Voice From The Back column from the February 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard
TEN WASTED YEARS
Socialists have always stressed that supporting schemes of reforms will not fundamentally change the nature of capitalism and here comes an official capitalist institution whose findings back up that view. "There are 1.4 million children living below the poverty line in Britain, even though at least one of their parents has a job. Despite the changes to taxes and benefits, and the introduction of the national minimum wage, the number of poor children in working households is no lower than in 1997, a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research says." (London Times, 3 January)
NO IMMIGRATION PROBLEM
Politicians ever ready to seek the votes of little-Englanders often speak about the problem of immigrants from abroad coming to this country and causing problems such as housing, medical care and education. We imagine these politicians will completely ignore this type of immigration though. "Lev Leviev, who until a week ago was classified as the richest man in Israel, has joined the growing list of Israeli billionaires who have made their homes in London, where wealthy foreigners are not asked to pay tax on income earned overseas. This month, Mr Leviev officially moved into a bullet-proof house in Hampstead, which he bought for £35m. His near neighbours include several other mega-rich Israeli tycoons who prefer UK tax rates. In Israel, they are liable for tax on all their income, no matter where it is from. ...News of his departure has shocked the Israeli business community and created a political headache for its government, because of the drain of wealth from Tel Aviv to London. Among those who have made their homes in London are Zvi Meitar, the founder of one of Israel's biggest law firms; Benny Steinmitz, a diamond dealer and property tycoon; Yigal Zilka, head of Queenco Leisure International; and the real estate developer, Sammy Shimon." (Independent, 8 January)
THIS IS COMMUNISM?
Socialists have always maintained that countries like Russia and China that have claimed to be establishing socialism were in fact building up state capitalism, and now a pillar of US capitalism agrees with us that China has nothing to do with socialism. "The spending choices for China's rich are multiplying as quickly as the world's fastest-growing major economy can mint new tycoons.In the latest sign of China's rising upper crust and its growing appeal to international marketers, Robb Report, a self-declared catalogue of the best of the best for the richest of the rich, is making its pitch here with a Chinese-language edition. The 200-plus-page Chinese monthly, published under the name Robb Report Lifestyle, is packed with news, product placements and advertising that promotes elite brands such as Volkswagen AG's Bugatti sports cars and Lürssen yachts." (Wall Street Journal, 9 January)
CHINESE BOOMING DEATH RATE
"Accidents in China's notoriously dangerous coal mines killed nearly 3,800 people last year, state media reported Saturday – a toll that is a marked improvement from previous years, but still leaves China's mines the world's deadliest. A total of 3,786 were killed in mining accidents in 2007 – 20 percent lower than the 2006 toll, indicating the effectiveness of a safety campaign to shut small, illegal mining operations and reduce gas explosions, the Xinhua News Agency quoted the head of China's government safety watchdog as saying. Coal is the lifeblood of China's booming, energy-hungry economy. The mining industry's safety, which has never been good, has often suffered as mine owners push to dig up more coal to take advantage of higher prices." (Yahoo News, 12 January) The development of capitalism in China has led to more deaths amongst the working class. Surprise, surprise?
PROPHETS AND PROFITS
The future of global warming is a complex subject, but many experts believe the growth of carbon emissions could lead to disaster. One of the supporters of that notion is the World Bank with its various schemes to halt or lessen these emmissions, but their difficulty is that they also support the profit system so they are left in a contradictory position. "The World Bank has emerged as one of the key backers behind an explosion of cattle ranching in the Amazon, which new research has identified as the greatest threat to the survival of the rainforest. Ranching has grown by half in the last three years, driven by new industrial slaughterhouses which are being constructed in the Amazon basin with the help of the World Bank. The revelation flies in the face of claims from the bank that it is funding efforts to halt deforestation and reduce the massive greenhouse gas emissions it causes. Roberto Smeraldi, head of Friends of the Earth Brazil and lead author of the new report, obtained exclusively by The Independent on Sunday, said the bank's contradictory policy on forests was now clear: "On the one hand you try and save the forest, on the other you give incentives for its conversion." (Independent on Sunday, 13 January)
In a sane society technological advances would be looked upon as a step forward for humanity, but we don't live in a sane society. We live in capitalism. Simon Caulkin the Management Editor of the Observer reveals some alarming outcomes of such technical progress. "More than half of all UK employees – 52 per cent – are now subject to computer surveillance at work, according to research from the Economic and Social Research Council's "Future of Work" programme. That's a remarkable figure, and it has lead to a sharp increase in strain among those being monitored – particularly white-collar administrative staff. ... Substantial pay rises for most managers contrast with static or even declining wages for low-end computer-monitored workers, who are working harder, and longer hours, into the bargain." (Observer, 13 January)
POOR AND DESPERATE
Men and women because of poverty are forced to work for wages. Inside Europe and North America they have to do as they are told by their masters, to turn up on time to be respectful and if asked to do so cringe, but it is even worse for our African comrades."Last year roughly 31,000 Africans tried to reach the Canary Islands, a prime transit point to Europe, in more than 900 boats. About 6,000 died or disappeared, according to one estimate cited by the United Nations." (New York Times, 14 January) Men and women of the working class are dying to be exploited. Let us get rid of this mad society. 6.000 died last year, how many this year?