The Voice From The Back Column from the February 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
Merciless global capital
All over the world capitalists try to reduce workers’ wages as the most direct way of increasing their profits. International competition and the mobility of capital have made this “cost-cutting” more ferocious. In India last year the already low wages and poor working conditions were made worse by the government’s decision to scrap the laws which defended workers’ living standards: “NEW DELHI, Oct 21.—The government has admitted it is considering proposals for amending the country’s labour laws. An official release issued today announced that changes to the Trade Union Act, 1926, Industrial Disputes Act 1947, Payment of Wages Act, 1938 and Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970, ‘are under consideration’. The statement accepted that the national information and technology taskforce had recommended extending working hours from eight to 12. It denied, however, that the proposal was being considered by the labour ministry. The report on the proposed changes in labour laws has meanwhile drawn strong reactions from the Left and trade union organisations. The move clearly indicated ‘the anti-labour policy of the government,’ said Mr Harkioshan Singh Surjeet, CPI-M general secretary. It was now obvious that the government was being dictated by big business houses,’ he declared.” The Statesmen, Calcutta, 22 October 1998.
No panic but . . .
An unprecedented meeting of world financial leaders is to be convened in Washington next month [January 1999] to implement emergency reforms of the International Monetary Fund and help head off a second bout of global economic turbulence. The move to hold a special session of the IMF’s policy-making interim Committee—the first since it was set up at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944—comes amid signs that the recent recovery in world markets is stalling, with fresh falls on world stock markets, profits warnings and job losses from multi-national companies, as well as fading hopes of restoring order to the Russian economy. The meeting will break the normal pattern of a twice-yearly IMF gathering and emphasises the concern at the fragility of the global economy in both the western countries and the developing world. Guardian, December 1998.
Death is good for business
Reaching a total of 46 billion dollars (270 billion francs), the world arms trade upped 12 percent in 1997 for the third consecutive year, according to the London Institute of International Strategic Studies. The Near and Middle East remain the topmost regional market, with the Far East as runner-up. In possession of 49 percent of these markets, the USA is the biggest supplier, followed by the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Israel. These figures could show a decline in 1998, due to the economic crisis compelling some states to revise their defence budgets. Le Monde, 24 October 1998.
“On another note people were still throwing things at the cops from too far back and hitting demonstrators. People doing this have to be stopped as serious injuries happen”—from a report of a demonstration in the summer 1998 issue of an anarchist journal called Organise.
Can’t feed—won’t feed
For several decades the world’s capacity to produce food, for instance, has far exceeded the entire human population’s need for nourishment. Yet the stockpiles of unused foodstuffs pile up unsold each year in producing nations while somewhere else in the world hundreds of millions of others are malnourished, if not actually starving to death. The paradox is explained away easily enough in market terms. Indeed, the market insists that feeding impoverished people would be harmful to them, indulging their backwardness and postponing their eventual self-sufficiency. That answer may satisfy the marketplace, but for humanity it constitutes another great, unanswered social question. Capitalism, for all its wondrous creativity and wealth, has not yet found a way to clothe the poor and feed the hungry unless they can pay for it. One World, Ready Or Not. The Manic Logic of Capitalism, by William Greider.