Voice From The Back
A SOCIETY OF CONTRASTS
Everywhere you look today the contradictions of capitalism become more and more obvious. Great wealth alongside great poverty, starvation amidst plenty and a technology that makes space travel possible yet is unable to stop the destruction of war. Two recent examples of the obscenity of capitalism leapt from the pages of the media recently. “Caviar House & Prunier, on Piccadilly, has taken delivery of the Almas, a rare golden caviar once reserved for the Tsars of Russia. Despite the price – £920 for limited edition 50g tins – the shop claims a four-year waiting list.” (Times, 19 August) “The price of rat meat has quadrupled in Cambodia this year as inflation has put other meat beyond the reach of poor people, officials said on Wednesday. With consumer price inflation at 37 percent according to the latest central bank estimate, demand has pushed a kilogram of rat meat up to around 5,000 riel (69 pence) from 1,200 riel last year.” (Yahoo News, 27 August) Does this system not disgust you? We must abolish it.
MARX AND MODERNITY
Away back in 1867 Karl Marx in Das Capital explained how the so-called primitive accumulation of capital was based on robbery and murder. In Peru today a similar process is taking place. In Britain we had the highland clearances and the enclosure acts, in Peru it is the expulsion of the indigenous population. “Peru is considering sending in the army to break up protests by Amazonian Indians who claim the government is preparing a massive land grab in the country’s remote jungles. … The government has responded to an appeal for talks by declaring a state of emergency in three states and threatening protesters with military action. “Indigenous people are defending themselves against government aggression,” said an Amazon Indian rights campaigner, Alberto Pizango. “This is not an ordinary or everyday demonstration. The Indians have told us they are not afraid. If the government declares a state of emergency they prefer to die there and show that this government violates human rights.” Relations between indigenous groups and the President Alan Garcia have become increasingly hostile as the government has sought to exploit what are thought to be rich oil and gas deposits in lands owned by Amazon Indians. Energy companies have pushed deep into supposedly protected areas in the past year, leading to clashes with some of the most remote tribal peoples left in the world.” (Independent, 21 August)
US GAP WIDENS
Socialists often meet with the argument that while capitalism may have been a terrible system in the past, with the awful gap between rich and poor, today we are gradually improving things and such inequalities no longer exists. So what do the anti-socialists make of these recent statistics? “The rich-poor gap also widened with the nation’s top one percent now collecting 23 percent of total income, the biggest disparity since 1928, according to the Economic Policy Institute. One side statistic supplied by the IRS: there are now 47,000 Americans worth $20 million or more, an all-time high.” (San Francisco Chronicle, 2 September) Eighty years of reform and now the gap is even wider.
BEHIND THE RHETORIC
Capitalist statesmen often speak of high ideals like freedom and democracy but behind the high-sounding rhetoric there is usually a harsh reality. A recent example was the US vice-president’s speech in Georgia. “Speaking in Georgia on Thursday, Cheney slammed Russia’s “illegitimate, unilateral attempt” to redraw the country’s borders and promised ongoing support for Georgia’s efforts to join NATO. The Vice President’s trip was accompanied by a $1 billion aid package announced in Washington Wednesday, for the purpose of rebuilding Georgia’s shattered economy and infrastructure. Upon arriving in Azerbaijan on Wednesday, Cheney told the people of that country and their neighbors in Georgia and Ukraine that “the United States has a deep and abiding interest in your well-being and security”.” Fine words indeed, but behind them was a more sordid reason than concern for the well-being of the Georgian citizens. “Vice President Dick Cheney, on a tour of former Soviet Republics, was working to shore up U.S. alliances in the wake of Russia’s military humiliation of Georgia – a mission whose outcome could have profound consequences for Washington’s efforts to maintain and expand the flow of oil and natural gas to the West while bypassing Russia. ” (Time, 4 September)
THE INDIAN RUPEE TRICK
Many Asian countries are depicted as “third-world” where an undeveloped economy leaves millions starving, but here is an example of an Indian capitalist who has learned the trick of exploiting workers to make a fortune.” Vijay Mallya, the founder and chairman of fast-growing Kingfisher Airlines, launched his first international route yesterday linking Heathrow with India’s IT capital Bangalore – a daily service that puts the carrier in head-to-head competition with BA. …The father-of-three, ranked 476th in Fortune’s list of the world’s wealthiest people, has 26 homes around the world and 260 vintage cars. He made his fortune as chairman of Indian drinks group United Breweries, the Kingfisher-beer owner that last year acquired Scotch whisky maker Whyte & Mackay for £595m.” (Daily Telegraph, 5 September)