Davos elite likes Trump, hates Greta Thunberg

This 22 January 2022 video says about itself:

Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg attends a session titled ‘Averting a Climate Apocalypse’ at the 50th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

At the Davos conference for billionaires and millionaires this year, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg had been invited to speak. Billionaire, climate denialist and United States President Donald Trump had been invited to speak as well. Many billionaire Davos attendees had arrived in their private jet airplanes.

On 26 January 2020, Niall Ferguson, right-wing Murdoch media columnist, wrote about his experiences at the Davos summit:

In private conservations and after a few glasses of wine, nine out of ten businessmen I talked to admitted that they found Greta’s speech impossible and Donald Trump’s speech not bad at all.

Davos, Switzerland 2020 billionaires’ summit

This 19 January 2020 video from Switzerland says about itself:

Sixteen-year-old Swedish student and environmental activist Greta Thunberg joined thousands of climate change protesters in Lausanne for the ‘Fridays for Future’ rally on Friday, ahead of the 2020 Davos Summit of world leaders, set to take place next week.

“We are now in a new year and we have entered a new decade and so far during this decade we have seen no signs whatsoever that real climate action is coming, and that has to change,” Thunberg said addressing the crowd.

She added, “young people from all across the globe have been school striking for their right for a future every Friday and for me personally this is week 74 of Fridays for future protests.”

Thunberg went on to say “to the world leaders and those in power, I would like to say that you haven’t seen anything yet; you have not seen the last of us we can assure you that.”

By Niles Niemuth:

The oligarchs assemble at Davos

21 January 2020

Hundreds of bankers, corporate executives, celebrities, and heads of state and cabinet members have arrived in Davos, Switzerland, to take part in the 50th annual World Economic Forum (WEF), which begins Tuesday.

With the wealth of the world’s billionaires up by 25 percent in the last year alone, the Davos attendees have much to celebrate. But looking over the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland, the oligarchs see themselves beset by a tide of social opposition and resentment.

A police security guard patrols on the roof of a hotel ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (AP Photo - Markus Schreiber)

WEF founder Klaus Schwab warned in a statement ahead of the meeting that the world is at a “critical crossroads,” noting that, “People are revolting against the economic ‘elites’ they believe have betrayed them.”

Indeed, the meeting is being held amid a global upsurge of social protests over the past year from Chile and Puerto Rico, Sudan and Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon, to Hong Kong and India, to the United States and Mexico.

Across the world, protests fueled by growing social and economic inequality are continuing and expected to grow in 2020, including in France, where the year began with mass strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed pension cuts.

Ahead of their meeting, the WEF published a global risks report which noted that members ranked “domestic political polarization” in a virtual tie for their number one concern, up from ninth last year.

Meanwhile, the annual Edleman Trust Barometer survey found that a majority of people around the world think that capitalism is doing more harm than good. The survey found a global discrediting of all institutions, with governments, the media, business and NGOs all seen by masses of people as unethical and incompetent.

Ahead of the event, the British charity Oxfam released its annual report on social inequality, which it declared to be “out of control.”

According to Oxfam, the world’s billionaire population alone, just 2,153 people—the number of people which would fit comfortably on a modern cruise ship—control more wealth than the 4.6 billion poorest people in the world.

Meanwhile the top 1 percent collectively has twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people, nearly the entire world’s population.

Placing the mind-boggling gap between the rich and poor in perspective, Oxfam notes: “If everyone were to sit on their wealth piled up in $100 bills, most of humanity would be sitting on the floor. A middle-class person in a rich country would be sitting at the height of a chair. The world’s two richest men would be sitting in outer space.”

The conclave in Davos is an opportunity for the capitalist elite to posture as enlightened reformers while cutting backroom deals aimed at funneling ever more wealth from the bottom to the top, in the privacy of the exclusive Alpine resort town and under the close guard of Swiss police snipers and their own personal security retinues.

The theme for this year’s meeting is “Stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world,” with a focus on the issue of climate change. Events headlined by teenage activist Greta Thunberg are being given top billing and Britain’s Prince Charles is expected to deliver a talk on “how to save the planet.”

The billionaires and millionaires in attendance will be able to show their commitment to combatting global warming by refueling their private jets with “greener” sustainable aviation fuel available at Zurich Airport’s private terminal. Attendees are being encouraged to walk on foot from venue to venue in order to reduce their personal carbon footprint.

American President Donald Trump, who set off for Davos yesterday, is set to deliver a “special address” today, in his second trip to the World Economic Forum.

The red-carpet treatment for Trump, a war criminal who has torn thousands of immigrant children from their families, and who just weeks ago brought the planet to the cusp of World War III, explodes the event’s humanitarian pretenses.

New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin commented, “With the stock market at record highs… there is an increasing sense” that Trump “will be accepted, if not embraced (although some attendees may roll their eyes behind his back) when he arrives on Tuesday.”

