Inequality is a Symptom - Capitalism is the Disease - Revolution is the Cure

A comment from a CWO sympathiser.

According to the recent 2021 census, the UK is no longer a majority Christian country.(1) However, this does not seem to deter our earthly lords and masters from trying to turn scripture into reality. At least those aspects that coincide with the interests of the dominant capitalist class. As the quote goes (Mark 4:25, King James Bible version) “he that hath, to him shall be given and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” No doubt our rulers are driven by the more mundane gods of PROFIT and ACCUMULATION of capital, but the statistics confirm the biblical forecast – the rich are getting richer, and at an extraordinary rate, while most of us are experiencing the sharp end of inexorable capitalist crisis. And to such an extent that even the highest representatives of the system can see the writing on the wall. Penny Mordaunt, the former rival to Rishi Sunak to lead the Conservative party, and now a Cabinet minister, “… has given a damning assessment of the state of the UK, where she said many people feel things do not work for them and the poorest think the system is rigged against them, arguing that democracy and capitalism are hanging in the balance.”(2) She then went on to set out a few paltry changes like proxy voting for MPs who were severely ill, and using technology to reduce the strain on MPs who are new parents, as well as announcing some £13 billion for the restoration and renewal programme for Parliament, though already reporting this could climb to £22 billion and more than likely the more cynical (or better said, realistic, given the track record of government spending lavished on their wealthy mates) of us would like to bet that money only goes to further line the pockets of the seriously well off. For serious Marxists, what Mordaunt openly says regarding the threat to capitalism and its political institutions resonates, however, unlike that Tory MP, we don’t see the solution in terms of a few billion or a little tweak here and there, in fact, as far as the future of capitalism is concerned, we see no solution at all. Mordaunt may not wish to accept it but “the poorer” are exactly right. The system is rigged against them and in fact only serves a shrinking minority who have recently taken the glaring contradictions of inequality to absurd new heights.

The CWO/ICT has been providing evidence of this capitalist assault against the working class for decades,(3) however, the historic process moves on and there is always fresh material to analyse to further confirm and strengthen our case, and if necessary, to modify our perspectives. It may not always be possible to obtain the most recent figures, but the recent publication of a series of reports from OXFAM have only served to confirm the tendential rise in inequality which has been a feature of capitalism for decades now. But first a little background going back over a couple of decades and more. Sometimes statistics can be ambiguous when approached from a purely capitalist perspective. For example the United Nations can point out that there has been improvement in income inequalities between countries:

For the most part we have seen income inequality between countries improve in the last 25 years, meaning average incomes in developing countries are increasing at a faster rate. This can be accredited to strong economic growth in China and other emerging economies in Asia. However, the gap between countries is still considerable. For example, the average income of people living in North America is 16 times higher than that of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, what at first may appear to be a reassuring picture for those who remain within the capitalist framework evaporates when one considers a more class-based analysis, one which actually looks at what is going on within countries, not based on undifferentiated national averages. The same United Nations report indicates that income inequality WITHIN countries is worsening:

Income inequality between countries has improved, yet income inequality within countries has become worse. Today, 71 percent of the world’s population live in countries where inequality has grown. This is especially important because inequalities within countries are the inequalities people feel day to day, month to month, year to year. This is how people stack up and compare themselves with their neighbours, family members, and society. Since 1990, income inequality has increased in most developed countries and in some middle-income countries, including China and India.

Again, the Marxist perspective is confirmed. The capitalist process gives rise to sharpening polarisation.

Accumulation of wealth at one pole the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e., on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital

Karl Marx, Capital, Vol 1

So according to the UN for decades now, rising inequality has been the experience of most of humanity. And the recent evidence from OXFAM and elsewhere only confirms this, only strengthens this perspective. There is no ambiguity in what OXFAM has presented in its work “Survival of the Richest”.(4) Here the reality of the absolute increase in poverty is set out,

We are living through an unprecedented moment of multiple crises. Tens of millions more people are facing hunger. Hundreds of millions more face impossible rises in the cost of basic goods or heating their homes. Poverty has increased for the first time in 25 years

The same report states:

In 2022, the World Bank announced that we will fail to meet the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, and that ‘global progress in reducing extreme poverty has come to a halt,’ amid what it said was likely to be the largest increase in global inequality and the largest setback in addressing global poverty since World War II. The IMF is forecasting that a third of the global economy will be in recession in 2023. For the first time, the UNDP has found that human development is falling in nine out of 10 countries. Oxfam analysis shows that at least 1.7 billion workers worldwide will have seen inflation outpace their wages in 2022, a real-terms cut in their ability to buy food or keep the lights on.

And alongside this no-ifs, no -buts appraisal of the growth in poverty, Oxfam also clearly sets out how the tiptop wealthy elite have massively benefitted in the most recent period.

