News from the madhouse

The American propaganda machine has heaped insults on France for vetoing the American resolution in the Security Council to attack Iraq. Jacques Chirac, who has been posing as a defender of peace, was in fact only defending the French capitalist class, who had and have profitable contracts with Saddam Hussein; those profits will probably be lost now that Saddam has been overthrown. All countries’ rulers are hypocritical, of course. Not least Bush and Blair, pretending to be shocked by Chirac’s threat of a veto. As a letter in Scotland on Sunday (23 March) said, “look what has happened for the last 32 votes which contain the word ‘Israel’. America has vetoed every single one, even when the rest of the council has often voted 14 to 1 in favour of action.”

To end all wars
The last veterans of the First World War still alive in Britain, fewer than forty of them, recently met for one final re-union (Times, 9 April). They were all well over 100 -between 102 and 108. Jack Davis, of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, might well have been one of the 57,000 men (British, French, and Germans) killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, in July 1916, but he was temporarily behind the lines with trench fever. (“There was no drainage, and we were invariably knee-deep – thigh-deep – in mud and water in the trenches.”) Asked about the war in Iraq, he said “We were meant to stop all this fighting.” (Younger readers may have forgotten that the spin-doctors of the day sold the First World War to the unfortunate people taking part as “The War to End All Wars”. Don’t laugh.)

Mr Davis continued: “Has the First World War ever been justified? For what?” No, Mr Davis, it hasn’t ever been justified. In fact, few people now (however much they try to uphold capitalism) would try to defend it. But there is only one group of people who defied the incessant war propaganda at the time, and have resolutely opposed all wars since: the Socialists.

Rifling through rubbish tips
Argentina’s economic crisis has brought hardship to many even in that mythical “middle class” which our rulers would love to make us believe in, and which always turns out to mean simply slightly better off members of the working class. The Times correspondent reported (5 April) on “the crisis which has sent Argentina’s economy crashing, leaving half its population in poverty and reducing families to rifling through rubbish tips to recycle what they can”. However, as usual, the upper class floats serenely above such troubles.

The journalist went to the main polo venue in Buenos Aires, “the cathedral of polo”, and found everyone at the Palermo ground looking “wealthy, healthy, relaxed and chic. Hair is well-cut, skin is tanned, sunglasses are expensive and expressions are flirtatious. Through the railings, staggeringly beautiful horses are tethered, tails looped and braided, fetlocks strapped with pads.” In fact, “most of the polo players and spectators will have escaped the worst of the hardship. Having their money in dollar accounts outside Argentina, they won’t know what it is to have their savings and salaries frozen and devalued. Indeed, many players, who breed ponies and sell them abroad, have, like the many agricultural exporters among the polo set, even benefited from the peso devaluation, as their running costs are in pesos while their exports earn dollars”. Recently one affluent horse breeder “entertained 400 guests at a lavish launch party [for a new polo club], while some of Buenos Aires’ new urban poor slept in doorways up the street”.

And one wealthy Argentinean pointed out that polo gave lots of jobs to poor people – the ones who look after the pastures, groom and prepare the horses, and drive the lorries transporting them to polo games: “they are glad they’ve got a job”. So the workers, as elsewhere, are grateful that they are allowed to work for their masters.

At a recent cup semi-final at the Palermo ground, a food charity sent volunteers to hand out leaflets asking spectators “to bring a few kilos of non-perishable foodstuffs with them to the final, for donation to feeding centres. It reminded Argentina’s high society that children continue to die of malnutrition in the world’s fourth largest exporter of food”. But the collection was disappointing. Ah well, said the charity spokesperson, it was probably because “people go all dressed up and they don’t want to carry unsightly tins and packets”. And while the Argentinean workers, like workers the world over, are grateful to be exploited by the upper class, why should the wealthy bother?

It ought to know
Cuba, a dictatorial state-capitalist country, sends some dissidents to jail, and immediately the media is full of allegations that Cuba is “socialist”. Stalinist countries always claimed to be “socialist”, so if you asked people why they described the Soviet Russian empire, for example, as “socialist”, you always got the answer – “well, it says it is, and it ought to know”. But Stalinist countries always insisted just as fervently that they were “democratic”, to the point sometimes of incorporating the word into their titles: East Germany called itself the GDR, “the German Democratic Republic”, for example. But the media always fulminated against such claims: Stalinist countries claiming to be democratic were simply lying, the newspapers always said. Then, having established (correctly) that Stalinist leaders were all congenital liars, they immediately insisted they must be telling the truth when they claimed to be “socialist”. Weird!

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