Sorkin concluded, “Mr. Trump may be the new Davos Man”.

The attendees’ warm reception for Trump expresses the embrace of dictatorship and fascistic forces on the part of the financial oligarchy. Feeling themselves surrounded by social opposition, the oligarchs are turning ever more directly to dictatorial forms of rule.

As the attendees give moralizing sermons about “sustainability” and praise each other’s philanthropic efforts, in their minds will be the fact that most of the world knows that they—the oligarchs—are the cause of the world’s problems.

It is they who benefit from wars, it is they who promote the rise of fascism and who are waging a frontal attack on democratic rights. And it is they who are responsible for the poverty and social misery afflicting the world’s working population.

The entry into struggle by millions of people all over the world is in fact a recognition of this fact, combined with a determination to oppose it. However, any solution to the crises confronting the overwhelming majority of the world’s people above all requires the expropriation of the financial parasites gathered this week in Switzerland.

The seizure of the wealth of little more than 2,000 people under the democratic control of the international working class would lay the basis for providing billions of people with the food, water, education, health care, culture, internet access and housing which are their fundamental social rights. This social necessity of expropriating their ill-begotten wealth is inseparable from the overthrow of the capitalist system and the socialist transformation of society.

President Donald Trump has indicated he is considering cutting funding to entitlement programs such as Medicare within the next year. In an interview at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Trump said social programs would be targeted to reduce the federal deficit: here.

Inequality growing, new report

Children play with thrash in Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, photo NOS/Bart Kamphuis

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

‘Inequality continues to grow, rich people pay less and less tax

The inequality between rich and poor is still increasing worldwide. That is what Oxfam Novib says in its annual report on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the summit of politicians, world leaders and businessmen.

The 22 richest men in the world together own more than all women in Africa. About 2000 billionaires together are richer than 4.6 billion people, who make up 60 percent of the world’s population, together. In the Time to Care report, Oxfam Novib again uses compelling comparisons to draw attention to the global gap between the (super) rich and those who have little to nothing.

The number of people living in extreme poverty is declining, according to the development organization. But the inequality is increasing, partly because the super-rich and multinational corporations pay less and less tax. The number of billionaires has doubled in the last ten years. While the rich are getting richer, the message is, education and health care are coming under increasing pressure in many countries.

Stuck at the bottom

This year, special attention is requested for women and children. In poor countries, they often spend the majority of their time cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly. According to Oxfam Novib, unpaid care work is one of the “hidden engines employed by a system that allows profits to flow away to big corporations and their shareholders.”

Because of this system, women and children have little or no time to earn a decent income or to have an education. “They are stuck at the bottom of the economy,” the report says.

The Netherlands plays a bad role

According to Oxfam Novib, the Netherlands is playing a “bad role” in growing the gap between rich and poor. From international research it appears that of the profit that multinationals divert around the world to avoid tax, about 10 percent ends up in the Netherlands. “Our country must now really eliminate tax avoidance,” says Oxfam Novib director Michiel Servaes.

162 BILLIONAIRES HAVE THE WEALTH OF HALF OF HUMANITY In a stark reminder of gaping global inequality, a new report says 162 billionaires, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world. There are 2,153 billionaires globally, and, in 2019, they held more wealth combined than 4.6 billion people, according to the report. [HuffPost]

See also here.

UK: Highest-paid CEOs take home 117 times that of an average paid worker: here.

Climate change “spin” as Davos gathering confronts mounting environmental and economic crisis: here.

Davos 1% fat cats under siege

Davos World Economic Forum, Zapiro cartoon

By Nick Beams:

Davos overshadowed by crisis and social upheaval

25 January 2019

This year’s gathering of the global elites at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is perhaps best summed up in the phrase: The chickens are coming home to roost.

For almost five decades, the WEF has been at the centre of the promotion of the free market policies that have funnelled trillions of dollars into the hands of the world’s wealthiest individuals and led to the widening of social inequality to historically unprecedented levels—an institutionalised process that accelerated to new levels after the meltdown of 2008.

In January 2009, as the financial crisis was still unfolding, there was a widespread fear at the annual Davos meeting that the bonanza was about to end. But as concerns over an immediate social backlash receded somewhat and the vast accumulation of wealth on the heights of society continued, thanks to the massive injection of cheap money by the US Fed and other major central banks, it appeared that all was still for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

No longer. Social anger and the class struggle are intensifying around the world. As the Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty commented, the Davos billionaire is now experiencing a new and unsettling emotion: fear. As they face a world order crumbling before them, the Davos plutocrats are “terrified” and “whatever dog-eared platitudes they may recycle for the TV cameras, what grips them is the havoc far below.”

Surrounding the Davos gathering, there were attempts to introduce a course correction. In a column produced for the meeting, Financial Times economics commentator Martin Wolf pointed to the responsibility of the global elites for the elevation of populist and authoritarian political leaderships and insisted that law-governed democracies had to be made to work better. “Davos people”, he concluded, “please note: this is your clear responsibility.”

