Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A TALE OF TWO CLASSES: MPs' and workers' wages


A tale of two classes; or two planets, more like! 
All that is rotten and unequal about the capitalist economic system is reflected in the accompanying political system and the capitalist politicians, regardless of whether Tory or Labour.
Tory MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind shamelessly asserted this week: "It's quite unrealistic to believe MPs will go through their parliamentary career being able to simply accept a salary of £60,000 a year", as he told us mere mortals that he is "entitled" to earn "far, far more than that."

20p - or far, far more?!
With unfortunate timing for those who want working class people to put up with what we get and shut up from complaining, on the very same day as Channel 4 broadcast the sting operation that exposed Rifkind and Labour's Jack Straw promising favours and access to diplomats and EU officials for cash in their hands, the Low Pay Commission's annual report was published. It recommended a whopping 20 pence an hour rise on the UK's national minimum wage next October! 

That's £6.70 an hour if you're 21 or over; apprentices should be suitably thankful for the 7 pence rise the LPC has proposed for them, to a giddy £2.80! 

And their proposals were headlined in the same media as 'inflation-busting', the 'biggest increase since 2008', and other paroxysms of excitement at the glories on offer to millions of workers!

Artificial Increase?! 
The bosses' Confederation of British industry had no hesitation in telling the working class to shut up and count their blessings. Spokesperson for the engorged rich, Katja Hall, said the CBI "welcomes this balanced approach", adding "Any artificial increase due to political expediency will help no-one and ultimately damage one of the most successful government policies of recent years."
Artificial increase?! If the national minimum wage had increased by the 243% rise enjoyed by company executives in the 15 years since it was introduced, it wouldn't be £6.50, or £6.70, but £18.89 a hour - now!

Great Wages Robbery
These creatures at the heart of big business buy politicians to do their bidding, shaping the tax laws, employment legislation and rampant privatisation that fattens their profits with obscene success. 
Systematically driving down workers' wages as a share of national wealth has been a central mission of successive Tory and Labour governments for the past 40 years. Otherwise, if wages as a percentage of GDP were at the same level today as they were in 1975, a worker currently on £12,000 would be earning £21,300; one on £20,000 would instead enjoy £31,300; and a worker on the current average wage of £27,200 would instead be on £35,931!

Coy Crook
Two former government Ministers who played their part in hampering workers' trade unions, hammering workers' wages and helping boost capitalists' rent, interest and profit are the disgraced reprobates Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw. 
Rifkind obviously takes the 'far, far more than £60,000' that he believes he's 'entitled to'. In fact he's on £81,936 as an MP and chairman of a Westminster Select Committee. Not to mention the £800,000 he's grabbed in the last 5 years from the 5 jobs outside parliament that he actually declared.
In the undercover journalists' sting operation, posing as a Hong Kong communications agency backed up by a fictitious Chinese businessman, Rifkind was recorded boasting:
"You'd be surprised how much free time I have. I spend a lot of time reading, I spend a lot walking. I am self-employed. Nobody pays me a salary, I have to earn my income, but when I'm not doing something I can do what I like." 
The coy crook fails to mention his parliamentary salary of £81,936, paid for by those 'nobodies', overwhelmingly working-class and lower-middle-class taxpayers. 

Self-employed or Self-seeking
Rifkind proceeded: "One sensitive issue, but I have to mention it. You mentioned there would obviously be remuneration...I would simply give it as an example, but when I did a series of presentations on the Middle wasn't a whole day, it was usually a whole morning or an afternoon, and that was somewhere in the region of £5,000 to £8,000."
The 'sensitive' Sir Malcolm obviously feels 'entitled' to a damn sight more than the growing band of self-employed people that has sprung up in desperation at the lack of jobs available since the 2008 bankers' crisis. Their median incomes fell by £4,000 - a massive 28% drop - between 2002 and 2012.  

