The Rear View Column from the January 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
Shelter, a charity campaigning to end homelessness, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Towards the end of 2016 they reminded us that during the season of goodwill 120,000 children in Britain would be homeless. Related news coverage has been grim and predictable. ‘A homeless man froze to death on the streets of Birmingham just a day before UK charity Shelter warned more than 250,000 people in England will be homeless this Christmas as high rents, benefit cuts, and a worsening housing crisis create the perfect storm. The body of the unknown man was found in the West Midlands city at 11.30pm GMT on Wednesday, the coldest night of the year. It is understood the body, found in John Bright Street, is that of a 30-year-old man with no fixed address. Figures compiled by Shelter reveal that 255,000 people across the country are forced to live in hostels and other types of temporary accommodation, or to sleep rough on the streets. London has the highest rate of homelessness. As many as one in 25 residents of the central London borough of Westminster are without a home” (rt.com, 1 December). But what has 50 years on the reformist treadmill achieved? We are informed that presently one in three UK households are on the ‘brink’ of homelessness. This ‘problem’ existed long before Shelter and many other charities came into being and will persist for another 50+ years unless we bring an end to capitalism. Oscar Wilde expressed this well: ‘their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease. They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor. But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible’ (The Soul of Man under Socialism, 1891).
‘Cardiff University in Wales has said it will no longer ban events by controversial speakers, declaring censorship is not the answer. The decision was made by the Cardiff University Students’ Union at their annual conference last week, where they passed a motion called Challenge, Don’t Censor‘ (patriotnewsagency.com, 3 December). This is good news. Socialists value free and open debate with all opponents, and naturally oppose censorship and safe spaces. George Yancy, a professor of philosophy at Emory University, stated recently ‘I refuse to entertain my students with mummified ideas and abstract forms of philosophical self-stimulation. What leaves their hands is always philosophically alive, vibrant and filled with urgency. I want them to engage in the process of freeing ideas, freeing their philosophical imaginations. I want them to lose sleep over the pain and suffering of so many lives that many of us deem disposable. I want them to become conceptually unhinged, to leave my classes discontented and maladjusted’ (nytimes.com, 30 November). Such a rare and provocative approach to education has been reported to the Professor Watchlist, a modern-day form of McCarthyism promoted by the conservative youth group Turning Point USA. The Economic League in the UK had similar objectives for the duration of its existence, 1919-1993.
Who said ‘. . . what we are speaking about is the common good of humanity, of the right of each person to share in the resources of this world and to have the same opportunities to realize his or her potential…’ (time.com, 3 December)? Marx? Morris? Wilde? No, one Jorge Mario Bergoglio – in his current role as Pope. The 1 percent have no need to tremble in their designer boots as the Dalai Lama went through such a phase, even calling himself a Marxist, without socialism being any nearer. Besides, did not Sarah Palin insist recently that one or other gods had intervened in the US election in order to give us Donald Trump? The prayers of the capitalists are answered: it’s business as usual.
It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World
‘. . . pyrimethamine, the drug the Sydney Grammar School kids were able to make for $2 per dose, and which Turing sells for up to $750, can be bought in India for as little as $0.10’ (qz.com, 2 December). That’s capitalism folks!