Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

Time For a Risk Assessment!

“Unsafe at any speed”: – that was the slogan of Ralph Nader’s campaign against carnage on the roads, and against American car makers who disregarded the need for cars have safety features and to be made robust enough to prevent needless loss of life. Later, like the car manufacturers, the tobacco firms also dug their heels in, refusing to accept that their cigarettes were as deadly as the scientists showed. Even now, with the health costs accepted by governments as a cost too far, the tobacco industry does its best to ensure that any panels of ‘experts’ are stuffed with scientists in its pay.

In addition, like industry, capitalism’s compliant politicians are in agreement that, with any public safety checks on food, pharmaceuticals etc., it is normal practice for all involved to require that any unfavourable results will not be published.

As in Britain in the 19th century, government inspectors are few and far between. In Britain, that means appalling dangers for workers on construction sites, especially as the major construction and civil engineering firms support the blacklisting of any workers likely to be “difficult” and especially if they are thought to be trade unionists.

In the US, casual farm labourers, mostly migrant and Latinos, are routinely exposed to highly dangerous levels of pesticide and herbicide sprays. Officials supposed to check up on safety are infrequent visitors, and the workers’ organisations are too weak as against the employers.

The use of dangerous chemicals has increased since the increasingly dominant use of GM seeds throughout the Americas. ‘Superweeds’ and pests have evolved, resistant to weedkillers and pesticides, and farmers have been forced to spray more and more.

In India, where over 90% of cotton is grown with Monsanto’s GM seeds with their promise of better crop yields, the use of this wonder of capitalist science has not brought prosperity. Far from it: in just two decades, since 1995, over 300,000 farmers have killed themselves due to debts and poor harvests and, recently, in April 2015, BBC NEWSreported that an Indian farmer had committed suicide at a political rally in Delhi.

Capitalism has so many ways of killing people, and not just in wars – by missiles and drones, bombs and bullets and IEDs, by disease and famine, by drowning in the Mediterranean… No, the never admitted class war is a feature in all our lives. This affects all commodity production since it is the bottom line – the profit margin of a business – that determines what is produced and how.

If this means that strawberries are routinely sprayed with carcinogenic chemicals; that pharmaceuticals are produced which may have serious but unknown risks; that agricultural workers, like those working on building sites or in mines, or seamen sent to sea in leaky old tubs, are routinely exposed to highly risky, indeed downright dangerous, working conditions, their employers will hardly heave a sigh or lose any sleep over such matters.

Like the generals in World War One after huge losses in the trenches, if a few workers get killed, they can always find other workers to join up and do their bit to ensure “business as usual”.

The capitalists and their politicians and media spokesmen call it a class war when workers, to protect themselves, organise themselves into a trade union. They get extremely annoyed if their workforce of – greedy and lazy - wage slaves demand better pay and decent working conditions.

But they in fact are forever waging this ‘class war’. Whenever there are several workers competing for a job, and whenever an employer discusses pay and working hours with an employee, that employer – representing the interests of Capital – is acting in opposition to the interests of the workers, of Labour.

But, truth to tell, the real Class War is hardly even a speck on the horizon. That speck when looked at properly will be the political class struggle - the class-conscious, democratic and determined, political movement of the working class when they decide to put an end to the class division of society, and this whole ruthless and rotten system of exploitation, of production for profit.

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