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Issue #1707      October 21, 2015

Culture & Life

The rule of the rich

It is a feature of modern life much remarked upon, that “democratic elections” now cost a small (or more commonly not so small) fortune. So much so that candidates are increasingly drawn from the ranks of the very rich, who, once in office, are naturally keen to advance their own class interests.

Displaying a different mindset, on September 3, armed troops from 11 countries joined the Chinese Army to march in the country’s Victory Day parade.

From the US to Australia to Ukraine, millionaires (or even billionaires) are making a play for the job of being the country’s leader, with the backing of big business, especially military-industrial complexes, media corporations and the top financial institutions.

Australia’s new Prime Minister, put in the top job by a party room coup not an election, we should remember, is a filthy-rich merchant banker. His harbour-side mansion in Sydney is so posh that he has no qualms about deciding to use it in preference to the official PM’s residence Kirribili House.

There was a time when working people regarded such people with well deserved suspicion if not outright hostility. Their lives were so much more comfortable than ours. The “quality” saw themselves as not only privileged (which they certainly were) but deservedly so. They saw nothing wrong in living so much better than the majority of people, especially in living better than the people who toiled in their mines, mills and factories. “Common workers” were, after all, just that: common.

The people, however, never accepted this rule by the rich and privileged without a struggle: the “jacques revolts” in France, the peasant revolts in Bohemia, Britain and Germany, the runaway serfs who established an independent Cossack community in the south of Russia and told the Tsar what he could do with his threats. In the culmination of these revolts, the French Revolution, they chopped heads off the rich and privileged, but the working class was not leading that revolution and inevitably it failed.

Over the next hundred years, the landed gentry were joined by the owners of capital in exploiting the labour of the workers, while the best thinkers among the working class and their allies developed the theory and tactics of revolutionary change and a plan for a different type of society. Ultimately, while inter-imperialist rivalry for more riches led the world into the first World War, the people of Russia, Hungary and Germany said “enough is enough!”

The working people in these countries proclaimed an end to the rule of the rich. Imperialism, however, fought back, crushing the revolutions in Hungary and Germany, and trying to throttle it in Russia. There, they failed, defeated by the Russian workers and peasants’ determination and by the international solidarity of workers everywhere.

Ever since, the propagandists of capitalism have worked assiduously to convince the poor and oppressed of the world that socialism does not work, that it is evil (akin to Nazism, in fact), and that capitalism is benign and friendly, the best of all possible systems. That so many of the super-rich can now be put forward as potential leaders of the masses shows just how successful this brainwashing has been.

During one of the PR exercises that in the USA pass for meaningful debates among the candidates for President, on September 18, Republican candidates were asked to name a significant woman to place on the country’s $10 bill. Hardly a deep and meaningful question (in fact, the only female candidate, Carly Fiorina, dismissed the whole idea as “an empty gesture”). Nevertheless, it produced some interesting results.

Two of the candidates nominated their mothers (aw shucks) while billionaire Donald Trump nominated his daughter (ew!). Jeb Bush, brother of that other big business mouthpiece named Bush, put forward a reactionary he truly admired, Margaret Thatcher, no less. “A strong leader is what we need in the White House, and she certainly was a strong leader that restored the United Kingdom to greatness.” Really Jeb? The bosom-buddy of Pinochet? You must have a peculiar definition of greatness – and of “strong leadership”.

There were two sensible suggestions: Wisconsin governor Scott Walker put forward the founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton, while Senator Rand Paul opted for reformer and feminist Susan B Anthony.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the USA’s crocodile tears over the plight of the people of war-ravaged Syria were revealed yet again when the US government sought to have Greece deny Russian aircraft the use of Greek airspace to fly humanitarian aid to Syria. When Athens proved reluctant, Washington got NATO hopeful Bulgaria to comply. The war that has raged in Syria since 2011 is instigated and funded by the US and its client Saudi Arabia, with these two primarily providing the arms used by the forces trying to overthrow Syria’s anti-imperialist President Bashar al-Assad, especially the Islamist militant groups Nusra Front and Islamic State.

Displaying a different mindset, on September 3, armed troops from 11 countries – Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Serbia and Tajikistan – joined the Chinese Army to march in the country’s Victory Day parade.

China’s anti-fascist war began on September 18, 1931, when the Japanese army invaded north-eastern China. China’s war-time casualties totalled more than 35 million, accounting for one third of the world total. American writer Wesley Marvin Bagby in his book, The Eagle-Dragon Alliance, quoted US President Franklin D Roosevelt: “If China goes under, how many divisions of Japanese troops do you think will be freed?”

And former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who was at the Parade along with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, said “The successful resistance put up by the Chinese people at great sacrifice was a very important contribution to ending the Second World War.”

In China’s near neighbour Japan on the other hand, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose grandfather ran the county’s war economy and who speaks today for Japan’s wealthy, is trying to revive Japanese militarism. He calls the country’s post-war peaceful constitution “anachronistic” and wants to change it. A rally in early September outside the Japanese parliament drew 120,000 people to oppose Abe’s pro-war changes.

Only big business profits from war. For ordinary people it means death, destruction and sacrifice.

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