The international charity Oxfam issued a report showing that 26 billionaires held as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the world’s population, some 3.8 billion, that wealth accumulation at the top was increasing at the rate of $2.5 billion per day and called for a new “human economy” to be financed through increased wealth taxes.

The “Davos people” gave their answer to this reform agenda when they handed the platform for the keynote address to the newly installed extreme right wing and fascistic president of Brazil, the former military commander, Jair Bolsonaro, after giving it to another right-wing authoritarian Donald Trump the previous year.

Bolsonaro’s remarks were music to their ears as he set out his agenda for a “new Brazil” by creating new market opportunities, lower taxes on business and a “much-needed overhaul” of the country’s pension system. And they would have been mindful that these measures come with a commitment for the suppression of the working class.

As the Davos summit opened, the WSWS noted that the present regime of the world capitalist order, dominated and controlled by the global billionaires and their financial markets, was as incapable of any reform as pre-1789 France or the pre-1917 czarist autocracy in Russia both of which responded to social opposition with increased repression. The red-carpet treatment for Bolsonaro sent a message to the working class the world over: this is how your demands will be met.

This year’s annual meeting was marked by the absence of a number of political leaders, itself an expression of the growing political disorder within bourgeois politics and the rising tide of class struggle. British Prime Minister Theresa May could not attend due to the turmoil over Brexit; US President Donald Trump withdrew himself and the rest of the planned American delegation because of the government shutdown; French President Emmanuel Macron stayed at home as he confronted continuing protests by the “yellow vest” movement.

The circumstances surrounding another absentee were also significant. On the eve of the meeting, Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, decided he would skip Davos in order to direct the suppression of protests against his government’s doubling of fuel prices, which, according to reports, led to 12 deaths last weekend.

Hanging over the entire gathering was the worsening global economic outlook and the consequences of even a minor downturn under conditions of deepening trade conflicts, above all the US trade war against China, the palpable breakdown of long established political structures and the rising tide of social anger and class struggle.

In the lead up to the meeting, David Lipton, the deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund issued a warning that “history suggests” an economic downturn “somewhere over the horizon.” But under conditions of deepening distrust in government institutions there was no guarantee that the regulatory regimes put in place after the finance crisis “will be sufficient to keep a ‘garden variety’ recession from becoming another full-blown systemic crisis.”

Another warning came in the form of a letter written by billionaire investor Seth Klarman, which, the New York Times reported, was passed around amid the Davos attendees. Its central focus was on the impact of rising class struggles

“It can’t be business as usual amid constant protests, riots, shutdown and escalating social tensions,” he wrote. Citing the “yellow vest” movement in France, he continued on this theme: “Social cohesion is essential for those who have capital to invest.”

Klarman is among those who are aware that the measures taken by financial authorities over the past decade to combat the effects of the financial crisis are contributing to the creation of a new one as debt levels rise.

“The seeds of the next major financial crisis … may well be found in today’s sovereign debt levels,” he wrote. “There is no way to know how much debt is too much, but America will inevitably reach an inflection point whereupon a suddenly a more skeptical market will refuse to continue to lend to us at rates we can afford.”

And such a crisis will have immediate political effects, as Klarman and others recognise. “It’s not hard to imagine worsening social unrest among a generation,” he wrote,” that is falling behind economically and feels betrayed by a massive national debt without any obvious benefit to them.”

But a social order in which, as Oxfam reports, 82 percent of all the wealth created in 2017 went to the top global 1 percent is organically incapable of responding to deepening opposition other than with repression, underscoring the analysis of the International Committee of the Fourth International that present political situation is above all characterised by revolution versus counter-revolution.

Davos 1% forum without Trump, May, Macron

Davos World Economic Forum, cartoon by Zapiro

From daily News Line in Britain:

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Gripped with crisis UK, US & French leaders abandon World Economic Forum

THE ANNUAL get-together of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the Swiss resort of Davos has been hit by a number of notable absences including Theresa May, Donald Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron.

Every year the world political leaders meet with the leading bankers, industrialists and assorted billionaires to set out their ‘vision’ for global capitalism and fulfil the remit of the WEF, which grandly states its role is ‘improving the state of the world’.

No wonder that those attending Davos this year are meeting under a black cloud of fear with the founder of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, warning that politicians and business leaders must bring about a new ‘inclusive’ global system of capitalism and somehow close the gap between the obscenely wealthy and the working class and impoverished masses of the world, whose lives have been devastated by the international crisis of capitalism.

This chasm was highlighted by the report from the charity Oxfam showing that the 26 richest billionaires in the world own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who constitute the poorest half of the world’s population. The fear that stalks Davos is the fear of world revolution as the working class rise up in country after country against a capitalist system that can offer nothing but poverty and starvation while enriching the bankers and speculators.

