The Sting in the Tail column from the March 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard
Spare Parts For Sale
Those who take the view that profit has nothing to do with health must have been startled by the reports of the General Medical Council hearing on the "kidneys-for-sale" allegations.
Four doctors were in the dock accused of serious professional misconduct. They were charged with buying kidneys from four Turkish donors for use in transplant operations.
The defence produced Geoffrey Alderman, Professor of Politics and Contemporary History at Holloway and Bedford College. University of London, who told the hearing: "I think it should be open to living donors to give or sell their kidneys."
The report in The Independent (18 January) stated:
He claimed the decision to give a kidney would always be an altruistic one even if money was received. "No money could compensate for the loss of a kidney".
Nor should arguments about exploiting the poor prevent the sale of kidneys, he said. "In a liberal democracy there are bound to be inequalities. This is the way of the world".
The professor's “liberal democracy" is of course really capitalism. Inside capitalism everything is for sale. We leave the reader to judge the "altruistic" nature of poverty-stricken desperate workers selling vital organs, and the "inequalities" that let people die because they are too poor to buy a life saving transplant.
As far as capitalism is concerned "this is the way of the world". As far as socialists are concerned it is time we got rid of the whole rotten system.
From time to time we hear from the government that they care about the plight of the poor, the ill and the handicapped.
They point to such things as attendance allowance for those who look after terminally ill people.
A report in The Independent of 23 January 1990 illustrates what this "caring" amounts to in practice.
But Community doctors at University College and Middlesex School of Medicine argue that many ill people die before their carers receive the allowance because of a six month qualifying period.
Dr. Irene Higginson and colleagues discovered from records of nearly 500 cancer patients who were sufficiently disabled for their carers to be able to claim, that 92.8 per cent died within three months and 98.8 per cent within six.
Some "caring" - some system!
After Dinner Waffle
The Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd recently visited East Berlin. After a very good dinner he gave his host the East German Foreign Secretary the benefit of his views on free elections.
It was all very impressive stuff - dealing as it did with fair access to the media for all political parties. It must have been a very good dinner indeed for according to The Independent (23 January) he said:
For in order to hold legitimate and successful free elections it Is not enough to assert a principle or even to fix a date. There have to be rules of fair and open administration of elections.
There has to be equity in the opportunities open to the political parties. There has to be fair access to press, radio and television.
We applaud Mr. Hurd's sentiments, but we fear it was just another of those empty after dinner speeches much loved by politicians.
He surely doesn’t mean that in Britain at the next election the Socialist Party will have equity of access to the press, radio and TV.
This Gun for Hire
The fall of the dictatorships in Eastern Europe has not been greeted by universal joy. One group who are less than thrilled are the former spies and secret police who now face unemployment.
A number of Middle East regimes have started recruiting these security experts, thrown on the scrapheap by recent events. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Israel are now recruiting this pool of spooks, spies and thugs.
The Saudi intelligence chief, Turki Bin-Faisai is reported as having a 3 million dollar budget to start hiring secret agents, it says a lot for the "freedom and democracy" so beloved by the media, that every government in the world has a secret police.
Big Burger Business
27,000 people applied for a job in the latest McDonald's fast food restaurant according to Time magazine (February 5).
The American culinary empire - which some say has more to do with gastro-enteritis than gastronomy - already stretches from Seattle to Singapore. The newest offering, besides being the largest in the company's 11,300 chain, is also the first of 20 planned outlets in a $50 million deal that took 14 years of negotiation and which will see Big Mac boldly going where no burger has gone before.
Meanwhile, the lucky 605 youngsters chosen for exploitation at wages of S2.40 an hour are busy learning how to say "have a nice day" with the appropriate ingratiating smile. They can also look forward to dressing up in silly hats and scurrying around at top speed. After all, fast food demands staff who're fast on their feet.
That should be no problem for the new starts according to George Cohon, President of the Canadian subsidiary of McDonald's.
"These kids win a lot of medals in the Olympics," he says. "We can train them to work in McDonald's"So where is this new 700 seat restaurant? It's in Pushkin Square, Moscow, just a few streets from the Kremlin.
Is there anyone out there who still thinks capitalism isn't a world wide system?
If you ever watch "The Money Programme" or "Business Daily" on TV you will see some of society's great men being interviewed.
They are industrialists, bankers and financiers. How assured and articulate they are. and how they seem to have all the answers to every question. Here, surely, are brilliant men whom workers should admire and regard with awe.
But are they really so brilliant? Many of them who were lionised only yesterday don’t look so clever now. For example Ernest Saunders, ex-chairman of Guinness, is in disgrace and awaiting trial on serious charges. Then there's Alan Bond, the Aussie who could do no wrong but whose vast financial empire now lies in ruins. And what about all those so-shrewd bankers who threw away billions by lending to countries the rest of us wouldn't have trusted with a fiver?
Now we learn that Ferranti was taken for £215 million by a con-man who sold them a dodgy American company. What does this make Ferranti’s chairman and board?
So all of these men are clearly as fallible as anyone else and probably owe their exalted status to a combination of ability, luck, having the right connections and, in many cases, not having been caught yet.