Monday, February 17, 2020

Pregnant pause (1987)

From the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

To use a phrase much favoured by those of a sporting ilk—we are over the moon. What is the cause of our unrestrained joy? We are going to have a baby.

Once the pregnancy is confirmed, one of the first things to happen to would-be mother is to be "inputted" into the medical system. For healthy people, who were last in hospital on the occasion of their own birth, the experience can seem an alien one. particularly, if like the majority, you are dependent upon the NHS.

The initial contact with the ante-natal clinic teaches the expectant parents several things. Firstly, one learns that lots of other people are expecting babies too! The work load imposed upon the health service is consequently greater than it can manage. No matter how dedicated the medical staff, a shabby, run-down working environment does nothing for the morale of either hospital staff, or patients.

Be prepared for a very long wait at the clinic. The time spent waiting may be used in a variety of educational ways. It is likely that upon arrival for your first visit you will be presented with a number of booklets, for example "The Baby Book" and "New Baby". Whilst booklets of this kind contain information that is extremely useful to would-be parents, they also contain a heavy amount of advertising. The commodities advertised range from nappies to breakfast cereals. Capitalism believes in catching them young. You may also, whilst waiting, be able to watch a video dealing with child birth, breast feeding, interspersed with advertisements for prams, maternity wear. etc. etc. etc.

All parents want the best out of life for their children. Some parents are in a better position to provide the best than are others. Whether a child is born with a golden spoon in his/her mouth, or a plastic one, is an accident of birth. For the child born to parents belonging to the capitalist class it is a very fortuitous accident. The path that winds from the cradle is likely to prove much easier to travel than the path confronting her/his working class counterparts.

When the birth takes place we shall not be announcing the occasion in The Times. Neither will our offspring join the present 6.6 per cent of UK pupils who go to public school. We cannot afford the fees that public schools charge — £5000+ a year at present. Eton, by the way, only comes fourteenth in the top fees list.

We hope that our child will grow up to be a healthy, happy person. That is a prospect which will be much more likely if we no longer have a system where the best way to become rich is to be born to rich parents.
Dave Coggan

Disenfranchising the poor (1987)

From the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some phrases in the item Disenfranchising the Poor (Running Commentary, August 1987 Socialist Standard) may not have conveyed the socialist attitude on rates and taxes entirely clearly.

For example, we referred to every adult's "ability to pay" the proposed new local authority tax and stated the new tax will leave many people "substantially worse off," which may read as if socialists think the working class pay rates and taxes. That is, of course, the impression which most workers have but reality is different. Whatever effects the new tax may have on workers' incomes these will be only temporary and even at that, while some workers will "pay" more under the tax others will “pay" less.

The important point, however, is that whatever deductions or liabilities appear to be imposed on workers' incomes the wage they have available to support themselves and to reproduce their energies has to be determined by what is necessary to do that — by the value of their labour power. This fact is unaffected by what seems to be deductions for income tax or by liability to pay rates or any similar charges. The two main influences on workers' standards of living are whether capitalism is in a boom or a slump and the strength of their bargaining power to improve those standards.

The cost of the machinery of government, national and local, and till that implies, must therefore be borne by the capitalist class — paid from the surplus value extracted from working class exploitation. The capitalist class may legitimately concern themselves about the level and the administrative details of rates and taxes but these are of no concern to workers.

The introduction of the so-called poll tax may be motivated by the government hoping that it will persuade workers to vote Conservative in both national and local elections. The whole issue of rates and taxes is often used in this way because, like so many others, it is imperfectly understood by the workers. We hope the item in the August Socialist Standard in no way contributed to that confusion.