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Voice From the Back

Minimum wage, 'living' wage or a world without?

In Congress, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, have introduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage $1 an hour starting in 2016 to $12 by 2020, and thereafter base increases on the growth of the federal median wage. ‘No one who works hard in a full-time job should have to live in poverty,’ Murray said in introducing the legislation (Herald Net, 1 May). No more crumbs! Not even a slice of cake! Workers should demand what is rightfully ours: the whole bakery.

Earning a wage is a prison occupation

One in three full-time employees in some of the world’s largest economies say maintaining a healthy work-life balance has become more difficult in the last five years...’It’s really important in a sustainable 24-7 global marketplace to be able to offer people the ability to ebb and flow to make life work while they’re working so hard,’ says Karyn Twaronite, an Ernst & Young partner and global diversity and inclusiveness officer. ‘The workday is vast. There really aren’t start and end times, and it does have a significant overlap into everyone’s personal life in a significant way. You no longer can leave your work behind at the end of the day’ (US News, 5 May). 9 til 5? More like 24/7, except for the unemployed 1 percent! Socialists, like Marx, by contrast, claim that in a communist society there would be more leisure time, more time for education and that everyone would participate in the running of society. It's time to break free.

Rage against the machine

Abulkasim Al-Jaberi was arrested at a demonstration against Zwarte Piet for shouting ‘fuck the king, fuck the queen and fuck the monarchy.’... The action taken against him has caused anger on Twitter and vandalism to the Royal Palace. He is being prosecuted for lèse-majesté, a crime which specifically refers to offences against the dignity of the monarch, for which the maximum sentence is five years in prison (Independent, 7 May). Socialists don’t want a Republic: we call not just for the removal of royalty, rather of all parasites. So, in the words of the radical poet Shelley:

Let us hasten that glorious day

When man on man no more shall prey

When prophets priests and kings

Are numbered with forgotten things

Deification of a dictator

‘Over the past five years I've often watched documentary films about Stalin, about that time on television and learnt more about him,’ the 29-year-old told AFP. ‘And now I don't have any negative feelings towards him. He had good intentions’ (Yahoo! News, 5 May). This comes as no surprise to socialists: after all, the class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production. In Stalin's case, the process started long ago. Here is one example, part of a poem which was published in Pravda on 28 August, 1936:

O Great Stalin, O Leader of the Peoples,

Thou who didst give birth to man,

Thou who didst make fertile the earth,

Thou who dost rejuvenate the Centuries,

Thou who givest blossom to the spring . . .

Drapetomania

There is a long history of science being used to support the status quo. Russian psychiatrists famously aided Stalin by diagnosing dissidents as insane. In 1850s America a Dr. Cartwright identified a condition that caused black slaves to flee plantations. More recently, a report written by six health professionals and human rights activists claims that the American Psychological Association secretly worked with the George W. Bush administration to justify a post-9/11 torture policy (Time, 30 April).

They won, you lost

‘The question is: who is this country going to be run for?’ Mr Axelrod said. ‘Cameron is absolutely right about the question. But it is not a question of whether the country is going to be run for Scotland. It is a question of whether the country is going to be run for the wealthy and powerful interests, who have thrived and prospered under Tory policies while everyday working people have struggled just to keep up’ (Independent, 2 May). Labour, Liberal, Tory - same old boring story. The Greens, SNP, UKIP etc., are part of it too.

Only woolly sheep need leaders

Muriquis (or woolly spider monkeys) from south-eastern Brazil live in large social groups and yet there are no leaders. Males do not boss other males or females and there is no dominance hierarchy – a truly egalitarian society. They are very peaceful primates. Males will even wait in line for their opportunity to mate with a receptive female (Independent, 6 May).

From the horse's mouth

David Cameron’s former chief strategist has launched a stinging attack on the ‘insular ruling class’ threatening Britain’s democracy. Steve Hilton said too many of those at the heart of government go to the same dinner parties and send their children to the same schools. He said the UK’s political system is now in ‘crisis’ because the same type of people stay in charge whatever the outcome of the elections.

In what will be seen as a criticism of the ‘chumocracy’ of his former boss, Mr Hilton warned: ‘Our democracies are increasingly captured by a ruling class that seeks to perpetuate its privileges.

‘Regardless of who’s in office, the same people are in power. It is a democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite no matter the electoral outcome’ (Daily Mail, 17 May).