It is not very pleasant to reflect that many of us, when we reach our sixties, face the prospect of life on an old age pension. Generally speaking, our productive powers will have declined to the point of unprofitability, and like so many worn out machines, we will be of only scrap value to the owners of the means of production. That is what it really means, despite the gallons of crocodile tears which capitalist politicians have spilled at election times over the plight of the aged.Not that the politicians are necessarily callous by nature, but they are administering a system, and this system works by exploiting human beings. So it will look after its young a bit more because they are much more exploitable than the old. And if that means misery and hardship for old workers, well it is only part of the overall picture of misery and hardship anyway. And with a shrug of your mental shoulders you tell yourself that you are not going to lose much sleep over it. That’s if you are a capitalist politician.
At the same time, you will never quite forget the question of the pensioners, but from another point of view. What a vast source of labour power would be here, if only they could be given a new lease of life—sort of reconditioned—for a few more years at least. Just think how the financial burden of pensions could be reduced, to say nothing of the prospects of increased profits.
So perhaps your pulse will have quickened with interest when you read the recent Evening Standard “KEEPING YOUNG SECRET UNVEILED.” Apparently there’s this% London Doctor Tiberius Reiter, who has managed to find a synthetic copy of the key male hormone testosterone, which, when given to men in specially controlled dosage, gives them back some of their youthful vigour. The whole body is revitalised, it is claimed, by this chemical, and the doctor was sufficiently enthusiastic about it to tell findings to a joint meeting of the Royal Society of Medicine and the Endocrinological Society.
No mention was made of the possible side-effects of this treatment. Maybe these will come to light later on, and perhaps then some of the enthusiasm for it will wane a little. Nevertheless, it is a sign of the times and if the capitalist class can see any prospect in it for widespread use, the chances are that they will give it their blessing. After all, the problem of a steadily ageing population has bothered them quite a lot in recent years.
Don’t get us wrong, by the way. Good luck to you if you can get a spell of new vigour to your latter years. But don’t think that if this chemical is made widely available, it will be because your rulers feel sorry for you. Nothing is an unmixed blessing under capitalism.
That may seem a sweeping statement to make, but a moment or two’s reflection will show its truth. And why? Because the profit motive is the driving force behind production within capitalist society, and takes precedence over human interests. So problems linger on, not because they are physically incapable of solution, but because it would at present be too costly for the ruling class to tackle them. A glaring example is the growing health menace of noise. Its increase has been alarmingly rapid, and its effects on our nerves devastating, but those living near such places as busy main roads and airports are perhaps the worst afflicted.
It must have been a pretty frantic delegation of residents from the London Airport area which lobbied M.P.’s at the beginning of March, but for all the help they got their fare money would have been better spent buying earplugs. The noise from the airport is a round-the-clock evil now, with jets roaring low overhead at frequent intervals. Time was when night flights were a rarity, but such is the pace of competition between the airlines, that it has now become normal.
The MP’s were “sympathetic” of course but told the delegation that night flights must go on “for obvious economic reasons” and it would be “impractical” to demand blanket sound proofing in the area. “. . . I should think that everything human ingenuity can devise has been tried,” said the Conservative member for Brentford and Chiswick (Dudley Smith) inanely. Poor Mr. Broadbent, leader of the delegation, was not very happy at the results of the meeting; he could see that they were getting nowhere fast. “An absolute abomination” he called the noise level at night. Agreed, Mr. Broadbent. But so is the crazy system which has produced it, and frustrates your every effort to remove it.
No more slums
In about ten years time, we shall have got rid of most of the slums in Britain — according to Housing Minister Sir Keith Joseph. What’s that you say? You don’t believe a word of it? Well, to tell you the truth, neither do we. Capitalist politicians have been making such statements for donkey’s years. Duncan Sandys, for example, said in 1955 that the back of the problem would be broken in ten years, and similar thoughts were expressed in a government white paper in 1961. Then there was Labourite Ernest Bevin who astounded even his own supporters during the 1945 election by saying that the whole housing problem could be solved in two weeks under a Labour government.
Back in the days before the war, apparently, it was just as fashionable to be optimistic about slum clearance particularly if, like Health Minister Sir Hilton Young, you did not have to live in one. These were his words in 1934:—
Twelve months hence the slums should be falling, according to present prospects, five times as fast, till the work reached its maximum speed two years hence. Five years was not an unduly long time to cure an evil which had been growing for a hundred. (Times 8/3/34).
Less than eighteen months later his successor, Sir Kingsley Wood, was hastening to assure us that:-
So far as slum clearance is concerned, record progress was being made (Times 1/7/35).
which cheerfulness should be paired twenty-one years later with that of Mr. Duncan Sandys, thus: —
I think things are going pretty well. The slum clearance drive is steadily gaining momentum. (Hansard 13/12/56).
We could add to these quotes many times over, but the point has been made and, we hope, taken. We are painfully aware that slums are still very much with us, despite all the speeches over the years, although it would be futile to blame the individual politicians concerned. This is just another of the monsters which capitalism has created, and which politicians are largely powerless even to contain, let alone destroy.