Voice From The Back

An oil business
It is not just socialists who point out that the present conflict in the Middle East has a basis in the need for oil in modern capitalism. John Chapman, who was a former assistant secretary in the British civil service from 1963-96, expressed similar views in the Guardian (28 July). “Saddam controlled a country at the centre of the Gulf, a region with a quarter of world oil production in 2003, and containing more than 60 percent of the world’s known reserves. With 115bn barrels of of oil reserves, and perhaps as much again in the 90 percent of the country not explored, Iraq has capacity second only to Saudi Arabia. The US in contrast, is the world’s largest net importer of oil. Last year the US Department of energy forecast that imports will cover 70 percent of domestic demand by 2025. By invading Iraq, Bush has taken over the Iraq oil fields, and persuaded the UN to lift production limits imposed after the Kuwait war. Production may rise to 3m barrels and about double 2002 levels.” It is surely no accident that the Bush administration is heavily backed by western oil giants, is it?
Another Labour triumph
“The gap between rich and poor has widened since Tony Blair took office, and social class and ethnic background still influence heavily an individuals life chances, a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research, a centre-left think-tank, says” Times (2 August). Is there anybody out there who still imagines that the Labour Party has got anything to do with socialism?
A wake up call
The news that HSBC, Britain’s largest bank, rang up record six-month profits of £5.2bn at the same time that they are in the process of cutting 7,500 jobs, of which 4,000 are being transferred to low-wage call and processing centres in Asia brought forth a burst of righteous indignation from a top bank trade union official. “Yesterday’s figures drew condemnation from unions representing HSBC’s employees. Rob O’Neill, Unifi’s National Secretary, said: “We don’t know how HSBC’s directors can sleep at night. Instead of rewarding staff for their part in making HSBC as profitable as it is, the bank is slashing jobs in the UK and exporting more and more work to Asia in an attempt to cut costs” Independent (3 August). We imagine the directors and shareholders will sleep just fine, it is O’Neill who should wake up. The purpose of all capitalist concerns is to make as big a  profit as possible, one of the ways they do that is by cutting costs. If O’Neill imagines the purpose of capitalism is to reward workers he is living in cloud cuckoo land.
Crime and punishment (1)
A piece of summary “justice” that even Labour’s tough guy David Blunkett might balk at occurred recently in Russia. “A passenger riding the Moscow Metro without a 20p ticket has been shot by a policeman. The unnamed 29-year-old has been charged with attempted murder. Labourer Rustam Balbekov was shot in the mouth and doctors say he is lucky to be alive . . . The bullet smashed his jaw and went through his neck. Witnesses heard the sergeant say: ‘Do you want to get shot?’ before he opened fire after getting no response” Sky News (4 August). Capitalism just gets madder and madder!
Crime and punishment (2)
The dreadful carnage keeps increasing in Britain’s women prisons. “Officers in Holloway prison are cutting down five women a day from nooses, the Guardian has learned, and recently saved one inmate six times in a single night. But these women are the lucky ones. Already this year 11 female prisoners in English and Welsh prisons have apparently taken their own lives and campaigners fear that this year will see the greatest number of female jail deaths since records began . . . At the heart of the problem is overcrowding. The female prison population, like that of men, has soared in the past 10 years from 1,811 in 1994 to 4,475 at the start of last month” Guardian (9 August). What a society capitalism has become. Shoplifters committing suicide!

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