The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Billionaire Charities:
Like a Vampire Donating Blood

Jul 10, 2006

Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the world, is going to give 85% of his 44 billion-dollar fortune to Bill Gates’ foundation. Gates, the richest man in the world, said that from now on he’s devoting his time and a part of his fortune to relieving misery. Gates and Buffet are going to spend three billion dollars a year fighting infectious disease in poor countries. This is more than is spent each year by the World Health Organization, which is financed by governments and operates under the U.N. The Gates foundation has at its disposal 30 billion dollars, while UNESCO last year was given only 610 million dollars.

So there are individuals who are richer and more powerful than the majority of countries and international bodies and who have the power to give or not give a part of their fortune to charitable foundations. The health and even the lives of millions of children threatened by hunger and disease depend on the desire of a U.S. billionaire to buy his place in heaven.

When Buffett announced his charitable donation, he referred to Andrew Carnegie, the billionaire who died in 1919. Carnegie made similar proclamations about his good intentions, saying that since he owed his fortune to society he had to return it to society. Carnegie financed many foundations, and established 2,500 libraries carrying his name, plus concert halls, museums and theaters. Carnegie may be known today for all these things named for him. But in his time he was one of the “robber barons.” He constructed his industrial and financial empire through theft, violence, stealing public funds and the extreme exploitation of workers. Carnegie is notorious for regularly using armed Pinkerton guards to kill striking workers.

Buffett is made of the same stuff as his model. His fortune didn’t come from establishing businesses and employing workers, but from speculation, that is, buying and selling stock in many companies and drawing off their profits–made from increasingly severe exploitation of their work force.

He currently owns an important part of ConocoPhillips, one of the biggest oil companies in the world, which along with the other “Majors” is responsible for the pillage of raw materials, corruption, the support of dictators and wars which flow from international oil investments. Buffett also owns a big block of WalMart, the world’s biggest store, well known for its low wages, lack of health care and inadequate hours, which is quick to suppress any union activity. He owns stock in Nike, where he profits from the labor of children ... for whom charity will come too late, if ever.

Buffett’s 44 billion dollars and Gates’ 50 billion exist only due to the economic system that governs the planet. But the sum of misery, tragedy and wars engendered by this economic system which gives Buffett and Gates such great fortunes totally overwhelms what their foundation could do, even if all of it were distributed to charity.