Since 2020, the richest 1% have captured almost two-thirds of all new wealth – nearly twice as much money as the bottom 99% of the world’s population. Billionaire fortunes are increasing by $2.7bn a day, even as inflation outpaces the wages of at least 1.7 billion workers, more than the population of India.” And “Meanwhile, the scale of wealth being accumulated by those at the top, already at record levels, has accelerated. The global polycrisis has brought huge new wealth to a tiny elite. Over the last 10 years, the richest 1% of humanity has captured more than half of all new global wealth. Since 2020, according to Oxfam analysis of Credit Suisse Data, this wealth grab by the super-rich has accelerated, and the richest 1% have captured almost two-thirds of all new wealth. This is six times more than the bottom 90% of humanity. Since 2020, for every dollar of new global wealth gained by someone in the bottom 90%, one of the world’s billionaires has gained $1.7m.

The graphical representation, again provided by OXFAM, of the magnitude of the billionaire’s accelerating share of wealth is even less ambiguous.


Here in the UK, we are seeing a particularly acute example of the rise in inequality. The wealthiest 100 people in the UK have as much money as the poorest 18 million people, according to the Equality Trust.(5) There was a trend towards a declining share going to the wealthy elite up until around 1980 when the ruling class, unable to carry on in this vein, championed by Thatcher, took the bull by the horns and instigated a period of naked class war. Since then a rising share for the wealthiest, as the “share of personal wealth” graph demonstrates, particularly aligned with the defeat on the miners in the 1984-85 strike which if it had not been for the trade unionist method of pitting an isolated section of the class against a government who were aware of the stakes for the survival of British capitalism, could have stopped the Thatcher crusade in its tracks. According to the Office for National Statistics,(6) this trend to greater inequality in the UK remains:

Income inequality in the UK, as measured by the Gini coefficient, increased by 1.3 percentage points to 35.7% when comparing financial year ending (FYE) 2021 to FYE 2022 ... This was driven by a reduction in mean disposable income in the fifth poorest households (3.4%), attributed to reduced original income and cash benefits. There was an increase in mean disposable income of the fifth richest households of similar magnitude (3.3%), driven by increased original income.

Perhaps worth mentioning here, probably because it occupies a central place in the public perception of economic distress, are the figures on the use of food banks in the UK.(7) Perhaps somewhat distorted by the Covid phenomenon:

Between 2008/09 and 2020/21, the number of foodbank users increased in every year, from just under 26,000 to more than 2.56 million.” Though between 2021 -2022 there was a slight pullback. “In 2021/22 approximately 2.17 million people used a foodbank in the United Kingdom.


So, having established that inequality is on the rise, poverty is on the rise, the extreme wealth of the tiny minority is rapidly on the rise, what is to be done?

Obviously, we could continue as we are. And in all likelihood, this is the path society will take in the very near future at least. We will remain trapped within the framework of class society which has no option but to further erode the conditions of the majority to prop up the profitability of the minority capitalist class, the owners of the productive forces whether privately or through the state, to whom the majority are constrained to sell their labour power if they do not wish to rapidly run out of money in order to purchase the necessities of survival. The simple reality of the capital – labour relationship is somewhat akin to a tug of war. An ongoing class war. Each side applies force, the side which applies most force gains. For the capitalist class this is expressed in terms of profitability. If it can convince the working class, by propaganda or if needs be, by naked force, to accept all manner of cuts, be they in terms of wages, services, pensions, benefits in short, that part of the social product that is consumed by the wage earners, then they have an advantage in the global capitalist competition which translates into more profit. Conversely, if the working class can stand its ground, stop the incessant encroachment on its conditions which the capitalist class are duty bound to attempt (after all who remains willing to invest with companies who do not seek to maximise profitability?) even use collective strength to increase its share where possible, then their gain is the capitalists’ loss. However this is only a partial description of the matter. As the capitalist competition proceeds, each capitalist pitted against the rest, each seeking to maximise sales on the world market in order to realise profit to keep the process going, to satisfy investors with itchy feet who seek to maximise returns, to acquire the latest technology so as to be able to place cheaper commodities in the marketplace, to expand at the greatest rate possible thus taking advantage of economy of scale, the Achilles heel of the capitalist mode of production reveals itself. The source of profit, under capitalism as well as the various class formations which came before it, depends on the extraction of surplus, unpaid labour from the producer class. Under capitalism this is not so obvious as, say, slavery, but it is the cornerstone of the system. The worker provides more value than they consume. This includes the immediate pay packet, the social wage, welfare, health services, education, pensions, and the like. As the competitive struggle rewards those capitalists which can make the greatest use of machines, technology, today in terms of robots, artificial intelligence, microprocessors, which greatly increase the productivity of labour, which means that the organic composition of capital increases (investment in such machines, plant, etc., as compared to that invested in living labour) the rate of profit on investment tends to decline. Only living labour allows for a profit to be realised, yet ever more investment is directed towards every other overhead. As the process plays out, as the capitalist mode of production penetrates all corners of the earth, as the big players arise and the small players are knocked out of the game, the reality becomes ever more obvious. Increasingly, the only way that the now enormous, global capitalist concerns can stay afloat, can avoid the fate of the many capitalists eliminated so far, is to diminish the share going to the working class to shore up profitability.(8) Hence, rising inequality. And worse. As an impoverished working class cannot act as a sufficient market to absorb the gargantuan mass of products created by the latest technological advances, which in a sane system would be boons not curses, not even the absolute pauperisation of the working class will be enough to keep the impossible perpetual growth machine of capitalism in motion. The logic of the process, and this has been confirmed by the historical record, is the by now too-big-to-fail (without catastrophic effect) enterprises take the struggle onto the military terrain. Imperialist war, global, all out.

