That's capitalism WS59


Chinese construction worker Chen Xianggui was recently convicted of "gathering people to disturb the social order'', a charge based on his union activism while working in Kuwait. Chen went to Kuwait in 1996 as one of thousands of Chinese overseas labourers and joined a union of foreign workers. As a union activist he helped organise a one-week strike in Kuwait in 1997 over unpaid overtime. The strike was legal under Kuwaiti law. But Chinese authorities revoked Chen's passport in early 1998, forcing him to return to China. He was arrested and held in detention until October 28th last year, when a court in Jintang County in his native Sichuan province convicted him.1

Just 1% of the wealth owned by the 200 richest people in the world would pay for primary education for all.2

Worldwide military spending was $780,000,000,000 last year. Meanwhile 2.6 billion people have no access to sanitation, 2 billion have no electricity and 100 million are homeless.3

The logic of private medicine and 'market forces' is well established in Kenya. A man was carried on a stretcher into a Nairobi bank to withdraw cash after a private hospital refused to treat him until he showed he could pay his bill. Wison Owuor had been beaten by thugs and taken to a hospital, which refused to admit him because he had no money on him.4

Despite receiving 90,000 calls and 3,000 formal complaints to the British government's National Minimum Wage help line just 20 enforcement notices were issued in the first nine months of last year5. So now there is a law setting out a minimum wage but bosses can feel pretty free to ignore it. Hooray!

Charlie McCreevy and Fianna Fáil aren't the only ones doling out money to the super-rich. In Britain, so-called 'incentive schemes' are now going to be made exempt from any income tax for sums of up to the first million pounds. That's right - £1,000,000 notes. The New Labour government has estimated that it will lose about £45 million in tax during each tax year due to this new scheme. But, wait for it, that sum of money approximately equals the amount it will be saving with the new rules it is introducing for receipt of disability benefit. These new rules will leave nearly 30,000 disabled persons worse off during the next year. It all adds up, literally!

1 South China Morning Post, 30/11/99, 3 Irish Times, 31.12.1999, 5 Irish Times, 31.12.1999, 4 Reuters, 18.01.2000, 5 Rank & File, February 2000

From Workers Solidarity 59, Spring 2000