Capitalism : a paradise on earth for exploiters

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
13 November 2017

Last week, the Paradise Papers leaked by the press partly lifted the veil of secrecy surrounding the "normal" functioning of capitalism. While capital owners keep lecturing workers about the necessity to accept sacrifices, they practice tax evasion on an industrial scale.

France's richest man, Bernard Arnault, owns assets in no less than six tax havens. Thanks to the hard work of those employed in the luxury industry, he has a 46,000-square-foot mansion on a 320-acre property north of London, a 331-foot-long yacht, complete with heliport and glass-bottom swimming pool. It's worth 130 million euros and was bought, like the rest of his properties, through shell companies based in Jersey or the Cayman Islands. This is how the boss of the Louis-Vuitton-Moët-Henessey (LVMH) empire hides his wealth and escapes the scrutiny of the tax office and the media.

The Queen of England has also made considerable investments in the Cayman Islands and is consequently a major cheater of her own tax authority! A huge profit-making company like Nike only pays a 2% tax on its 7.5 billion euro profits in Europe. Aircraft manufacturer Dassault owes a good share of its profits to the orders passed by the French state, yet Dassault helps its clients not to pay the value added tax by selling them jets through shell companies based on the Isle of Man—which boasts 0% VAT. And there are many more examples of such practices that are just as shocking.

"This is the end of tax havens and bank secrecy", said Sarkozy in 2009. What a joke! Each year, new schemes are discovered. European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici and the European Union feign to be outraged. How hypocritical! There are tax havens in the very heart of Europe, in Belgium, Ireland or the Netherlands.

The French government is no different. It has suppressed wealth tax and slashed corporate tax. In other words, Macron is trying to make France as attractive as the tax havens he pretends to loathe. And to do so, he is organizing a massive transfer of the wealth produced by French workers into the hands of big capital-owners.

Big corporations have never made so much money; the bourgeoisie has never been richer. And they have never paid less in taxes. They rake in fortunes based on the exploitation of millions of workers, but they whine when they are asked to pay even a minimal share of what it costs to keep society going.

An estimated 350 billion euros slip below the taxman's radar across Europe each year, and 20 billion for France alone. In other words, that's the bill that France's workers and poor will be asked to foot. The monthly five-euro cut on housing benefits now enforced by the government represents a yearly total of half-a-billion. That's a far cry from the 20-billion euro bill which will be paid for through job cuts, degraded public services and other decisions imposed on the workers and the poor. And 20 billion euros is only the tip of the iceberg of tax avoidance.

What matters is not so much the existence of tax havens in Jersey or the Isle of Man, but the fact that capitalist society as a whole is a heavenly place for exploiters and hell for the exploited. Workers are the ones who get things done, including inside the mansions, yachts and private jets of the wealthy. The capital owners' pressure to increase their profits is permanent. They already get billions in dividends, but they want more, and to get it, they are ready to reduce breaks at work, increase production rates and suppress jobs. As a consequence, workers have to work longer hours, end up suffering from back problems or other health conditions, and are eventually fired for "poor performance".

The wealth accumulated so far has not been used to transform the economy and make it run in the interests of all. It is geared to speculation which attracts more than a hundred times the money spent on maintaining the luxury life of the super-rich. This type of frantic speculation is an in-built characteristic of capitalism. It leads to economic crises and periodically destroys thousands of plants and millions of jobs.

Capitalists are waging a genuine class struggle. We must use every opportunity to protest. This coming Thursday, October 16, some unions and student organizations are asking us to march against Macron's executive orders and the policy carried out by his government.

The bosses' and the government's offensive cannot be stopped by a single demonstration. But it gives us the possibility of saying "no" to the new setbacks prepared by Macron, the bankers' president. We must make him feel our mounting anger against a policy which consists in robbing working people in order to enrich the parasites who run the whole show.