1990s >> 1996 >> no-1099-march-1996

Sting in the Tail: Life Wish

Life wish

Michael Winner, producer of such gore-fests as the Death Wish movies, now writes for the News of the World.

Surprisingly, he made a reference to Marx in his column (24 December). Unsurprisingly, he made the foolish assumption that Marx had something to do with the Soviet Union:

“Communism contains a vast, almost religions appeal. Its principal slogan from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ is actually a wondrous idea . . . But it fails to take into account a crucial element. Human beings. They just aren’t up to it.”

Winnie’s view of “human nature” is best illustrated by his film hero, Charles Bronson “blowing away” muggers in the New York Subway. This is the view of a pathetic money-grubber and not the view of anyone who has studied human behaviour.

To Winner, any concept of human cooperation must indeed seem a “wondrous idea”.

A tale of two mums

The Duchess of York is feeling the pinch these days. Reputed to owe £3 million, she recently changed her Concorde trip to New York to first class on a scheduled flight. She and the kids had to rough it with the plebeian hordes.

Not on the trip was Maureen whose plight was reported in the Observer (21 January):

“Maureen is bringing up her eight-year-old son alone in her former council flat in Devon on £77.97 state benefit a week . . .  “I might go two days without a main meal—I just eat, like, a sandwich at lunchtime or supper if we have enough bread. Tuesday is my best day. I collect my Giro cheque then. I usually buy something like mince and we’ll have spaghetti or something . . .  Sometimes when he has said to me he’s hungry I just feel very desperate and alone . . . and a bit of a failure really. “

Maureen is not a failure. She is a worker who feeds and clothes her child on state “benefits”. Maureen is not a failure. Capitalism is. The gap between the Duchess and Maureen is proof of that.

The big knife farce

What a farce the amnesty on knives was. 40,000 were handed in, but this is a tiny fraction of the number of knives in circulation, and the fact that one individual contributed 3,000 proves that.

Indeed, Watchdog (BBC1, 22 January ) showed that there are hundreds of shops and mail-order firms all selling knives.

Of course, the politicians have their “solutions”, among them labour’s call for a ban on the sale of knives to anyone under the age of 16, but similar bans on the sale of lottery tickets, alcohol and tobacco arc simply ignored by many retailers. If there’s money to be made then there will be illegal sales.

Years ago, when the use of knives was considered un-British, razors, lead piping and bicycle chains were in vogue, and even if knives were eliminated then some other weapon will take their place. Capitalism’s poverty, tensions and conflicts guarantees that.

Arthur’s dead duck

The launch of Arthur Scargill’s new Socialist Labour Party provided him with another chance to demonstrate what a political muddle-head he is. This was evident when, having accused the Labour Party of abandoning socialism, he admitted it never had been socialist anyway.

Even worse was his absurd claim that unemployment could be eradicated “even within a capitalist society” (Guardian, 15 January). Incidentally, his promise that the SLP will “support all the ‘single issue campaigns’” in order to gain recruits, should mean that the various Trotskyists and anarchist groups will face more competition there!

Left-wing breakaways from Labour have never lasted: the Scottish Labour Party headed by Jim Sillars MP in the late 1970s is an example, and Scargill’s lot will no doubt follow them into oblivion.

Going for the Big One

We are often asked why we don’t join in campaigns for reforms of capitalism. To begin with, reforms rarely achieve their aims—for example, laws against racism haven’t reduced discrimination, assaults, abuse, etc.

And reforms which do benefit workers will inevitably provoke demands for them to be scrapped when capitalism’s economic situation worsens, and an example of this is provided by Warwick Lightfoot of the think- tank Politcia, who urges the Tories to

  “. . .  repeal existing rules on redundancy payouts and unfair dismissal, arguing that they damage the labour market” (Guardian, 8 January).

What kindly Mr Lightfoot and many others want is a “flexible labour market” where employers can do whatever they like with workers.

Of course, this would depend ultimately on whether the working class would accept it, but the fact is that even the crumbs we get at present are under threat, hence our insistence that socialists must demand the bakehouse and nothing less.

Living it up in Palm Springs

A party member had occasion to rush to the hospital where his mother had been admitted only to be informed that there was a ten hour wait until a bed became available (in the event it was only six-and-a-half hours).

Whilst perusing the usual jumble of magazines in the waiting room, he happened to pick up a colour supplement which features a grizzled, old chimpanzee, and revealed that this was none other than the original “Cheetah” who could be seen swinging through the trees with Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s.

Now aged 63, this hirsute thespian is apparently living the life of Riley in a retirement home in Palm Springs!

It wasn’t lost on our comrade that in capitalism, even elderly animals, with the right financial credentials, are treated with greater regard than poor members of the working class, retired or not.