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Voice From the Back

Outdated Marxism?
A gap of over a 150 years separates the following two quotations, but they surely give the lie to the notion that Marxism is now outdated. "Paris: Junior doctors in France went on an indefinite partial strike in protest at their long working hours. Members of the ISNTH union, which represents 8,000 junior doctors, said they will refuse night shifts or be on call at home until demands are met." The Times ( 20 November, 2001) "The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourers." Communist Manifesto 1848

The wasteful society
Socialists are always arguing against supporters of capitalism that it is a wasteful and destructive society. A recent item from the Herald (26 November) illustrates our point very well. "Every time a single B2 Spirit stealth bomber makes the gruelling 34 hour round trip from its base in rural Missouri to unload its precision-guided payload over rural Afghanistan half a world away, it costs the American taxpayer more than £2.5m in fuel for the mission. Each laser-guided bomb dropped adds another £50,000 to the bill."

The fearful society
It is often said by sociologists that social trends that first surface in the USA eventually appear in the UK. If such were to prove true about crime and punishment then the future is very gloomy indeed. According to the journalist Simon Jenkins writing in the Times (28 November) the US have a real problem. "What is known is that America now imprisons a staggering 700 people per 100,000, against 124 in Britain and 89 in France. One in three young black males in American inner cities is in prison or on parole . . . Meanwhile, half a million Californians feel they must live in armed and gated estates."

Progressing backwards
Amidst the phoney euphoria of the Labour Party's electoral victory of 1997 the British working class were promised an end to poverty or "social exclusion" as Labour prefer to call it. But what is the reality today? David Plachaud of the London School of Economics in the current issue of the Political Review is quoted in the Guardian (26 November) as remarking: "Child poverty remains higher than it was in 1979." and "Britain still has the highest child poverty rate of any major industrialised country apart from the United States."

The unhealthy society
In a revealing article in the Observer (2 December) it was shown that so pathetic is Labour's running of the NHS that one in eight of the population now have private medical insurance, and that even those without private insurance won't use the NHS. "Even those without medical insurance boycott the NHS in record numbers. Last year, more than 200,000 people jumped NHS waiting lists by paying for private operations – double when Labour came to power." The most revealing aspect was the reason put forward for many employers providing health cover. Surprise, suprise it wasn't the bosses concern for the workers they exploit; it was a commercial one. "Fergus Kee, managing director of BUPA's UK insurance business, said: "Companies are increasingly recognising the value of medical insurance to get sick employees back to work faster."

For my next trick
The Rev. Andrew Thompson is concerned about falling Church of England attendances, so he has come up with a super wheeze. He has written a booklet "Gospel Magic" that advocates flaming torches, trick guillotines and disappearing handkerchiefs to get the punters back to church. This has aroused a lot of opposition from more conservative elements in the church but it is difficult to sympathise with them. After all, their main man the Cunning Carpenter was reputed to have been a dab hand at conjuring tricks like water into wine and fish teas for the five thousand.

Bought it fair and square
In last month's issue we reported that Michael Bloomberg had bought the office of Mayor of New York for $60 million; we were wrong. The official figures are now out and reported in the Times (5 December) – he spent $68,968,185! Even by American standards this is a phenomenal election expenditure for such an office. President Bush spent $193 million on his presidential campaign against Al Gore's $133 million and Hillary Clinton spent $29.9 million, a record in New York, to become a Senator. Bloomberg spent more than five times his Democratic Party opponent Mark Green, in fact it is reckoned that he spent $92.60 for each of his 744,757 votes. The really staggering aspect of this corruption of democracy is that the Times can report it boldly, under the headline" $69m buys election as Mayor of New York" and that Mr Green's campaign manager Richard Schrader could say: "He bought it fair and square. By spending a historic amount on television ads, he controlled the airwaves and altered people's perception of reality." Capitalism has reduced everything to the cash nexus. Why don't they just dispense with voting altogether and have an auction for all the offices of power between the capitalists and their puppets? The whole thing has become a farce and has no claim to the term "democracy".

Capitalism's facelift?
"All companies must strive to give capitalism a name that doesn't result in riots. Capitalism is good. But benevolent capitalism is better!" Sir Richard Branson. Yorkshire Post (1 December).