The Rear View column from the April 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
The futility of reformism
'That new soccer ball you just bought your child? If it came from China, it could have been made by workers who work up to 21 hours a day. That trendy mineral makeup on your face? A child in India could have spent long, hot days mining the sparkly mica in it ... click on SlaveryFootprint.org. The website is run by a non-profit working to rid the world of slave labor and human trafficking. By answering just a few questions, the website will tell you how many slaves work for you. Child laborers around the world make bricks, farm, weave rugs, dive for fish, work as prostitutes and soldiers, and dismantle toxic electronics. It’s estimated that about 27 million people work under slavery conditions around the world, many with a direct connection to something you own or use right now' (charlotteobserver.com, 3 March). This site promotes social activism not socialism, reform not revolution. Socialists as individuals may eschew meat, Microsoft, or motor cars, but know until the majority of us wage slaves come to understand capitalism and act to overthrow it, little will change.
Fighting their wars
'One of our servicemen or women commits suicide almost every two weeks, figures obtained by the Sunday People reveal. Nearly 400 troops killed themselves between 1995 and 2014. Hundreds ended their misery on military bases over a 20-year period in which we fought battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now victims’ families have blasted defence chiefs, accusing them of failing Our Boys. Karen Bonsall, whose son Private Lee Bonsall, 24, was found hanged in woods near home in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, four years ago, said the figures were the tip of the iceberg' (mirror.co.uk, 5 March). The way to end war is by removing its cause, capitalism. There can be no lasting peace for the living while capitalism remains.
No war but the class war
'Litter has become a weapon of class war in Britain, where a campaign urging people to Clean for the Queen has stirred both trash-tidying volunteers and howls of anger. The campaign, backed by charity Keep Britain Tidy, urges people to spruce up their communities before Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday, which is being marked in June. What better way could we show our gratitude to Her Majesty than to clean up our country? the campaign asks on its website ... But some find the idea of tidying up to honor a hereditary monarch insulting. Graham Smith of anti-monarchy group Republic suggests the Queen put some of her fortune into cleaning the streets as a thank you for her years of privilege' (abcnews.go.com, 4 March). It is of no consequence who sits on the throne, or whether a republic is established. Nothing will change as long as capitalism reigns.
Another old parasite
According to government figures released earlier this year, up to 2.4 million People in Zimbabwe are described as food insecure. The same cannot be said for President Mugabe who 'has already been in charge for 36 years and, at 92, is the world’s oldest serving head of state. But the veteran leader says he is not done yet. Mugabe plans to live until he is 100 and indicated that he would remain president for life...' (newsweek.com, 4 March). We are informed that a 92kg cake was shared with his entourage and 92 balloons were released on the occasion of his $1m birthday bash. This in a country where the average life expectancy is 57 years and over 70 percent exist below the poverty line. There is no reason for our class to celebrate with former freedom fighter Mugabe on the anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence later this month.
That the United Nations has a long list of failures comes as no surprise to socialists knowing that the 99 percent worldwide experience war and want–endemic features of capitalism. Recent additions to this list include new allegations of sexual exploitation and Zero Discrimination Day: '.. . commemorated on March 1, there was an implicit commitment by the 193 member states to abhor all forms of discrimination...including against women, minorities, indigenous people, gays and lesbians and those suffering from AIDS. But apparently there seems to be one notable exception – refugees and migrants ...' (ipsnews.net, 3 March). John Boyd Orr, former director of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, was candid in stating: ‘a world of peace and friendship, a world with the plenty which modern science had made possible was a great ideal. But those in power had no patience with such an ideal. They said it was not practical politics’ (Daily Herald, 29 July 1948).