Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials, 4 December 2007

4 December 2007

 Party funding - The pot calling the kettle black

When Blair left office, back in June, he was under investigation for the cash for honours affair. Now, 6 months on, Brown's government has to face a police probe over Labour's funding, the resignation of its general secretary and maybe more to come.

This latest "scandal" did not break out by itself, though. The Mail on Sunday, obviously directed from Tory HQ, saw to it that it did. It revealed on 25 November that David Abrahams, a wealthy property developer, had channelled £650,000 to Labour over 4 years, via different intermediaries, without his name being mentioned - which made these donations illegal.

Following in the steps of the Mail on Sunday, the Tory propaganda machine went into overdrive in order to make political capital out of this latest "scandal" calling for the resignation of all and sundry and demanding Scotland Yard's intervention.

But all this for what? For the equivalent of a £165,000/year donation? That is, significantly less than the £210,000 maximum granted annually to any MP (including salary and expenses, but excluding pension)! In and of themselves, such sums would not be worth a peep, in the world of parliamentary politics - that is, if the issue was not one of outright politicking.

Above all, coming from the Tories, such virtuous clamour is a bit rich. The Tory party has never been short of wealthy donors and fat donations. But there is more to this than donations. There is also, for instance, the support that the press barons provide to their Tory friends via papers such as the Mail and the Telegraph, which is not counted as a political "donation". Yet, as this latest scandal shows, such support is certainly worth millions to the Tory party!

And this is the real scandal in this society - the fact that the parties' political clout depends on their ability to mobilise the funding and support of the largest possible number of companies and rich capitalists - rather than on their real support among the majority of the population. As a result, behind the smokescreen of the ballot box, the wealthy dictate, and ministers comply - that is, until the day when the working population decides to do away with this rotten profit system and exercises political power itself, directly.

 Iraq - Western plague and cholera

Now that it has handed over control of central Basra to the Iraqi authorities and withdrawn its troops to the town's airport, Brown's government proudly claims that its objectives are close to being achieved, thus allowing soldiers to start returning home in April. However, more and more commentators are saying that the relative improvement in Basra's security situation is primarily due to the troop withdrawal itself, ending what amounted a constant provocation against the population, and that it only conceals the iron rule of the Islamist militias, directly, or through the Iraqi police and army.

Meanwhile an ominous development is taking place in Baghdad, which speaks volumes about the catastrophic effect of the war and occupation for the population.

Over the past 3 weeks, over 100 cases of cholera have been recorded in Baghdad. This is not the first time a cholera epidemic has threatened in Iraq. In August, over 4,500 cases were officially recorded in the north, around the city of Kirkuk and there have been more cases since, in 9 other provinces. But due to the very high concentration of population in the capital, an epidemic there would have even more terrible consequences than anywhere else.

Indeed cholera is a potentially deadly disease, due to bacteria spread by contaminated water. It is usually the result of sewage and other sources of bacterial pollution leaking into drinking water pipes and wells. It could easily be avoided if the population had access to clean water and working sewage systems. But after the bombing of the 2 Iraq wars and 12 years of blockade, only 20-30% of the Iraqi population has such access.

Of course, it would have been possible for the western troops to do something about this. After all, wasn't it Blair who said that the West's primary objective in Iraq was reconstruction? So where did the billions of reconstruction money allotted to US and British companies go? Apparently not into rebuilding the sewage plants destroyed by western bombs, nor into mending water pipes and sewage mains. Instead, most of this money seems to have been used to pay for the construction of military facilities and to fill the coffers of private security firms whose armed mercenaries are now widely used as unaccountable auxiliaries for the US and British armies.

So now, in addition to the plague of the western occupation, the Iraqi population is having to face cholera as well. And the likes of Blair and Bush have yet more blood on their hands.