Voice From The Back

The designer and poet William Morris was a committed socialist who had to live with the irony that, although he wanted the abolition of the wages system, the only people who could afford his carpets, tapestries and furniture were the very rich. The following item in the Independent (6 October) illustrates this. “A William Morris carpet that cost £113 new in 1883 was bought for £193,760 in an auction at Sotheby’s in London yesterday. The flowered design, a synthesis of medieval and eastern motifs, was one of only two examples known with a cream and apricot background. It was made for a house in Holland Park, West London, measuring 17ft 5ins by 13ft 6ins.” £193,000 for a carpet – something to bear in mind when you are looking for a bargain at the January sales!


“A giant oil company once headed by Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, used its British subsidiaries to flout American sanctions against Iran . . . Their exports – estimated to be worth more than £30m a year – have continued despite sanctions introduced by the US government nine years ago barring Americans from trading or ‘facilitating business’ with the Islamic state. The new findings will embarrass Cheney, President George W Bush’s running mate in next month’s elections. Cheney has described Iran as ‘one of the world’s most dangerous regimes’” (Times, 17 October). He “earned” $44m during his tenure at Haliburton, continues to collect deferred compensation of $150,000 a year and owns $18m in share options. The gap between political rhetoric and economic reality has never embarrassed hypocrites like Cheney.


A TV programme entitled ‘Britain’s Secret Shame’ (BBC, 3 November) illustrated the extent of corporate manslaughter in this country. It reported that about 250 workers die at work every year due to the negligence of their employers. Prosecutions rarely take place, convictions are even rarer, and then it is usually only smaller firms. Attempts to introduce legislation have all failed because the owning class warn the government that more stringent legislation would be too costly. Just another example of how inside capitalism profits are more important than the workers who produce them.


“Britain’s largest drug company drew up a secret plan to double sales of the controversial anti-depressant Seroxat by marketing it as a cure for a raft of less serious mental conditions, the Observer can reveal today. The contents of the 250-page document have alarmed health campaigners who accuse the firm, GlaxoSmithKLine (GSK) of putting profits before therapeutic needs by attempting to broaden the market for the drug which has been linked to a series of suicides . . . Concerns about the addictive properties of Seroxat saw the government ban its prescription to people under the age of 18 last year. This followed a review which found children taking it were more likely to self-harm or commit suicide” (Observer, 7 November). It seems the company were attempting to move sales from $1 billion to $2billion by pushing it to people who were not clinically depressed. When there is money like this to be made even the “respectable” shareholders become murderous drug pushers.

Under the headline ‘Desperate plight of cancer sufferers living in poverty’ (Times, 9 November) reported as follows: “At least three quarters of the million Britons with cancer suffer from financial hardship brought on by the disease, including enforced job losses, discrimination and poor benefit allowances, according to research. A report by Macmillan Cancer Relief suggests that the disease costs patients hundreds of millions of pounds, for which they have little or no financial cover.” Needless to say this poverty only applies to the working class, as those capitalists unfortunate enough to suffer from the disease have at least the consolation that they will receive the best of care and that their families will not suffer financially.

Twenty years ago an explosion at the chemical factory in Bhopal in central India killed more than 15,000 people, and survivors are still trying to cope with the effects of this horrendous disaster. “Yesterday, half a million people who were in the path of the lethal cloud that spewed out of the chemical plant received a second compensation payment of £300 to £1,200” (Times, 13 November). This is in addition to a first payment of £500 per person from the company responsible Union Carbide. Dow Chemicals, who now own Union Carbide, refuse to clean up the site which still holds 25,000 tons of toxic waste. Another example of capitalism’s priorities. Make a couple of bucks, kill 15,000 and leave an area full of children who have difficulty breathing and are painfully dying, who cares? Socialists do.

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