Socialist Worker

Who is really ripping us off?

Issue No. 1938

THE BIGGEST corporate profits in history were announced this week. Oil giant Shell made £9.3 billion last year — Britain’s biggest ever profit. The money rolled in at more than £1 million an hour. US oil giant ExxonMobil, which owns Esso, also announced its profits — £13 billion. It is the highest profit figure ever recorded.

These figures show that capitalism is increasingly polarising our society. Resources are creamed off to feed corporate greed.

In the week these mega-profits were revealed, Labour turned its fire on a small group of people in Britain. Home secretary Charles Clarke accused them of “trying to abuse our hospitality” and placing “a burden on our society”. But Clarke was not attacking the greedy corporations. Instead he laid into immigrants — stepping up the racist scapegoating of ordinary people who are escaping persecution or looking for work.

The government’s hateful message to migrants and refugees contrasts shamefully with its attitude to the oil companies.

Labour is more than happy for the companies to continue taking their slice — even though Shell’s profit is nearly 1 percent of Britain’s entire annual economic output. Treasury minister John Healy rejected all calls for a windfall tax on Shell. So behind the racist tub-thumping on immigration, the real rip-off continues, exploiting people both in Britain and the Third World.

BP’s profits — also announced this week — narrowly missed Shell’s record at £8.7 billion. BP chief executive Lord Browne is understood to have scooped up to £5 million in pay and perks.

The British rip-off record could be broken in April, when Vodafone is expected to announce over £10 billion in profits. HSBC is expected to match Shell’s total. Britain’s big five banks will cream off £30 billion this year — up 16 percent on last year.

The national press has folded into Labour’s vicious scapegoating of immigrants. But the papers’ finance pages make clear who is really to blame — and where the money lies to protect pensions, fund public services and relieve poverty.

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Sat 12 Feb 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1938
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