1990s >> 1991 >> no-1046-october-1991

Sting in the Tail: 30 Wasted Years

30 Wasted Years

The Labour Party is often described as “the mass party of the working class” yet the national membership of its youth wing, the Young Socialists, is now only 350.

When the YS was formed 30 years ago various Trotskyist groups moved in to control it. Recently it has been dominated by Militant but in earlier days It was Keep Left, another group of Trots who were dominant

This Trotskyist influence has been such an embarrassment to the Labour Party that it will probably be glad when the YS finally dies.

So it’s goodbye to those bear-garden conferences where the YS passed all those resolutions denouncing the party leaders along with just about every bit of Labour Party policy.

And what did all the rebelliousness mean? Absolutely nothing. Indeed many YS are now staid Labour Party officials, councillors and even MPs, the same kind of people they once spent so much time attacking. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.

Shop Steward’s Dream

Tommy is a typical shop steward we know. When he speaks about “bread and butter” issues like overtime, sick pay and holidays he makes good sense, but on most other subjects he is a fount of prejudice and ignorance.

Prejudice? Jews are his pet hate although the Arabs ran them close during the Gulf war and you should hear him on about “Darkies”! By the way, Tommy always votes Labour.

Ignorance? The other day he was on about health –

The rich aren’t any healthier than us. You’re either born with good health or you aren’t. Money doesn’t come into it.

Of course the left-wing with their absurdly idealised view of shop stewards would see Tommy as part of the “industrial vanguard in the struggle against capitalism”.

But Tommy’s ideas are little different from those of most other workers or even shop stewards. His vision of a better world goes no further than society as it is but with more job security, a few pence extra on the hourly rate and Neil Kinnock in Downing Street

You Dirty Rat

Alastair Cooke, in his “Letter from America“, (Radio 4) told an interesting story about the mayor of New York who, faced with a massive deficit, announced the probable slashing of public spending (surprise, surprise).

Among the possible casualties could be the sanitation department, which could result, according to experts, in an increase in the rat population of one million.

The mayor, who is either a shrewd vote-catcher or very naive, came up with what he undoubtedly thought was a unique proposal. He invited the “ordinary” people to come and tell him the solution to the city’s problems. So for one week they queued up outside his office to lay it on him.

However, since there have been no reported cries of “Eureka” or the hip equivalent emanating from the inner sanctum, we can safely assume that none of the queuing hopefuls came up with the only solution; the abolition of the buying and selling system. All of which must have come as a relief to the capitalist class, not to mention the rats.

Caring Capitalism

Nowadays when capitalism is widely regarded as the altruistic saviour of mankind it comes as a pleasant surprise when someone sees it in its true colours.

Writing in The Independent (5 September) Suzanne Moore observes that while Gerald Ratner honestly described the cheap jewellery his shops sell as “crap”, Anita Roddick of the Body Shop wraps her products in a haze of mysticism, 1960’s idealism and 1980’s green awareness. By using her products you can, apparently, be healthier and do some ecological good at the same time.

Suzanne Moore sees Anita Roddick’s guff as part of the growing trend to portray 1990’s capitalism as a marriage of material values and spiritual good. Believe that, she says, and “. . . you’ll believe that capitalism really can be “caring.” and warns that behind this newer, softer, gentler-on-the-skin approach “business Is still basically about buying and selling.”

She is mistaken, however, In thinking that — “any idea of a genuine alternative to capitalism is collapsing.”

Socialists propose that capitalism be replaced by a classless, moneyless, worldwide society of production for use. Now, Suzanne Moore that really would be a genuine alternative, wouldn’t it?

Cold Comfort

The thermal underwear company Damart in conjunction with the organisation Help the Aged recently produced a little leaflet entitled Hypothermia – The Chilling Facts.

Chilling facts indeed; the leaflet points out that compared with the number of summer time deaths an extra 40,000 elderly persons will die in a mild winter and in a harsh winter this will rise to 80,000.

In a section entitled So, Who Is At Risk? it has this to say:

We know that two groups of older people are particularly ‘at risk’. They are the very elderly — from late seventies onwards — who are more likely, because of the ageing process, to have low body temperatures.
And they are the pensioners who receive supplementary benefits — studies show that they are more likely to be living alone, less likely to have central heating, less likely to use electric blankets and more likely to be underweight — all these factors can lead to a lower body temperature.

Among the proposed solutions to the problem the leaflet lists warm clothing, adequate domestic heating systems and a better diet. All of which isn’t much consolation for those who are on supplementary benefit. The fact is that it is poor people who are dying from hypothermia.

It is not more legislation or better hand-outs the elderly poor need. What they must have if this scandalous state of affairs is to be ended is World Socialism.

That is the only society in which everyone young and elderly can have unrestricted access to all the food, clothing and heating that society can provide.

A Racist Utopia?

There Is a sunny utopia called Oranla. Scores of workers have gone there on the promise of a better life and hundreds more are expected soon.

In case any reader is tempted to follow them we should explain that Orania is a small “white homeland” in South Africa. It is owned by some rich Afrikaners who have ejected all the black people and imported unemployed white South Africans to do the menial jobs previously done by the blacks.

These white workers now complain that, besides being underpaid, their bosses, regard them as “white kaffirs”-

“We can’t even sit down and have a smoke break or a chat. It’s just work, work and more work all day long”
The Sunday Times (1 September)

The bosses answer to this is a familiar one — there is no room for laziness in creating the new white nation. The Sunday Times says of Orania –

It has a lot of appeal for blue-collar workers who have the most to lose from the new South Africa but what they don’t realise is that they are going to have to do for the well-off, upper-class Afrikaners what the blacks used to do. A system of servitude based on race is being replaced by one based on class.