Voice From The Back

Reformism Fails Again
It is a basic socialist priciple that no programme of reforms can solve the problems of capitalism, but here is an example where well-intentioned reformism has made the situation worse. “Hospitals were last night accused of keeping thousands of seriously ill patients in ambulance ‘holding patterns’ outside accident and emergency units to keep a government pledge that all patients are treated within four hours of admission. … An Observer investigation has also found that some wait for up to to five hours in ambulances because A & E units have refused to admit them until they can guarantee to treat them within the time limit.” (Observer, 17 February)

Capitalism And Euphemism
Capitalism has got to have euphemisms to cover up the sordid nature of the system. Thus children maimed by napalm bombs is called “co-lateral damage” and troops blowing up their own troops is called “friendly fire”. A recent addition to this sorry catalogue is “extraordinary rendition”. “David Miliband has admitted two US ‘extraordinary rendition’ flights landed on UK territory in 2002. The foreign secretary said in both cases US planes refuelled on the UK dependent territory of Diego Garcia. He said he was ‘very sorry’ to have to say that previous denials made in ‘good faith’ were now having to be corrected. The renditions – the transport of terror suspects around the world for interrogation – only came to light after a US records search, he said.” …”Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said extraordinary rendition was ‘a polite way of talking about kidnapping and secret detention’”. (BBC News, 21 February)

Jobs For The Boys
When in opposition, Gordon Brown criticised the last Tory government for the “revolving door from the cabinet room to the board room”, but he has remained silent about a similar ploy by his own party members. “Twenty-eight former Labour ministers have cashed in on their connections in government and Whitehall by taking jobs in the private sector in the past two years. It represents the biggest exodus of ministers into the private sector since Labour came to power and is worth at least £10M a year in salaries and fees.” (Sunday Times, 24 February)

  A Ray Of Hope
Socialists are often told that socialism is impossible because human beings are innately war-like and agressive, but this report seems to suggest otherwise. “More and more Israelis are avoiding mandatory military service— something long viewed in this country as a proud rite of passage. “In the past, it is true that not serving in the military was considered the exception,” said Dr. Rueven Gal, author of A Portrait of the Israeli Soldier and former chief psychologist for the Israeli military. “In more recent years it became more tolerable and more acceptable to people.” In 1997, according to army statistics, fewer than one in 10 Israeli men avoided their mandatory three-year military service. These days, it’s closer to three in 10. Women, too, are opting out at a faster pace: Over the last decade, the number of women avoiding military duty rose from 37 percent to 44 percent.” (Yahoo News, 2 March)

Another Ray Of Hope
The awful carnage in the hate-filled Middle East and the religious brutality there fills socialists with gloom but this report would seem to suggest that all is not lost. “After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach. In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives. “I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,” said Sara, a high school student in Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority because they don’t deserve to be rulers.” Atheer, a 19-year-old from a poor, heavily Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad, said: “The religion men are liars. Young people don’t believe them. Guys my age are not interested in religion anymore.” (New York Times, 4 March)

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