Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sting in the Tail: Having their cake (1994)

The Sting in the Tail Column from the December 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Having their cake
When Scorpion was a child and cried because he had scoffed all his goodies, his mother would tell him "you can't have your cake and eat it".

This simple truth had obviously eluded those taking part in a discussion on "community values" in A Week In Politics (Channel 4, 22 October).

They were Labour MP Tony Wright, Tory MP Alan Howarth and a repentant Thatcherite, Professor John Gray. Wright pointed out that even the word "community" has been debased through its use as a cover for such unpalatable Tory policies as the poll-tax (Community charge) and the turning of mentally-ill people onto the streets (Care In The Community).

Howarth, a "One Nation" Tory, thought an excess of Thatcherite policies had brought about a decline in community values while Gray instanced how these policies had wiped out many mining communities.

So they were unanimous on the need to retain community values, but they were also unanimous in their support for capitalism's market economy, the very thing which destroys the concept of community, and you can't have your cake and eat it, can you?

God and Mammon
In feudal times the Church had immense power. It was the most wealthy institution in society. It had its hand in government, military and social affairs.

The advent of capitalism saw the gradual decline of its influence. Today other than the mock ceremonies that attend deaths, marriages and christenings it is a shadow of the giant it once was.

Ignored by most of the working class and looked upon with cynical tolerance by the capitalist class it has little part to play in society compared with its once dominant role.

This probably explains the following outburst of medieval nonsense as reported in the Guardian (9 November):
"The Church of England should invent special prayers for business people because they suffer spiritual hunger and wealth creation is part of God's plan, George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said yesterday."
Worried by falling congregations and, of course, empty collecting plates he was telling the Manchester Business School that the Church saw bankers and brokers as carrying out God's work:
"Defending the role of financial markets, he said it was a cosy myth that 'real work is making things whereas the really questionable activity is financial wheeler dealing'."
So, come on, you financial wheeler dealers, dig deep and keep the Archbishop and his cronies in the style they have been accustomed to.

News from South Africa
Remember all that left-wing rhetoric we used to hear from the ANC in the days before it got power? They play a different tune now:
"Instead of the sweeping campaign of nationalisation that the South African private sector once feared from a Mandela-led government, Mr Mbeki (Deputy President) said plans were afoot to sell off some of the family silver. State assets and enterprises such as government-owned land and South African Airways will be privatised." (Daily Telegraph, 31 October)
On top of this the government has been accused by its own supporters of "riding the gravy train". President Nelson Mandela answered these malcontents by cutting his salary from 115,000 to a mere 92,000 while Mr Mbeki's 20 percent cut means he will have to struggle along on only 80,000.

Sing a song of capitalism
In Glasgow and Edinburgh pubs on a Saturday evening you may hear some workers, under the influence of a couple of drinks, giving voice to sentimental patriotic songs. "Scotland I Adore Thee" and "Hail, Caledonia" may be aired until the bartender or some other music lover puts a stop to the proceedings.

But what is the truth behind all this patriotic drivel? According to the BBC2 programme Whose Country is it Anyway? (26 October) Scotland, like every other country, is owned by a handful of people:
"Sixty per cent of the land in Scotland, with a population of over 5 million is owned by only 1,500 people."

So next Saturday evening when you feel moved to imitate Kenneth McKellar with a version of "My Granny's Hielan' Hovel", remember who really owns Scotland - the capitalist class.

You may well "Belong to Glasgow", but Glasgow like every city in the world belongs to them.

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