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Issue #1457      2 June 2010

Culture & Life

The rich get richer, and the poor get …

While living conditions decline – often catastrophically – for working people and their families, the rich do what they have always done: get richer and luxuriate in the fruits of their labour (although they get other people to actually do the work).

To cater to the “needs” of the super rich, a German company, Ex Oriente Lux, has come up with a machine to dispense some 320 different items of genuine gold, ranging from gold bars to customised gold coins. Naturally, these luxury ATMs (marketed under the catchy name “Gold To Go”) are gold plated.

The machine’s computer link updates the price of gold “in accordance with the market” every ten minutes.

The first of these cash machines for the ultra rich was installed, inevitably, in the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, for the use of oil-rich sheiks and other billionaires.

Referring to the hotel’s gold-coated ceilings and other signifiers of “classy” style and taste, the creator of “Gold To Go”, German entrepreneur Thomas Geissler said: “The reason we chose Emirates Palace is because it [his gold-plated ATM] really fits with the surroundings here.”

While one or two of the locals may earn a minimum amount of the local dirham currency in return for polishing the outside of the gold-plated case of this service device of the filthy rich, the bulk of the population are certainly not intended to become familiar with it.

That ordinary people might have access to gold-dispensing machines would be the stuff of capitalist nightmares.

Of course, capitalists are probably prone to nightmares these days, what with the New York stock market’s Dow Jones index dropping almost 1,000 points one day in May for no apparent reason. The plunge was eventually ascribed, none too convincingly, to “fat finger” syndrome, and a Stock Exchange staffer who supposedly hit the wrong button by mistake.

That excuse was embarrassing if true, considering the losses that had been incurred during the temporary debacle, or piss-weak if false. Exchange staffers and US media commentators preferred a host of outlandish alternative theories, including action by space aliens or a cyber attack by North Korea!

They seek some one or something to blame that is as far away as possible from the ludicrous capitalist system itself, which every one knows couldn’t be responsible. Could it? No, of course not. What an absurd idea.

While the oil sheiks, financiers and the other well-dressed thieves who carry the banner of capitalism before them are indulging in gold-plated machines to dispense gold directly into their grasping palms, the children of working people even in developed capitalist countries are becoming poorer. And the phenomenon is becoming more evident every month.

In May, a survey of 23,000 children in two predominantly working class districts of southern Brisbane, elicited the information that half of them went to school each day inadequately fed. Some had no breakfast, some brought no lunch; none of them were well fed.

And this in Australia, a country with plenty of food.

In two predominantly working class districts of Brisbane half of the students went to school each day inadequately fed. And this in Australia, a country with plenty of food.

This is not peculiar to Australia, however: it is, in fact, common to capitalism. In Britain, the Education Department provides free lunch-time meals for primary school children whose parents cannot afford to feed them. The eligibility of children to receive the free meals is determined by means testing, depending on the income of the child’s parents.

As the capitalist recession pushes more families into poverty, rising numbers of children are becoming eligible for the free school meals. In fact, so far this year, an additional 60,000 children have fallen below the threshold, as poverty grows in Britain.

Today in England, once the heart of an empire “on which the sun never set”, over 18 percent of primary school children are from families whose incomes are so low they qualify for the free school dinners. Meanwhile the Tories decry the supposed horrors of what they are wont to call “the nanny state”, including of course government help for the poor.

The opportunistic alliance of Nick Clegg’s Lib-Dems with Cameron’s Tories will do nothing to help the people of Britain, and in the long term will probably condemn the Lib-Dems to the wilderness indefinitely. Already, people who had seen them as an alternative to both the major parties are asking hard questions, expressive of their disappointment.

A correspondent writing to The New Worker said of the coalition between the Lib-Dems and the Tories: “For those of us who hoped that the Lib-Dems would act with integrity against the arms trade, against nuclear weapons, and against the war in Afghanistan, it is a bitter pill to swallow.

“What happened to the pledge to halt the Trident missile program? What happened to the exit strategy from Afghanistan?”

What indeed? I think the answer is the temptation to tread the corridors of power, to see oneself as a major player. It was the same tactic that was used all those years ago to bring some left-wing unions on board with the Accord with the Hawke Labor government in the 1980s.

Others have fallen into this trap before: the Communist Party of France did itself enormous damage by going into an alliance as junior partners with the Christian Democrats, and saw themselves blamed for all the anti-people measures that government enacted, even though as junior partners there was little they could do to stop them. They should never have entered such a coalition.

The Liberal Democrats have made an unprincipled decision and will almost certainly reap a harsh reward.  

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