Voice From The Back

Football fortunes
Every day in the newspapers and on television we are told of the fabulous incomes of some of the footballers in the Premier League. Some are reported to be earning £140,000 a week. To most workers this appears a fortune and yet it is chicken-feed compared to the immense wealth of people like the Russian multi-millionaire who at present owns the Chelsea football club. Of course the majority of professional footballers have to struggle by on more ordinary incomes like most workers. At the other end of the scale from the well-heeled Premier footballers and the millionaire owners we have the poor makers of the footballs. “The city of Sialkot in Pakistan produces as many as 60 million hand-stitched footballs in a World Cup year. The firms here are running out of new workers since child labor was abolished. Western buyers may have a clear conscience, but the children of Sialkot now toil in the local brickworks instead. …Shaukat is a strong, 20-year-old man. He has been working for this independent stitching factory, Danayal, for eight years. Danayal produces handmade footballs for professional leagues. … At the entrance to the factory there’s a notice board showing the current rates of pay. Depending on the model, his employer pays between 55 and 63 Pakistan rupees per ball ($0.65 to $0.75). ‘On a good day I manage six balls,’ says Shaukat. That’s eight hours work. ‘That’s not a lot of money,’ he says as he pushes a needle through the thick synthetic leather and stitches together two patches. His boss is standing close by so he quickly adds: ‘But it’s not little either.’ He gets paid every Saturday and has to feed a family of six with his wages” (Spiegel on line, 16 March). That is how capitalism operates – immense wealth for the millionaire owners and penury for the working class.

Cause for celebration?
According to the media the US and Russian leaders have scored a wonderful step forward for world peace. “US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, have signed a landmark nuclear arms treaty in the Czech capital, Prague. The treaty commits the former Cold War enemies to each reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 – 30% lower than the previous ceiling. Mr Obama said it was an important milestone, but “just one step on a longer journey” of nuclear disarmament. Mr Medvedev said the deal would create safer conditions throughout the world” (BBC News, 8 April). Before we crack open the champagne and engage in dancing in the street it would be worthwhile reflecting on what this really means. 1,550 nuclear warheads is sufficient to destroy the whole world! A more sober analysis of the US/Russia agreement is that it is an attempt to limit arms expenditure and aims to discourage non-US/Russia opponents from entering the nuclear arms race. Our champagne remains uncorked.

Capitalism in action
Defenders of capitalism laud it as a dynamic social system that may produce some problems, but claim that in the long run it is the only possible way to run society. “One of Britain’s richest bankers has landed a record pay package of £63.3million. The extraordinary deal for Barclays president Bob Diamond sparked a major new row over payouts to banking fat cats. The sheer size of his salary, perks and shares package flies in the face of assurances that Barclays and other banks have adopted a culture of restraint” (Daily Mail, 20 March). We can understand why the Bob Diamonds of this world would support capitalism but what about the predicament of the kids reported in the latest WaterAid charity leaflet? “Every 20 seconds a child in the developing world dies from water-related diseases. In around the time it takes you to read the next paragraph, a child somewhere will die. Every day, people in the world’s poorest countries face the dilemma of having to trust their health and that of their children to the consequences of drinking water that could kill them. It’s a gamble that often carries a high price – seeing children needlessly dying is simply heartbreaking.” A dynamic system for bankers maybe but a death sentence for these children.

Prostitutes, pimps and politicians
It is the sort of story that those pimps of Fleet Street love. The French to bring back officially-sanctioned brothels! “More than 60 years after Paris shut its famed maisons closes, or brothels, an MP from President Sarkozy’s UMP party is campaigning to legalise them again. Chantal Brunel, who was appointed last month to head the national watchdog on sexual equality, is arguing that crime would be cut and sex workers would benefit from ‘sexual services centres’ similar to those run by most of France’s neighbours” (Times, 19 March). In advocating a change in French law this MP expressed a long-held but completely fallacious notion. “Ms Brunel, MP for the western Paris suburbs, says that France should follow the example of nearly all its neighbours and allow modern bordels. ‘It is true that few women prostitute themselves willingly,’ she told Le Parisien. ‘But we should not be blind. Prostitution has always existed and will always do so’.” Prostitution can only exist in a property based society. For thousands of years before the advent of private property prostitution did not exist, but what is more important in the society based on common ownership of the future affronts to human dignity such as prostitution will be completely impossible.

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