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Voice From the Back

Pawn move
We are constantly being told what a wonderful society modern capitalism is and how it has solved the problems of poverty that used to occur in the “bad old days”. So what have me to make of the following information in the Business Section of the Times (18 February)? “With many banks suffering from rising bad debts and margin pressures, pawnbrokers have emerged as one of the few sectors of the finance industry expected to see strong growth in 2003. Experts yesterday predicted that Britain's pawnbroking industry would expand as much as 15 per cent this year to achieve record turnover of more than £85 million, almost triple the amount seen five years ago . . .The business is not helped, it says, by its perception as a “Dickensian institution” and the existence of annual interest rates of more than 100 percent.” Despite two Labour governments it seems that some of us have still got to go down to the pawn. We know how you feel. Sometimes we get skint.

Crawling to work
When Chelsea Clinton, daughter of the ex-president, was offered a job at McKinsey management consultants, starting at £40,000 a year, The Guardian ran a feature on this long established firm. It revealed some of the slavish attitudes that capitalism engenders. “Among things that McKinsey stands for is consistency of presentation. Until the early 1960s, that meant all McKinsey men were expected to wear hats because their chief executive clients did so. When one executive realised that fashion had changed and turned up for work bare-headed one day, colleagues reacted warily. “Should we all give up our hats?” asked one. “I'd wait six weeks,” a partner replied. “It may be a trap.” The Guardian (21 February) It is easy to sneer our critics may say. We reply how many arses would you lick for 40 grand a year?

There be dragons
“A panel of Church of Scotland ministers and psychiatrists has been formed to revisit the controversial area of exorcism for the first time in 15 years. It follows concerns the Church is not doing enough for people some believe have been possessed by devils.” The Herald (4 March) In their leaflet “Dealing With Darkness” the church claims that signs of this demonic possession can be “revulsion from Christian ideas”. It seems more likely to us that this revulsion could spring from christianity's awful record of torture, sexual suppression, misery and mumbo-jumbo like exorcism.

Another Great Man speaks
As if to prove that the US President isn't the only one of the US capitalist's representatives to speak in a less than lucid fashion. Donald Rumsfield, the US Secretary of Defence has come up with a couple of gems to rival his boss. When asked why such heavy bombs were being used in Afghanistan he uttered this profundity. “They are being used on frontline al-Qaeda and Taleban troops to try and kill them.” And when asked about Bin Laden, “We do know of a certain knowledge that Bin Laden is in Afghanistan. Or in another country. Or dead.” The Times (13 March) Bombs being used to kill people? Bin Laden is either alive or dead? Its good to know that such sages are in charge, isn't it?

T-shirts of mass destruction
That war hysteria breeds irrational behaviour is surely proven by the case of Stephen Downs, who was arrested and charged with trespassing at a New York mall. His crime? He was wearing a T-shirt that said Peace on Earth and Give Peace a Chance. “I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall”, said Stephen Downs. Newsweek (17 March) What such guardians of New York malls will make of our comrades in Canada who have been distributing for some years T-shirts proclaiming “Abolish the wages system” is left to your imagination.

A fishy tale
Members of the world socialist movement base their ideas on science. So of course we were extremely interested in the way-out happenings that recently occurred in New York .”According to two fish-cutters at the New Square Fish Market, the carp was about to be slaughtered and made into gefilte for Sabbath dinner when it suddenly began shouting apocalyptic warnings in Hebrew.” The Observer (16 March) “Many of the 7,000 Skver sect of hasidim in New Square, 30 miles north of Manhattan, believe God has revealed himself in fish form.” Next time you buy fish and chips listen to the God instead of eating the cod. What a load of nonsense. All religious ideas are.