Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sting in the Tail: The Birthday Girl (1989)

The Sting in the Tail column from the November 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Birthday Party
   "If you've got it, flaunt it, baby” seems to be th motto of Mr. Malcolm Forbes, the American financial magazine magnate. According to the Daily Telegraph (21 August) his 70th. birthday party in Tangiers was quite an affair.
  The party, with 800 guests flown in in his private charter of Concorde and Jumbo jets, and corks popped from 250 magnums of champagne had cost 2 million dollars and was greeted as a business bonanza. . . .  Mr. Forbes was In no mood to apologise for his party. "You couldn't call It modest but how can you apologise for extravagance?" he asked. If you have money Just be grateful and have fun."
The obscenity of a millionaire spending 2 million dollars on a birthday party should be noted by all workers when they hear the apologists for capitalism prattling on about people becoming millionaires through hard work and thrift


It's an Ill Wind
The news that British Petroleum is to shed 1700 jobs in Scotland was met with howls of disapproval from opposition politicians, Trade Union leaders and clergymen.

Universal condemnation in fact. Well, not quite, because the news was welcomed by the City of London. Disgraceful? Not really, It’s just that the City is above all concerned about profit and BP’s smaller wages bill means more profit for investors.

So It's daft to blame BP or the City for putting their own interests first, but what's even dafter is the working class refusing to look after its interests and get rid of capitalism.


Tomorrow's Enemies
The thaw in the cold war means that the CIA is shifting its attention from possible military conflict with Russia to new priorities.

CIA director, William Webster, warned that:
  Our political and military allies are also our economic competitors. The national security implications of a competitor's ability to create, capture or control markets of the future are very significant. Intelligence on economic developments . . .  has never been more important.
The Guardian 21 September.
So while US politicians are pledging undying friendship to Japan, West Germany, Britain, etc., the CIA will be stepping up Its spying activities on them and any other countries which threaten US capitalism's economic Interests.


Catch 'em Young
At an early age every human being has to be taught the awful truth about how capitalism operates. This was recently illustrated in the correspondence page of The Guardian.

Betty Robbins of The Vicarage In Newbury wrote:
   In the course of a Sunday school lesson recently I asked my group of nine-year olds if they knew what a prophet was.
  To my astonishment, since this is generally unknown territory, their little faces glowed with understanding - "money, money, money" they told me delightedly.
In view of the recent revelations about certain American evangelic prophets being caught with their hands in the cash register, it seems that "a little child shall lead them" has a certain validity.


Pity The Poor Capitalists
Pity the poor capitalists. One of their biggest headaches is, should they spread the risk by Involving their enterprises in several different Industries (become "conglomerates") or should they concentrate on one industry only?

The trouble with conglomerates is that they may be taken over by some asset stripper like Lord Hanson who buy them up, sells off the various parts and pockets the profit

But capitalists who put all their eggs in one basket will be in big trouble when the industry they have invested in hits a bad patch as have, for example, package holidays, house building and DIY.

So what are the poor capitalists to do? They have an army of economists, bankers and city editors offering them advice but this is so contradictory that they might just as well toss a coin.

Our solution is for the workers to save the capitalists from any such headaches by relieving them of their ownership and converting it into common property.


A Glimpse of Truth
Professor Robert Petersen of the University of Texas claims that only about a third of the American population can give a remotely accurate definition of the word "capitalism". He says:
  Our study shows that when people are asked to define the word, they are as likely to give a definition of socialism, communism, bureaucracy or virtually any other conceivable philosophy as they are to give a correct definition.
Hmm, mildly interesting, but just about what we would have expected although we would like to know what the profs "correct" definition would be. After all we've heard some funny ones from academics before. However, he also reveals that:
  Most of the 1200 people who responded to the survey associated capitalism with its negative excesses and with . . . the idea that large companies are indifferent to individuals.
Now that is interesting because it shows that even the constant barrage of propaganda glorifying capitalism couldn't hide from all those people at least part of the true nature of the beast.


Not So Greene
Graham Greene, the novelist, now describes himself as a "Catholic agnostic" in the Catholic weekly, The Tablet, 23 September.

He doesn't believe in an afterlife, Heaven and Hell, the Devil or even almighty God himself, and only takes communion to please a friendly priest.

He supports contraception, rejects Papal Infallibility and says his only mystical experience was listening to a two hour sermon which seemed to last only half an hour. He’s lucky, for us it was always the other way round.

These heresies will not please 85 year old Mr. Greene's church, but socialists can be pleased he has finally junked so much mythology and shown that it is never too late to learn.

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