Britain’s elites have always had their priorities; reproducing their class, extending their wealth, and lording it over the rest. But the high theatre of deception previously required – statesmanship and the like – is now superfluous and we get tawdry pantomime at best. The new ruling elite has no cultural pretensions and scrabbles for shekels entirely without style.
Almost a decade ago historian Hywel Williams described the rot in his book, ‘Britain’s Power Elites: the rebirth of a ruling class’. He said “Britain’s elites not only retain their power, they also exercise it with a shameless rapacity that is unique in this country’s history and that distinguishes them from their predecessors.”
More recently Owen Jones has turned his attention from chavs to ‘haves’. What’s new about the Establishment he says is its “sense of triumphalism…The establishment is amassing wealth and aggressively annexing power in a way that has no precedent in modern times. After all, there is nothing to stop it.”
That cry of pessimism is well founded for a number of reasons. Britain’s elite is not alone. Its part of the global 1 percent that commandeers most of the world’s wealth. This sliver of inhumanity is usefully represented as a model with four concentric circles. The innermost circle is inhabited by the global money trust, the richest individuals, families or clans, all with fortunes well above one billion Euros. Their wealth is managed by the CEOs of the major transnational corporations who fall into the second circle together with the largest international financiers.
Then come the political and military top brass tasked with legitimizing and guaranteeing the transfer of wealth from society to the first two circles. In the outermost circle dwell the academics, authors, media moguls, lawyers, music and film stars, religious leaders and criminals useful for camouflage.
US figures show that inequality is also rampant within the 1 percent. While nine-tenths of the top percentile hasn’t seen much change at all since 1960, the 0.01 percent has essentially quadrupled its share of the country’s wealth since then. Moreover the jousting at the top is extremely volatile.
But of course it is not just political, military, legal and media tentacles that make the ultra-wealthy unreasonable. They are locked into the twisted logic of capitalism; stand or fall with the system. America hints bleakly at the future. The constitution has been shredded, posse comitatus abandoned and plans for mass incarceration finalised. War and genocide are merely economic options.
Professor John McMurtry diagnoses our time as the cancer stage of capitalism. There is increasing concern that Britain is ‘slouching towards fascism’. It would be foolish to depend on the charity of an increasingly demented elite with no real national sentiment.