Monday, May 22, 2017

Thanks for nothing

Andrew Forrest, founder and chairman of iron ore giant Fortescue Metals Group, the world's fourth largest and Australia's third largest iron ore miner behind BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
has made the biggest single philanthropic donation in Australian history. They would give away Aus$400 million ($298 million, 266 million euros). Aus$75 million were earmarked towards fighting cancer, with the same amount being donated to higher education and research, towards "giving every child their best chance," and towards removing "modern slavery from human history.

Sadly, modern slavery does not include wage-slavery in its definition. The capitalist market, above all drives businesses to extract ever greater profits from the world economy, which forms the objective basis for the growth of modern slavery. Calling on workers of other countries to boycott the products of companies exploiting slave labor only serves to line up workers behind the interests of other, more “humane” capitalists. While the conditions of life for the 45.8 million people who are enslaved are particularly brutal, the majority of the rest of the working class works under hardly less brutal conditions, especially those toiling in the sweat-shops.

Nevertheless, it must be a great feeling for anyone with a social conscience to be so ridiculously rich that they can spend their entire time doing something to alleviate a major global problem and actually feel that they are achieving something lasting and significant. Cash-with-conscience philanthropists with billion dollar bank accounts must feel like blessed saints. How could even the most jaded and cynical socialist find anything to criticise in the activities of such a man?  But, of course, members of the Socialist Party, can.

We'll skip over the fact that charitable donations are tax-deductable so indirectly the government is paying a share. We'll also pass over the fact that Forrest was a leading proponent in thwarting the miners tax which saved his and other corporations paying the government $26 billion over a three-year period according to the Parliamentary Budget Office. In 2011, at the height of the mining boom, it was revealed that Forrest’s Fortescue Metals had never paid company tax. This didn’t stop Forrest becoming one of the most vocal opponents of Kevin Rudd’s very modest Mining Resource Rent Tax. Forrest accused those who supported the tax of engaging in “class warfare” and threatened to sell his mining interests overseas if the tax goes ahead. He said that he had shelved $17.5 billion in new mining projects as a result of the tax. Threats of “capital flight” are standard when a capitalist enterprise sees its profit margin threatened with even a slight decrease and governments routinely bend over backwards in response. So we have an individual that has chosen to pay as little as possible in tax to a government because he believes he knows better than the government on how to spend it on social issues. Forrest’s attitude towards Aboriginal people is they require to recognise his jobs in mining as their saviour.

In the past, Forrest  was in dispute with the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) over royalties from his Solomon Hub mining project on Aboriginal land showed his paternalistic attitude. This project was set to raise $200 billion over a 30 year period and YAC demanded similar royalties to what other mining companies were paying. Forrest denounced this as “mining welfare” and denigrated the whole community by saying “little Aboriginal girls” in the local town of Roebourne were offering themselves for “the cost of a cigarette” and “I’m not going to encourage, with our cash, that kind of behaviour”.
Forrest also funded the documentary The Songs of the Mission which offers a “different perspective” on the Stolen Generations and features Aboriginal people who had a “positive” experience in the missions.
Okay, we cannot always choose our family but we can disassociate ourselves from them. Both his in-laws were members of the League of Rights. His sister-in-law married a prominent league member who organised a speaking tour of Holocaust denier David Irving.
Forrest thinks that money solves problems, but these are problems all created by money in the first place. In the market economy, the rich are rich because the poor are poor. Indeed, companies grow because the rich are rich and exploit the poor, and it can’t work any other way. Forrest holds a paternalistic pro-capitalist view of the world, that people like himself should run things. There’s no reason to be grateful for the crumbs off his table.

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