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Voice From the Back

THE SEEDS OF WAR
Many reasons are put forward for the conflict in Afghanistan. Some would argue it is a conflict over religion, others that it is a struggle for democracy. The following piece of information seems a more likely cause for the hostilities. "Afghanistan and Central Asia are abundant with natural resources worth billions. So far, they are largely untapped but the battle is raging for who will be able to exploit them in the 21st century. In the 19th century it was the Russians and the British who wrestled for influence in Afghanistan and Central Asia in a highly-explosive endeavour known as the Great Game. Today, Afghanistan's natural resources are estimated to be worth billions of dollars. The resources in the neighbouring Central Asian states are thought to be worth even more – the cake is huge and as yet largely untouched." (Deutche Welle, 15 July) The seeds of all modern wars has been the rivalries over sources of raw materials, markets and political spheres of interest.

PREMATURE CELEBRATIONS                            
The abolition of the hateful system of Apartheid in 1994 was correctly celebrated throughout the world, but capitalism remained intact and as long as capitalism survives it will throw up problems of exploitation and inequality. "South Africa celebrated Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday on Monday with songs by millions of children and calls for public service, but the nation he led out of apartheid is divided by poverty and his ANC movement seems to many to be losing its moral compass. ... Mandela's calls for greater access to the economy for the poor black majority have been dealt blows by corruption eating into welfare programmes and entitlements that benefit a sliver of the black elite with close ties to the ANC." (Reuters, 18 July) .

THE FUTURE IS BLEAK                               
The illusion that many workers share is that as they reach retirement age they will be able to live in a sort of rocking-chair contentment.  In reality most of us will live even more parsimonious existences than we do at present whilst we are surviving from pay-day to pay-day. "Millions of people face a ‘bleak old age’ because they are falling through the cracks of private sector pension provision, a review suggests. The Workplace Retirement Income Commission says 14 million people are not saving into a workplace pension scheme at all." (BBC News, 1 August) Working for a wage or a salary as we all have to do is a precarious existence but when we are finally thrown on the industrial and commercial scrapheap the future for most workers according to the Commission is apparently even more awful.

THE PERFECT WORKER                          
Newspaper editors have a difficult task every day – what should be their front page headline? Millions starving in a famine in East Africa? Demonstrators gunned down in Syria? A difficult choice perhaps but the editor of The Times led with a really important headline. "Welfare in chaos as thousands live to 100" (Times, 4 August). In any sane society the news that human beings are managing to live a little longer would be the cause for celebration, but this is capitalism and there will be no dancing in the street at the news. The news that the working class who produce all the wealth of the world are tending to live longer is bad news for the capitalist class who live on the surplus value that the workers produce. To the owning class the perfect worker is one who goes to work after they leave school, works two nights overtime and a Sunday and on the day he retires goes to the Post Office to collect his state pension and drops dead at the counter. No pension, no drain on the owning class's surplus value. Perfect!

WHO ARE THE "PRIMITIVES"?                            
For thousands of years small tribal groups have lived in the forests between what is now Brazil and Peru. They are looked upon by many as "backward" or "primitive", but nevertheless they have survived in isolation and relative security. The advent of capitalism has changed all that. "The head of Brazil's indigenous protection service is to make an emergency visit to a remote jungle outpost amid fears that members of an isolated Amazon tribe may have been ‘massacred’ by drug traffickers. .... On 5 August Brazilian federal police launched an operation in the region, arresting Joaquim Antonio Custodio Fadista, a Portuguese man alleged to have been operating as a cocaine trafficker. But after the police pulled out, officers with the indigenous protection service (Funai) decided to return fearing a ‘massacre’. They claimed that groups of men with rifles and machine guns were still at large in the rainforest. Reports suggest the traffickers may have been attempting to set up new smuggling routes, running through the tribe's land." (Guardian, 9 August)