Entitled... Rifkind
Cheap at Half the Price
Labour's Jack Straw admits he earns - in one day - nearly as much as the annual wage of a worker on the £6.50 minimum on a 20-hour contract: "Normally if I'm doing a speech or something it's £5,000 a day, that's what I charge". Cheap at half Rifkind's price!
Up until he was caught on tape boasting about the price he can be bought for, Straw subscribed to Labour's promise of an £8 minimum wage...but not until 2020, making it barely any more than today's pathetic £6.50.

When Tory millionaire David Cameron recently told the assembled business fat cats of the British Chambers of Commerce that "Britain needs a pay rise", you know there's something happening in the real world. 
First and foremost, there's a general election in two months' time. 
Secondly, the ruthless ruling class Cameron is part of are increasingly scared a revolt is growing against the outrageous system of poverty pay these exploiters rely on to make record profits, directors' bonuses and dividends to the big parasitic shareholders. 
That's how the 3 richest families in Scotland own more wealth than the poorest 20% of people, and how Britain's richest family has more in their pocket than 12.5 million people in the UK!
These capitalist bloodsuckers have drained workers dry, leaving one in five workers below the breadline; creating the longest, deepest fall in real wages since 1856; making the average Scottish worker £1,900 a year worse off than in 2010.

Stark Political Choices
One of the central issues in the May general election is poverty pay and galloping inequality. People face stark choices in those seats where the SSP has been able to afford to stand candidates. 
Vote for Labour to continue their obnoxious track record of suppressing workers' wages with the help of the Thatcherite anti-union laws they retained in 13 years of Labour government. 
Vote for their bogus headline of an £8 minimum wage, ignoring the stark reality they are only promising this figure 5 years from now, in 2020, with inflation on life's basic necessities meantime wiping out any meaningful increase this figure would mean.
Vote SNP, with their welcome but extremely limited support for the £7.85 Living Wage. Limited, because the level is still far below what is required to match the mounting cost of living, and limited because it's entirely voluntary, not legally enforceable, left to the whims and fancies of employers.
Or people disgusted by corrupt, careerists politicians can vote for the SSP, and our relentless, determined campaign for a £10 minimum living wage for all over 16 - now, not in 2020 or some other distant date.

Straw:  Usually on £5000 a day...

Socialist MPs on a Worker's Wage
MPs are so divorced from the struggles of everyday life faced by the rest of us that they have no interest in combating poverty pay. 
Their current basic salary is £67,060. That's set to rise to £74,000 after the elections. 
But even that is not enough for these greedy swine. When the body that now sets MPs' salaries - the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) - surveyed MPs' views on what they thought they should be paid, back in 2013, the AVERAGE response was £86,250!
And in stark, stinking contrast to the CBI's talk about a 20p rise on the £6.50 minimum wage avoiding the pitfalls of "any artificial increase due to political expediency", the chief executive of the IPSA justified the 11% rise for MPs, to £74,000, with the following comments to the Sunday Telegraph:
"MPs' salaries have fallen behind others working in comparable public sector roles. The £74,000 is now seen by some as at the low end. 
Pay needs to be fair to attract good candidates. They are there to represent us - to form laws, to send young people to war. It's not an easy thing to do. We want to have good people doing the job and they need to be paid fairly." 
Dry up your tears of sorrow for these poor, underpaid MPs! Tighten your belts, because 'we're all in this together'. Pity the poor warmongers who send young, working-class economic conscripts to the killing fields of Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, to kill and be killed.

Nice Little Earners - and Day Jobs
Of course MPs from all the 'mainstream' pro-capitalist parties will gladly pocket the full 'rate for the job' - and on top, many of them grab hundreds of thousands more on jobs outside parliament, treating being an MP as their 'day job'.
In fact, just the ten MPs with the highest earnings outside parliament last year grabbed a combined additional income of £3,378,857. That's an average of £33,789 each! 
Top of the pile was Labour's Gordon Brown, who coined £962,516 on top of his MP's salary. 'Gorgeous' George Galloway reached 4th place on the charts with £277,350 on his Commons Register of Members' Financial Interests for 2014. 

