The headline news throughout the bourgeois media yesterday was that Stephen Hester, Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, had magnanimously bowed to public concern and agreed to waive his yearly bonus of nearly £1 million.
This was greeted by outpourings of praise for him from the leaders of all the main parties.
Labour leader, Ed Miliband, praised Hester for ‘doing the right thing’ before going on to call for a government that would tax bankers’ bonuses and ‘bring responsibility to the boardroom.’
Tory chancellor, George Osborne, chimed in when he welcomed Hester’s decision saying, ‘This is a sensible and welcome decision that enables Stephen Hester to focus on the very important job he has to do.’
Trade unions were also quick to join in, with Unite saying it was ‘better late than never’ and adding that ‘this gesture goes some way to acknowledging the hypocrisy of an organisation which has sacked over 21,000 staff, while still attempting to pay bumper bonuses to the bosses’.
In fact, Hester, hailed as a banking genius by the Tories and Labour leadership, has spent his time running RBS dumping some of the toxic parts of the bank, which are up to their necks in the investment scams so beloved by his predecessor Fred Goodwin, and in the process sacking 34,000 bank workers.
It was on the backs of their suffering that Hester was claiming his right to millions in bonuses and share schemes.
On closer inspection, Hester’s gesture is not much of a sacrifice at all; on top of his £1 million plus salary it is estimated he is still in line for a bonus package of £8 million over the next period.
But it must be stressed that this row over Hester’s bonus and the unity between the leadership of the Tory and Labour parties, along with union leaders, in hailing it as some type of victory is a complete and deliberate diversion from the real issue.
At the heart of this agreement is the desire by both Cameron and Miliband to paint the crisis of capitalism as being caused by a few ‘greedy bankers’ the fabled fat cats of the city.
If only capitalism was run by responsible, caring men and women, so the argument goes, everything would be fine.
This is the lie Cameron is peddling when he talks of creating a ‘socially responsible’ capitalism and promises that excessive bonuses will be legislated against through empowering shareholders to prevent them.
Miliband is in complete agreement. His only argument is that the Tories are not serious enough about creating a ‘fairer’ system.
As for the reformist trade union leadership, they see criticising the excesses of bankers as a way of concentrating the justifiable anger and hatred of their members against individuals and not against the capitalist system that has created them.
For the brutal fact of life is that if every banker in the country suddenly decided, or was forced, to give up their astronomical bonuses it would not change the situation in the slightest, it would certainly not prevent the approaching bank collapse.
The idea that capitalism can be reformed by filling the banks with decent chaps is a nonsense and a diversion from the main issue, which is that capitalism today is in complete crisis and that the capitalist class is determined that the working class as a whole be made to pay for this crisis.
The scandal of Hester’s bonus certainly lays bare the huge gulf between workers struggling to pay for rent and food and the heads of banks who regard millions of pounds as their just rewards for sacking thousands, but only through the struggle to completely overthrow the entire capitalist system through the socialist revolution will this obscenity be erased.