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Sting in the Tail: Market Morality

Market Morality

While Iraqi and UN forces throw rockets, missiles and bombs at each other in the Gulf with little or no thought of the cost, it is interesting to note that the National Health Service in Britain is somewhat more parsimonious.

      Managers at a hospital in Manchester have refused to pay for a pricey new drug which could save the life of a seriously-ill cancer patient. . . . A course of injections with the drug, interleukin 2 (IL-2), costs around £3,000. Dr Thatcher said that he had been told by the unit general manager, Mike Fry, last week that the money was not available.

The Independent (5 February)

The war in the Gulf is costing the British government billions of pounds. This they reckon is money well spent as it is in pursuance of their policy of ensuring a cheap supply of oil for British capitalism.

£3,000 to save the life of a worker is looked upon as an extravagance. This is the logic of the market place.

God on our side

The Gulf War has seen many reservists mobilised, but one of them must be all of a dither as he has been called up by both sides! He is God, sometimes known as Allah, and The Guardian (1 February) provided a collection of the claims being made for his exclusive services.

For example, George Bush is sure that God’s on his side:

We know that this is a just war, and we know that, God willing, this is a war we will win.

But Saddam Hussein rubbishes this and warns that:

  If Mr Bush makes the mistake of attacking us he will repent it for ever. If he depends on technical facilities, we are depending on God.

In case Saddam thinks he has sole right to Allah’s muscle then there is his fellow Muslim, a Saudi commander, to put him straight:

Whatever Saddam Hussein says . . . we are the ones who have been given a special mission by God.

If truth is always the first casualty in war then God is always the first recruit.

Black and white

When apartheid was imposed in South Africa 43 years ago, the Socialist Standard described the idea that 2.5 million whites could forever keep the other 9 million in subjection, as a “forlorn and fantastic hope”, and so it has proved.

The South African government is to repeal the laws which are the basis of apartheid, and although there has been no announcement about voting rights for the black majority, it can only be a matter of time.

But political reform alone will not be the salvation of the black majority. Archbishop Desmond Tutu points out:

Black people would remain poor unless real barriers are removed.
The Guardian (2 February)

All he is seeking here is more land for the blacks when what is required is that all the means of production and distribution be commonly owned by everyone whatever their colour.

The Archbishop will probably not consider that proposition but there will come other South Africans who will: the mixture of political freedoms and wage slavery guarantees it.

Media Breakthrough

Any socialist searching through the media for an accurate description of socialism is fated to be disappointed, frustrated and, very often, infuriated. How pleasant therefore to read a report in the Weekend Guardian (12 January) giving an excellent description of socialism:

  “Economic conditions” he says, “are absolutely ripe for the break-through. The only thing that’s lacking to build a society based on common ownership, on production for use not for sale, on the abolition of the wages system. . . .  is the intellectual factor.”

This is a major breakthrough for a newspaper which at various times describes socialism as nationalisation, state control, municipalisation or some other scheme to run the buying and selling system.

It should surprise no socialist to learn that the quotation is from a supporter of the Socialist Party. After all, who in British politics could give an accurate description of socialism, other than a member or supporter of the Socialist Party?

War and Peace

Politicians are fond of pretending that capitalism is a peaceful system of society; that conflict such as is occurring in the Gulf at present is a mere interruption to an otherwise peaceful norm.

This is of course nonsense. Capitalism is a system based on competition and economic rivalry that inevitably leads to military conflict. If anyone has any doubts about this, the recent report of the International Red Cross should set the record straight.

Thirty-eight current or recent conflicts – excluding the Gulf war – have claimed the lives of 5 million people, almost all of them civilians, according to a study released in Geneva yesterday by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The report, which will be used by the Red Cross to spearhead an international campaign on behalf of victims of conflict, estimates that 20 million people have died in 105 wars during the “post-war period” since 1945. A further 60 million have been wounded or uprooted.

The Guardian (29 January)

Danger zones

Every day The Independent prints a macabre death chart that shows the latest Iraqi and Allied figures for deaths in the Gulf war. It is probably all government lies but the figures shown for Day 28 (12 February) according to the Allies are Israeli 12, Saudi 1, Jordanian 7 with no figures for Iraqi dead, although the Iraqi claim is 467 dead.

No one can doubt that Baghdad, Tel Aviv and other cities in the area are danger zones but then so is London. For according to the same issue of that paper here is the position of the homeless in Britain:

The office of John Patten, a Home Office minister, told the campaign that, in 1989, the last year for which statistics are available, 375 people died from hypothermia on the streets in England and Wales, 83 died from malnutrition and 13 from self-neglect.

The recent cold spell in the London area alone has claimed more victims:

The death rate among homeless people could more than double over the next few weeks as a result of the cold weather, a leading doctor warned yesterday.
Mr Jeremy Booth, consultant in charge of Accident and Emergency at the Westminster Hospital, London, said that the number of people attending the hospital had trebled during the cold spell with a significant increase in cases of frostbite and hypothermia. Gangrene of toes and fingers was also common.

Being poor is always dangerous. It is dangerous being a poor Palestinian on the West Bank when you can’t afford a gas mask to protect yourself against the possibility of a gas attack. It is dangerous being a poor worker on the South Bank, London if you can’t afford the price of a bed for the night.