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Paul Bennett

Unsafe at Any Price

 In August many Americans went to some lengths to view the solar eclipse that was visible, as either a total or partial eclipse, across many parts of the United States. Since looking directly at the sun can be dangerous, it was recommended that people viewed the eclipse through special spectacles that blocked out far more light than ordinary sunglasses. However, one couple sued Amazon on the grounds that the glasses they had bought were defective and had resulted in blurred vision and a blindspot. The glasses in question had in fact previously been recalled by Amazon, but probably not all users would have seen the recall notice, and it does raise the question of how it came about that such a recall was needed. The answer, of course, is the profit motive. Glasses intended for eclipse viewing were sold for as little as $15, but there were still big profits to be made, by manufacturers, suppliers and retailers.

Book review: Utopia Now


I Was Robot (Utopia Now Possible). By Ernest Mann. (Little Free Press, Rt 1. Box 102 Cushing, MN 56443, USA. $7.95.)

 We have always argued that many workers would arrive at conclusions similar to those of Socialists on their own, without encountering Socialist speakers or publications. This is just what happened to Ernest Mann: twenty years ago, at the age of 42, he decided that he had had enough of wage slavery and "dropped out”. Since then, he has been propagating his ideas in his own newsletter, issued from Minnesota. Many of these newsletters are now collected together in this volume. Unfortunately, this format means the book is very repetitive, and there is little sense of an argument being developed. Nevertheless, the result is lively and well worth reading.

The Real Project Fear

Supporters of Brexit use the expression ‘Project Fear’ to describe the views of those who wanted, and perhaps still want, Britain to remain in the European Union. The Remainers, it is suggested, used scaremongering to claim that leaving the EU would be a step into the unknown, where nobody knew what awaited. Putting fear into people’s minds was supposedly not a valid political or economic argument.

But in fact a much wider situation involving fear can be identified. For capitalism makes great use of fear among the vast majority of people: fear of unemployment, losing one’s home, insecurity, and so on. In some cases the word ‘fear’ may be an overstatement, so in what follows we will mostly speak of worry or anxiety, but all too often there truly will be fear in workers’ minds.

Ups and Downs in China

We look at the rise of China as an economic and political power

In April the first rail freight service from Britain to China left a terminal in Essex for a 7,500-mile journey to eastern China. Thirty containers with goods such as whisky, soft drinks and pharmaceuticals travelled via the Channel Tunnel and seven countries (including Russia and Kazakhstan). The train took over two weeks to reach its destination, but this route is cheaper than air transport and faster than sea. Three months before, the first freight train had travelled from China to the UK. This illustrates the fact that China is now a central part of the global trade system, as both importer and exporter.

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