the grip of hunger, poverty and unemployment ... They will of necessity move into action without losing time.