The future is not what it used to be!
In contrast, any SSP MP or MSP will only take the average skilled worker's wage, to stay in touch with the working class we seek to represent and help fight for a sweeping redistribution of wealth through socialist measures.
Two classes; two planets! The SSP knows which class we fight for. 
The despicable Malcolm Rifkind once said, in a completely different context, "The future is not what it used to be"! 
Let's make sure of that by organising for a socialist future that banishes poverty, inequality and corrupt

Saturday, 14 February 2015

The SSP Podcast

I recorded a piece for this weeks SSP podcast on Council budgets. Councillors who cannot protect their electorate from Tory/ LibDem imposed cuts should stand down and allow socialists to take their place.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015


There's a gut-wrenching stink of corruption arising from the body of capitalism right now.

The world's second-biggest bank, HSBC, has hit the headlines for providing a tax-dodging service to some of the world's biggest corporations, richest capitalists, and most corrupt crooks.

The public, and public services, have been deprived of £billions in unpaid taxes, in a conscious campaign of swindling on an industrial scale, thereby adding to the savage cuts to wages, benefits, services and the lives of millions. However, HSBC is but one link in the chain of corruption and graft known as capitalism, the system where those in power think all is fair in looting and profiteering.


Back in 2007, whistleblower Herve Falciani leaked acres of documents showing how around 130,000 of the globe's wealthiest people, in 203 different countries, were systematically shown how to dodge taxes by the Swiss arm of HSBC.
In France, Argentina, Belgium and the USA these revelations have led to criminal investigations, such is the clamour for action against the bankers and capitalists who brought the world economy to the brink of ruin in the 2008 financial crisis. But in Britain, the self-proclaimed mother of democracy, where HSBC is actually based, a monumental cover-up of criminal tax-dodging has been conducted. Not only the perpetrators at the tops of the banks, but also the heads of HMRC and the Westminster government have been up to their elbows in burying the facts from public view up until now, not even 'naming and shaming' the con-merchants involved, let alone prosecuting them.


HMRC was handed the leaked documents in 2010, if not earlier. These revealed 7,000 UK citizens who had systematically evaded taxes with the active advice and involvement of HSBC's Swiss operation. Five years on, all the authorities have done is a series of shady out-of-court deals - this week boasting(!!) they have recovered £135m in taxes, interest charges and fines - with a sum total of ONE unnamed individual prosecuted.

Contrast that with the shameless, relentless prosecution - and indeed persecution - of those who falsely claim a few hundred pounds in benefits; it says it all about the class-ridden society we live in.
One stark statistic captures the values of capitalist government in the UK: HMRC employs a mere 300 staff pursuing tax evasion by the fabulously rich and big corporations, whilst they have 3,250 staff in pursuit of benefit fraud, even though the latter only amounts to less than 1% of the money lost to the state by corporate and fat cat tax fraud!


One of the chief means of dodging taxation is through offshore tax havens. As the BBC blithely states, "tax avoidance is perfectly legal, deliberately hiding money to evade tax is not". But that's precisely what HSBC has helped its rich clients do. Just a glimpse at a few of their methods should make your blood boil, and add steel to your determination to help dismantle the whole rotten edifice of capitalism.

They help advise rich clients on how to stay ahead of the law, such as how to dodge the impact of the European Savings Directive of 2005.

They supply wealthy clients with a foreign credit card so they can withdraw their undeclared cash at cashpoints abroad. For instance, Richard Caring, British tycoon and owner of the celebrity-packed Ivy restaraunt in London, on one day in 2005 thus removed £2.25million in cash in Switzerland - dodging his tax duties in the UK.

In Geneva, HSBC handed out 'bricks' of $100,000 a time, no questions asked, to American surgeon Andrew Silva, so he could then illegally post the cash back to the USA.

