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Super-rich Elon Musk is no champion of our free speech

As billionaire Elon Musk sets his sights on buying Twitter, Sam Ord reveals his many crimes
Issue 2802
Elon Musk talks to the press

Elon Musk

Elon Musk tries to pose as the “rebel” billionaire, the maverick disrupter who is not like the rest of them. But behind the spliff smoking, leather jacket wearing man who appears on US comedy show SNL, he is the same kind of parasite as the rest. 

The chief executive of electric car firm Tesla and space exploration company SpaceX has a personal wealth of £203 billion. He is set to collect a £17.6 billion bonus from Tesla’s quarterly profits. Musk has a particular vision for society, based on opening up the free market—and building a colony on Mars. 

He’s a tech tycoon, grabbing much of his wealth from the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s. But despite what he would like people to believe, his initial money wasn’t self-made. Musk’s father owned a Zambian emerald mine, and once recalled, “We had so much money at times we couldn’t even close our safe.”

Zambia suffered at the hands of exploitative bosses like Musk senior, who exported masses of natural resources whilst paying poverty wages. Musk junior has built on his inherited wealth by tax avoidance and restricting workers’ conditions. 

According to a ProPublica investigation, he paid a real tax rate of under 3.3 percent from 2014 to 2018. And for his immense wealth workers have suffered. Tesla workers at the Fremont factory in California, US, are seriously injured at a rate that’s double the industry average, according to Worksafe in 2015. 

Worker Jose Moran said, “The hard, manual labour we put in to make Tesla successful is done at great risk to our bodies. “Preventable injuries happen often. Add a shortage of manpower and a constant push to work faster to meet production goals, and injuries are bound to happen.”

Low pay and unsafe conditions pushed Jose and some co-workers to try and build a trade union. He claims Tesla bosses made this difficult. “Every worker was required to sign a confidentiality policy that threatens consequences if we exercise our right to speak out about wages and working conditions,” he said. Safety became an issue at Tesla in 2020 during the height of the Covid pandemic. 

Musk initially kept his Fremont factory open despite a “shelter in place” order. He also claimed that children “are essentially immune” to Covid. Other Tesla employees also experience racist and sexist abuse. Around 100 former workers said Tesla discriminates against black workers and “allows a racist environment”. 

Seven women workers said they faced sexual harassment last year whilst accusing Tesla of facilitating a culture of sexual harassment. They criticised Musk’s remarks about women’s bodies and dismissive attitudes regarding reports of sexual harassment. Other employees say Musk had “unpredictable rages” and warned new employees not to pass his desk to avoid being unexpectedly fired.

Now Musk wants to buy social media company Twitter. He says that free speech on the platform will be protected under his leadership. Musk likely wants Twitter to accumulate wealth, direct what’s talked about, harvest data and benefit from movements on stock and cryptocurrency markets.

If he does manage to buy Twitter, it will only benefit him and the section of ruling class he stands up for.  Currently a tiny group of people in Silicon Valley decide what is and isn’t allowed. At the push of a button, they can silence their political opponents.

If Musk succeeds in grabbing control of the company, he would be able to silence those that speak out on the platform against him and his class. Don’t let Musk fool you into thinking that he will disrupt the system that has been the source of his obscene wealth. On the contrary everything this billionaire does is an attempt to maintain it.

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