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Voice From the Back

The wasteful society
Socialists are always pointing out what a wasteful society capitalism is. Inside a socialist society there would be no need for bankers, stockbrokers, admen, conmen or jailers. A couple of recent items in the media illustrate just what a waste of human energy capitalism engenders. “The value of commercial fraud has doubled from £82.2m in 2000 to £162.2m in 2001 with management twice as likely to commit fraud as employees.” Accountancy Age, 14 February.
“The prison population world-wide is 8.7 million, according to figures compiled by World Prison Brief Online. About half are in the US (1.93m), China (1.43m) and Russia (0.9m).” Guardian, 16 February.

New deal, no big deal
Governments always claim the credit if unemployment figures fall, but blame outside agencies if the figures rise. In 1997 the Labour government introduced its “New Deal” policy on unemployment. The first analysis of the scheme by the government's own National Audit Office shows that, like most of these reformist schemes, it was all just empty rhetoric. “Gordon Brown's New Deal programme which promised work for 250,000 unemployed young people has resulted in only 20,000 jobs at most in its first two years . . . The report, published today, suggests that most of the young people would have found jobs anyway due to the strong economy and natural turnover.” Times, 28 February.

A hopeful sign
One of the essential factors in the working class throwing off the fetters of capitalism and establishing socialism is a recognition that reformist political parties cannot change society in the interests of the majority. The dropping of live TV coverage of party conferences by the BBC is an indication that some workers are beginning to see through the charade of reformism. “One senior BBC executive said: 'The conferences are now stage-managed by the spin-doctors. There is no real debate, or real dissent, and all controversy is confined to the conference fringe long after the live coverage ends. Even the MPs avoid conferences if they can.' . . . In the BBC research, almost 40 percent of respondents replied with negative associations of politicians, calling them crooks or liars who didn't care about ordinary people.” Times, 28 February.

The bulldog breed
Every year the Forbes Global magazine lists the world's richest billionaires. This year Bill Gates tops the list with £37.4 billion. Britain's richest the Duke of Westminster with £4.75 billion is way down the list at 38th. But don't get downhearted you British patriotic workers, you will be delighted to know that David Sainsbury copped £3 billion, Bernie Eccleston £2.1 billion and Sir Richard Branson £1 billion. (Figures from the Herald, 1 March) Makes you kind of proud to be British when you are waiting in the Post Office queue to cash your Giro or Pension; doesn't it?

Nice for some
There is a government body called The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) set up to decide what drugs the NHS should prescribe. It has recently severely restricted the use of Irinotecan, a drug for the treatment of bowel cancer, a disease which kills 16,000 people a year. “Professor Jim Cassidy of the Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow said: “The decision by Nice to effectively deny patients the best treatments for advanced colorectal cancer is intensely frustrating. The only explanation is that it was primarily an economic decision.” Observer, 10 March. The newspaper goes on to report the case of a woman who was refused the treatment of Taxotere for breast cancer by her NHS doctor, who agreed she should have it to survive. As her son said, “The NHS was going to let my mother die by making her wait three months and giving her 20 year old drugs. But we spent £60,000 in France, and that cured it.” A happy ending, but what about those of us who haven't the sixty thou?

A mad, mad world
Capitalism is a crazy society that is full of contradictions. People starve to death while farmers are paid not to produce food, it can land men on the moon but can't solve a problem like war. The list of contradictions is endless but this item from the journalist Chris Ayres writing in the Business section of the Times (14 March) takes a bit of beating. “So the Dow Jones is finally rallying after more than two years of misery. Unfortunately, it reminds me of the discussion between Tom Clarke, chief executive of TheStreet.com, and James Cramer, the Wall Street columnist, on 10 September. 'Jim, this is the worst market I have ever seen,' said Clarke. 'What can turn it around?' Cramer looked him in the eye, and gave a one word reply. War.'”