The Poverty of 'Fantasy Island'

Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson
Fantasy Island: waking up to the incredible economic, political and social illusions of the Blair legacy
Constable, London, 2007, 260pp, £7.99 pbk

‘The financial services industry... is, and will always be, of vital importance to this country…We are world leaders and we want to keep it that way’ Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Labour Party Conference, 23 September 2007 [1]

Britain can be seen as ‘one big offshore hedge fund churning speculators’ money while asset-strippers draw up plans for the few remaining factories to be turned into industrial theme parks’, say the authors of a new book exposing the illusions of the Blair legacy (p74).2 They also believe that nothing essential will change under Gordon Brown. He is unlikely to curb the activities of the global financial markets because the UK has actually done rather well out of them, at least in the short term, a point reinforced by the new Chancellor at the recent Labour Party conference. The result of this could well be an almighty financial crash and a ‘backlash against the excesses of the financial markets of a kind not seen for 75 years [since the Great Depression]’. While such a backlash, the authors say, would lead to demands to regulate the financial markets, ‘the only pity is that [such reforms] now could avoid the crash’ (pp230-1). Elliott and Atkinson (E&A) have written this book to warn us of the perils ahead, as a wake up call to take action before the real world goes up in smoke (p238).


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Private health care: poor pay with their lives - Sicko Michael Moore, 2007, US

Sicko Michael Moore, 2007, US

Sicko is the latest film by US documentary maker Michael Moore, acclaimed for his films Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11. The film is an indictment of the US health service, targeting the parasitic insurance companies which run the industry. Sicko starts with a scene of a man stitching up his own leg – quite simply because he was too poor to afford medical insurance. Moore then interviews an uninsured man who cut off two of his fingers in an accident. He had to choose between paying $72,000 to have both fingers sewn back on, $60,000 to have just the main digit sewn back on or $12,000 for the smaller finger. But Moore says the focus of the film is not so much about the 47 million people in the US who are living without medical insurance but those lucky ones with it.

In the US if you want health cover you have to pay for it. According to USA Today the average cost for a family health insurance policy topped $10,000 in 2005. Yet, as Moore’s film highlights, even paying those huge fees does not guarantee that you receive treatment if you are ill. With the aid of former insurance workers and doctors, the film demonstrates that in the cold pursuit of profit the insurance industries adopt all means at their disposal not to honour a claim. One of the film’s most cruel examples was that of a poor black woman who had managed to scrape together enough money to pay for health cover for herself and her daughter. When her daughter became ill in the middle of the night she took her to the nearest hospital. However, her insurance company refused to cover her at this hospital and forced her to take her sick daughter to another instead. She died on arrival. This is just one case out of many shown in the film highlighting the human suffering that this unjust system inflicts.


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Review: Health, human rights and the United Nations


Theodore H MacDonald, Health, human rights and the United Nations – inconsistent aims and inherent contradictions? Radcliff Publishing Ltd 2008 ISBN 13: 078 1 84619 241 8, 196 pages

This book follows Health, trade and human rights (ISBN 1-84619-050-9) 2006, and The global human right to health – dream or possibility? (ISBN 978-1-84619-201-2), 2007. Forthcoming is Sacrificing the WHO to the highest bidder. This publication rate is in keeping with Theodore MacDonald’s over 200 research papers and over 40 books (from which he draws no financial gain) reflecting his life-long commitment to human rights and immense contribution to health promotion and public health, emphasising that without primary health care for all, nothing else is achievable.

Imperialism’s barbaric practices are meticulously documented, using easily accessible examples. MacDonald ensures that revolutionary Cuba is prominent in the discussion of alternative ways of organising society in the interests of the people and that socialism is on the agenda.


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Review: BBC Two’s ‘White Season’


What exactly did BBC Two intend to do in its ‘White Season’? Why did they organise a survey, not randomly as claimed, but aimed at white people with a very specific question about being ‘voiceless’ and unrepresented. Was it to manipulate the message that people in Britain feel that ‘nobody speaks for them’ and that they are ‘becoming invisible’ in order to serve the purpose of a race and not a class agenda? The ‘White Season’ was launched by a discussion based on a small telephone poll of 1,012 white British adults aged 18+ which showed that 58% of white working class people felt nobody speaks for people like them and 46% of white middle class people felt the same. Newsnight guest speaker Bob Crow of the RMT energetically agreed that the Labour government and the media do not represent the interests of, and in fact attack, the working class but, he asserted, this is entirely a matter of class, not of race.


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Review: Fidel Castro: a revolutionary life

FRFI 204 August / September 2008


My Life Fidel Castro with Ignacio Ramonet, Allen Lane 2007, £25 hbk, 724pp

‘I said once that one of our greatest errors in the beginning and many times down through the years of the Revolution was to believe that somebody knew how socialism ought to be constructed’ (My Life, p623).

This book is, then, a tremendous testament to almost 50 years of constructing socialism without a blueprint. In it Castro details the Cuban people’s incredible social, political, educational, cultural and international achievements during his life. The book takes the form of a series of conversations between the Cuban leader and the former editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, Ignacio Ramonet. In a hundred hours with Castro, recorded between 2003 and 2005, we are given an unprecedented account of his life so far, from the schoolboy forging a glowing report card for his guardians to secure centavos for ice cream, to the mature revolutionary, on the phone advising President Chavez of Venezuela to stand firm during the April 2002 coup.


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Harman: making imperialism disappear

FRFI 206 December 2008 / January 2009

Capitalism’s new crisis: what do socialists say?
Chris Harman,
Socialist Workers Party, ISBN 9781905192458, £1.50

This pamphlet, written by leading Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) ideologue Chris Harman, claims to present a socialist standpoint on the crisis. It does anything but. Its analysis of the crisis lacks coherence; in arguing for action on the series of demands which form the ‘People before Profits Charter’ it does not acknowledge, let alone explain, why the socialist and working class movement in Britain is at its weakest for more than a century. Furthermore, at a time when millions of people throughout the world are struggling against imperialism, the word imperialism does not appear once in the pamphlet’s 34 pages.

Harman on capitalism
In order to understand the crisis, socialists have to be clear about the laws of motion of capitalism as a whole. Harman is not. Throughout the pamphlet he presents capitalism and its crisis from the standpoint of the individual capitalist who experiences life as one of constant competition. Marx understood that it is accumulation that is the driving force of capitalism, but for Harman: ‘The driving force of capitalism is not the satisfaction of people’s needs, but the competition between capitalists to make profits. Human needs are only satisfied insofar as doing so contributes to the profit drive’ (p11). He repeats the point:


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