Voice From the Back

Political Posturing

Politicians love making grandiose claims that have nothing to do with reality and the president of the USA came up with a wild notion recently. ‘President Obama used the backdrop of the Brandenburg Gate yesterday to urge Russia to leave the Cold War behind by agreeing to a one-third reduction in its nuclear arsenal’ (Times, 20 June). The USA has 7,700 nuclear warheads and Russia has 8,500, so a one-third reduction would still leave enough nuclear warheads to burn the world to a crisp. Do you still listen to politicians’ ideas or give them any credence?

A Bleak Future

The following grim findings emerged from a poll carried out for the Association of British Insurers. YouGov asked 2,506 employees questions relating to retirement and welfare. ‘One in five working people believe that they will never retire. According to a survey being published today, of those who believe they will stop working full-time, more than four out of ten reckon they will have to keep a part-time job. Two thirds of those polled said they would struggle to meet the cost of paying for long-term care as they became infirm’ (Times, 9 July). Having suffered a lifetime of exploitation workers cannot even see some relief in old age.

Child Labour

In the industrial revolution British capitalism made its fortune on the exploitation of child labour, but the advent of the trade union movement, after a long hard struggle, saw that exploitation ended. Ever ready to make profits the British capitalist class have shifted their source of child exploitation to Asia. The British sugar giant Tate & Lyle has imported large volumes of sugar from Cambodia through a supplier that is accused of using child labour. ‘Tate & Lyle – which is the EU’s largest cane producer and whose ingredients are used in a wide range of foods around the world – has used the Thai KSL group since 2011 for its supplies from Cambodia. However KSL is alleged to have been complicit along with the Cambodian government, in the eviction of people from the land, arson and theft. ….. Children as young as nine years of age work on Cambodian plantations run by KSL.’ (Guardian, 9 July)

The Uncaring Society

Carers are being forced to cut back on essentials such as food and electricity because of the so-called bedroom tax. ‘Despite Government promises to protect them from the under-occupancy charge, one in six carers forced to pay it are falling behind on their rent and face eviction, research by Carer UK shows. …. Ministers pledged £25m in discretionary payments to protect carers and disabled people when the policy was introduced in April, but campaigners warned it would be only enough to support around 40,000 of the 420,000 disabled people affected by the cuts’ (Independent, 9 July). Just one in ten cases are receiving these discretionary payments on an ongoing basis, this latest research shows. When it comes to cutting welfare payments capitalism is ruthless even if you are disabled.

A Society Of Debtors

Politicians love to paint a picture of steadily improving living standards, but it is a complete illusion as a recent newspaper article by Christian Guy, Director of the Centre for Social Justice has revealed. ‘Yesterday’s grim figures revealed that more than 800,000 households will soon spend more than half their income on debt repayments. We already know that 274 people are declared insolvent or bankrupt every day, 88 properties are repossessed and average household debt, including mortgages, is almost £55,000’ (Times, 12 July). Hardly ‘steadily improving living standards’ is it?

A Grim Choice

In the city of Asbest in Russia workers face a grim choice – work to produce asbestos, which will probably kill you or else move somewhere else. Valentin K. Zemskov, who worked in the asbestos factory and developed asbestosis, a respiratory illness caused by breathing in  asbestos fibres summed up the position of workers in Asbest. ‘Still he said the city had no other choice. ‘If we didn’t have the factory, how could we live?’ he said gasping for air as he talked in the yard of a retirement home. ‘We need to keep it open so we have jobs’ (New York Times, 13 July). Inside a socialist society no one would have to endure such a hellish dilemma.

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