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Voice From the Back

Lies, Damned Lies And Diplomacy

The misuse of language is an essential part of capitalist politics. Every country in the world has a Ministry of Defence, none has a Ministry of Offence. Lies are described as being “economical with the truth”. The bombing of civilians is known as “collateral damage”. The US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has recently come up with a new one, “extraordinary rendition”. According to the Times (4 December) “..it will anger many in Europe.” “Extraordinary rendition” means transfer for torture and “enhanced interrogation techniques” means stripped, chained and made to stand up for 40 hours in a dark, cold cell. It is enough to make socialists “involuntarily eject the contents of their stomachs”. If you can accept another euphemism.

So Much For Human Nature

The journalist and author Francis Wheen in his best selling How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World came up with a great quote from George Orwell: “We are selfish in economic matters because we all live in terror of poverty. But when a commodity is not scarce, no one tries to grab more than his fair share of it. No one tries to make a corner in air, for instance. The millionaire as well as the beggar is content with just so much air as he can breathe. .. So also for other goods. If they were made plentiful, as they might easily be, there is no reason to think that the supposed acquisitive instincts of the human being could not be bred out in a couple of generations.” Nice one,George - but of course we want socialism now! To hell with the notion of generations to change.

The Primitive Accumulation Of Capital

In Capital Karl Marx has a very revealing section devoted to the primitive accumulation of capital. He deals with the expropriation of the agricultural population in England and the Highland clearances in Scotland. A recent news item in the Times (3 January) shows that this process is still going on in India. “Indian police shot and killed nine tribesmen yesterday in the eastern state of Orissa after they were attacked with arrows and stones, killing a constable, an official said. About a thousand tribespeople, some armed with bows and arrows, who oppose a move by the government to acquire land to set up a steel plant in Jaipur, turned on the police assigned to protect officials demarcating the land for Tata Steel Ltd, India’s largest private steel producer.” As Honore de Balzac, the French novelist wrote way back in the 19th century, “Behind every great fortune lies a great theft.”

For Those Who Have Accumulated

A new magazine has been launched entitled Spear’s Wealth Management Survey. It deals with how to buy your own private jet or acquire a vineyard. You are unlikely to have run across a copy though. “Spear Media, publisher of SWMS, hopes to attract a circulation of 25,000 in the UK, with a further 5,000 going to the wealthiest individuals or families across Europe.” ....According to the publisher, “Although we are targeting people who have assets of £5m, the majority will have £10m-plus.” (Observer 8 January) Like we said, you are unlikely to come across a copy.

God’s Will

“At least 345 pilgrims were killed yesterday when one of the holiest rituals of haj in Saudi Arabia turned to tragedy. White-robed believers rushing to stone the devil in a symbolic ceremony were caught up in a stampede and crushed. Many who escaped were seriously hurt, with 289 people reported injured.” (Times, 13 January) God, Allah, Jehovah or whatever he’s called is supposed to be all powerful so we suppose it is all part of the divine plan. In recent years God seems to have been particularly deadly during haj. In 2004 244 killed, 2001 36 killed and in 1998 180 trampled to death. Truly the ways of God are mysterious but that is small consolation to the victims or their families.

A Changing World?

Away back on the seventh of April 1775 an old conservative gentleman, disgusted by the job-seeking antics of politicians  recorded a worthwhile notion. “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” said Dr. Johnson. Now in your newspapers you can read “Gordon Brown is today calling for a ‘British Day’ on which the country can unite and celebrate its values, setting out the fullest version of his agenda for government.” (Times, 14 January) Dr Johnson was an old tory lick-spittle but today he looks distinctly principled.