2000s >> 2006 >> no-1227-november-2006

Voice From The Back


The following report from Washington paints a dreadful picture of modern capitalism. “In the world’s biggest economy, one in eight Americans and almost one in four blacks lived in poverty last year, the US Census Bureau said on Tuesday, releasing a figure almost unchanged from 2004” (Reuter, 29 August), The report went on to say: “In all, some 37 million Americans lived below the poverty line, defined as having an annual income around $10,000 (£5,300)) for an individual or $20,000 (£10,600) for a family of four.” 200 quid a week for a family of four, and they wonder why they have a crime problem?


The Department for Communities and Local Government announced that the number of homeless families in England had dropped to 19,430 between June and April this year, down 29 percent on the same period in 2005, but charities have queried these figures. “There are as many as 380,000 hidden homeless people, predominately single, in Britain living out of sight,” says Duncan Scrubsole, head of policy and strategy at Crisis” (Inside Housing , 15 September). Adam Sampson, the chief executive of Shelter, also queries the government’s figures. “Any drop in new cases is to be welcomed, provided this is brought about by genuine work to prevent people from losing their homes in the first place, rather than preventing them from registering to get the help they need” (Times, 19 September). Anyone taking the government figures at face value, should remember the old saying “figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.”


When the Labour Party came to power we were told “things can only get better” and so they have – for the super rich. “A global survey of the lists of the wealthiest people in 27 leading countries shows that Britain and Switzerland have by far the biggest communities of foreign-born super-rich in the world. Switzerland, with its reputation for banking secrecy and strict regulations, has long been regarded as a magnet for multi-millionaires. But Britain, with the special attraction of tax incentives for billionaires from overseas, is fast catching up as a new refuge for the rich” (Sunday Times, 24 September). Britain now has more billionaires per head of its population than America. Was this what members of the working class envisaged on election day when they sang “things can only get better”?


The Koran prohibits something called riba, loosely translated as interest and this has hindered the development of capitalism. Something similar happened in medieval times when the christians banned usury, but the theologist soon found a way around that and now we have thriving banks in the Vatican. Islam theology may have taken a little longer but now they have joined the capitalist bandwagon. “Islamic banking scholars have found ways of accommodating their philosophical abhorrence of money as a commodity with the need to create financing tools. Typically, this involves converting interest into a rent or a profit share” (Times, 30 September). The Koran may hold sway in the mosque, but outside in the real world capitalism dictates.


Being homeless in Britain may be awful, but think how much worse to be sleeping rough in a Russian winter. That is a problem that does not confront the Russian billionaire Roustam Tariko to judge by this item. “At a palace in St Petersburg, which has been converted into a disco for the night by Moscow’s most fashionable party organisers, the vodka flows and a New York disco diva sings Thank You for the Music, while ballet dancers pirouette around her. … Roustam Tariko, the man picking up the $3 million (£1.6 million) tab for the party, turns to me: ‘People like you are already tired of $100,000 parties. They are nothing special for you’” (Times, 7 October). If a Moscow winter proves too severe he can always flee to his house in New York or Sardina, an escape that is impossible for the Russian homeless.


It is reckoned that 1.9 million children under the age of five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases and that the means of saving their lives only cost a couple of pence. “The result, according to the World Health Organization (WHO): 3 million people a year still die from diarrhoeal complications, including 1.9 million children under the age of five, or 17% of the estimated deaths in that age group”(Time, 16 October). All that is required is a large pinch of salt and a fistful of sugar dissolved in a jug of clean water, but in the crowded cities and remote areas of the world’s poorest this has proved impossible. Capitalism breeds poverty and ignorance and makes this madness possible. The establishment of world socialism will almost immediately save these 3 million people from premature death.

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