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Voice From the Back

Picket line padres
“God's privileged position as an employer is under threat after the Amicus union struck the first agreement to represent clergy in a church diocese. ...The clergy have no employment rights as they are deemed to be employed by God, but the bishop of Southwell, the Right Rev. George Cassidy, has said that he will negotiate with Amicus over pay and conditions. The deal will also give the clergy the right to strike.” (Times, 21 October). When the railway workers, nurses or firemen threaten to strike the potential disruption of society is considerable, but reverend gentlemen on the picket line are hardly likely to strike fear into the hearts of the capitalist class.

Tough at the top
Workers are always having bad days. What one of us has not had a day when everything goes wrong? We miss the train to work, we get a heavy gas or electricity bill, a nasty letter from the credit card company comes through the letterbox or we arrive at work to find we are about to be unemployed. It isn't only the working class that have bad days though. Spare a thought for Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire, as he describes the worst day of his life in the Times (29 October). “I had a terrible day two years ago when the Duke of Marlborough's grapes beat mine at the fruit show, and I got back to my club to read in the Evening Standard that the Duke of Beaufort was now the best-dressed duke”.

Western terrorists
“Britain has been involved in secret talks with the United States over the development of so-called non-lethal weapons ... The weapons include lasers that can blind and stun an enemy and cut through metal to disable vehicles. Another weapon discussed was a system that uses microwave beams to heat the water in human skin in the same way that a microwave oven cooks a meal. The third category of weapon was the use of gases similar to those deployed to end the terrorist siege in a Moscow theatre, which killed more than 100 hostages”. (Observer, 3 November). These devices are to be developed by British and US governments, so of course can't be classified as terrorist weapons, but they sure terrify us.

The swinish rich
The annual Forbes Magazine publication “The 400 Richest People in America” is just out and it provides an insight into how some of the richest people in the world live. The adverts give a good indication of the people it is aimed at. A four page fold-out for Ralph Lauren designer clothes and two pages devoted to advertising Porsche motor cars, but perhaps the most interesting piece of trivia in this nauseating publication is a review of a book called “Caviare”. It seems that if you want the best, Petrossian's Tsar Imperial Beluga, it will set you back $98 an ounce. “Caviar started out as pig slop–at least in Western Europe, where, until the late 1880s, fishermen ripped the slimy egg sacs from sturgeon and fed them to their swine.” Not much change there, then.

The dignity of labour
“After KPMG fired all those people by email the other week, word in the market is that the job cuts at Société Générale that I wrote about last week will be carried out today by Tannoy ... from Paris. After the market closes, employees will stay at their desks and the relevant names will be read over. Nothing like the personal touch, is there?” (Times, 12 November)

Paths of glory
“Some end up addicted to alcohol, and/ or drugs, in prison, or confined to the treadmill of unskilled or short-term jobs. many become homeless. Up to a quarter–some say more–of the homeless in London are ex-military, and most of them are ex-Army according to Shelter, the homeless charity ... The South Atlantic Medal Association points out that each year an average ten Falklands veterans commit suicide; this means that more have killed themselves than the fewer than 200 who died during the conflict.” (Times, 12 November)

Stilled strings
The news, that a Stradivarius violin had been sold for a staggering £608,750 at Christie's saleroom to an anonymous private bidder, made most of the broadsheets but the most staggering thing to a socialist is not the price but that the instrument hadn't been played for 200 years. Between 1692 and 1737 Antonio Stradivari produced violins and cellos, and he naively imagined that having produced these beautifully crafted instruments they would give pleasure to future generations in the hands of talented musicians. Modern capitalism doesn't work that way though. Beauty and Art come badly down the field when Money is concerned. According to the Guardian (14 November) “The instrument sold yesterday had remained mostly untouched and unplayed since 1800–until Tuesday, when the soloist Priya Mitchell gave a recital at Christie's”.