Big banker bonus payments cuts for the rest of us

If waged employees today do practically all real work, then the capitalist has no role other than collecting dividends, living the high life, and gambling on the Stock Exchange. The big banks, all of which are now kept afloat with our tax money, and most of which are now majority state-owned, are still paying massive “bonuses” to their top people.

You might think that after their record losses there would be no “performance” bonuses for bank bosses at the moment. Yet the top people at the Royal Bank of Scotland, majority Government-owned, decided to pay themselves close to £1 billion in bonuses — £1 billion of our tax money which was handed to RBS to keep the bank open.

Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Dresdner-Kleinwort, all of whom are getting huge government handouts, announced £6.4 billion in bonuses.

Well, maybe these financial wizards deserve it because of their amazing expertise? Or maybe not. When four top bank bosses were asked by a committee of MPs on February 10th about their banking qualifications, the MPs found that “the answer in every case was ‘nil’.”

There is a very real recession and the big question is who should pay. Should it be those who run the system in their own class interests? Or should it be those who have no say at all in big economic decisions? Should it be millionaires or working people?

Most of us have never even been inside a company boardroom or Minister’s office; let alone made decisions about closing factories, axing jobs, giving a low tax regime to the extremely rich or turning a blind eye to dodgy banking. But we are told we share the responsibility and must “share the pain”, so that the rich can remain rich. It’s nonsense.

Employers want to drive down wages and spend even less on public services in order to protect profits. The Confederation of British Industry has threatened that the 'overwhelming majority' of its members will freeze wages this year.

We are not powerless. We do have the power to put a halt to the employers’ offensive. If most of us strike together what can they do but make concessions? As the songwriter and union organiser Joe Hill said
“If the workers take a notion, they can stop all speeding trains;
Every ship upon the ocean, they can tie with mighty chains;
Every wheel in the creation, every mine and every mill,
Fleets and armies of the nation, will at their command stand still.”

A good start will be putting more life into our unions on the job. The workplace is key because that is where we have the possibility to move beyond protest and start effectively resisting. It can’t be done for us, but – together – working people are more than capable of doing it for ourselves.

Workers Solidarity 109 May - June 2009 Edition

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