The Voice From the Back column from the October 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
You have found work in the city but need somewhere to live, your choice is limited. ‘The shockingly bad rental flats, based mainly in Britain and the US, repeatedly appear online among lists of the worst homes available to rent. In one cheeky advert, a tent in the garden of a property in San Francisco is being advertised for £458 per month, while another ambitious landlord has listed a cupboard in Paddington, west London, for £160 per month. Elsewhere in Rheims, France, a room with a shower and toilet fitted next to the kitchen sink will set tenants back £169 per month, while a horrendously cramped room in Islington, north London, with a kitchen doubling up as a bedroom will set tenants back a staggering £730 per month’ (Daily Mail, 4 September).
Embarras de richesses
We produce but do not possess. Indeed, ‘for every dollar of wealth created, 93 cents goes to the top 1%’ (truth-out.org, 3 September). Members of the owning class can live where they want when they want. In preparation to accommodating King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and his huge entourage last month one five star hotel, closed to other guests, was transformed. Crates containing golden mirrors, end tables, lamps and hat racks were unloaded and red carpets ‘laid down in hallways and even in the lower parking garage’ so that the parasites did not ‘have to touch asphalt when departing their custom Mercedes caravan’ (Politico, 3 September).
Killing is my business
The Saudi ruling class, backed by the USA, is using armed workers and advanced weaponry to enforce regime change in neighbouring Yemen.
Wars raging in the Middle East and elsewhere mean business is good for arms manufactures such as Textron. This Massachusetts-based manufacturer of cluster bombs, helicopters and jets had its stock upgraded recently ‘fromneutral to buy by a Citigroup analyst’ (vocativ.com, 4 September). The brutal Saudi regime, which has beheaded more people than the Islamic State so far this year, has used cluster bombs in Yemen.
War is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why millions have been, and continue to be, murdered, mutilated or forced to migrate. Over 2000 people have died taking the perilous but profitable for some journey from Libya to Europe. There is money to be made out of such misery: ‘with militias controlling large swathes of land, their attentions have turned to the people who cross their territories. The fighters assert they are bringing order to the country as they detain the refugees, yet these people’s lives have become valuable commodities to the militias as they try to solidify their positions in the country’ (vice.com, 4 September).
You have the stuff of migrants’ dreams: somewhere to live and a place of work, but neither are secure. Your life is still at risk. Examples of death at work are legion, The BBC reported recently (1 September) that a ‘Dundee company has admitted health and safety failings after a worker died while cleaning out a chemical tank … The 33-year-old was sent in to remove debris from a chemical tank with limited protective clothing in August 2011… Dundee Sheriff Court heard that Mr Conway was sent into the tank containing volatile chemicals while wearing only trainers, tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt and fleece.’
Slowly we rot
Somehow you reach the ever-increasing age at which you can draw your dwindling pension (delayed wages), but are you in any condition to enjoy your retirement? Is a care home on the horizon? ‘England’s care home regulator has repeatedly failed to act on official warnings from coroners in cases where elderly residents have died unexpectedly, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found. The Bureau has examined 23 cases in which coroners warned that people could die in future if care providers did not make changes’ (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2 September).
Defend the indefensible
This is what the head of the Care Quality Commission said he was not going to do in relation to the above, but the 1% are happy to defend capitalism – at a safe distance. Yet maybe the Egyptian billionaire who ‘has offered to buy an island off Italy or Greece in order to rehouse hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Syria and other conflicts’ (Daily Telegraph, 4 September) is on to something. Come the revolution, any expropriated capitalists who do not want to live in a world of production for use and free access could be accommodated on such an island.