Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sting in the Tail: Winners . . . and Losers (1990)

The Sting in the Tail Column from the July 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

Winners
"If only we could bottle the feeling - the desire to be rich." This was Seb Coe, Olympic athlete and prospective Tory candidate, speaking at the launch of National Motivation Week (The Guardian 15 May).

The aim of NMW is to encourage all of us "losers" to become "winners". Among the supporting winners present were football managers Steve Harrison (recently sacked by Watford), Alan Ball and Lennie Lawrence (whose teams have just been relegated), and Lou Macari (on bail accused of tax offences).

But suppose we all did what those behind NMW want us to do and became winners. Has it never occurred to these dimwits that capitalism can only function if the vast majority, the losers, are so poor that they must sell their ability to work for a wage or salary?


Losers
The financial world of insurance underwriters is a bizarre place. While Mrs. Thatcher warns us that we must stop claiming higher wages and that standards of living must be related to profit, we learn:
"You can feel a little bit isolated", mused Richard Outhwaite the Lloyd's insurance underwriter last week. Anyone who has notched up £200M worth of losses - and still counting - in the course of running a business is bound to feel somewhat lonely.
The Independent 29 May
Mr. Outhwaite has fallen victim to the uncertainties of the market. In the early 1980s he took on some of Lloyd's potential liability claims. At the time it looked like good business for his clients, but capitalism being capitalism it all turned out disastrously.

Mr. Outhwaite's "a little bit isolated" may seem somewhat philosophical in the circumstances until you learn that his fall from grace will not hurt him all that much.
He is a man who is personally financially secure with large houses in Oxfordshire and Scotland.
It is always easier to be philosophical when the £200M loss is someone elses!


Right Priorities (1)
Anyone who thinks that socialism will be too difficult to achieve and that tackling problems within capitalism is more realistic, should have watched "The Big Heat" on BBC1 on 21 May.

This Panorama programme dealt with global warming and the catastrophe this will bring to planet Earth. It also dealt with the progress the world's governments are making to deal with this problem.

Surely here is a problem which they can all agree must be tackled swiftly and decisively? What a hope. The US government is more concerned about the effects which stern action against carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses would have on the US economy.

For example, the automobile, coal and chemical industries would suffer badly, and just think of the resulting unemployment and (shudder) lost votes. The US spokesman who was interviewed saw the call for drastic action as a European plot to weaken the US economy!

What about the underdeveloped countries? They stand to lose most from global warming so aren't they keener to take action? Afraid not, because they insist that they must industrialise even more if they are to help their starving, homeless millions.

We have never thought that achieving socialism will be easy, but compared to getting capitalism to outlaw global warming at the expense of profit and power, it should be a push-over.


Right Priorities (2)
George Bush has restored China's "most favoured nation" trading status which was withdrawn after the massacre of the students last year in Tiananmen Square.

He defended the move on the grounds that it would:
continue to promote the reforms for which the victims of Tiananmen gave their lives.
The Guardian 25 May
Isn't that a noble sentiment? No, because he then revealed that it was all to do with profit and votes as usual:
China buys about 6 billion dollars of American aircraft and wheat, chemicals, lumber and other products. Lose this market and we lose American jobs - aircraft workers in the West, farmers in the Great Plains, hi-tech employees in the North East.
The slimy hypocrisy of its politicians always was one of capitalism's most loathsome features.


Housing Problem (1)
The newspapers are fond of telling us about the "Housing Problem". According to them there are just not enough houses available.

Anyone who believes that should note recent developments in London's Docklands, reported in The Independent 29 May.
Housebuilders have been hit by a new slump in London's Docklands as buyers pull out of "special offers" deals. Only 130 out of the 1,600 new homes on the market were sold in the three months to April according to the research group DP3.
 So why is it we have a housing problem when the sellers are so desperate to get rid of the houses that they are offering all sorts of special offers?

The answer of course is that there is NO housing problem; it is a poverty problem. If you have enough money you can have a house tomorrow; if not - tough!


Housing Problem (2)
Since the end of the second World War we have had several Labour governments, all of which have set out confidently to solve the "housing problem".

Now scenting a possible future governmental role, the Labour Party have released a draft consultative document "A Strategy for Housing". True to form they are going to "solve" the problem again.

Before the homeless start dancing with joy however, it is worthwhile to note that previous Labour governments have failed miserably to address the problem.

Away back in July,1946 a more confident Labour government had its spokesman, Aneurin Bevan predicting;
When the next election occurs there will be no housing problem in Great Britain for the British working class.
We confidently predict that if and when we have a Labour government, and they in turn have been turfed out of office, there will still be a working class poverty problem posing as a "housing problem'.


William Morris
The Socialist Party will be publishing shortly an important new pamphlet, How We Live and How We Might Live by William Morris, with a Modern Assessment.

It is the perfect antidote to the poison of all those discredited left-wingers with their futile plans for reforming capitalism. It stands uncompromisingly for the new wageless, tradeless future.

To the cynics who carp about the difficulties of convincing the working class of the need to organise for a new socialist society, there is no better rejoinder than that of William Morris quoted in the Modern Assessment part of the pamphlet:
One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman; two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad; ten men sharing an idea begin to act, a hundred draw attention as fanatics, a thousand and society begins to tremble, a hundred thousand and there is war abroad, and why only a hundred thousand? Why not a hundred million and peace upon the earth? You and I who agree together, it is we who have to answer that question.

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