It is this revolutionary crisis that accounts for the unprecedented absence of May, Trump and Macron along with Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Last year Trump attended his first Davos conference together with all his top advisors. Then he was welcomed as a hero by the bankers and bosses, and embraced by them for the billions of dollars of hand-outs in the form of cuts to corporate income tax that fuelled a stock market frenzy as they gorged on all this ‘free’ money to drive the world stocks to unprecedented levels. This year things have changed dramatically, with Trump pulling the entire US delegation out of attending.

With the crisis in the US caused by his partial shutdown of the federal government, now entering its second month and the longest in American history, Trump is facing an increasingly enraged working class, forcing him to cancel. 800,000 federal employees are either made to stay at home without pay or, for those in vital jobs like traffic control, forced to work without pay over Trump’s intransigence over funding to build his ‘wall’ with Mexico.

At the same time, Trump’s trade war with the rest of the world is destroying swathes of manufacturing industry and making nonsense of his boast of bringing jobs back to America. Macron can’t attend as he is in the middle of a political crisis of his own and facing a mass uprising of French workers and youth, the Yellow Vest movement.

After failing to smash this revolutionary movement, despite the use of armed riot police and the threat to shoot protesters down, Macron has launched a Big Debate designed to prove that he is ‘listening’ to the people and their grievances.

What is rocking Macron is that, far from being diverted by worthless debates, this movement is increasingly making revolutionary demands to kick him and his government out, … a demand that is increasingly being voiced by German and other workers across the EU.

May is unable to attend as the Tory government is in a state of meltdown having suffered the biggest ever defeat in Parliament last week, and only keeping going through the refusal of the Labour Party leadership to mount any real campaign to bring it down … .

The working class internationally is rising up against capitalist austerity and refusing to toe-the-line of the bankers and bosses, thus creating an historic political crisis for the bourgeoisie across the world.

As members of the world’s financial elite gather today in Davos, Switzerland, for the opening of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, a new report by the UK-based charity Oxfam International has highlighted the vast accumulation of wealth at the heights of society, and the accelerating growth of social inequality: here.

Trump, other billionaires in Davos, people protest

This video from Switzerland says about itself:

23 January 2018

Anti-Trump demonstrators gather in Zurich to protest the US President’s planned visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

This video is the sequel.

By Bill Van Auken:

World Economic Forum meets in Davos under shadow of crisis and war

24 January 2018

On Tuesday, the World Economic Forum (WEF) opened in the exclusive Swiss Alpine resort of Davos, with some 3,000 corporate executives, government officials and celebrities convening for the ostensible purpose of discussing this year’s theme of “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.”

The gathering is overshadowed, however, by the accelerating fracturing of the global capitalist order, manifested in unprecedented levels of social inequality in every country, a sharp growth in trade war and the ever more immediate threat of an eruption of armed conflict, including nuclear war, between the major powers.

The well-heeled crowd at Davos, paying $55,000 each to attend, is guarded by a small army of 4,000 Swiss troops and 1,000 police, with a no-fly zone imposed overhead. Protests have been banned in the village—on the pretext that there has been too much snow—but thousands of people demonstrated Tuesday in the Swiss financial capital of Zurich in opposition to the WEF and, in particular, to the attendance this year by US President Donald Trump. Marchers carried placards reading, “Trump – You’re not Welcome”, “You Are a Shit-Hole Person” and “Smash WEF.”

The gathering of global billionaire CEOs, bankers and hedge fund managers embodies the very social “fracturing” that the Davos organizers pretend to be addressing. The summit opened just two days after the aid group Oxfam issued its annual report on social inequality, exposing the fact that of all global wealth growth in 2017, 82 percent went to the top one percent, while the bottom half of the world’s population, some 3.8 billion people, saw nothing at all.

Personifying this crisis will be Trump, the first US president to attend the global summit since 2000. He is set to meet with global CEOs on Thursday night and to present his “America First” agenda to the forum in its final session on Friday.

Trump set the stage for his appearance by imposing tariffs against Chinese and South Korean manufacturers amounting to 50 percent on washing machines and 30 percent on solar panels, invoking a rarely used statute to protect domestic manufacturers from “serious injury.” Administration officials portrayed the action as a fulfillment of campaign promises to protect “American workers”, even as the solar power industry forecast that its net result would be the loss of over 23,000 jobs.

China’s commerce ministry responded with a sharply worded statement expressing Beijing’s “strong dissatisfaction” with the tariffs and warning that that China would “resolutely defend its legitimate interests.” There is growing speculation that Trump may follow up his first tariffs with far more consequential ones on steel and aluminum, igniting a full-scale trade war with unpredictable consequences for the global economy.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the opening speech to the WEF, warning, “Forces of protectionism are raising their heads against globalization. It feels like the opposite of globalization is happening.”

While not naming Trump, it was clear that Modi’s remarks were directed principally against the US administration. “The negative impact of this kind of mindset cannot be considered less dangerous than climate change or terrorism,” he said.

