Voice From the Back

A Redundant Society

Capitalism is a social system based on slumps and booms and no amount of political posturing by so-called statesmen will change that. ‘The number of jobless people around the world rose by 4 million in 2012 to 197 million and is expected to grow further, the UN labour agency warns. In a report, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said the worst affected were youth: nearly 13% of the under 24s were unemployed. It said global unemployment was projected to rise 5.1 million this year and by a further 3 million in 2014’ (BBC News, 22 January). This immense waste of human endeavour is the norm for capitalism. Inside world socialism think of the abundance that these millions of potential producers could contribute to society.

Bravery, Bombast And Reality

Hollywoodis fond of portraying the heroism of warfare. We are asked to believe that there is something ennobling about military conflict. These figures from the USA show that the horrors of war are so great that they often force soldiers to take their own life. ‘In 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone. To put that another way, more of America’s serving soldiers died at their own hands than in pursuit of the enemy. Across all branches of the US military and the reserves, a similar disturbing trend was recorded. In all, 349 service members took their own lives in 2012, while a lesser number, 295, died in combat’ (Guardian, 1 February). War inside capitalism is far from being a noble experience. It is brutal, inhumane and terrifying.

Political Promises And Poverty

Politicians like to pose as the friend of British working families but government ministers have admitted for the first time that as many as 100,000 children from working families will be forced into poverty as a result of the government’s plans to cut benefits for the poorest. ‘Official figures show that a total of 200,000 youngsters from all families will be pushed into child poverty as a result of George Osborne’s 1 per cent cap on benefits from April, in effect a real-terms cut in welfare payments. But Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat pensions minister, revealed in a parliamentary written answer last week that 50 per cent of those children come from families where at least one parent is in work. This new figure undermines claims by the Chancellor, George Osborne, that the cap on benefits is designed to target Britain’s jobless ‘shirkers’. The children will join the 3.6 million already classed as living in poverty. Two-thirds of those are in families where at least one parent works’ (Independent on Sunday, 3 February). The real ‘shirkers’ of course are members of the owning class who have no intention of working.

…And Steadily Improving Living Standards

‘Food prices are rising more than three times faster than the average worker’s pay package as the cost of living ‘crisis’ continues, official figures revealed yesterday. While the average private sector worker’s pay has risen by just 1.4 per cent – and millions of State workers are subject to a pay freeze – food prices have risen by 4.5 per cent in the last year, according to the Office for National Statistics. The crippling cost of the weekly trip to the supermarket is the most striking figure in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) for January’ (Daily Mail, 13 February). A food price rise of 4.5 percent against a 1.4 percent wage rise? It doesn’t take a master statistician to see this isn’t a ‘steadily improving standard of living’.

Tough At The Top?

The new governor of the Bank of England has taken over this top post at a time when we are told we will all have to make sacrifices in order to get out of this economic slump. ‘The next Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has been forced to defend his £800,000-a-year deal under questioning from MPs. Mr Carney’s base salary of £480,000 is more than that of his US and European equivalents combined – and he will also receive a £250,000 housing allowance on top. … Justifying the housing allowance, Mr Carney pointed out that London was a far more costly place to live than his present home city of Ottawa. “I am moving from one of the cheapest capitals in the world to one of the most expensive,” he said’ (Independent, 7 February). Mr Carney is an example to us all. He is prepared to scrape by in expensive London on a mere £250,000 housing allowance. Such fortitude!

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