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Voice From the Back

Having a good war
Forget all that stuff you were taught at Infant School, here is the bitter reality behind the fine political rhetoric about patriotism, democracy and liberty. “A short war with Iraq would be better for the economy than no war at all, a report by UK business chiefs claims. A quickly resolved conflict would lower oil prices by $10 a barrel to $20 and boost US economic growth 2.9 percent in 2003, said the Institute of Directors. A short, successful war would remove the uncertainty dogging world markets” BBC2 Ceefax (27 January).

Dying for a job
When the present Labour government came to power they promised to bring in legislation to deal with the appalling figures for fatalities at work. “In the last 10 years, 3,000 workers and 1,000 members of the public have died in work-related incidents. Most of these deaths result from corporate activities. Yet only 11 companies have been prosecuted for manslaughter, only four of which - all very small firms – were convicted. The number of directors who have ever been jailed for such offences is just two . . . The Government has yet to bring a Bill before Parliament, although it continually professes its commitment to do so. Since Labour came to power, there have been more than 2,000 work-related deaths, as well as the Southall, Paddington and Potter Bar rail disasters” Observer (2 February). There have been lots of promises, but an awful lot more deaths.

Home of the brave
Bombastic US politicians, like all their ilk world-wide, never tire of praising capitalism's “freedoms”. The US based journalist Lawrence Donegan reveals just how this much vaunted freedom is operating in the US at the present time. “Over the last few weeks, the US government has started rounding up people, fingerprinting them and, in the case of anyone who gets stroppy, leaving them in jail without access to a lawyer or family members. Not because these people have committed any crimes or were planning to, but because they are of Arab and South Asian descent. First it was all men aged 16 and older who came to the US from Afghanistan. Then it was Yemenis, then Tunisians and Somalis. Next month Saudis and Pakistanis will have to report” Herald Magazine (8 February). Funny sort of freedom, don't you think?

Fair robbery
You can always rely on journalists to write nonsense whenever they are dealing with capitalism and socialism. Take the recent example of Will Hutton writing in the Observer (9 February). “Socialism and social democracy are secular forms of Christianity whose insistence on justice, fairness and equality have palpable Christian roots, while Christian Democracy's embrace of market capitalism is qualified by its Catholic commitment to a just wage, just price and just profits - and that work should be a source of human dignity.” It would be difficult to find a sentence with more nonsense if you spent a year searching. Socialism is a materialist view that opposes the slavish notions of christianity. The source of all profit is the surplus value that the workers produce over their wages. To speak of “just wages” is as daft as “just robbery”.

The baby killers
Sometime this month you will probably get an envelope through your letter-box from the charity Save The Children. It will be asking you to donate £15 towards fighting world poverty. It makes blood-chilling reading. “Every three seconds a child dies from causes we could prevent. From diseases like malaria and measles, because of diarrhoea, malnutrition or complications in childbirth. But how can this be happening in a world where we are making rapid medical advances and fresh discoveries year after year? There is a simple answer. these children are dying in some of the world's poorest countries - and poverty is at the root of most ill-health. Over the last ten years poverty in these countries has increased and the gap between rich and poor nations is wider than ever.” It is going to take more than your well-meant £15 to solve this problem.

The silent scream
“A trawl through the press cuttings of Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) produces a catalogue of stomach churning violence and appalling neglect. ... As AEA's chief executive, Gary FitzGerald says: “If one of these had been a child, the name would have entered the nation's consciousness. But we don't seem to value the old as individuals in the same way , we lock them away out of sight. Sometimes I feel that there is this great silent scream which, if we could hear it, we would never forget” Times (11 February). Four year's ago AEA set up a helpline and found out that a disproportionate amount of abuse was occurring in residential care. “Though only 5 percent of the population live in permanent residential care, more than 21 percent of calls come from that sector. Analysis shows that psychological abuse is the subject of about 39 percent of calls, financial and physical abuse 23 per cent each, neglect 10 percent and sexual about 2 percent.” Capitalism is a competitive heartless system, but if you have the misfortune to be old, infirm and poor it can be absolutely unbearable.