Much has been made of the supposed stark contradiction between Trump’s right-wing economic nationalism and Davos’ supposed globalist ethos, amid predictions of some kind of a showdown between the US president and his European counterparts, particularly German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

In reality, both Merkel and Macron will have left Davos before Trump even arrives. Moreover, their governments are also pursuing national interests under conditions in which the entire post-World War II system of trading relations established under the aegis of the then-unchallenged dominance of US imperialism is breaking down.

The source of this breakdown is to be found not in the demagogic rants of Donald Trump, but rather the insoluble contradictions of the capitalist system, which is driving every country into a war of each against all in a ruthless struggle for profits and markets. This is creating the same kind of global tensions and conflicts that paved the way to the Second World War.

Both the Wall Street Journal and CNN Tuesday published interviews with leading corporate and financial CEOs in Davos praising Trump for enacting the recent sweeping tax cuts for US corporations and the rich and carrying out unprecedented deregulation of big business.

Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat told CNN that tax cuts would lead to business expansion. “Maybe this is the catalyst that takes us from optimism to confidence.”

“There is extreme optimism”, Sir Michael Sorrell, chief executive of the ad group WPP PLC, told the Journal. “It is remarkable the psychological difference—whatever you think of Trump—that he has brought… It has improved (executives’) already positive psychology.”

The “optimism” and “positive psychology” of this layer is driven by expectations that the vast growth they have experienced in their personal fortunes since the 2008 crash, fueled by free money from the global central banks and sweeping austerity measures imposed upon the world’s population, will now be further accelerated.

There were, however, less sanguine opinions expressed on the opening day. Axel Weber, the chairman of the Swiss banking giant UBS Group AG and former chairman of Germany’s central bank, warned: “We’re seeing inflation pressures largely ignored. We’re starting to see output gaps closing, with tighter labor conditions and wage pressure… Inflation could come back as a surprise this year.”

The fear of “wage pressure” is well-founded. What more conscious elements within the capitalist ruling class see on the horizon is an explosive growth of the class struggle, which has already found expression in the first weeks of the new year in the mass upheavals in Iran and Tunisia, as well as the wildcat strike by Ford workers in Romania and industrial actions by workers in Germany.

Meanwhile, a televised discussion between CEOs on the first day of the Davos summit heard similar expressions of disquiet.

“It feels like 2006 again,” said Barclays CEO Jes Staley, who insisted that the next crash will not start with the banks.

David Rubenstein, cofounder of the Carlyle Group, a Washington-based global private equity investment firm, warned against the exuberance over the rising stock market, “Usually when people are happy and optimistic, that’s when something bad happens.” He cautioned that “black swans”, unanticipated events, including global geopolitical conflicts, could plunge the world into crisis.

The so-called “black swans” are coming home to roost as the conferences and lavish parties play out in Davos.

In Syria, the Turkish invasion of the northwestern Kurdish enclave of Afrin has raised the specter of an armed confrontation between two NATO allies, with Ankara seeking to crush Syrian Kurdish forces on its border that have served as the main proxy ground force for US imperialism’s intervention in the country.

The New York Times warned Tuesday that the invasion was bringing US and Turkish “interests into direct conflict on the battlefield.” The newspaper quoted a security analyst who stated that Washington would have to chose between “another U.S. betrayal of the few groups that have consistently supported and helped the U.S. in Syria and Iraq—or risk indirect and even direct conflict with Turkey, a fellow NATO member.”

The confrontation in Syria comes in the wake of a series of documents issued from Washington—the National Security Strategy, the Nuclear Posture Review and the National Defense Strategy—which lay out a strategic shift by US imperialism toward the open preparation for military confrontations, including nuclear war, with both Russia and China.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement Tuesday accusing Russia of responsibility for an alleged chemical attack in Syria, signaling Washington’s intention to shift the crisis it is confronting with Turkey to a confrontation with Russia in a country where both Washington and Moscow have military forces.

This is the grim reality overshadowing the supposed “optimism” of the billionaires and multimillionaires gathered in Davos.

The “fractured world”: Plutocrats convene in Davos amid war and great-power conflict: here.

Davos billionaires’ meeting and their fears

World Economic Forum, cartoon

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

“Fractures, Fears and Failures”: World’s ruling elites stare into the abyss

18 January 2018

Next week will see some 2,500 bankers, hedge fund managers, corporate CEOS, government officials and celebrities descend once again on the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Paying $55,000 a head as the price of admission, one could well assume that the representatives of the financial and corporate oligarchy drawn to the annual meeting, and the lavish parties that accompany it, have a lot to celebrate.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index published last month established that the fortunes of the world’s wealthiest 500 billionaires—many of whom will be in attendance—rose 23 percent over the past year, making them $1 trillion richer than at the end of 2016. And the obscene amounts of wealth keep rolling in, with the Dow closing at 26,000 Wednesday, recording its fastest ever 1,000-point rise.

