Wealthy Capitalist Accidentally Makes Great Argument For Revolution

Caitlin Johnstone
5 min readSep 13, 2023

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

Recent comments from a wealthy Australian property developer named Tim Gurner are going viral on social media right now for the unusual frankness with which he discusses the inherent conflicts of interest between the working class and employers, saying workers who’ve grown lazy and arrogant during Covid need to experience economic pain in the form of unemployment to rein them in and put them in their place.

Gurner, who with a net worth of $912 million is ranked by the Australian Financial Review as the 154th richest person in Australia, made the remarks at the Australian Financial Review Property Summit on Tuesday.

“You know, tradies [Australian slang for tradesmen] have definitely pulled back on productivity,” Gurner said. “They have been paid a lot to do not too much in the last few years. And we need to see that change. I think the problem that we’ve had is that we have people who decided they didn’t really want to work so much anymore through Covid.”

Gurner continued:

“We need to remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around. We need to see unemployment rise, unemployment has to jump 40–50 percent. In my view, we need to see pain in the economy. I mean, there’s been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them as opposed to the other way around.

“So it’s a dynamic that has to change. We’ve got to kill that attitude and that has to come through hurting the economy which is what the whole global world is trying to do. The governments around the world are trying to increase unemployment, to get that to some sort of normality, and we’re seeing it. I think every employer now is seeing it.

“I mean, there are definitely massive layoffs going off and people might not be talking about it, but people are definitely laying people off and we’re starting to see less arrogance in the employment market and that has to continue, because that will cascade across the cost balance.”

It’s not often that you’ll see a member of the ruling class reveal their hostile, slave-master attitude toward the working class so transparently. Perhaps Gurner got a little too careless showing off in front of his rich friends at a forum which, like most things that happen in Australia, never attracts much international attention. But it also wouldn’t be the first time Gurner drew headlines by publicly expressing his disdain for normal working people; in 2017 he became a meme for blaming the economic struggles of millennials on the idea that they spend too much of their money on avocado toast.

Whether he intended his remarks to gain attention or not, Gurner has gone viral once again, and opponents of the status quo he thrives on are making swift use of his comments.

“I like teaching lefty theory as much as the next guy but I can rarely do better at explaining the connection between capital and social-political domination than just pointing at what the guys with the capital do and say,” reads a popular tweet by Georgetown professor Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò.

“When Marxists say that capitalism, in order to function, literally requires unemployment and homelessness to discipline wages to ensure satisfactory profitability and maintain a useful social domination of the working class don’t take it from us, take it from capitalists,” reads another popular share of the Gurner video.

Gurner’s statements are unusual in their frankness and in their admission that unemployment is a weapon of the ruling class to bludgeon workers into working harder for less pay, but his push to decrease employment is also entirely in alignment with what influential economists like Larry Summers, Ben Bernanke and Olivier Blanchard have been saying in recent months. Workers making more money is seen by the ruling class as a freakish aberrational problem that needs to be fixed via economic pain instead of a good thing that should be celebrated and normalized.

It’s important to remember these frank admissions when they happen, because they don’t happen very often. Normally the capitalist class spends its time telling workers they’re an important part of the team and we’re all family here and hey, have a slice of pizza on us every now and then. But the fact of the matter is that all they really care about is their ability to siphon off the excess value generated by your labor, and they’ll come together with remarkable class solidarity to push the state to hurt you financially in order to ensure that they can skim the largest share of that value possible.

This is completely unsustainable. We cannot continue to tolerate systems which must necessarily abuse workers with financial pain in order to keep increasing profits and quarterly statements. We must transcend these competition-based models where people are manipulated by financial pain into stepping on each other’s heads in a rat race to show the ruling class that they can generate more profit for their employer than their neighbor can. We need to move into collaboration-based systems in which we all work together for the good of everyone and toward the thriving of our biosphere. Our current status quo systems are choking us to death.

Such changes aren’t going to happen until the people start using the power of their numbers to force them to happen. And Tim Gurner just made a splendid argument outlining why this should happen sooner rather than later.

Remember: a class war is already happening. That decision has already been made for us. The only thing we have a say in is whether we fight back or not.

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