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Why is it so hard to get by?

Written by: John Gerard on 11 July 2024


(Cartoons from TNC Workers Research Brief 13 1986)


Why in one of the richest countries in the world do we have to scramble to get by?

People have trouble paying for the roof over their heads, stressed by the costs of putting food on the table, fuel in the car and paying power bills.

Why, when Australia is a resource powerhouse, first or second in the world in gas exports, first in coal, huge in iron ore, one of the biggest suppliers of rare earths for the electronic digital world and important in so many others resources?

Why when farmers, working with nature’s bounty, produce more than enough to feed everyone in the country a few times over.  

Who isn’t sick to death of the scramble people are forced into just to get a decent living. 

Discovering that profits come before people won’t win you the Nobel Prize. Its slapping us in the face all the time. 

An old maxim goes: It’s the rich that get the pleasure, and the poor that get the pain. In this system of producing and selling for profit, the super-rich getting richer and richer. The people doing the work struggle. That’s capitalism, the capitalist economic and political system. 

But there’s more to it than a ‘system’. More than some elusive, invisible, shadowy thing we can’t get our hands on.   

There’s capitalists. Real people. Visible, flesh and blood, that run this system, that own it, that prosper from it, that unleash forces to defend it and expand their reach.  We don’t often see them because they don’t do much and most of them don’t want us to know them. 

It’s important to be clear about capitalism and capitalists. It’s not just an abstract haze of a system. 

Capitalists are behind this disastrous system

This is the CAPITALISTS’ SYSTEM. A system of capitalists. There’s people who run the system and that it runs for. 

Be clear about the capitalist system producing our problems, but don’t stop there. Get down to the people behind the system, CAPITALISTS.

Capitalists are more than local people like Gina Rhinehart and Andrew Forrest. We need to look past appearances. Australia Institute research in 2022 found Forrest’s Fortescue Metals was 94% foreign-owned. They also identified the mining industry was 85% foreign-owned. 

Identifying the actual people who are behind the system in Australia needs to be checked out in depth or we’ll be pointing at the wrong people and wasting a lot of effort. 

But let’s get the basics clear about who we’re dealing with.

Blame the capitalists and call them out. That crew of people are what stands between us and decent lives.

They have quite a few people they employ to look after them and their interests. They have governing administrations, the legal systems, CEO’s, police, armies and other institutions lined up looking after their system of capitalism and the pipeline of riches into their hands. 

Those people are agents of the capitalists, not the people owning and driving the system. 

The set up is a lot like in the ‘noble sport’ of horse racing.

The ‘sport’ involves owners, trainers, strappers, jockeys, breeders, and institutions including racing clubs, and has governing bodies and government regulations. Feeding off and sponsoring races are bookmakers and betting corporates, along with media empires. We’ll leave the wider industry aside for this illustration.  

The horse side of the ‘industry’ has lots of people with lots of roles. The hierarchy operating between them mirrors capitalism in some ways. 

At the top of the ‘industry’ are horse owners, and not just any old owners in a syndicate who bought a nag hoping they would get lucky. The industry’s dominated by the super-rich, the business tycoons, emirs, sheiks, kings and the like. Just look at the position of Godolphin Racing owned by Sheik Maktoum .

The horse side of the industry is run for the horse owners.  

They employ or contract trainers, who are their top managers as in a corporate structure. The trainers manage the horses, their feed, exercise, health, well-being and other activity. The big owners employ managers of their racing interests, often across the globe. The managers advise and ensure owners’ decisions and interests are carried out and the trainers and their systems are performing. The big owners also employ or contract horse buyers and breeders, sometimes owning their own breeding studs. 

Trainers employ a lot of people, pre-trainer/horse educators, stable hands and strappers, trackwork riders, stud grooms, office managers, book-keepers, clerks, assistants, farm managers, transport drivers and contract others like vets, construction/maintenance workers, jockeys. Significant numbers of people work in a big stable like those of Chris Waller, the Hayes, Cummings, Waterhouse, or Freedman families. 

Chris Waller directly employs just over 100 people in 4 big stables across the eastern States.  All those people are employees or paid one way or another to work for the trainer or trainer’s business to keep the horses healthy and prepare them to race. 

Jockeys ride horses to trainers’ instructions and their own racing skills to try get the best result out of the horse, when they’re operating honestly (for the owner who gets the prizemoney and some kudos). 

The trainers’ job is to get the best out of the horse for the owner, just like the manager of any business.  So do all the people employed by the trainer.   

The owners do nothing or next to nothing in handling the horse.

