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Cooking the Books: A Parasite on Parasites

Harry Hyams, who died in December, was one of the ‘unacceptable faces of capitalism’ in the 1970s, though the then Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath had coined the term in relation to another ruthless capitalist. Hyams’ notoriety was based on what he did with Centre Point, for a while the tallest building in London, as described by his obituary in theTimes (22 December):

‘Centre Point was completed in 1966 at a cost of £5.5 million. However, within seven years and still without tenants, its value was estimated at £20 million. In an era of rapidly rising rents, it was worth more as an unoccupied asset.’

A deliberately kept empty 33 storey building in central London was seen as a provocation at a time when the television film Cathy Come Home, first broadcast in 1966, had highlighted the growing problem of homelessness.

Material World: This Land is Our Land

Material World

There was a time when 'land' used to refer to those parts of our habitat that were cultivated for food, grazed by animals for hide, wool, meat, milk and fertilisation, and to forests from which timber, firewood and food were collected and also to where communities lived sharing the common wealth. Now, as with everything else one can imagine, land is just another commodity to be bought and sold at the best possible price and to be acquired whatever the consequences for long-term incumbents. So too is everything it can offer – food, fuel, minerals and water – with the added bonus of investment and speculation.

Material World: Workers of the World – in it together

Material World

Wherever we are situated on the globe we workers repeatedly find ourselves up against challenges we are unable to deal with as individuals. In isolation we are feeble against the power of states, governments and laws protective of business owning interests. The only way to make headway (often temporary) against overwhelming odds is to be part of a larger group, usually a trade union. The challenges – related to earning capacity, conditions of work, ability to support self and family – are all necessary considerations within the overall political system in which we live. There is no opt-out clause enabling real free choice.

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