Socialist Worker

Don't bosses create wealth?

Issue No. 1680

What do socialists say?

Don't bosses create wealth?

By Sam Ashman

"BUT WHAT would we do without capital?" They were the words of London mayor hopeful Glenda Jackson last week. The Heathrow airport workers who were listening to her said that the government listens too much to business. Her reply was business is vital because it creates jobs, wealth and prosperity. This was also how New Labour ministers defended Jack Straw's decision to allow US boxer Mike Tyson into Britain last week.

They parroted, "The Manchester business community must not be made to suffer." What do socialists say in response? Are we against wealth creation? Of course not. We are for more prosperity and for the creation of more jobs. But it is not the employers, or capitalists, who create wealth. It is ordinary working people who create the wealth in society. Without workers, society could not function.

Who makes machinery, builds the factories and staffs the production lines? Who answers the phones, types the letters and delivers the post? Where would Robert Ayling of British Airways be without the 60,000 workers across Heathrow? This is a man whose multi-million pound company cannot even get the London Eye big wheel working. The problem is that we do all the work but the bosses get the money. The force in society which creates all the wealth gets only a measly proportion of that wealth to survive on.

Very often workers cannot even afford to buy the things they make. Do the bosses create wealth in any sense? The employers always claim that they fork out a lot of money on new investments. They deserve to make profits in return for taking such risks, they say. But what do they lay on the line? Governments and bankers step in and bail out many companies.

Very few company directors lose their houses or face the job centre. Tory Jonathan Aitken was not in jail long and is reported to have �300,000 salted away from the sale of his house. Where did the capitalists get their money from in the first place? They stole it. All their riches come from profit made out of past theft and exploitation. Some old, "noble" families (like Princess Diana's) made their money out of sheep rustling. Other supposedly grand families built up their great fortunes by plundering other countries and then bought their way into the establishment.

What about inventions? Don't capitalists deserve a reward for their ingenuity? This is utter baloney. The person who had the original idea usually waits years before anyone will listen and then has it stolen from them. But mostly the heads of big corporations and company managers have never invented anything in their lives and never will. The people who show real ingenuity in society, who really know how to improve a job or what would make a service better, are usually those who actually do the job - the workers.

They are precisely the people who are never listened to. Instead the employers direct production in the wrong way - they direct it to useless things or towards more of the things that we have already got. They only encourage "innovation" if it cuts costs, boosts profits and generally makes workers work harder. On top of that, capitalists actually destroy wealth a lot of the time. They close down factories, they refuse to run machinery, they sack workers, they wreck communities.

In a socialist society we would seek to create more wealth. We would not be against the production of a surplus over and above people's immediate needs. That money could be used for planning, for research, for exploring new ideas and possibilities. But the aim would always be to meet people's needs and to make life easier. A socialist society would decide democratically about how that wealth would be used.

It would not leave it up to a bunch of fat cats to decide what to do with it based on how much more profit they can get. Glenda Jackson says we would be nowhere without capital. But capital is not just economic power. It is social power that the bosses and the establishment hold over us.

They blackmail workers with the threat of factory closures or the sack if we demand a union, or just want to be treated like human beings. That is why socialists want to challenge the power of capital as a whole - economically, socially and politically - and, ultimately, to take it away from them.


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Thu 20 Jan 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1680
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