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Voice from the Back

Outdated Marxism?

One of the oppositions to Marxism is that it is so out-dated, it is so 19th century. So let us get up-to-date. "The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is to ballot its members on industrial action over pay, the first time in its 125-year history that such a move has been made. ..The decision to ballot 23,000 midwives, taken at an RCM council meeting last night, follows the government's announcement that midwives and nurses would get a 2.5% pay rise in two stages, amounting to 1.9% across the year." (Guardian, 20 July) It just shows you how outdated Marxism is, after all in 1848 in the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels wrote, "The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverend awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourer." How outdated, they never even mentioned midwives did they?

Loads Of Money

The Wall Street Journal employ Robert Frank to record the comings and goings of the super-rich, so he has decided to publish his findings in his book Richistan; A Journey through the 21st Century Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich. This was reviewed by Tim Adams who came up with a couple of statistics that should interest all workers. "There are many statistics that attach themselves to Richistan. These are two telling ones; Wall Street's five biggest firms paid out $36 billion in bonuses in 2006; and while in the Seventies the average American chief executive typically took home 40 times the wage of his average employee, he now pockets 170 times that of his typical minion." (Observer, 22 July) As a "typical minion" how do you feel about that?

Worked To Death

We are all familiar with the old saw "hard work never killed anybody", but it just isn't true as can be seen from the following report. “The number of people killed at work has risen to its highest level in five year, according to figures released by the Health and Safety Commission, whose strength has been cut by 1,000 over the same period. Of 241 fatalities in the last year compared with 217 the previous year, the greatest number, 77 - up 31% were on building sites. Sir Bill Callaghan, the HSE chair said the increase was disappointing. The TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, said each death was preventable. ‘Increasing the likelihood of a visit from a safety inspector would make a real difference.’” (Guardian, 27 July) Why increase the expenditure on safety? It cuts profits and capitalism hates that.

Same The World Over

"Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim, who is estimated by some calculations to be wealthier than Microsoft founder Bill Gates, said Thursday he did not care if he was the world's richest person. ...In July, a journalist who tracks the fortunes of wealthy Mexicans said Slim was worth an estimated $67.8 billion and had overtaken Gates as the world's richest person. Slim hit the No. 1 spot after a recent surge in the share price of his America Movil, Latin America's largest cell phone company, according to Eduardo Garcia of the online financial publication Sentido Comun.Garcia said that made him close to $8.6 billion wealthier than Gates, whose estimated worth was $59.2 billion. ...In Mexico, a small elite holds most of the country's wealth and about half the population lives on less than $5 a day." (Yahoo News, 3 August)

Homeless Heroes

We are all familiar with cheering crowds applauding soldiers as they march to war and the praise of politicians as they fall over each other in adulation of service veterans, but the reality is far different. "One in 10 homeless people in the UK are former members of the armed forces, a charity working with veterans says. A survey in 1997 by the Ex-Service Action Group on Homelessness suggested that 22% of people who were street homeless had a military background. Veterans charity, the Sir Oswald Stoll Foundation, said that efforts by the government and the voluntary sector had brought that down to about 10%. It fears the numbers may rise because of service in Iraq and Afghanistan." (BBC News, 7 August) "When Johnnie Comes Marching Home" may have been an old popular song but today there is no home nor house either.

Illusion And Reality

Many people imagine that with retirement comes a pleasant period in a hard-working life. Alas, the reality is far from idyllic for many workers. "Pensioners are burdened with debts of £57 billion from mortgages and credit cards, new figures show. One fifth of retired people are still paying off a mortgage and a third owe an average of £5,900 on credit cards and loans, says Scottish Widows, the insurer. The 11 million pensioners who are still making repayments owe an average of £38,000 on their homes, compared with £35,000 last year. One in eight owe more than £50,000." (Times, 13 August)