The wheel of history cannot be turned back. The capitalist process, once set in motion must play out. And it is here that, although we may thank such entities as OXFAM for shedding light upon, and gathering evidence regarding the economic process, we have no time for their bogus solutions. The full title of the OXFAM report is “Survival of the Richest: How we must tax the super-rich now to fight inequality”. In other words, not a million miles away from where we began with Penny Mordaunt – things are bad, we cannot keep going on this path without catastrophe, let’s make a few adjustments and all will be well. Not so fast, not so easy. The accumulation of capital, the concentration of wealth at one pole, “and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth”(9) is not simply an option within capitalism, a temporary aberration, a simple case of replacing a bunch of politicians for a better bunch, a bunch of policies for a better bunch, it is the inevitable outcome of the process. The tendential fall in the rate of profit caused by an increasing investment on elements other that living labour, made necessary by capitalist competition, means that those who do not own the means of production must necessarily be subject to a process of incremental exploitation. There is no way around it. The capitalist class, and that includes the State, the institutional parties and all official institutions which are its property and serve it, will not allow any other outcome. To do so means suicide.

Inequality, the rising fortunes of a numerically insignificant elite, the advance in pauperisation, are symptoms of the disease. The disease itself is capitalism. The symptoms cannot be tackled without eliminating the disease. This is what we as serious Marxists propose. Not asking the state to tax the rich, whose control of the political structures of society means such measures will always fall short of the objective of halting the concentration of wealth in the hands of a minority, which is an essential aspect of the capitalist process, but the revolutionary abolition of class society.

Firstly, let us take a brief look at the state to which OXFAM and others would have us appeal. The capitalist state was (and is) an instrument of class oppression, not a neutral body which could be used by the working class to implement a new social formation; “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes”.(10) In a letter to Kugelman, for example, Marx writes,

If you look at the last chapter of my Eighteenth Brumaire, you will find that I declare that the next attempt of the French Revolution will be no longer, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to the other, but to smash it and this is the preliminary precondition for every real people’s revolution.

When Lenin wrote “Bourgeois democracy, although a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism, always remains [...] restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical and a snare and a deception for the exploited and the poor", he could have been directly commenting about the resources made available to the institutional parties whose ideological line directly favours the wealthy minorities who provide such resources. For OXFAM and the myriad versions of reformism regardless of outer appearance, the solution comes down to playing the electoral game. But the working class cannot win that game. What elections under capitalism prove is that without the millions of pounds required to fund newspapers or TV channels and set up media companies which constantly drip feed the capitalist message (wrapped up in the rhetoric of the left or the right, it’s all capitalist) there is little hope that workers will vote for candidates who stand for radical departures from the paths which suit the top capitalist players. The whole system operates on the basis of lobbying by those who have the wealth to buy MPs. This is the reality of the semblance of democracy behind which veiled capitalist dictatorship operates. As George Monbiot puts it,

So what is going on? Has a hostile power managed to infiltrate the UK government? In a way, yes. That power is oligarchic capital.” He claims “Political funding has long been a means by which the very rich can exercise inordinate influence over public policy. But this influence now seems to have become cruder and more extreme than at any time in living memory.

And to back his claim, he then goes on to describe in concrete terms how the rich elite connect to government.(11) As the latest manifestation of class divided society, capitalism obeys the rules of all others – the economically dominant class is the politically dominant class. This applies regardless of the window dressing, the occupiers of Number 10 and the seats of power globally. There is no voting away the capital-labour relationship. Consider for example the last UK Labour government. During his first term of office, Blair created 203 life peers, whom the Conservatives referred to as "Tony's Cronies". Besides the peers, "Tony's Cronies" was a term given to people regarded as being given positions of power due to personal friendships with Blair, rather than any individual merit, between 1997 and 2007. Not that there was anything specific to Blair in this; after his departure, people given positions by Prime Minister Brown were referred to as "Brown-nosers" and Cameron was charged with similar accusations for rewarding life peerages to those who had assisted him; "Dave's Faves". And so it continues to this very day, a cesspit of corruption, lies and illegality which now and then is revealed by leaks and the like. The wolves are in charge of the sheep, the appeals of OXFAM and the like will remain unheeded, at best implemented in ways that the capitalist elite can avoid, as is in fact the case with present tax laws. The wheel of history will turn, the capitalist class will concentrate ever more wealth in its hands, the majority will be sacrificed in a doomed attempt to maintain profitability on a perpetually growing mass of capital which is already almost impossible to sustain,(12) destroying the environment, destroying the exploited.

