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Voice From the Back

Prisoners of want
“One hundred thousand pensioners in old people's homes are living on allowances of as little as £10 a week. Most are not even receiving the £16 weekly payment to which they are entitled, according to new research. The revelation that legions of old people live on less than many prison inmates will greatly embarrass Ministers, who have boasted of tackling pensioners' poverty. “We were shocked when we discovered this,” said Lorna Easterbrook, who carried out the study for Help The Aged. “There's a huge sense of humiliation among these old people. Some are getting £10 of their due allowances, but others are getting just £3 or £4 a week after relatives or homes make deductions.” Observer, 20 January.

The Observer journalist's view that the Labour government ministers will be “greatly embarrassed” is probably wide of the mark. Nothing could embarrass these vile supporters of capitalism. Fellow workers, this could be your future inside capitalism. If you live beyond your ability to produce surplus value for the blood-sucking capitalist class. A bed pan and a tenner a week.

No cause for celebration
Twenty years ago a British Prime Minister told the Sun, and other slimy tabloid newspapers to “Rejoice” at the victory of the British capitalist class against the Argentine capitalist class. No mention was made at that time about the loss of working class life. We have no figures about the deaths of Argentine workers, but twenty years on, we have some about British workers. 255 British servicemen were killed, but even more awful since that madness, 264 British sevicemen, who were involved have committed suicide. (Figures from the Guardian, 19 January.) Excuse us if we don't rejoice, Thatcher, at the deaths of members of our class in the defence of your system. There are many orphans and widows of the working class today in both Argentine and Britain whose tears make joy impossible.

They like it, My Lord
“A Trade Union Congress report out today estimates that four million people, 16 percent of the workforce, work more than 48 hours a week, the limit set by the 1998 (European Union) directive. Men work the longest weeks with one in four clocking up more than 48 hours; one in ten working 55 hours; and one in 25 working more than 60 hours . . . John Monks, the TUC General Secretary, said: “Britain's long-hour culture is a national disgrace. It leads to stress, ill-health and family strains.” Times, 4 February. Not everybody would agree with the TUC, though. John Crickland, Deputy Director-General of the CBI offers a defence of the long hours. “Workers want the right to make their own decisions about extra working hours. Managerial workers often work longer hours because they want to.” This defence is rather similar to the Fox Hunting Lobby's - “The fox enjoys the hunt.”

Science and the profit motive
Inside socialist society the pursuit of knowledge will be free to all. There will be no restrictions on scientific investigation. This is impossible inside capitalism, with its copyright laws and its profit motive. Sir John Sulston, one of the leading researchers in the Human Genome Project has shown how powerful the profit motive is in science-based commerce. “We can't possibly prohibit discovery. But on the other hand to imagine that we should always exploit, especially if it makes extra money, is insane. I think most reasonable people, including those who run companies, would agree. The trouble is, once people get into a company boardroom, they have no other choice. They have shareholders. I am afraid you have to leave your principles at the door of the boardroom”, he says.” Guardian, 2 February.

Blair, bombast and bombs
At the Labour Party conference last year Tony Blair said: “The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world”. Poverty, corruption, famine and war, he thundered like an Old Testament prophet, must be tackled. It went down big with the delegates. It is the sort of thing the Labour Party adore – talking about social problems in sanctimonious moral tones, and then doing nothing about it. But this time they were doing something about it – they were making it worse! “The government was facing condemnation from protesters against the arms trade last night after new figures revealed that the value of arms sales to Africa will more than quadruple by next year . . . High levels of spending on arms are seen as one of the main causes of poverty in Africa. A report by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) reveals that in 1999 African nations received £52 million worth of arms in deals with British firms. That figure rose to £125.5m in 2000 and is set to top £200m next year.” Observer, 3 February.

Post-combat syndrome
A report in the British Medical Journal claimed that post-conflict symptoms had been suffered long before the Gulf War and stretched back as far as the 1889 Boer War. “They concluded: “Post-combat syndromes have arisen in all major wars over the past century, and we can predict that will continue to appear after future conflicts” . . . The researchers said the best way to tackle the illnesses, which have cost subsequent governments considerable sums in financial assistance, was to better understand their characteristics.” Herald, 8 February. Surely, a much better way to deal with the problem is to abolish capitalism, the cause of modern warfare. No conflict = no post-conflict syndrome. You don't need to be a trained medical researcher to work that one out.