The Rear View Column from the February 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
Looks like Smeagol, acts like Sauron . . .
. . . and ‘cites Hitler’s Germany as an example of effective government’ (theguardian.com, 1 January). Who can this be? None other than Turkey’s ever power-hungry president, Erdoğan. Last year a Dr. Çiftçi compared him to a character from Lord of the Rings. Legal proceedings ensued and a team of academics, psychologists and a media expert were asked to prepare a report, due this month. Socialists may find such antics amusing at a superficial level, but the election of this precious president is a reminder that our class continues to support the status quo. Hitler and the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front, just to give two other odious examples, won elections.
‘Not only does he refuse to be held to any standard of truth, he refuses to act ashamed when he gets caught in a lie, or even grant that he might have been mistaken. And his supporters go right along — if Donald says it, it’s true, and no bunch of media jerks are going to tell them otherwise’ (truthout.org, 1 January). But, of course, Trump is not alone. How do you know when politicians lie? When they open their mouths. Marx’s favourite motto was doubt everything.
They have the technology
‘Boyalife Group and its partners are building the giant plant in the northern Chinese port of Tianjin. It is due to go into production within the next seven months and aims for an output of one million cloned cows a year by 2020. But cattle are only the beginning of chief executive Xu’s ambitions. In the factory’s pipeline are also thoroughbred racehorses, pets, police dogs specialised in searching and sniffing, and even humans’ (dailymail.co.uk, 1 January). The future is bright! The future is full of cloned, iron-heeled dictators, Erdoğans, Kardashians and Trumps. Meanwhile, they can comfort themselves with a cloned version of their pet dog for a mere $100,000.
Down and out
‘There is a war on, and it concerns the homeless’ right to sleep. Across the United States, recent years have seen a spate of municipal laws that criminalise the act of sleeping in public places. These laws often target the act of sleeping in private vehicles under the guise of anti-camping legislation’ (alternet.org, 2 January). Wrong! The war in question has been correctly identified by none other than Warren Buffett: ‘there’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.’ Consider, the 400 richest Americans now have more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the population and every 38 seconds a U.S. citizen dies of poverty and poverty-related social conditions. There are over 578,000 sleeping rough in the US alongside at least 10 million unoccupied homes. Houses are built for profit not need. Thus, particularly during a slump, brick mountains, empty houses, mothballed developments, and unemployed builders exist alongside the homeless and those existing in sub-standard accommodation.
Freedom for them
‘Something important and, freedom lovers may think, rather wonderful seems to have happened at the United Nations, and it went largely unreported in mainstream media. The UN General Assembly approved a draft resolution Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources’ (dissidentvoice.org, 1 January). Campaigners for Palestinian ‘freedom’, who often argue that sanctions brought down the apartheid regime of South Africa and they are what will bring down the apartheid regime of Israel, ignore the lesson of history. The election of the ANC to power was supposed to see the grinding poverty of the townships ended, but the ANC have turned out to be powerless to run capitalism in a way that would end exploitation and poverty. Capitalism means the continuation of war and want. Workers have no country.
Capitalism is bad for you
‘An Ofcom report . . . found, on average, adults spend more time using technology than sleeping each day. Work has become more intense as new technology enables, and even forces, people to work faster, do more, and multi-task, said Kinman. Her research also finds rising presenteeism – for example people working when they are ill’ (theguardian.com, 2 January). Studies have found that health problems stemming from job stress, like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and decreased mental health, can lead to fatal conditions that wind up killing about 120,000 people each year—making work-related stressors and the maladies they cause, more deadly than diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or influenza.