Yet the principal report issued as the basis for the four days of meetings and closed-door discussions presents a picture of a global ruling elite living in mortal fear that growing economic and social crises, and, above all, the threat of world war and social revolution, may rob them of not only their fortunes, but their heads as well.

Titled “Fractures, Fears and Failures”, the WEF’s 2018 Global Risks Report includes subheads such as “Grim Reaping”, “The Death of Trade”, “Democracy Buckles”, “Precision Extinction”, “Into the Abyss”, “Fears of Ecological Armageddon” and “War without Rules”.

The report was drafted in conjunction with a survey conducted among nearly 1,000 banking and business executives, government officials and academics, which found that 93 percent of them feared a worsening of confrontations between the major powers in 2018. Fully 79 percent foresaw a heightened threat of a major “state-on-state” military conflict. The report cited both the confrontation between the US and North Korea, which has created the greatest threat of nuclear war since the height of the Cold War, and the increasingly complex inter-state conflicts produced by Washington’s military intervention in Iraq and Syria.

The fears of global war are well-founded. Last month, US President Donald Trump presented his new National Security Strategy, targeting Russia and China as “revisionist powers” standing in the way of the US assertion of global hegemony, and outlining an aggressive first-strike nuclear war policy, including against adversaries using conventional or cyber weapons.

This policy has been further fleshed out by a draft Nuclear Strategic Posture document to be unveiled by Trump later this month calling for the development of new smaller and more “usable” nuclear weapons for deployment on battlefields in Eastern Europe and Asia, making the likelihood of a full-scale global conflagration all the more likely.

This year’s gathering at Davos—sealed off and surrounded, as always, by thousands of troops and police—will be overshadowed by the attendance of Trump, the first US president to make an appearance since Bill Clinton 18 years ago. Aides indicate that Trump intends to deliver his standard “America First” tirade to the final session of the gathering.

While Trump’s speech may provide a particularly crude rebuff to the official slogan of this year’s forum— “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World” —it will constitute only one of the more noxious symptoms of the unraveling of the entire previous framework for international economy and politics under the impact of capitalism’s deepening contradictions and the incapacity of the various rival capitalist state to create a new “shared future” or mend the world’s fractures.

The contents of the WEF risk report point to the deep and insoluble character of the crisis gripping global capitalism.

The document states that while “headline economic indicators”, i.e., the soaring rise in share prices that have fattened the portfolios of the Davos attendees, are positive, this only “masks continuing underlying concerns.”

“This has been the weakest post-recession recovery on record,” the report states, adding, “Productivity growth remains puzzlingly weak.”

The world capitalist economy, it continues, is beset by “unsustainable asset prices, with the world now eight years into a bull run; elevated indebtedness … and continuing strains in the global financial system.”

In a section titled “Into the Abyss”, the document warns: “Against a backdrop of domestic and international political strife—and with economic policy-makers already operating in uncharted territory—the eruption of another global financial crisis could overwhelm political and policy responses. A systemic collapse of the sort that was averted in 2007-2008 could push countries, regions or even the whole world over the edge and into a period of chaos.”

In addition to “rising military tensions”, “military buildups”, “proxy conflicts” and multiple “flashpoints” threatening war, the document points to the danger of rising social tensions within every capitalist country.

“In many countries the social and political fabric has been badly frayed by many years of stagnating real incomes”, it states, pointing to figures illustrating decelerating wages and rapidly rising social inequality.

“High levels of personal debt, coupled with inadequate savings and pension provisions, are one reason to expect that frustrations may deepen in the years ahead”, the report states.

It also recalls the WEF’s 2014 Global Risk Report’s warning that one of the world’s greatest threats was a level of youth unemployment so high that threatened to create a “lost generation”. The report notes dryly that in the three years since, this level has remained “broadly static.” It warns that with so many millions of young people without work, “generational clashes over fiscal and labour-market policies” may erupt.

Concern over explosive social divisions is coupled with a worried section dealing with the Internet, headlined “Digital Wildfires”. It decries “the intentional use of social media to spread misinformation”, i.e., exposures of the real conditions confronting working people in every country, as a challenge to “global governance”. The report welcomes measures taken by Google and Facebook, as well as governments, to crack down on the “disruptiveness of online misinformation” through outright censorship.

The political conclusions drawn by the report are particularly stark:

“Democracy is already showing signs of strain in the face of economic, cultural and technological disruption. Much deeper damage is possible: social and political orders can break down. If an evenly divided country sees polarized positions harden into a winner-takes-all contest, the risk increases of political debate giving way to forms of secession or physical confrontation. In these circumstances, a tipping point could be reached. A spiral of violence could begin, particularly if public authorities lost control and then intervened on one side with disproportionate force. In some countries—with widespread ready access to weapons or a history of political violence—armed civil conflict could erupt. In others, the state might impose its will by force, risking long reverberating consequences: a state of emergency, the curtailment of civil liberties, even the cancellation of elections to protect public order.”

