Voice from the Back
Dying for work
After the death of ex-president Reagan it was reported that he had once said “They say that hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance.” Figures from the PSA Journal (June 2004) show that this no joking matter. This journal of the Public Service Association of New Zealand trade union quotes International Labour Organisation statistics on the subject. “The ILO estimates the number of deaths of workers worldwide, through health and safety causes, to be two million per year. Those figures on a daily basis are that around 6,000 workers are dying from employment based disease and accidents, more than are caused through wars. This is the equivalent of one worker dying every 15 seconds from employment related causes.”
Nothing illustrates the madness of capitalism more graphically than the lot of poorer paid workers and the conspicuous consumption of the owning class. A particularly glaring example of this appeared in two different articles in the Times (25 June) “A fifth of parents on low incomes do not have enough money to feed their children healthily, research claims. The report published today by the children’s charity NCH, warns the government that any attempt to improve the nation’s diet and tackle obesity must consider ways of making healthy food more affordable . . . Half the parents questioned in the survey had gone hungry themselves to feed their families. A minority had considered doing something illegal to get money for food.” Contrast that with a report about some parasites in a St Tropez club. “And if you can get in, you can probably afford a methuselah (the equivalent of 8 bottles) of champagne – the Cristal Roederer goes for a cool £16,500 a pop. When P. Diddy showed up in 2002, the Sultan of Brunei sent five methuselahs to his table. That same summer, two Pakistani brothers set the record by spending £260,000 at the Caves in one night. When a glass of water costs £16, it’s not that difficult to see how it could happen.” In Africa and Asia many children die from the lack of clean water. Why are you not a socialist?
“A black doberman-labrador cross, who travels in a stretch limo and has his own share portfolio, has been named one of Britain’s most pampered pets. Jasper, who lives with Sir Benjamin Slade at Maunsell House near Bridgewater, Somerset, dines on medium rare sirloin steak, Dover Sole and freshwater mussels. “He doesn’t like shooting and is not very sporty” said Sir Benjamin, “but he is big on the social side.” In 1988 the dog was the centre of a custody battle between former girlfriend Fiona Aitken. Thanks to a legacy from a former owner, Jasper was able to pay his own legal fees” Sunday Times (27 June). “Many hotel workers are among the lowest paid in the country – a chambermaid on £4.50 an hour for example, would have to work for four months to make what most of these hotels spend a week on their flower arrangements. When people talk about exploitation in the tourist industry they always assume it’s happening in some far-off developing country” Observer (4 July).
An indictment of capitalism
It is not just Socialists who see through the glitter of capitalism to its rotten core. Here is J. K. Galbraith the economist in his latest book The Economics of Innocent Fraud: Truth for Our Time exposing the destructive nature of the profit system. “The US and Britain are in the bitter aftermath of war in Iraq. We are accepting programmed death for the young and random slaughter for men and women of all ages. So it was in the first and second world wars, and is still so in Iraq. Civilised life, as it is called, is a great white tower celebrating human achievements, but at the top there is permanently a large black cloud. Human progress dominated by unimaginable cruelty and death” Guardian (15 July).
The failure of reform
“The number of homeless families in Britain is set to hit 100,000 for the first time, more than double the figure when Labour came to power . . . According to the homeless charity Shelter the number of families in temporary accommodation, the standard definition of homelessness, will hit 100,000 before the end of the year. The figure compares with 41,250 families who were registered homeless in March 1997, shortly before Labour took office” Observer (18 July).