Voice From the Back

Pay up or die
“The National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which authorises drugs for prescription in England and Wales, is set to reject Glivec, which was developed to combat chronic myeloid leukaemia. Data presented to the American Society for Clinical Oncology show that it is three times more effective than existing therapies . . . The drug is expensive costing between £19,000 and £28,500 per patient per year, depending on dose. But the results on first chronic myeloid leukaemia and now gastro-intestinal stromal tumours suggest it is a life-saver” Times (28 May). A life-saver perhaps, but only if you have the cash.

Marx and the Observer
In an article entitled “Life’s good. Why do we feel bad?” in the Observer (19 May) by Richard Reeves we find a rare reference to Marx. The article is the usual bleat about how despite rising living standards everybody seems to be less happy, but it has the merit of quoting Marx on the subject. “Karl Marx, who for all his faults knew a bit about capitalism, captured the keeping-up-with-the-Jones dynamic of market economics perfectly: ‘A house may be large or small; as long as the neighbouring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all the social requirements of a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace and the little house shrinks to a hut.’ With mass media, the palace doesn’t need to be next door – it can be beamed into our living rooms. And the competition doesn’t stop with the three-bed semi; it applies to our car, our children’s clothes, even our bodies.”

The height of nonsense
An obvious example of how capitalism is totally anti-human is how it makes you feel bad about having a small wage, a small car, or a small house but now, even just being small. In the New York Times (5 May) it is reported that some members of the working class in Japan in order to get a job or a spouse are subjecting themselves to a painful operation where their shinbones are cut in two, a brace is applied and they are taught to turn a screw so that metal pins can pull their bones apart a millimetre a day. As Ms Zhang of Beijing said from her hospital bed, “ I’ll have a better job, a better boyfriend and eventually a better husband. It’s a long term investment.”

Industrial scrapheap
The Channel 4 programme Old (23 May) gave some horrendous statistics about the elderly poor in Britain today. “Almost 2.5 million old people in the UK live below the poverty line. More than 180,000 old people are physically abused in their homes every year. Every 24 seconds an old person falls victim to crime. The decomposing bodies of 1,000 old people are found in their homes every month. More than 21,000 old people are living in hotels for the homeless.” Capitalism is a harsh competitive system and reserves its most callous treatment for the impoverished elderly, an aspect of capitalism that young workers today would do well to consider when contemplating their futures.

Shady Deals Inc
When attending primary school young workers are indoctrinated with the ideas of hard work, thrift and honesty. But from some of the stories that we hear about “our betters” they must have skipped those lessons. In Chris Ayres’s Wall Street Diary in the Times (6 June) we read about some of the antics of the owning class. “The Vice-President of the United States is facing an investigation for dubious accounting practices at his former firm. One of America’s richest business leaders has been indicted for orchestrating an international art scam. Two top finance executives at two separate energy companies have died from self-inflicted bullet wounds – amid an industry-wide trading scandal. Then there is the investment research scandal being played out on Wall Street; the widespread fraud in the telecommunications industry; the shaming and ultimate destruction of the Andersen accounting firm; and, of course, the collapse of Enron, the energy company that triggered the whole sorry story.”

Shady Deals plc
“Fee-greedy investment bankers, duplicitous analysts, shifty accountants and fat-cat executives may have perpetrated a share-bubble conspiracy lapped up by gullible investors that has brought corporate America into disrepute. But as the British economy loses its sheen, the self-preservation society that is the Square Mile is itself becoming tainted by sleaze. From alleged spreadbetting insider-dealing rings to false accounting scandals, corporate Britain has witnessed a string of dubious transactions and dodgy practices. Corporate investigators have told the Observer that scams which were under wraps during the good times are now coming to light. In recent months, there’s been a significant increase in the number of fraud cases they have been asked to investigate” Observer (9 June).

Thatcher and the left
Peter Mandelson, the Labour MP and close adviser to Tony Blair has written an article in the Times (10 June) where he tells us that the Labour Party is now Thatcherite. “No serious challenge on the Left exists to Third Way thinking anywhere in the world. This is hardly surprising as globalisation punishes hard any country that tries to run its economy by ignoring the realities of the market or prudent public finance. In this strictly narrow sense, and in the urgent need to remove rigidities and incorporate flexibility in capital, product and labour markets, we are all ‘Thatcherite’ now”. This is the Labour Party that the SWP, SA and various other leftists will urge workers to vote for at the next election!

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