The Gleaners. Jean Francois Millet. 1857. Oil on canvas.
Feb. 12, 2016 (CounterPunch) -- Under the feudal mode of production, peasants were often allowed to cultivate plots of land for themselves on a rental basis. However, those tenant farmers rarely succeeded in becoming landowners in their own rights because a major share of what they harvested was taken away by landlords as rent, often leaving them with a bare subsistence amount of what they produced. When the harvest was poor, they incurred debt. If peasants were unable to pay off their debts, they could find themselves reduced to the condition of serfs or slaves.
Today, under conditions of market dominance by parasitic finance capital, a similar relationship can be detected between the powerful financial oligarchs (as feudal lords of our time), on the one hand, and the public at large (as peasant population of today), on the other. In the same manner as the landed aristocracy of times past extracted rent by virtue of monopolistic ownership of land, so today the financial oligarchy extracts interest and other financial charges by virtue of having concentrated the major bulk of national resources in their hands in the form of finance capital.
The Marxist term wage-slaves refers to those who, lacking capital or means of production, have only their labor power to sell to make a living. This describes the vast majority of people in today’s capitalist societies whose sole means of subsistence is the sale of their capacity to work. “Just as the feudal-era serf had no choice but to enslave himself and his family to the manor-house lord, the modern-day serf must indenture himself to banks to own a car or home or buy a college education” .
In the latest edition of her book, Occupy Money, Professor Margrit Kennedy shows that today between 35 percent and 40 percent of all consumer spending is appropriated by the financial sector: bankers, insurance companies, non-bank lenders/financiers, bondholders, and the like . Obviously, this means that, as Ellen Brown points out: “By taking banking back . . . governments could regain control of that very large slice (up to 40 per cent) of every public budget that currently goes to interest charged to finance investment programs through the private sector” .