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Issue #1645      July, 2, 2014

Culture & Life

News, democratic opinion and exploitation

Back in May, an explosion in the power unit of a mine in Soma, about 250 kilometres south of Istanbul, caused a fire that resulted in the carbon monoxide poisoning of hundreds of miners. At least 200 died and many more were injured.

At least 200 died and many more were injured when a power unit exploded in a mine in Soma.

It made the news here, of course, but only just. It certainly did not get the sort of coverage such a catastrophe should have received. In particular, none of the “foreign correspondents” who are so quick to rush off to countries on the receiving end of US or British (or NATO or EU) destabilisation campaigns in order to “expose” the latest demonised leader, saw fit to expose the role of privatisation in Turkey’s mines.

And yet in the words of a scathing denunciation by the World Federation of Trade Unions, “the private ownership of the mine and the profit-oriented policy that cuts down on up-to-date technology and periodic maintenance, the criminal lack of proper safety measures and the intensification of labour are the true causes behind the blast.” But workers always say things like that, don’t they? And the bosses of news media, whether it’s the Murdoch stable or one of the other purveyors, don’t want to disturb their customers with that sort of stuff, thank you very much.

As the WFTU pointed out, this was not an isolated case: “dozens of occupational and fatal accidents occur throughout the year in the mines of Turkey.” But Turkey is a faithful ally of the USA, a dutiful member of NATO and a diligent facilitator of the terror war in neighbouring Syria. Besides, you could say the same thing about the coal mines of the USA itself. And we wouldn’t want to do that, now would we?

So the real story behind the deaths of hundreds of Turkish coal miners is not even considered worth pursuing. It’s not “newsworthy”. But the fact that the government of the DPRK (North Korea) was not amused by an American “comedy” about trying to kill Kim Jong Un, the country’s leader, oh that was worthy of scornful coverage on every news and news commentary program.

Class bias? What, on Australia’s television news programs and in Australia’s monopoly newspapers? Never!

Meanwhile, a poll in Britain conducted by the Centre for Labour And Social Studies (CLASS) found that an overwhelming twelve-to-one were against the county’s National Health Scheme (NHS) being run by the private sector. That won’t stop Britain’s Tory-led government from trying to hand over the Health system to the private sector to exploit, for they are driven by the same pro-business ideology as our own Tony Abbott: profit rules, OK?

The same poll showed that two thirds of people were in favour of keeping the Royal Mail in the public sector, and perhaps more significantly renationalising the railways and nationalising the energy companies. It would be interesting to see what a similar poll showed about the Australian public’s views on such questions.

Still in Britain, the Sunday Times has produced its annual Rich List for this year and disclosed that the country’s 1,000 richest people now have a combined fortune of £519 billion, equivalent to a third of Britain’s gross domestic product. They have seen their wealth surge by more than 15 percent in the past year. That gives them a much better result than people on wages can expect.

In fact most wage earners in Britain are doing it tough. One in 11 people in the UK (or 4.5 million adults) actually have less than £10 a month left over once they have paid their essential bills. One in four have less than £50 a month to spend after bills. Hardly a recipe for riotous living!

Moving away from the UK: writing about the situation in Nigeria in the Communist Party of Canada’s newspaper People’s Voice, TJ Petrowski made the point that “the desire for imposition of Sharia law in [southern] Nigeria … reflects the desire for a more just system. Western corporations have looted Nigeria’s natural resources, including the second largest oil reserves in Africa after Libya. In fact, Western oil corporations steal more than US$140 billion of oil wealth from Nigeria annually, while most of the country’s people still live on less than $2 a day.”

Not that Sharia law will solve Nigeria’s problems. Far from it. Petrowski’s article notes that “the ruthless response towards suspected members of Boko Haram by the Nigerian security forces, with the support of Western imperialism, created the conditions for a violent response.

“It is worth noting that the use of kidnapping as a warfare tactic by Boko Haram did not start until Nigerian security forces started taking as prisoners the wives and children of suspected Boko Haram members.”

However, warns Petrowski, Western imperialism will use the situation it helped to create to continue it exploitation of Africa’s resources. “The statements made by US and other Western officials should be viewed with suspicion. [That goes without saying, actually.] The state that John Kerry claimed the US will do ‘everything possible’ to support in its conflict with Boko Haram is the same state that tortured and outright shot those protesting oil giant Shell’s exploitation of the Niger River delta.” Where was Western imperialism’s outrage then?

Further south, elections in South Africa saw the ANC-led alliance (that includes the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions – COSATU - as well as the ANC) resoundingly returned to government, winning 62.5 percent of the vote. However, that is a drop from the 2009 elections when the ANC-led alliance won 65 per cent of the vote.

While the ANC government remains committed to keeping the country’s economy well within the capitalist system, it will be difficult to adequately address the urgent problems of unemployment, land reform and poverty. The SACP attacked those advocating nationalisation of mining and agriculture industries for not being class-based and for wanting to benefit only a new layer of African bourgeoisie.

Nevertheless, the ANC will have to act. Its failure to create full employment over the last two decades (an impossible task under capitalism) has allowed the right-wing Democratic Alliance to gain ground with the familiar false promises of job creation.

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