So yes, we can thank OXFAM and many other concerned parties for revealing the magnitude of the issue of inequality, we can applaud Monbiot and the like for his scathing critique of the thin gruel which passes for democracy in the UK, and elsewhere, but when it comes to prescribing a solution to what is a progressive, inexorable condition, we must depart from all those who are unwilling to make a bold diagnosis and go to the root of the problem. The root is capitalism. No matter this or that variation, degree of state intervention, exact figures regarding minimum wages, benefits, public spending, “rights”, immigration, whatever detail one can imagine, the root cause of the problem is the capitalist process itself. Money invested to make more money on an ever-expanding scale. An unsustainable perpetual growth machine which is wreaking havoc on a finite planet.

The concentration of wealth by an elite is not a tumour within an otherwise healthy capitalism that can be surgically removed, as is the claim of the reformists, the leftists and the like. They are simply muddying the waters, preventing a proper reckoning with a system which has no better day to offer, which must by its own laws and logic create ever greater levels of concentration, inequality, pauperisation in a futile attempt to maintain a growth process which has no end point. Capitalism is the cancer; capitalism must be removed from human society. In other words, the revolutionary abolition of capitalism is the only cure. Alternatively, the cancer takes us down a dark path to social collapse, barbarism, even extinction.

26 January 2023



(1) The proportion of people describing themselves as Christian in England and Wales has fallen below 50 per cent for the first time, statistics released from the 2021 census show.

The Office for National Statistics said 46.2 per cent of the population described themselves as Christian, down from 59.3 per cent a decade earlier, a decline of 5.5 million people.

Those saying they had no religion jumped from about a quarter in 2011 (25.2 per cent) to more than a third in 2021 (37.2 per cent), a rise of 22.2 million people. This was the second most common response after Christian.


(3) For a relatively recent example which painted an extreme picture even before the impact of Covid, see:



(6) The “Gini Coefficient” mentioned in the quote is, according to the same source “one of the most widely used measures of inequality in the distribution of household income. It takes values between 0% and 100%, with higher values representing an increase in the level of inequality.”


(8) Again, the statistics bear witness to this reality.

The working class has been in retreat for decades, and has consequently been paying the costs of the crisis by having its living standards reduced while productivity rates are increased (though still not enough to offset falling profit rates due to the rising organic composition of capital). This has been the strategy of “our” rulers worldwide. Since the first phase of the crisis, which started in the early 1970s with the decoupling of the dollar to gold, our share of the value our labour produces has been dramatically reduced. In the G20 countries this share has, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), decreased from about 65% to 55%, a decrease of 15%. In the US, for example, the purchasing power of wages has been static since the early 1970s while labour productivity has increased by a factor of almost three! It’s a similar story in other countries. The Asian Development Bank calculates that for 115 countries, in the period from the mid-1970s to today, workers’ share of the value they produce has fallen from 55% to 45%. The ILO also reports that 266 million workers globally are paid below the minimum wage in their countries. This represents 15% of all labour globally. There are, of course, millions of workers who suffer even worse conditions but don’t appear in these figures because they are ignored by national statistics. Precarious working, zero-hours contracts, "fire–and–rehire", significant inflation outpacing wage increases and unemployment all amount to a vicious attack on our living standards.

(9) Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party

(10) Marx, The Civil War in France

(11) See:

At the weekend, the Sunday Times reported that people who have donated at least £250,000 to the Conservative party have been invited to join an “advisory board”, with special access to the prime minister, cabinet ministers and senior government advisers. They have used this access to lobby for changes in government policy. The 14 identified members of the group have a combined wealth of at least £30bn, and have donated £22m to the Conservatives. Among them are property tycoons, financiers, two people with connections to the Kremlin, a tobacco magnate and an internet entrepreneur currently facing trial for rape and sexual assault (both of which he denies).

(12) Just looking at the UK economy,

Since the great financial crisis of 2008, the UK economy has grown very slowly by historical standards. This has been widely discussed by economists, who have cited a stagnation in productivity, which means GDP per person, or per hour worked. The low level of labour productivity growth, some 0.5% per year between 2008 and 2020, is indeed unprecedented in British economic history since the 18th century.
Friday, February 10, 2023