1990s >> 1997 >> no-1120-december-1997

Same the world over

According to Marx and Engels, in their Communist Manifesto, society was developing in such a way that various classes that had existed were losing their historical importance and were being gradually replaced by a polarised class society, where a minority class own the wealth of society and the majority class own nothing but their ability to work.

History has vindicated this analysis, although listening to the Danish news recently, one would never guess this is the case. The reporter said, straight-faced, that class division in Denmark isn’t all that big compared with England. Quite what he meant wasn’t made clear, especially in the light of a report in the financial markets’ newsletter Børsens Nyhedsbrev which published a list of the richest people in Denmark.

The richest man is Arnold Marsk McKinney Møller. His wealth, which has doubled in the space of two years, amounts to 46 billion kroner (£5 billion). Number two in the list is the Lego toy king Kjeld Kristiansen, who has a “paltry” 20 billion kroner. If you want to get into the top fifty you must have wealth amounting to 460 million kroner (£50 million).

In another paper, the scribe wrote that Møller’s wealth was created by generations of hard work. Needless to say the article completely neglected to say whose hard work it was. Just for the sake of comparison, a university student gets 5000kr (£554) in university grants and loans a month. Less inequality? Surely some mistake?

Water, water, everywhere

A Kurdish friend showed me an article from Jyllands Posten (17 May) which was about Turkey’s “Günayadogu Anadolu Projesci” (GAP).

It isn’t just oil that is causing tensions to build in the Middle East, water is as well. The Turkish government initiated its ambitious GAP plan in 1984: the construction of reservoirs and twenty-two dams at a cost of some 370 billion Danish kroner. The idea behind GAP is to provide hydroelectric power and create 1.8 million hectares of arable land.

The dams are to be situated in south-east Turkey on the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, which also happen to feed Syria and Iraq. The major dam built to date is the Ataturk dam on the Euphrates. This has stopped the natural flow of sediments, and has resulted in the impoverishment of Syrian farm land. The amount of rich mud that is deposited when the Euphrates floods isn’t the same as before, and the farmers have had to move. One can only guess at the ecological consequences of the damming.

The PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party, so-called) was a minor nuisance to the Turkish government before GAP became a reality, and (yes, you guessed it) Syria has been only too happy to supply the PKK with weapons. In fact the PKK leader has his address in Damascus. The Syrian rulers are quite clearly using the PKK as pawns in a cynical manner.

What will happen in the future? Turkey lost a big market in the shape of Iraq as a result of UN sanctions in the wake of the Gulf War; Turkey’s rate of inflation is 80 percent per annum; the PKK “war” is using millions; and Syria has put objections to the UN in the hope that the UN will step in and stop the construction. One thing is certain though: just like in 1991 —where the issue was oil, and you can’t even drink that—workers’ lives are being expended for their rulers’ interests.

Graham C. Taylor