Voice From The Back

Green shoots of recovery?                           
Financial “experts” keep claiming that world capitalism has recovered from economic crisis and point to the increase in some stocks and increases in bankers bonuses as evidence of that recovery. They completely ignore the mounting unemployment and the repossession of workers houses. Here is a recent example of homelessness in the USA. “That insecurity is becoming more common in the suburbs these days. Officials say that homeless shelters are suddenly filled to capacity, with some suburban communities resorting to housing families in motels, for the first time in years. On Long Island, Nassau County officials have seen the number of people seeking shelter rise by 40 percent compared with this time last year, while in Suffolk, the number of families seeking shelter for the first time rose by 20 percent. In Connecticut, in an annual one-day survey taken in January, the number of people in emergency shelters was 33 percent higher than the year before” (New York Times, 11 December). So while financial “experts” talk of economic recovery thousands of workers in the most advanced capitalist nation in the world huddle into homeless shelters. A typical example of capitalism in action.

Capitalism is obscene
Every day we are confronted by appeals to help the starving, the undernourished and the children dying from lack of clean water or simple medical attention. We are beseeched by well-meaning workers to give a few pounds to this or that charity appeal. It is an every day experience for workers but how do we relate to this piece of information? “Four directors at Paulson Europe, the London-based arm of one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, took home more than £50m last year after successfully betting on the near-collapse of the UK banking sector. The four directors – which include Paulson & Co, the US hedge fund run by billionaire investor John Paulson – saw profits at the partnership rise 37pc to £50.8m in the year to March 2009, according to documents filed at Companies House. The highest paid director, likely to have been Paulson & Co, received £28.6m. The three London-based directors – Nikolai Petchenikov, Harry St John Cooper and Mina Gerowin – split the remaining £22.2m between them” (Daily Telegraph, 7 January). In a society of extreme poverty such wealth is truly obscene.

This Sporting Life
There was a time when sport was supposed to be a pleasant physical exercise. The popularity of association football inside capitalism made it an activity much adored by workers too unfit to play it themselves, but keen to follow the efforts of their local sporting heroes. With the development of capitalism football has just become another business opportunity. Its development more likely to be followed by financial journalists rather than football ones. “Manchester United is exploring a bond issue as part of efforts to refinance its £700m debt, with the English Premier League champions in talks with two banks about how to reorganise its borrowings. JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank are advising the football club on its options. It is one of a number of clubs whose debts have alarmed football authorities. People familiar with the situation said the options under consideration included the issue of high-yield bonds. These would be used to refinance bank debt or payment-in-kind notes – an instrument that allows borrowers to roll over cash interest payments – which helped Malcolm Glazer, the US sports franchise owner, and his family take over Man United in 2005 in a £790m leveraged buy-out. The club would be the latest company to take advantage of the recovery in bond markets to refinance debt” (Financial Times, 2 January). Every activity that capitalism touches it turns into commodities.

Behind the glamour
Capitalism is a society based on deceit. It purports to be based on freedom yet it is a ruthlessly class-divided society that enslaves millions in its quest for greater and greater profits for its owning class. A good example of the facade that is capitalism is the recent completion of the tallest building in the world the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. This 2,717 foot edifice has 600 apartments, 300,000 square feet of office accommodation, the world’s highest swimming pool and mosque. Behind this facade of opulence lies another story. “Many of Dubai’s construction workers live on starvation wages: £120 a month on average for a six-day week, with shifts of up to 12 hours…Construction workers on the Burj Khalifa have rioted on several occasions, including in March 2006, when 2,500 protested at the site, and again in November 2007. A Human Rights Watch survey found a cover-up of deaths from heat, overwork and suicide in the emirate. The Indian consulate recorded 971 deaths of their nationals in 2005, after which they were asked to stop counting” (Observer, 10 January). Death, destruction and exploitation, that is what lies behind this monument to capitalism’s avarice.

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