2000s >> 2002 >> no-1173-may-2002

Voice From the Back

What about the lazy man?
A very common objection to the socialist’s aim of a new society based on common ownership and democratic control is that it wouldn’t work because people are innately lazy. We often reply to this objection by pointing to all the voluntary, unpaid work that people perform even inside an anti-social system like capitalism, but a recent press item provides another way to look at the problem. “More people are working more unpaid overtime than ever before, contributing £28 billion of free labour, according to the TUC. Analysis of Labour Force Survey figures show that 5.5 million people – 22 percent of all workers – do unpaid overtime at an average rate of 7.3 hours a week. It calculates that the benefit to employers is an average of £5,000 per person working unpaid overtime and £28 billion across the economy” Times (20 March). They may be crawling toadies trying to impress their exploiters – but they certainly aren’t lazy!

Send for Rambo
The working class are always taught to respect their “betters”. Authority figures are to be held in awe. Kids in the USA are taught to respect their government, the President and the Pentagon. But a report on how the Pentagon is consulting Hollywood scriptwriters to try to forecast where terrorists might strike next and how to deal with them is hardly likely to engender much respect. In the TV programme Panorama: “September 11 – A Warning from Hollywood” (BBC1, 24 March) we learn that the scriptwriter of “Die Hard” Steve de Souza was told by a spokesman for the Pentagon: “We’ve got all our people thinking in the channels that we’re trained to think in. We want some left field, off-the-wall ideas – say the craziest thing that comes into your mind.” As de Souza is also the scriptwriter for The Flintstones he could have possibly replied “Yabba-dabba-doo!”

The realities of war
In the March issue we mentioned that 255 British servicemen had died in the Falklands conflict and that in the ensuing 20 years 264 had committed suicide; we now have the Argentine figures. 655 died in action and 269 veterans have since killed themselves. In the TV programme Simon’s Heroes (BBC1, 2nd April) Simon Weston, who was so badly disfigured in that war that he has had to have 70 operations in the past 20 years revealed something of the brutality of war. “ I see the Falklands every day, when I go for a wash or clean my teeth or have a shave,” he said. “Conflict is not a game. There is nothing glamorous about potentially having to take someone else’s life away, or having your own taken. There’s no glory in war at all.”

Royal perspectives
It was just another sad Tuesday in capitalism; every 8 seconds a mother had watched her child die of diarrhoea, in Bangladesh over 2,000 children had died that day because of poverty and in the world’s poorest countries one in four children was dying before they reached their fifth birthday. (Figures from Oxfam) Sad perhaps, but how was the Times (2 April) dealing with this war-torn, poverty stricken mad house? By leading on its front page with the headline “Palace fury at BBC’s black tie ban”. According to them the most important news item of the day was the Royal Family’s anger at how the BBC covered the death of the Queen Mother. “The Royal Family is unhappy that the BBC presenters alone failed to wear black ties and is upset by a decision to scale back its coverage.”

Blair blurts it out
Perhaps it was the heady air of Texas or just the unusual feeling that his US audience admired him (a rarer and rarer phenomena in Britain) but on 7 April Tony Blair startled the world by telling the truth! He told his audience at the George Bush Senior Presidential Library what really lay behind the Afghanistan, Angola and Middle East military adventures, and it had nothing to do with democracy or human rights. “Fuel is our lifeblood. The price of oil can be the difference between recession and recovery. The western world is import dependent . . . Yet I don’t believe that collectively, we have a sufficient strategy for ensuring that the political and corporate world co-operate together in ensuring the diversity of supply continues or in our policy towards energy. The Middle East, we focus on naturally. But the Caspian, Russia and Angola will be vital sources of supply in the future. Sorting out the problems – for example conflict resolution in Angola which accounts for some 7 percent of non-OPEC US imports – is not time wasted.”

A nice little earner
Workers are always being lectured by our “betters” about our lack of honesty. Press barons, politicians and men of the cloth are forever going on about how we take days off work when we aren’t really sick or claiming phoney expenses. But what little “fiddles” workers get up to pale into insignificance besides the antics of tax-dodging billionaires. “After the revelation that the richest man in Britain, Hans Rausing, has used the loophole to pay UK tax on only a fraction of his wealth. Guardian research today suggests that a third of the country’s billionaires are among the 60,000 UK taxpayers who are entitled to use it if they so choose. The loophole allows UK residents to cite another country as their true domicile and to pay no UK tax on foreign earnings which they keep abroad” (Guardian, 13 April).

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