The Voice From The Back column from the May 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
Imagine no countries
‘Nigeria is an entirely artificial, colonial construct created by the British Empire (and bounded by the French Empire). Its boundaries bear no relation to internal national entities, and it is huge. The strange thing is that these totally artificial colonial constructs of states generate a genuine and fierce patriotism among their citizens…. (ICH. 14 March) Socialists can agree with former ‘British’ Ambassador Craig Murray here, adding that workers have no country. There will be none in a socialist world, nor barriers such the one described here: ‘Less than two decades after the painstaking removal of a massive border fence designed to keep people in, Bulgarian authorities are just as painstakingly building a new fence along the rugged Turkish border, this time to keep people out’ (New York Times, 5 April).
Nothing to kill or die for
‘Pope Francis has recently pushed the moral argument against nuclear weapons to a new level, not only against their use but also against their possession,’ Archbishop Bernedito Auza, the Holy See’s Ambassador to the U.N., says. ‘Today there is no more argument, not even the argument of deterrence used during the Cold War, that could ‘minimally morally justify’ the possession of nuclear weapons. The ‘peace of a sort’ that is supposed to justify nuclear deterrence is specious and illusory’ (Time, April 10). CND, better known to socialists as the Campaign for Conventional Warfare, has a new potential recruit! Peace will only have a genuine chance when the majority of us come to understand and desire socialism.
No religion too
Marx wrote ‘the tradition of all past generations weighs like an incubus upon the brain of the living’. And it is only when capitalism is cast into the dustbin of pre-history, will countless abominations, such as the one described here, come to an end: ‘Known only by the name Gulnaz, the woman was just 16 years old when she fell pregnant with the child of her depraved attacker Asadullah – who is also married to her cousin. Rejected by her family and sentenced to 12 years in a Kabul prison for ‘adultery by force’, Gulnaz’s only hope of a reduced sentence was to marry Asadullah. Now she is pregnant with his third child but told CNN she only agreed to marry her rapist so that her first daughter – named Smile could live a shame-free life in the Afghan capital’s ‘traditional’ society’ (Daily Mail, 8 April).
The Zulu monarchy is set to issue six new Mercedes Benz E-Class sedans, collectively worth nearly R5 million, to the King’s six wives, the Sunday Tribune reported. A seventh luxury German sedan has reportedly been purchased and will be kept as a ‘back-up’. King Goodwill Zwelithini’s household is supported by the provincial government, with an annual pay-in of nearly R60 million (news24, 5 April). A storm is brewing over the acquisition of new VIP jets for President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet at a cost of R2 billion, just after Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene announced revised spending plans to reduce waste (news24, 5 April). The poor continue to exchange one master for another and they both conform to the stereotypes of capitalism. We own; you do not. We control; you do not. We live in luxury; you live in poverty. Nothing changes; everything stays the same.
Some children are experiencing ‘Victorian’ levels of poverty, often turning up to school sick because their parents cannot afford to take time off to care for them, teachers have claimed. School staff are also still seeing youngsters arriving for lessons hungry, tired and wearing inappropriate clothes due to a continuing squeeze on family finances, according to the NASUWT teaching union. It warned that the lives of many children and young people are being ‘blighted and degraded by poverty and homelessness’. In some cases, teachers reported being aware of pupils living in ‘Victorian conditions’, of youngsters coming to school with no socks or coat and of more families depending on food banks. A survey commissioned by NASUWT found that almost seven in 10 of teachers said they have seen pupils coming to school hungry, while eight in 10 have witnessed youngsters turning up in clothes that are inappropriate for the weather and similar proportions reported children arriving in unwashed or damaged and frayed clothing (Daily Mirror, 5 April). ‘The promise that all children globally would have primary education by 2015 – pledged by world leaders in the millennium year – has officially not been achieved. Unesco says there are 58 million children without access to primary school and 100 million who do not complete a primary education’ (BBC, 9 April). So many lies! But that is what you have to expect when riding the reformist misery-go-round!
People are said to be turning to dentistry kits, which can be bought in pound shops, due to the cost of NHS dental treatment, where the price of a filling in England can be more than £50 (Daily Mail, 4 April).