Amongst their other clients was Emmanuel Shallop, later convicted of dealing in African 'blood diamonds' - the blood-soaked, illegal trade that has claimed thousands of lives through wars on the continent. They opened up an account for him in Dubai.

Hollywood stars, royalty and heirs to some of Europe's biggest fortunes are on the HSBC list of criminal tax-dodgers. And only one of the 7,000 British citizens implicated in holding an estimated $21.7billion in HSBC's Swiss vaults has been prosecuted!


But don't be fooled by the huffing and puffing of David Cameron about clamping down on those embroiled in tax evasion through offshore accounts.

For the past five years, the rich have bought the silence of the government on this scandal. When 500 mind-bogglingly rich donors to the Tory party gathered in London's Grosvenor House hotel this week at the annual 'Black and White Ball', forking out £15,000 a head for dinner to raise Tory party election funds, it was money well spent. They were there to buy the next government!

At last year's event, the 570 assembled worthies were 'worth' a combined £22billion in personal wealth. This year's crowd of parasites are likely to be in possession of even more; after all, Cameron and Osborne cut the top personal tax rate on incomes over £150,000 by 5% since April 2013.

More significant still, they've kept quiet about the tax swindling of these leeches on society, since the HSBC revelations in 2007. And the plot thickens.

Stephen Green was chief executive of HSBC from 2003-2006, then chairman from 2006-2010. He wrote books on "reconciling God and Mammon", in his mission as an evangelical Christian who portrayed himself as a saint in sinful times.

He was then made a Tory Lord. Cameron begged and cajoled the saintly Lord to become a government Minister during a trade mission to India in July 2010 - a clear 3 months after Cameron's government had received the leaked documents on the very 'sinful' deeds of Green's HSBC. Lord Green was appointed Minister for Trade and Investment, from January 2011 until December 2013. "To him that hath, more shall be given, tax-free!".

The Astors and the Camerons... corrupt tax dodgers.


Cameron's stinking hypocrisy on offshore tax-dodgers doesn't stop outside the walls of the HSBC banking conglomerate. His wife Samantha enjoys a £100,000 salary as creative consultant to luxury leather and stationery firm, Smythson's. They're the company that advertise what every working class woman needs: python skin clutch bags at £850 a go, and crocodile skin clutch bags at a cool £3,200 each. It makes you puke; it would take nearly 6 months for a woman working 20 hours a week on the national minimum wage to earn what some creatures pay for a glorified purse.

Smythsons... clutching their obscene wealth

Smythson's UK parent company had a £29.9million turnover in 2013/14, helped out by a taxpayer-funded £1.6m National Loan Guarantee, a scheme the Tories devised. But here's the rub: they switched their official headquarters to Luxembourg - a favourite location for many corporate tax-dodgers.


Samantha Cameron's family are already very familiar with such methods. Her mother, Lady Astor, is the founder of luxury furniture firm OKA DIRECT. She has 22% of its shares, in the company with £5.5m assets and £1.6m profits last year. Some of her customers were Tory MPs caught up in the expenses scandal, which revealed OKA was a favourite source of furnishing their second homes - paid for by you and me! But 50% of OKA's shares are owned by anonymous shareholders through accounts in Guernsey - one of Britain's many offshore tax havens.

And to complete the family circle, David Cameron's father-in-law, Viscount Astor, has a family estate of 19,000 acres on the isle of Jura. Up until November 2014 it was owned by Bahamas-based Ginge Manor Estate Ltd (named after the Astor family home in Oxfordshire), but then transferred to a company based in the British Virgin Islands - another British Caribbean tax haven. No cash was involved in the transfer, meaning it was purely a tax dodge.


The growth industry that is tax-dodging for the ultra-rich is not the sole preserve of one rogue bank, HSBC. On the contrary, they are a small point on the tip of a monumental iceberg. Some experts estimate a quarter of the world's wealth is held in offshore accounts, purely to avoid paying domestic business and income taxes. And over two-thirds of that is in British territories.

