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Voice From the Back

Salt In The Wound

The capitalist class hold the working class in contempt, but they seldom display it in such an arrogant fashion. “Workers at a doomed crisp factory yesterday slammed bosses’ parting gift - a free 36p bag of low salt and fat variety. Many of the 250 staff, who will lose their jobs when the Walkers’ plant in Swansea shuts next month, blamed them” (Daily Mirror, 9 February). When executives lose their jobs they sometimes get a “golden handshake”, but this is the first time we have heard of what amounts to a “Golden Wonder” handshake.

Double Standards

In the USA at present, especially in border states, there is a great anti-immigration movement. Thus, with an election pending in Texas $30 million is being allocated to building three fences between the USA and Mexico. The trouble is, though, US capitalism needs cheap Mexican labour despite their political posturing. “Golden State Company which calls itself ‘the top fence contractor in California’ was recently caught for the second time in as many years employing illegal immigrants” (Times, 27 February).  When the fences don’t work, for workers are good at dodging, the local authorities have got to get someone to evict Mexicans from the Land of the Free, so who do they get? Mexican immigrants — they’re cheaper. “The city employs them to do it. They are paid to throw themselves off the land.” Is capitalism a crazy society, or is it just us that think so?

The Rewards Of Age

After a lifetime of toil many workers look forward to the comfort and leisure of old age. Alas, for many it is just another of capitalism’s illusions. “A third of pensioners are so poor that they cannot afford a day out or treat themselves to a meal in a pub, according to a report that paints a stark picture of retirement on a low income” (Times, 3 March). The report, published by the charity Age Concern, is entitled Just Above The Breadline and reports that many old workers are resorting to heating just one room, buying food on its sell-by-date and searching out second-hand clothes. As the Good Book says “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  But then you don’t have to worry about that, do you? Because you will never grow old. Will you?

Underhanded Censorship

The BBC often report on the government censorship that applies in the media. Only in foreign countries of course. Surely no one could imagine the BBC to be subject to government censorship. Think again. “The BBC launched a wartime purge on communists including Ewan MacColl, the folk singer and his wife Joan Littlewood, the theatre producer, documents declassified by MI5 reveal today.... From the late Thirties until the end of the Cold War, MI5 had an officer at the BBC to vet all editorial applicants, stamping the personnel records of anyone suspicious  with a distinctively shaped green tag, or ‘Christmas tree’” (Observer, 5 March).

Promises, Promises, Promises

The job of politicians is to promise things at election times and then explain later what stopped the promise from being kept, but promise things will be different next time. Here is a recent example. “Tony Blair pledged to cut the number of children living in poverty by a quarter, from 4.1 million in 1999 to 3.1 million by April 2006, as part of an ambitious three-stage drive to halve it by 2010 and eliminate the problem altogether by 2020.... new figures from the Department for Work and Pensions revealed it has fallen short by 300,000” (Guardian, 9 March). A red face for the Labour Party? Hardly. After all the 1945 Labour government promised to abolish poverty completely in its first term of office!

Ain't What It Used To Be

“A billion just isn’t what it used to be, said Luisa Kroll, Forbes magazine’s associate editor, revealing the 20th rich list in New York” (BBC News, 10 March). It is true there are a couple of songs that claim “Fings Ain’t What They Used To Be” and “The Old Grey Mare Ain’t What She Used To Be”, but we imagine the billionaires on the latest role call won’t be grieving too much. Bill Gates ($50 billion), Warren Buffett ($42 billion) and Carlos Slim ($30 billion) can hardly be feeling nostalgic about the past.

War Is Hell — For Some

The conflict in Iraq has killed and maimed thousands, destroyed housing and made life unbearable for millions, but it is not all bad news. “British businesses have profited by at least £1.1 billion since coalition forces toppled Saddam Hussein three years ago, the first comprehensive investigation into UK corporate investment in Iraq has found” (Independent, 13 March).