But they are the ones calling the shots, picking up the winnings, and who the whole industry rotates around. The talk in the form guides is about the trainers and jockeys, with the owners getting mentioned in passing. 

On race day, sometimes, owners jump into the limelight. Owners of Australia’s major corporate empires hide from the limelight but they call the shots just the same. Their interests drive capitalism in this country.  

Capitalism is not just some system, it’s capitalists exploiting workers 

It’s capitalists who prosper while we struggle. And not just some general amorphous rich faceless mob. They have names. They have businesses. They are actual people whose wealth is gained from our work. 

It’s capitalists behind the laws crushing unions. It’s capitalists getting rich from the minerals dug out of the ground and sold overseas while we do the work. It’s capitalists grabbing the money that could provide housing, healthcare, good education, roads, etc. 

A reduction in the standard of living while production ploughs on increases this or that capitalist’s riches even more. More of what workers produce goes to bloating

capitalist riches, leaving us struggling to get by.  

Think of some tanned tycoon basking on a super yacht in the Bahamas or Monaco while miners dig coal, train drivers haul it to ports, operators scoop it out of piles and others load ships full of coal, one after the other. That’s capitalism in Australia, or one major part of it. 

If we’re going to get rid of capitalism from Australia, we need to be much more aware of the capitalists who are prospering from the value workers produce. 

If we’re going to overthrow capitalism, it means overthrowing the people who rule over us. 

In their 18th century revolts, French peasants got rid of feudalism, and they knew they had to get aristocrats’ necks under the guillotine to do it.  

We also need to know who. Otherwise, we’ll just be striking out blindly, often at the management monkey or the political hack, not the organ-grinding capitalist.

It would be a great use of an academic’s time, to delve deeper into who these capitalists are. Where they come from is covered to an extent in the booklet “Who Owns Australia”  . There’s work to be done on who they are. 

What is clear is that 85% of the mining, oil and gas industries in Australia are foreign-owned, with the biggest portion American. There’s similar levels of foreign-ownership in many major sectors of the economy, banking and finance, chemicals and others. Foreign capitalists are at the heart of capitalist ranks in Australia.

The US stranglehold over the country is apparent in how little tax they pay, in billions devoted to preparations for another war to defend and extend the American empire while people are struggling with bills. It points the way towards hitting foreign capitalists as the first step in giving the system a whack.

Moaning about an abstract system doesn’t cut it.  

It’s not just capitalism, its capitalists. We have to target the actual people and the forces that keep them safe from us.     


Godolphin Racing and its super-rich owner, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

One of the biggest and richest race horse owners here and across the world is Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Prime Minister ruling over Dubai, with horses racing in the royal blue silks of Godolphin Racing. 

He’s the Chief Executive of Emirates Airlines, Chair of Dubai Real Estate Corporation, with his family owning various tremendously lucrative enterprises. 

Godolphin Racing was set up in 1992. By 2018 they’d won over 5,000 races in 14 countries including Australia, the US, UK, France Germany Japan among others.  

The Sheik has two racing stables in Sydney, one in Melbourne, two in Newmarket, UK, and two in Dubai, as well as horses in training with contracted trainers in the UK, Australia, France, Japan, the United States, and Ireland. James Cummings of the famous family of trainers is Godolphin’s head of operations in Australia. 

The Sheik got into racing through owning horses in the UK in 1977. He set up Darley breeding studs in the UK in 1981, subsequently expanding them to Australia, France, Ireland, Japan, and the United States. He owns Channel 4 racing media in the UK. 

Sheik Al Maktoum’s position at the top of the racing tree involved in setting the rules, is apparent in Maktoum’s Godolphin having representatives on the boards of governing bodies on three continents.

One sits on the board of the Melbourne Cup organisers, the Victoria Racing Club, alongside bankers, media execs, corporate accountants and lawyers. Not a stable hand or trackwork rider in sight. 

A former Godolphin CE sits on the board of the British Horseracing Authority as an owners’ representative. An appointee of Sheik Maktoum’s as General Manager of Emirates Racing Authority, Mohammad Saeed Al Shehhi, has been elevated to vice-chairman of Asian Racing Federation’s Board. The Sheik’s sons serve as Chairs of Dubai’s two horse racing clubs.

Through all the studs and stables, as one racing journalist put it: ‘Each horse has a race path to follow and a commercial purpose to fulfil, from winning prize money to earning a lucrative post-career at stud.’ It’s all about Maktoum’s ‘commercial purpose’ to create value for the Sheik. 

Along the way there’s a dash of horses being this tycoon’s playthings in operation, a display of his wealth delivering prestige among the super-rich while it delivers the money as winners of top races and value as breeding bloodstock. 


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