Four huge accountancy firms in the UK make a fortune for themselves and their capitalist clients by giving them expert advice on how to avoid and evade tax. One of them, PriceWaterhouseCooper, has promoted this swindle on an industrial scale, amassing a fortune for its owners in the process. They've just rewarded their executive board members with payouts of over £21million - an average £1.83m each. Legalised crime pays!

These accountancy firms are stuffed full of former top brass tax inspectors from HMRC, and the government hires the services of their representatives to help frame tax laws - which they help shape to suit the rich. And the accountancy firms then make money out of advising the rich on how to escape taxes...through loopholes they helped to devise in the first place!

It's not a case of a few rotten apples in the barrel, but of a system that is rotten and class-ridden to its core.


Capitalism is a systematic swindling of the wealth created by the working class. But the rich don't leave anything to chance. They use accountancy firms, lawyers, tax experts, banks, politicians and the laws they frame to rip the profit out of the rest of us. It's a colossal machine constructed to redistribute wealth - away from the millions to the millionaires. And by god they've had some run of success!


Whilst the pro-capitalist politicians try to distract our attention from the systemic corruption that is capitalism by chastising a few individuals that get caught red-handed, the latest figures on poverty and inequality reveal the consequences, but get little publicity.

Twenty million people in Britain are now below the breadline! Poverty has doubled since 1983. 3.5 million adults go hungry to feed their children. And an absolute majority of those in poverty - 52% - are in work.

Whilst the wealthiest 1,000 people have seen their obscene wealth virtually double in the last five years, to £519billion, workers' wages have dropped by £50 a week over the same period.


We're told the SSP's demand for a living minimum wage of £10 an hour for all over 16 is 'unrealistic'. But the people preaching this are the ones who have systematically, consciously robbed society of £billions, not only through dodging taxes and buying politicians to keep taxes on big business and the rich at historic low levels, but through the entire system of profit itself.

In reply, the TUC needs to speak out in support of its own unanimously agreed policy of a £10 national minimum wage, and give a lead in demanding closure of the tax loopholes that help engorge the rich, and confiscation of the assets of companies and individuals found to have dodged taxes.


Decent wages, expanded public services and new green industry jobs could all be easily funded if the rich were forced to pay proper taxes and the current annual loss of £120billion from tax avoidance, evasion and non-payment was halted. The jaw-dropping mountains of wealth accumulated by the richest 1% - in part through this monstrous international tax swindle - needs to be redistributed, with a wealth tax and vastly increased levels of Corporation Tax.

But taxation alone cannot rid society of the obnoxious inequality that the capitalist economic system is built upon. Why should the banks, accountancy firms, manufacturing and service industry multinationals have the ability to amass vast profits, dividends and bonuses for the owners and directors in the first place - regardless of whether they fancy paying the taxes they are meant to, or not?


This stinking corruption should embolden those of us who think the wealth created by the collective efforts of working people should be collectively owned, through measures such as democratic public ownership of the banks, big business and natural resources. That way the one in three people in Britain below the breadline could be raised to a life of plenty, with socially useful jobs created and decent wages for all, including the guaranteed minimum of £10 an hour. Capitalism equals corruption and cruel exploitation to create profits for the very few. Socialism would cleanse society of this foul system.

My blog pieces appear also in the Scottish Socialist Voice, fortnightly.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015


The crime of poverty pay is becoming even more criminal.

In a cheap stunt to absorb some of the growing fury of working class people at appalling hourly wage rates, even the Tory government has been obliged to 'name and shame' some of the companies not even paying the legally required national minimum wage, the pathetically low £6.50 for workers aged over 21.
The biggest company named, with the biggest number of workers denied even this pitiful hourly rate, is Swedish-owned clothes chain H&M. 

Known for its fast fashion, cheap chic range, Hennes & Mauritz was founded in 1947 by Erling Persson. The current company chairman is his son, Stefan Persson. He is the world's 24th-richest billionaire, with a personal fortune of £16.01billion. He gained from last year's 25 per cent rise in the stock value of his company, H&M.

