The Voice From The Back column from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard
There is a notion about that because in Britain we have a new political situation of parliamentary sharing that something has changed about the class division of society. It is just not true. “At St. James’s club in London, a new toast is overheard: ‘To the Nineteen.’ This refers, as you no doubt spotted at once, to the 19 Old Etonians who have become prime ministers. Jolly good.” (Sunday Times, 16 May) “Almost four-fifths of the new cabinet are millionaires, according to an analysis by The Sunday Times. As the government prepares to wield the axe on public spending, research reveals that 18 of the 23 full-time cabinet members have seven-figure fortunes, collectively worth about £50 million.” (Sunday Times, 23 May) So modern Britain looks a lot like old Britain. The people who produce wealth – the working class are exploited by the owning class. Wake up fellow workers we need a new society.
The Chasm Of Class
At a time in the USA when many members of the working class find themselves unemployed and their homes re-possessed it is worthwhile looking at how the American capitalist class are dealing with the economic downturn. Time-share mogul David Siegel and his former beauty queen wife Jacqueline have had to sell their Florida mansion for a mere $50 million. The 30 bedroom house and estate, named and modelled on the palace of Versailles in France, includes a boat house, a ballroom, an Olympic-size pool, a theatre and a baseball field. “The 23-bathroom house may appeal to a buyer so wealthy they do not even move in, said local estate agent Kelly Price. ‘Versailles will probably be a house that will appeal to the uber-wealthy who don’t even think about the issue of money,’ she added. ‘It might be a second or third home. For all we know, it could be a seventh or eighth home.'” (Metro,27 May) Useful productive members of the working class are homeless while the useless parasite class have multiple mansions – that is capitalism for you.
“Steve Jobs has said the Chinese iPhone factory where 10 workers have killed themselves this year is actually ‘pretty nice’. Speaking at the All Things Digital conference in California, the Apple CEO also brushed aside questions about his relationship with Google … Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn makes Dell, Nokia and Apple products at its factory in Shenzhen, China. As reported by The First Post, the latest suicide came last week, when a 23-year-old worker jumped to his death from a building roof. Jobs denied Foxconn ran a sweatshop and told the conference that Apple was working with the company to get to the bottom of why so many people were killing themselves. ‘You go in this place and it’s a factory but, my gosh, they’ve got restaurants and movie theatres and hospitals and swimming pools. For a factory, it’s pretty nice,’ said Jobs.” (First Post, 2 June) What millionaire Mr Jobs does not mention is that the workforce stand for a 12 hour work day under constant camera surveillance for the princely sum of £90 per month and live in factory-owned dormitories. The factory is considering improving conditions by introducing “soothing” music, dancing instructors and a suicide hotline! The mindless repetitious factory 12 hour slog may seem “pretty nice” to Mr Jobs as he counts the millions of dollars extracted from the exploitation of these Chinese workers, but at least one worker last week decided to end his “pretty nice” servitude.
Class Divide In China
The awful gap between the rich and the poor in modern China was illustrated by two recent news items. A series of industrial disputes leading to strikes has broken out in China. “They began at Honda’s car plant in the south near Hong Kong. Since then, disputes, demonstrations and picketing have broken out at electronic firms, vehicle parts makers and other factories as far away as Shanghai. Even the 8,000 workers who make the balls used in the Fifa world cup in South Africa are reported to have gone on strike after discovering that one football is sold for the equivalent of a fortnight’s salary.” (Sunday Times, 13 June) According to the chief executive of Rolls Royce Motor Cars “China is now our second largest market, with about 20 per cent of sales, and is doing very, very well.” …. “The Phantom model starts at £235,000 and the Ghost, the new baby Rolls launched this year, at £165,000. The Phantom is about presence, about making a statement. That is why it is so popular in China.” (Times, 7 June) This immense conspicuous consumption is only possible out of the sweated labour of the Chinese working class toiling for a fortnight for the pittance of the price of a football.