The Voice From the Back Column from the December 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard
Another Business Opportunity
A new invasion force is already plotting its own landing on the shores of Tripoli. “Western security, construction and infrastructure companies that see profit-making opportunities receding in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned their sights on Libya …. Entrepreneurs are abuzz about the business potential of a country with huge needs and the oil to pay for them… A week before Colonel Qaddafi’s death on October 20, a delegation from 80 French companies arrived in Tripoli to meet officials of the Transitional National Council, the interim government. Last week, the new British defence minister, Philip Hammond, urged British companies to ‘pack their suitcases’ and head to Tripoli” (New York Times, 28 October). It is always good to see the fall of a dictator, but obviously the capitalist class are more interested in profit than democracy.
A Tale Of Two Cities
The economic downturn has not affected everyone quite as harshly. “An Egyptian billionaire has splashed out £37 million on a London flat as the overseas goldrush for metropolitan property continues. … Many foreign buyers have focused on flats at One Hyde Park, where prices of more than £7,500 per sq ft have been reached. More than £1.4 billion of flats have been sold at the estate since it opened last year” (Times, 29 October). So while you can be stopped in the streets of London by some poor desperate, homeless person asking “any change?” somewhere not far away some billionaire is luxuriating in a splendid flat. Londoners live in two cities.
A Tale Of Two Nations
The USA is the most developed capitalist nation in the world and it has some of the richest people in the world. It also has some people desperately poor. “Nearly 15% of the US population relied on food stamps in August, as the number of recipients hit 45.8 million. Food stamp rolls have risen 8.1% in the past year, the Department of Agriculture reported, though the pace of growth has slowed from the depths of the recession. … Mississippi reported the largest share of its population relying on food stamps, more than 21%. One in five residents in New Mexico, Tennessee, Oregon and Louisiana also were food stamp recipients (Wall Street Journal, 1 November). This gap between rich and poor is not unique to the USA. It is a worldwide feature of capitalism.
On 11th November every year all over Britain they commemorate the millions killed in war. Veterans parade in city squares, military bands play rousing music, reverend gentlemen mouth platitudes, and of course politicians make promises. “David Cameron said ministers would “strain every sinew” to do more for service personnel and their families. The Remembrance weekend initiative aims to end the scandal of veterans being left too poor to buy a home and unable to get on a social housing list” (Daily Mail, 12 November). In 1918 politicians told us it was a war to end all wars. It turned out to be an empty piece of rhetoric – just like Cameron’s latest piece of political bombast.
The Hollywood stereotype of war veterans returning to a hero’s welcome from their home town population amidst cheering crowds and flag-waving adulation is just that – a Hollywood invention. “One US veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan attempts suicide every 80 minutes, according to new study. In a staggering indictment on the lack of mental health programmes in the U.S. military, the report reveals 1,868 veterans made suicide attempts in 2009 alone. Many veterans face dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, high unemployment and a loss of military camaraderie after returning from tours” (Daily Mail, 3 November). We can’t expect Hollywood to reflect this grim reality – it’s not good box office material.
The Socialist Party has always maintained that the Labour Party’s support for capitalism gave the lie to their claim that they were a party of the working class. Labour supporters have always denied this but now one of their numbers has shown who they really support. “Ken MacIntosh, the MSP for Eastwood, who yesterday launched his campaign for the leadership, said that he wanted to be the ‘business candidate’, appealing to corporate Scotland for support” (Times, 29 October).