2000s >> 2003 >> no-1181-january-2003

Voice From the Back

Profit knows no borders
When the tanker “Prestige” broke up of the coast of Northern Spain, polluting the area in yet another disaster, it was an example of how in its drive for profits capitalism risks our fragile environment. It was also an example how that insane drive knows no national boundaries. “The decrepit vessel is Liberian-owned, operated by a Greek company, chartered by a Swiss-based subsidiary of a Russian conglomerate, and classed as seaworthy by an American shipping authority” Herald, 20 November.

Harsh medicine
“Shortages of crucial vaccines, caused by drug companies shifting resources into more profitable lines, are stalling efforts to protect millions of children from fatal diseases, it emerged yesterday . . . Unicef, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, says it is 70 million doses short of vaccines for diseases such as measles, which kills 800,000 children a year. Also short are DTP and BCG vaccines and injections against tetanus in babies, which kills 200,000 a year” Guardian, 21 November. It is not very profitable to produce medicine that saves kids lives, so the logic of capitalism is let them die.

Russian duplicity
Not so long ago the Russian president was opposing US war aims in Iraq, but now he is an enthusiastic supporter. Perhaps the answer can be found in what Mr Bush said on his visit to Russia. “President Bush was careful to assure his host that Russia would not lose financially in the aftermath of a war. “We understand Russia has got interests there. Of course those interests would be honoured,” said Mr Bush referring to the £5 billion worth of Russian investment in Iraq’s oil industry” Times, 23 November.

Land of the free?
The journalist Lawrence Donegan paints a terrifying picture of government surveilliance in the USA. “There’s a new US government department for combatting terrorism called the Office of Information Awareness, which is an offshoot of something called the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA to its close friends), which in turn is an offshoot of the Pentagon . . . According to the New York Times, the Office of Information Awareness is putting together a vast electronic surveillance system which will give it access to the personal details of all 300 million Americans. When I say details I mean details: every credit card transaction; every magazine transaction; every medical prescription; every website visit; every e-mail sent (and received); the result of every academic test; every bank deposit; every airline trip; every library book borrowed” Herald Magazine, 23 November.

Why we are socialists (1)
We want a new world where everybody works according to their ability and takes according to their needs. We have been told that we are crazy to say such things but here is the outcome of the so-called sane society that we live in at present. “A child dies every 15 seconds from diseases associated with a lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene” Observer, 1 December. Of course, when we have world socialism every child on earth will have safe water. Imagine your own child dying of something as basic as lack of clean water in today’s so-called sane society and then go crazy like us.

Why we are socialists (2)
A couple of extracts from an article in the New York Times (2 December) should illustrate the madness of producing for sale instead of solely for use. “HANNA, India – Surplus from this year’s wheat harvest, bought by the government from farmers, sits mouldering in muddy fields here in Punjab state. Some of the previous year’s wheat surplus sits untouched, too, and the year’s before that, and the year’s before that…. It is about 400 miles from the abundance here to the barren, scrubby landscape of Baran, in the southeast corner of Rajasthan . . . In the village of Swaans, isolated by jolting dirt roads and dry riverbeds, one man, Gobrilal, lost an 8-year-old son to hunger this fall . . . On a good day they ate once a day, but many days they ate nothing. Gobrilal’s son began vomiting, even while asking for food, and died two day’s later. “If we had money,” his father said listlessly, “we would have bought him wheat so he wouldn’t have died.”

Another planet
Nicky Oppenheimer, the chairman of De Beers, showed, with his upper class arrogance, how much he is in touch with the man in the street with his latest utterance quoted in the Times (3 December). “A real tragedy was visited upon them (Americans on September 11) – they had been immune to that sort of thing before. This has caused a push to traditional values in life and obviously, diamonds are very much part of that ethos.” Yeah, right, Oppenheimer. We can imagine firemen’s widows shopping on Fifth Avenue for diamond rings and necklaces.

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