1990s >> 1993 >> no-1069-september-1993

Sting in the Tail: Down on the farm

 Down on the farm

Such is the productiveness of modern farming methods that Britain’s 80,000 arable farmers have been forced by the government to “set aside” 15 per cent of their cropland. They can get a “set aside” grant for not growing grain or they can grow linseed as long as it is not used for food.

Nearly 400,000 acres of linseed are being grown in Britain this year — to make linoleum for kitchen floors, paints or putty. Why is this amount of arable land no longer being used to grow food?

It is Britain’s contribution to trying to reduce the immense European grain mountain. Alas, it is likely to be a useless measure.

    The EC grain mountain, which has more than doubled to 33 million tonnes over the past two years, will continue to grow, because more grain will be grown over the next decade than Europe can consume or export. “

The Observer (11 July)

This is ’’practical” capitalism at its best. Inside a Socialist society of course we would take the nutty action of using the mountain to feed the hungry. Crazy, eh?

Market ethics

In the London Business School they have a new professor. This new professorship has nothing to do with your usual sordid categories of money, profit or rates of interest.

No, we are dealing with the Professor of Business Ethics and Social Responsibilty. This Jesuit priest has been appointed to pontificate on all matters relating to ethics and business. And surprise, surprise, he is not at all critical of the capitalist social system.

I think that capitalism and the market system is a sound way of creating wealth. It is an honourable activity.

The Independent on Sunday (4 July)

We wonder if this judgement is in any way connected with the professorship being created by Dixons, the electrical retailer, to the tune of £1 million.

Or is such a suggestion unethical?

Bitter failure

In the 1960s the United Farm Workers Union was founded in California by Cesar Chavez. After a bitter struggle with the growers the union gained some concessions, but now these have all but vanished.

According to Professor Clete Daniel, author of a book on the Californian farm labour movement. Bitter Harvest:

     You‘ve really got abysmal conditions as bad as at any time in the post-war era. It’s hard to see any vestiges of the achievements of the 1970s. If you know all the struggle and sacrifice that occurred . . . and see how few lasting gains have been achieved, it’s very, very discouraging.

The Guardian (20 July)

Socialists recognise that workers should try to get the best deal they can within capitalism, but the above is only one more example of how their struggles really amount to running fast just to stand still while leaving their masters firmly in control.

Mentally ill society

The National Schizophrenia Fellowship have released figures that show how well the government’s “care in the community” scheme is working.

In the two years since the government began emptying psychiatric hospitals, 40 men, women and children have been killed by schizophrenic or seriously mentally ill people, and at least 100 mentally ill people have committed suicide. But despite these awful figures, we learn from The Observer (4 July):

A spokesman from the Department of Health said initial evidence indicated that community care was working well.

“Working well” for the miserable men and women Who huddle in doorways, shiver under motorways and in desperation, confusion and loneliness kill or take their own life?

This is capitalism at its most callous, save money and to hell with human suffering.

Tory dreamers

Socialists have a vision of the kind of society they want, but so have the Tories and John Redwood MP has described it

The natural state should be the two-adult family caring for their children. The norm should be the purchase of a home of one’s own with the entitlement to live peacefully, rent-free in retirement. The common aspiration should be a good second pension on top of the state retirement pension so that the luxuries and extras in retirement are affordable.

The Guardian (3 July)

Nowhere in this dream world is there any room for redundancy, repossession, marital break-up, or any of the unpleasant realities of working class life in capitalism. They are simply ignored.

Tories want a society in which money and property are paramount and where everyone is thrown onto his or her own resources.

Socialists want a society based on common ownership and co-operation and where human needs come first. Can there by any doubt about which of these aims is worthy of working class support?

Feet of clay

Songwriter and singer Paul Weller was an idol of the Left during the 1980s. He sang about class-struggle and angrily denounced Thatcher and the Tories, but now he is “confused” and hasn’t “a clue where we should go”.

His confusion was evident in an interview in the The Big Issue magazine (23 July). He says the working class “has almost gone”, he believes in “some kind of spiritual force” and has felt “quite close to God”. Some leftist illusions remain, however, because he would “renationalise everything” and without compensation!

He did have some positive things to say — he still takes an “internationalist world view in which national boundaries count for nothing”, but not many.

Paul Weller’s opposition to capitalism was based on revulsion to a callous, degrading system, but with no clear understanding of the social forces which shape society his confusion was inevitable.

What is necessary is not moral judgements by some wayward songsmith about the failures of capitalism, but class conscious action by the majority.