But he didn't do too badly from his other sideline, land ownership in England. Last year he bought Savernake Estate in Wiltshire: no crofter's strip of land, nor modest family farm, but a colossus of 8,700 acres! And for Stefan's convenience, this latest acquisition isn't far from Linkenholt, a village in Hampshire, which he bought in 2009!

Billionaire Wage Dodgers

In contrast to this mind-boggling wealth, in the hands of Sweden's richest citizen, his company and primary source of wealth, H&M, dodged paying over 500 of its staff the paltry £6.50 an hour that the national minimum wage legally obliges them to pay! 

Billions for bosses, buttons for their workers!

That's just the stand-out example of obscene class exploitation highlighted by the 'named and shamed' list recently published. And it shouldn't hide the more fundamental point: how the hell are workers meant to live on £6.50 an hour even when companies do pay it?

Below the Breadline

As the SSP steps up its street campaigning for a living national minimum wage of £10 an hour, legally enforced, horror stories of working people who can't cope multiply with every street stall. The woman who told me she has five part-time jobs, as a cleaner, and still can't survive the bills.

The 23-year-old hairdresser who told me she works for a major chain but is having to give up and go back to college, as she only gets £4.50 an hour actual wages, topped up to the legal minimum £6.50 through commission - which is drying up as people can't afford to spend as much on hairdos or shampoos... because of low wages!

The proud people who work part-time but still have had to resort to foodbanks for emergency food supplies.

Inequality: the 1% v. the 99%

Obscene levels of inequality in Scotland actually add to economic crises.

Low wages suppress spending power, thereby adding to job insecurity and unemployment. Workers getting a boost to their wages would spend it, investing in the local economy - in contrast to company bosses on unimaginable sums who just squander their wealth on luxury yachts, works of art that they often stick away in a vault...or in buying up a whole village!

But inequality is the ugly twin of poverty. The richest tenth of people in Scotland have 900 times as much wealth as the poorest tenth of the population.

That's in keeping with the global obscenity of inequality: as Oxfam recently reported, the richest 1% on earth own 48% of global wealth, and by 2016 the 1% will own more than the other 99% of humanity!

£10 easily affordable

Fighting for a £10 an hour national minimum wage for all over 16 - with equal pay for women - is hardly asking for the moon and the stars. It's roughly equivalent to two-thirds the median male wage in Scotland. In other words, two-thirds of the income that half of all men already get more than.

It's the minimum wage unanimously voted for at last autumn's British Trades Union Congress, which adds a mighty potential force behind the demand.

The SSP is appealing to people on the streets to raise their chins, raise their sights, and fight for a living minimum wage, legally enforced.

We are appealing to trade unionists to take up the cudgels and seriously campaign for the policy agreed by all unions representing over seven million members.

And we are arguing that such a wage is easily affordable. The biggest armies of low paid workers are massed in retail, hospitality and the care sector. They are employed by retail giants, including supermarkets, who make £billions in profit every year, and could easily afford a decent living wage for those who make them their profits. Likewise the big chains in the fast foods and hospitality sector.

And the battalions of low paid workers in the public sector could be afforded at least £10 an hour if governments radically changed their spending priorities. From squandering £100billion on Trident weapons of mass destruction, and cutting tax workers' jobs whilst the rich dodge £120billion a year in taxes, to investment in well-paid jobs in the likes of care services for children, the elderly, sick and disabled.

Pay Before Profit

We live in a fabulously rich country - with obscene levels of poverty. Wage levels are a prime cause of that poverty, with half a million Scots working to stay below the breadline.

It's time to stand up and demand a share of the growing wealth for the working class that produce it in the first place.

Just as Syriza won power by, amongst other policies, pledging to restore the minimum wage to its 2010 level (double its current appalling level), so too the Scottish Socialists are determined to lead the fight for a decent living minimum wage of £10 now. Join us.