The Mania for
"Mega Mergers" Is the Drive for Domination and War
It is clear that the rate of the so-called "mega
mergers" the merger of already massive monopolies, or more usually
and accurately the take-over or hostile bidding of one giant for another
is accelerating. Barely a week goes by without the announcement of one or other
of these "mega mergers", often breaking records for size or global
scope. The concentration of capital and wealth is reaching incredible levels.
At the end of last year Vodafone Airtouch (not that long
ago formed by a £40 billion purchase of AirTouch by Vodafone) launched a
hostile bid, worth £82 billion, for the German telecoms giant Mannesmann.
Mannesmann had itself acquired the British mobile phone group Orange last year.
On February 3, the merger was agreed, valuing the combined multinational at
£225 billion. This makes it Europes largest company. Vodafone, when
floated by Racals Ernie Harrison on the stock exchange in 1989, had a
market value of £1.7 billion.
In the first few weeks of this year, AOL (America Online)
announced its merger with Time Warner, itself the result of some not
inconsiderable mergers, to make a multinational worth £220 billion.
SmithKline Beecham and Glaxo Wellcome (the names alone demonstrate eachs
merged pedigree) announced their merger a week or so later, to create a
£114 billion drugs monopoly, Glaxo SmithKline. And shortly after, EMI
announced its merger with AOL Time Warner to create "the worlds
biggest music industry". BP Amoco, the recently merged oil giant, is
engaged in a take-over struggle for Atlantic Richfield (Arco). If all these
mergers go ahead, the three monopolies of BP Amoco, Vodafone Airtouch and Glaxo
SmithKline will between them account for one-third of the value of the FTSE 100
share index which is made up of the 100 biggest companies in Britain.
This massive concentration of wealth and power is the 21st
century equivalent of what Marx in his day described as "one capitalist
killing many", a form of enormous accumulation of capital expropriated by
one giant multinational from others.
Even more characteristic of todays world is the
concentration and mergers of the banks and financial institutions, not
excluding from consideration the international financial institutions such as
the IMF and the World Bank. For example, NatWest and the Royal Bank of Scotland
two weeks ago agreed the take over of the former by the Royal Bank. Even this
will only form the seventh largest European bank at a capital value of $42
billion. The worlds largest bank (and still Europes largest) was
the merged Midland and the Hong Kong and Shanghai banks HSBC, with a
capital value of $97.5 billion until three leading Japanese banks
announced an integration of their operations to the tune of $1,300 billion by
Some commentators have suggested that this mania is merely
a "fashion" for the "mega" monopolies, to be broken up at a
later date into smaller, "leaner" companies. But this is to misread
the nature of these objective developments. The demand is to dominate markets
and not only compete but actually become "number one", if possible
the only one, on the world stage. Many more banks are predicted to merge, as
the creation of the euro has led to a rapid consolidation of European banks
into national superbanks. In this, of course, the people are made to pay with
job losses in the "rationalisations" and the disruption to the
But as competition becomes ever more cut-throat in the
drive to globalisation, the drive to domination also is exacerbated. The
contradictions between the imperialist powers and their economic and political
blocs become ever sharper. In many ways, the situation is similar to the turn
of the 19th into the 20th century, when the division of the world had been
completed, coinciding with the growth and power of the monopolies and of
finance capital, and the competition between the big powers could only be
resolved by redivision of the world, which is to say through imperialist war.
This preparation for war is also evident today, with actual aggression, such as
against Yugoslavia, reflecting the contradictions for domination of Europe and
other parts of the globe. In these circumstances, all calls for social
partnership between workers and the monopoly capitalists, for an end to the
class war, are calls for the people not to radicalise society as the objective
developments are urgently demanding, not to bring about the revolutionary
transformation of society which is so urgently needed, not to oppose the
imperialist drive for domination and war.