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Voice from the Back

HOW THE OTHER TENTH LIVE

The trial for fraud and tax avoidance of Lord Black threw up this insight into the parasitical nature of the owning class. "If only his wife hadn't boasted about her extravagant lifestyle in an interview, Lord Black's empire might still span three continents. It was to readers of Vogue in 2002 that Barbara Ameil showed off the size of her wardrobe, the racks of designer clothes inside, and talked of how ‘her extravagance knows no bounds’. She confided: ‘It is always best to have two planes, because however well one plans ahead, one always finds one in the wrong continent’” (Times,10 March

PRIMITIVE ACCUMULATION OF CAPITAL

"At least 11 people were killed and 39 injured yesterday when farmers in eastern India, angered over government plans to build an industrial park on their land, fought police with rocks, machetes and pickaxes. The clashes broke out when police tried to enter villages in Nandigram, West Bengal, where the government wants to build a petrochemical plant and a shipyard. All those killed in the clashes were farmers." (Times, 15 March) Away back in 1867 Karl Marx was describing in Capital this capitalist process that he called "the so-called primitive accumulation" in Europe from the 16th century onwards. "The expropriation of the agricultural producer, of the peasant, from the soil, is the basis of the whole process."

MIND THE GAP

The gulf between rich and poor under this Labour government has become so great that even the capitalist class are warning the government about it. "Gordon Brown's closest ally in the City has warned that the gap between rich and poor in Britain is now so deep that it threatens to provoke 'violent reactions' in society. Sir Ronald Cohen, a venture capitalist, also warned on the eve of Brown's last Budget that the boom in the City was in danger of grinding to a halt. Asked whether the huge wealth flooding to an elite group of City professionals was disfiguring society, he agreed, adding: ‘I think we're at the top of the cycle. I think the pendulum has swung too far’”
(Observer, 18 March)

ESCAPE(1)

The Observer has a supplement each week called "Escape", containing articles about various holiday destinations, and, of course, many advertisements for holidays. Why do they call it "Escape"? It is targeted at all the people whose jobs are so boring or so stressful that they feel they can stand it only if they can get away for a short break in the summer. And the enormous size of the holiday industry shows that there are very many such people. But how can such a holiday be called an "escape" when it is of strictly limited duration, and all the holidaymakers know they will have to go back afterwards to the very same conditions which made them long to "escape" in the first place? "Escape" is clearly the wrong word. Whoever heard of a daring escape from prison or a prisoner-of-war camp, when the successful escapee celebrated his release by going back in two weeks' time to the main gate and asking to be re-admitted?

ESCAPE(2)

The previous item brings to mind the story that an old Glasgow speaker was fond of telling from the outdoor platform. An Eastern potentate was visiting a Glasgow factory when the lunch-time hooter sounded and all the workers made a bee-line for the canteen. "Look out, sir. Your slaves are escaping." "Don't worry, Omar. Wait 40 minutes." Sure enough 40 minutes later the hooter sounded and the wage slaves streamed back into the factory. "Amazing", cried the eastern visitor. "I must buy some of these magic hooters."

GETTING THINGS DONE

Supporters of the Labour Party are always telling socialists that while Labour may not be socialists "at least they get things done". Here is a recent example. "The number of children living in poverty jumped by 100,000 last year, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said, showing that the government is not on course to meet its target of halving child poverty by 2010-11. In 2005-06, 2.8 million children lived in poverty." (Times, 3 April) It would seem that what is "getting done" is the working class in Britain.