Voice from the Back

House hunting
As young working class couples contemplate marriage and start looking for a house or flat that they can afford to buy or rent, it might be worth them considering how members of the capitalist class deal with their “housing problem”:

“This mansion in Surrey cost £70m. It has 30 bedrooms, five swimming pools and its own cinema . . . By American standards, of course, the Surrey mansion is at the mean end of the scale. This is a country where Larry Ellison takes on Bill Gates for the title of top cheese by building a bigger house than him. (Gates recently announced that he was extending his lavish $100m home near Seattle, to which Ellison replied with a $150m Japanese style mansion in California, twice the size of the White House and complete with artificial lakes, waterfalls and 3,750 tons of hand-chiselled Chinese granite for the retaining walls.) The world’s largest private house is believed to be the New York industrialist R.A.Rennert’s mansion Fair Field, which is 100 miles east of Manhattan and boasts 29 bedrooms, 42 bathrooms, a 164 seat theatre, two bowling alleys and an English-style pub.” (Guardian, 15 June.)

A cancerous system
Commenting on an article in a previous issue two letters to the editor in Time magazine (25 June) show that workers as far apart as Istanbul and Massachusetts have a pretty good idea about how capitalism operates :

“If there really is a war against cancer, as you contend then why not attack this disease on the battlefield? Why not go after its supply lines of tobacco, food additives and pollution? The drive for corporate profits generates many of the products that can cause this illness, and even more profits are made in treating it. Meanwhile, cancer victims fall by the wayside as collateral damage. Chris Glover (Istanbul)”. “Finally, the breakthrough in cancer drugs that we have long been searching for! Too bad that few of us will be able to afford them. David Chesterton (Massachusetts)”.

Touchy, feely socialists
We are often accused of class bias, of being nasty individuals who are only concerned about the working class, with never a thought for the plight of the capitalist class. Not so, we were almost moved to tears when we read the following :

“Ronit Lami, a London psychologist who treats people suffering from affluenza or ‘sudden wealth syndrome’, says her patients are highly motivated perfectionists who will do anything to achieve their ends. She says: ‘It doesn’t matter how much money there is in the bank, there is never enough. There is a huge fear of failure. If they suddenly lose their money, they suffer deep depression. Many identify themselves through their possessions, so their whole identity collapses’“ (Sunday Times, 24 June).

This “affluenza” is an awful disorder, one that we fortunate members of the working class will never suffer; so we think it only right to comfort these sufferers with the news that there will be no money or banks inside socialism. Another good reason to organise for socialism, you can relieve these poor souls from their insecurity fears and leave Ronit Lami free to get a real job.

Mao’s afterthought
Chinese state capitalism is desperate for foreign investment; so much so, that at its 80th anniversary celebrations the Communist Party revealed its long held admiration of capitalism :

“Liu Jingfeng, a history professor at the party school, told an on-line forum run by the official People’s Daily newspaper: ‘Mao Zedong did not oppose capitalism all the time. At the Seventh Party Congress, Mao Zedong fully endorsed the idea that China should develop capitalism.’” (Times, 5 July)

Science in fetters
Capitalism was once a progressive force in the field of science. The discoveries of chemistry and physics were essential for the advance of the new society. But now capitalism has entered its restrictive phase, where, because of copyright and information ownership, scientific investigation is being restricted. Immense publishing firms like Reed Elsevier zealously guard the copyrights that earned them profits of £231 million last year :

“More than 800 British researchers have joined 22,000 others from 161 countries in a campaign to boycott publishers of scientific journals who refuse to make research papers freely available on the internet after six months. ‘Science depends on knowledge and technology being in the public domain’, said Michael Ashburner, professor of Biology at Cambridge University and one of the leading signatories of the campaign, the Public Library of Sciences. ‘In that sense, science belongs to the people, and the fruits of science shouldn’t be owned or even transferred by publishers for huge profits’“ (Guardian, 26 May).

It seems that science is now being restricted by the ownership relationships of capitalism. Karl Marx wrote in January 1859 in his introduction to The Critique of Political Economy something that foresaw such a development:

“At a certain stage of their development, the material forces of production in society come into conflict with the existing relations of production, or – what is but a legal expression of the same thing – with the property relations within which they had been at work before. From forms of development of the forces of production these relations turn into their fetters.”

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