While ordinary people’s physical, mental and financial health suffered during the pandemic, companies increased their profits significantly. How is it possible that during a ‘crisis’, businesses can get richer? And why did none of it go to the workers?
The COVID period is known mainly as a period of deep crisis. However, the term crisis is less and less applicable to the whole economy. That is to say, while workers are suffering inflation across the board, business owners are seeing record profits.
According to economists, many companies have taken advantage of the extraordinary situation in which the world found itself during the pandemic to raise prices far more than was necessary (because of higher energy or fuel prices). In doing so, they not only passed on the ‘cost’ of the pandemic to the ordinary consumer, but also squeezed every penny out of them.
Proof that big business has deliberately profited from the misery of ordinary people is the fact that the proportion of their profits is the highest it has been in 10 years!
As is the way of capitalism, prices are constantly rising, but wages are lagging behind. This hyenism has only become more acute in recent years. Despite record profits, companies refuse to act fairly in collective bargaining (as it is clearly seen in the situation at BPC Beluša and the struggle for survival of their trade union’s leader). They do not want to bring wages to a decent level, no matter the cost. Instead, we see either their reduction (in real purchasing power) or their transfer abroad and the closure of workplaces. Other countries exploited and dominated by Western capital, namely the Czech Republic, are even worse off. Wages there have fallen in value by more than 11%.
Although the worst is long over in terms of the pandemic, inflation persists. In June, Slovakia was the only eurozone member country where it reached a rate of more than 11%. The closest below was Estonia at 9%, while the European average was 5.5%.
While many big business was beckoning that it could not cope with the pandemic without state support, the ordinary person had to ‘go to the market with their own skin’, as we say in Slovakia. The grim scenarios we were bombarded with daily in the news media have not come true in most cases. Quite the opposite. Many companies received state support and their profits reached record levels. It was the employees who really suffered.
Let’s be clear. Companies will only ever use the state to take advantage of it.
When the minimum wage is to be raised, they are rambling on and on about how the free market should decide. When windfall taxes are proposed, which would allow the ordinary worker to have only a slice of the profits, apparently there is no way it could be done. In times of record profits, businessmen get higher bonuses instead of thinking about (for capitalism inevitable) future crises. However, once the crisis arrives and the capitalist is about to pay the consequences of his incompetence, he crawls to the government with his hands outstretched, threatening that he will have to fire their workers otherwise.
As a result, we find ourselves in a precarious situation. While companies in Slovakia enjoy all the benefits of socialism, ordinary workers are forced to suffer the atrocities of capitalism. What is more, it will not stay that way. It will get worse, because this is the nature of the system we live in. Only a complete change can get us out of its pitfalls.