1990s >> 1996 >> no-1097-january-1996

Sting in the Tail: Missing the point

Missing the point
Paul Foot of the SWP, writing in the Guardian (20 November) bemoaned the closure by a Labour council of a day centre in Newcastle.

This had him recalling past arguments with Labour Party members in which they “scorned the luxuries of Utopian socialist visions” (presumably the SWP’s ease) and “boasted of their practical down-to-earth ‘municipal socialism’”, and asked:

  “Where are those arguments now? What is the point of joining the Labour Party if Labour councils are forced to cut the services which their predecessors provided to assist the people who vote Labour? ”

True enough, but by the same token shouldn’t Paul Foot be asking himself what is the point of him and the rest of the SWP urging workers to vole for the Labour Party at every election?

Blacker than black
The Advertising Standards Authority is the in-house watchdog of British advertising. It is supposed to ensure that advertising meets the criteria of honesty, legality and decency. Like most things associated with advertising it is a complete con-trick.

Hunter Marsden, a high-rolling American ad-man who works for the giant J. Walter Thompson agency, is reported in the Observer (5 November) on the present level of duplicity in world-wide advertising as saying:

  “Superiority claims are delicately stitched together by legal wordmeisters, aided by a hairy menagerie of weasel words, mouse type and squirrelly logic.”

In other words, to paraphrase Disraeli, “there arc three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and advertising”.

No change there
The conference of the Scottish Young Conservatives in November threw up the usual quota of reactionary spoutings. For example, guest speaker Leslie Sharp, Chief Constable of Strathclyde “delighted the Tory faithful in Edinburgh with a robust attack on the link between poverty and crime, coupled with a strong defence of stiffer prison sentences” (Herald, 27 November).

And conference chairman Murray Roxburgh was loudly cheered by delegates when he blamed the strike by Scottish postal workers who were resisting the imposition of worsened conditions, on “lefty scum” (Teletext, 27 November). Roxburgh insisted that “management must have the right to manage”, meaning that workers must meekly accept whatever bosses throw at them.

However, the Herald also noted that:

   “Not so long ago, this event would have been big enough to take over a large hotel for an entire weekend. On Saturday, barely 70 gathered in a conference room at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. ”

The conference also showed that although the SYC’s numbers have diminished, their obnoxious outlook certainly has not.

“Middle-class” nonsense
What a lot of daft and contradictory definitions there are of the so-called “middle class”.

In Britain many politicians and academics would have us believe that this middle class is getting bigger and bigger and even constitutes the majority of the population, but in America, Republican congressman F.K. Heineman of North Carolina takes a very different view:

   “When I see someone who is making anywhere from $300,000 to $750,000 a year, that’s middle class,’ said Mr Heine man, a former New York City police officer and Raleigh police chief. ‘When I see anyone above that, that’s upper middle class’” (New York Times, 29 October).

The story reveals that the US Census Bureau has just released figures showing that only 5 percent of American households earn more than $109,821 a year, so the percentage earning from $300,000 to $750,000 must be even less.

Going by Heineman’s definition, the American middle class, far from getting bigger, is practically non-existent.

Dear Brutus
In the desperate competition for customers, banks and building societies spend millions of pounds on advertising, marketing gimmicks and giveaways. The Abbey National, though, has surely scraped the bottom of the barrel in its latest gimmick. It is offering a booklet “Your Astrological Guide to a Secure Future”.

It is written by Jonathan Cainer, described as “Britain’s most authoritative astrologer”. This is akin to descriptions like “most pregnant virgin” or “wisest idiot”.

Presumably the Abbey National are only being humorous in this latest gimmick, but given the “success” of predicting the market by the various “experts”, who is to say Cainer will be less accurate?

To understand how capitalism operates workers would be better advised to consult Marx’s Capital than squinting at the stars. As usual. Shakespeare had a helpful couple of lines to say on the subject:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. ”