Indian Ocean tsunami: Capitalist misers posture on tsunami aid

Internationally working class families have responded in their millions to appeals for donations and aid for the tsunami victims.

In Britain, unemployed builders and telephone engineers have volunteered to travel to the devastated areas to give their help and expertise, in some cases raising the money for their journey themselves. There are examples of survivors of the tsunami returning to the affected areas to give help to victims who remain. Big business and governments across the world have tried to bask in the reflected glory of this huge outpouring of human solidarity.

However even a brief examination shows what posturing this is:

  • Initially the "caring" New Labour government promised only £1 million while the Bush administration pledged $15 million.
  • New Labour eventually increased its pledge to £50 million and Bush to $350 million. But both these amounts have been overtaken by donations by individuals: In Britain, £76 million has been donated and in the US well over $350 million.
  • However, compared to the amounts governments are prepared to spend on other items the aid promised is chicken feed. Compare Bush administration pledge of $350 million in aid to the $148 billion he has spent on the Iraq war, a figure 420 times bigger! Contrast the £50 million pledged by the blair government to the £3.1 billion they intend to spend on introducing ID cards.
  • But when it comes to big business the comparisons are even more sickening – since these companies are using their donations as a sick advertising gimmick! Vodafone bosses announced a £1 million donation. But their annual profit last year was £10 billion. In other words Vodafone bosses donated just one ten thousandth of their annual profits. BP gave £1.6 million but its profits were £9 billion last year. Phil Green, the boss of British Home Stores, well known for donating to good causes, gave £100 000. This is small change for him. Last year his company gave him a dividend of £460 million while two years ago he spent £5 million on a toga party to celebrate his birthday.

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January 2005