The Voice From The Back column from the January 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard
Nationalism is a horrendous condition that has been used by the owning class to turn worker against worker in wars and has led to millions of death. A particularly stupid manifestation of nationalism was displayed in Belfast recently. Because the union jack flag was only going to be displayed on designated days at the city hall so-called British patriots rioted in the streets. ‘Eight police officers have been injured and 12 people arrested following clashes between loyalists and riot police in Belfast. Six officers were injured in the Crumlin Road and Ligoneil Road area of north Belfast and two at Shaftesbury Square in the city centre.’ (BBC News, 8 December) If it wasn’t so tragic it might be called comical that workers, many of them without a job, should take to the streets to support ‘their’ country.
Figures Do Not Lie
Newspapers are fond of depicting a Britain with a steadily improving standard of living, but occasionally even they have to confess about the realities of modern capitalism. ‘The cost of heating a home has rocketed by 63 per cent since the summer of 2008, while essentials such as potatoes and minced beef have surged by 30 per cent and 50 per cent respectively. Over the same period wages have grown by only 6.8 per cent.’ (Times, 1 December) They then go on to report that during this period wages have been corroded by a 14 percent rise in inflation.
Baby It’s Cold Inside
While major stores of High Street Santas ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ in mock joviality the harsh realities of working class life are revealed by a website. ‘The price comparison website uSwitch.com warned that nine in ten Britons are expecting to ration their energy use this winter to save money — a frightening prospect amid warnings of sub-zero temperatures. Three quarters of households went without heating at some point last winter to keep energy costs down and 15 per cent said that this had affected their quality of life or health.’ (Times, 1 December) So, remember when you are wishing your next door neighbour a ‘Happy New Year’ keep on your gloves, scarf and thermal underwear.
Rough Sleeping In The Rough Society
Politicians like to pose as supporters of families but young people and families with children are increasingly facing homelessness, according to a study, which says rising numbers of people are finding themselves without a roof over their heads. ‘The report, by academics from Heriot-Watt University and the University of York, says all forms of homelessness are continuing to rise in England, and argues that “deepening benefit cuts are likely to have a much more dramatic impact on homelessness”. …. The report says national rough sleeper numbers rose by 23% in the year to autumn 2011, from 1,768 to 2,181 – a more dramatic growth dynamic than anything seen since the 1990s.’ The number of families who end up asking for assistance from local authorities because they are about to lose their homes rose from 40,020 in 2009/10 to 50,290 in 2011/12. (Guardian, 4 December) This is the madness of capitalism in action – houses lying empty while people are forced to sleep in the street.
The owning class are flaunting their obscene wealth but even by their excessive behaviour the following Christmas dinner menu takes a bit of beating. ‘Costing £125,000 for four people, or £31, 250 per person, the menu for what will be the world’s most expensive Christmas dinner menu has been devised by London chef Ben Spalding, who has completed residencies at restaurants including The Fat Duck in Bray, Gordon Ramsay’s Royal Hospital Road and Per Se in New York. Among the ingredients being used are a Yubari King melon costing £2,500, in addition the £2,600 Densuke watermelon; 150-year-old balsamic vinegar costing £1,030; whole white Alba truffle costing £3,500; and gold leaf coming in at £6,000. To drink, a £37,000 bottle of Piper Heidsieck 1907 champagne will be served in diamond-studded flutes; diners who prefer spirits can sip from a £2,000 stock of DIVA vodka, described as a “diamond-sand-filtered vodka” and served in a bottle that is filled with Swarovski crystals.’ (Daily Telegraph, 7 December) All of this excess is taking place in a society where millions are trying to eke out an existence on less than $2 a day.