In other words, the world’s financial oligarchy is assembling in the exclusive and scenic Alpine resort of Davos to hold a frank discussion on the prospects for a new world war, the eruption of social contradictions into civil wars and the imposition of police state dictatorships.

What is described in the WEF report are conditions already emerging in the United States and every major capitalist country.

In 1938, on the eve of the Second World War, Leon Trotsky wrote of a capitalist ruling class that “toboggans with closed eyes toward an economic and military catastrophe.” While the WEF risk report suggests that at least some elements of today’s ruling elite see the catastrophe on the horizon, they are as powerless as their forebears of 80 years ago to prevent it.

This places the greatest urgency upon the working class formulating its own independent strategic response to the global capitalist crisis, based on the perspective of uniting workers of every country in the fight to reorganize society on socialist foundations.

Davos 2018: Americans to stage rally apologising for Trump ahead of President’s visit to World Economic Forum: here.

Strutt said there was a lot of media attention on Davos, but he questioned its purpose. “It seems like just a good excuse for a lot of rich people to hang out and drink champagne. Bill Gates will be here talking about climate change having flown here in a private jet”: here.

Indian Prime Minister Modi to tout pro-business record at World Economic Forum: here.

Spain’s King Philip VI said today in Davos that the Catalan push for independence was “an attempt to undermine the basic rules of our democratic system”: here.

Beware, we are coming for you. John McDonnell issues a warning to the Davos fat cats: here.

Trump to Davos, Switzerland billionaires meeting

World Economic Forum, cartoon

From The Local in Switzerland:

11 January 2018

Opposition to Trump’s visit to Davos grows

The announcement that US President Trump is to visit Switzerland later this month to attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum has prompted mixed reactions.

While a spokesman for the Swiss government said it was “delighted” that President Trump was coming to the mountain resort of Davos, centre-left politicians have made their displeasure clear.

Details of the visit would be worked out between the two sides in the coming days …

Meanwhile, the youth wing of the Social-Democratic Party SP is calling on the government to prevent the visit and has begun collecting signatures to a letter to the Federal Council, Blick reported.

It said the Social Democrats had also launched a Facebook campaign to oppose the visit.

It was calling on “all those who see Trump’s policies as posing a danger to progress, security and the environment” to sign the online petition.

The Graubünden branch of the SP said in a statement that the US president was free to visit, but this did not mean he was welcome.

A left-wing protest group, Campax, has also launched a petition against the visit and is planning to stage a demonstration, Blick said.

Eight men own the same as world’s poorest 50%

World Economic Forum, cartoon

This cartoon is about the gathering of the world’s rich and powerful at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

From Oxfam today, on the eve of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos:

An economy for the 99%

It’s time to build a human economy that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few

New estimates show that just eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. As growth benefits the richest, the rest of society – especially the poorest – suffers. The very design of our economies and the principles of our economics have taken us to this extreme, unsustainable and unjust point.

Our economy must stop excessively rewarding those at the top and start working for all people. Accountable and visionary governments, businesses that work in the interests of workers and producers, a valued environment, women’s rights and a strong system of fair taxation are central to this more human economy.

The sources and methodology behind the headline facts in this paper are explained in the separate methodology note.

The world’s eight richest men are:

Bill Gates (USA), Microsoft co-founder, 70,35 billion euros
Amancio Ortega (Spain), Inditex owner, 62,85 billion euros
Warren Buffett (USA), main owner of Berkshire Hathaway, 57,03 billion euros
Carlos Slim Helu (Mexico), Grupo Carso owner, 46,90 billion euros
Jeff Bezos (USA), Amazon CEO, 42,40 billion euros
Mark Zuckerberg (USA), Facebook co-founder, 41,83 billion euros
Larry Ellison (USA), Oracle co-founder and CEO, 40,90 billion euros
Michael Bloomberg (USA), Bloomberg LP CEO and owner, 37,52 billion euros

Richest and poor

Oxfam: Eight men are as rich as half the world, ‘Obscene’ for so much wealth to be in hands of so few, says charity director Winnie Byanyima: here.

RAMPANT inequality has reached the point where a group of men owning the same wealth as half the planet’s population could squeeze onto a single golf buggy. Eight billionaires now have a combined wealth equivalent to 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest people, according to yesterday’s alarming revelation from Oxfam. The anti-poverty charity is calling for an overhaul of a “warped” economy that allows a small group of people to hoard more wealth than they can spend while billions go hungry: here.

Meet the eight men who have more money than half the world. [HuffPost]

USA: THE D.C. NEIGHBORHOOD THE OBAMAS, IVANKA TRUMP AND JEFF BEZOS PLAN TO CALL HOME We have a feeling neighborhood potlucks may be slightly awkward affairs. [WaPo]

Mark Zuckerberg is suing to force native Hawaiians off their ancestral land to build an island resort. Nathan Wellman | January 19, 2017: here.

