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Voice From The Back

Behind The Fine Words
Recently in a show of strength the USA and South Korea mounted an exercise in and around the Sea of Japan. It consisted of 20 ships, 200 aircraft and 8,000 military personnel and was supposedly a response to the sinking of a South Korean vessel by North Korea. Like all such military displays of power it was accompanied by fine words. They were "protecting the democratic South against the tyranny of the North". China, an ally of North Korea viewed it as "an intrusion into an area not far from Chinese territorial waters". It is much more likely that the correspondent Giles Whittell was much nearer the real economic truth behind the fine words when he reported – "The military display that may or may not have struck fear into the hermit dictatorship north of the 38th parallel has angered Beijing as it seeks to assert sovereignty over nearly 1.5 million square miles of the South China Sea, rich in oil and mineral deposits" (Times, 28 July). Behind the fine words, as usual, lurks the profit motive

Progressing Backwards
During the last ninety years or so the working class have been promised by reformist politicians that if only they were in power the working class would enjoy a better standard of living. Foolishly they have swallowed that piece of nonsense and have endured a world war, countless local wars, massive periods of economic slumps, poverty and unemployment. One of the major promises of the reformers was that of improved health care but what is the reality? "The gap between the health of rich and poor is greater now than at any time since modern records began, a study shows. Government initiatives have done little or nothing to close the gap between the life expectancy of poor people and those who are wealthy, researchers from universities in Sheffield and Bristol, writing in the British Medical Journal, said. They looked at deaths between 1921 and 2007" (Times, 23 July). Ninety years of progress according to the reformers – ninety years of futility is more like it!

Half A Million Homeless
Politicians love nothing better than coming up with catchy phrases that they reckon will be taken up by the media. Over the years we have had "The war to end all wars", "A land fit for heroes", "You never had it so good", and more recently Mrs Thatcher's "A property owning democracy". The war to end all wars led to an even bloodier conflict, a land fit for heroes turned out be a land where only a bloody hero could survive and Macmillan's never had it so good only applied to the owning class. Thatcher's property owning democracy seems particularly ironic when we learn of this prediction. "More than 500,000 people will be added to social housing waiting lists and nearly 300,000 jobs will go under proposals to cut the housing budget by up to 40 per cent, say campaigners. The National Housing Federation says ministers risk "shutting the door on an entire generation of low-income families" by cutting cash for affordable homes" (Times, 26 July). Empty political slogans don't solve the problems of poverty, unemployment or homelessness – only workers understanding about socialism can do that.

"Humanitarian" Slaughter
Capitalism is a blood-thirsty rapacious society, so it is no accident that its supporters have had to invent euphemisms to cover up its carnage. In recent years we have heard of "collateral damage". This is used when a school or a hospital is blown up. To cover up the madness that leads to troops killing their own numbers we have "friendly fire". The Israeli government have sunk to a new level even for them with the following news item. "The Israeli military has imposed restrictions on the use of white phosphorous munitions, which led to civilian deaths and casualties in Gaza last year. Israel told the UN that it would deploy them only when approved by a "humanitarian affairs officer" (Times, 22 July). What would be the job description of a "humanitarian affairs officer"? Someone adept at describing burning to death from white phosphorous as a "pleasant, almost painless termination" perhaps?

The Growth Of Inequality
One of the great illusions of the 21st century is that only in the past had we this awful set-up where "robber barons" intent on grabbing more and more wealth out of the poor exploited masses had their existence. How 19th-century we are led to believe, because we do not live in such a society today. But do we ? "Many of the great fortunes of American history – those of the Rockefellers, Andrew Carnegie and the Fords – are now mighty foundations that have long outlasted their founders. Recent years have seen the greatest disparity of wealth in America since the Golden Age of the 1920s. A recent study found that the top one per cent of Americans now receive 15 per cent of the country's total income – about double the rate of the 1960s and 1970s" (Times, 5 August). Capitalism was based on the exploitation of the working class by the capitalist class in the days of Rockefeller and Carnegie – it still is.

Bargain Basement Exploitation
"One of Britain's fiercest and most ostentatiously successful business men has been enlisted to spearhead the Government's attack on public spending. Sir Philip Green, a man with a reputation for making brutally effective commercial reforms, has been asked by David Cameron to lead a no-holds barred examination of departmental budgets" (Times, 13 August). In his personal life Sir Philip is anything but frugal or economic. He spent £5 million on his 50th birthday party, £4 million on his son's bar mitzvah and £30 million on his yacht. We imagine what impressed Cameron about Green was his ruthless exploitation of his workers. Here is an example of how fortunes are made in the retail business. "Indian workers are paid just 25p an hour and forced to work overtime in factories used by some of Britain's best-known high street stores ... Some of the biggest names on the British high street are at the centre of a major sweatshop scandal. An Observer investigation has found staff at their Indian suppliers working up to 16 hours a day. Marks & Spencer, Gap and Next have launched their own inquiries into abuses and pledged to end the practice of excessive overtime, which is a flagrant breach of the industry's ethical trading (ETI) and Indian labour laws" (Observer, 8 August). It is estimated that Green has a fortune of over £4 billion made in such firms as Bhs, Topshop, Evans, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins – that exploitation rather than his personal lifestyle is what has impressed the cost-cutting Cameron.