A report published in December by University of California at Berkeley economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman reveals unprecedented levels of social inequality in the United States. The report documents an immense redistribution of wealth over a period of several decades from the working class to the rich. The bottom 50 percent’s pre-tax share of national income has fallen from 20 percent in 1970 to 12 percent in 2014, while the income share of the top 1 percent has almost doubled to 20 percent. The wealthiest 1 percent now owns over 37 percent of household wealth, while the bottom 50 percent—roughly 160 million people—owns almost nothing, a mere 0.1 percent: here.

Big Pharma demands taxpayers’ billions in Davos

This video from the USA says about itself:

Big Bucks, Big Pharma: Marketing Disease and Pushing Drugs

15 September 2014

Big Bucks, Big Pharma pulls back the curtain on the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to expose the insidious ways that illness is used, manipulated, and in some instances created, for capital gain. Focusing on the industry’s marketing practices, media scholars and health professionals help viewers understand the ways in which direct-to-consumer (DTC) pharmaceutical advertising glamorizes and normalizes the use of prescription medication, and works in tandem with promotion to doctors.

Combined, these industry practices shape how both patients and doctors understand and relate to disease and treatment. Ultimately, Big Bucks, Big Pharma challenges us to ask important questions about the consequences of relying on a for-profit industry for our health and well-being.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Nationalise the Pharmaceutical Industry

AT last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, 100 pharmaceutical companies and private health care companies issued a statement demanding that governments around the world cough up billions of pounds to finance the development of new antibiotic drugs.

The need for such drugs has become a major cause for concern amongst the medical profession as more and more infections are becoming resistant to the existing range of antibiotics, leading to the nightmare scenario of worldwide epidemics that have no known cure.

What these giant drug companies are now saying is that they are not going to use the vast profits they make to fund the research and development of these vital drugs.

Instead, the money is to come from the taxpayer.

Naturally, once these drugs have been developed, the licence to produce and sell them will be handed over to the drug companies and they can be assured of healthy profits for their shareholders.

It was noticeable that along with the demand for funding was the demand that governments introduce strict patent regulations for these drugs, ensuring that the drug companies keep a tight hold on their monopoly by guarding against the production of cheaper generic drugs.

All this makes a complete mockery of the claim by these companies that they have to charge exorbitant amounts to the health service for drugs because they need the super profits generated in order to fund research and development. Their vast profits go almost entirely into the pockets of the shareholders.

Nothing better exposed the fact that Big Pharma are not altruistic companies working tirelessly for the health and wellbeing of the people of the world than the scandal that erupted in the US last year, when it was revealed that a company called Turing Pharmaceuticals had acquired the rights to a drug, called Daraprim, used to treat life-threatening infectious diseases – and that had been around for 62 years – and immediately raised the price of the drug from $13.50 a tablet to $750, an increase of over 5,000%.

Turing was the creation of a former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli. This was only the most blatant example. Numerous other drugs have experienced similar huge increases in price, leading health care experts in America to warn of a developing business strategy in the drug companies and warn of the ‘financialisation’ of the pharmaceutical industry.

In fact there is nothing new in this financialisation of health – the whole of the industry is dominated by the drive to produce profit at all costs. While these ‘Big Pharma’ companies are insistent that the taxpayer provide the funding for their profits they are not too keen on paying taxes themselves.

An investigation by the Independent newspaper this week revealed that GE Healthcare, owned by US multinational General Electric, which has contracts worth millions supplying medical equipment to the NHS, paid virtually nothing in taxes despite having its HQ in the UK. GE Healthcare is not alone. A study commissioned by Unite last year found that tax avoidance was ‘at the very core’ of firms bidding for major NHS contracts.

Dave Prentis, the general secretary of the union Unison, said: ‘Companies that make healthy profits from selling to the NHS, yet pay minuscule amounts of tax, ought to hang their heads in shame.’ He added that ‘NHS staff are angry at companies that would rather pay profits to shareholders than the right level of taxes’ and called for these privateers to be excluded if they appear to be avoiding taxes.

It is the trade union leaders like Prentis who should be ashamed, they have done nothing to defend the NHS except to beg the Tories for mercy. The Tories aren’t interested in curbing the profits of these multi-nationals – they are preparing to sell the NHS to them. The only answer to the obscenity of vast profits being made out of the NHS is to kick out the Tories and bring in a workers government and a socialist system that will nationalise the pharmaceutical industry for the benefit of all and not the profit of a few.

08/04/2017 02:46 pm ET. Martin Shkreli Found Guilty On Several Counts Of Fraud. The trial of the so-called “Pharma Bro” centered around his stewardship of two hedge funds: here.

MARTIN SHKRELI HAS BEEN JAILED A judge ordered him to be jailed after he offered a $5,000 reward for a piece of Hillary Clinton’s hair. [Reuters]

Multinational companies continue to produce unregulated antibiotics in India: here.