Showing posts with label FUNERALS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FUNERALS. Show all posts

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Grave Injustice

The Church of Scotland is to investigate the issue of so-called “funeral poverty” caused by the sharp rise in the cost of burial plots and other associated charges.

Rev Sarah Ross, minister of Forth St Paul’s Parish Church in South Lanarkshire said that her local authority demanded £1,883 up front to carry out a burial, a 183 per cent rise in South Lanarkshire over the cost of burial in 2009, and compares to a cost of a cremation in a council-run crematorium of just £565. Ms Ross accused the council of acting in a “mercenary” way. She said. “In my area, I believe that the council is targeting vulnerable people at the most vulnerable time to make money the easiest possible way.”
Depute Clerk of Lanark Presbytery, Rev Bryan Kerr backed Ms Ross. “We are concerned that local authorities are charging what seems to us to be exorbitant fees for burials,” he said. He said some families may put off burying their loved ones because they cannot raise up-front costs of burial.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Death of Co-ops

Co-operative Funeralcare, which organises more than 100,000 funerals a year from 900 funeral homes has begun an inquiry after staff were secretly filmed storing dead bodies like "stacking television sets" in a warehouse on an industrial estate off a busy motorway. While relatives believed their loved ones were at funeral homes,the bodies were being stored in a warehouse or "hub". The warehouse contained a garage with a fleet of limousines and hearses, storage for dozens of coffins, and a large refrigerated area – the mortuary – with rack upon rack of bodies, some of them uncovered. When families asked to see their loved ones, the body would be taken back to the funeral home, a journey of up to 30 miles. The documentary claims staff are under pressure to sell expensive funeral packages to mourners, to increase profits, which last year were £52 million. The former funeral ombudsman, Professor Geoffrey Woodroffe, described the practices alleged in the film as shocking. "I had no idea that they're treating people as if they're stacking television sets, really. I'd hate to think that a member of my family would have been treated in that way," he told the programme.

When people are exploited and oppressed they co-operate with each other to escape from poverty, to overcome exploitation and oppression. As do people wishing to improve working conditions and the quality of their lives.  Workers are not going to let themselves starve: if the means of production are there they'll go ahead and use them. They often get together and form co-operatives. So, although there are some benefits to co-ops, we still find them exploiting workers (like Funeralcare in their fight with the GMB, which they tried to derecognise), and they can go bust. They aren't a panacea, and they are not a step towards socialism - workers already co-operate at work even in capitalist firms, and we run capitalism from top to bottom. Workers co-operatives are seen by many as radical and anti-capitalist. The Socialist Party do not see co-ops, communes, mutual aid projects and the like as leading to socialism in themselves.

 Far from challenging capitalism, many workers’ co-operatives are actually an important sector of modern economies on the basis of promoting a more ‘ethical capitalism.’ Workers’ co-operatives may provide a catalyst for change and glimpse of what is possible but their gradual and reformist nature must be resisted as futile. Workers’ co-operatives depend on wider market forces to survive and grow and cannot exist outside of capitalist social relations due to the pressures of market forces and competition. Like private enterprises, co-operatives are also subject to the same pressures such as layoffs, price rises and reduction in wages in the process reducing any resemblance of ‘workers’ democracy.’ The more they are integrated into the capitalist economy and its profit- seeking, the more their members will have to discipline and pressurise themselves in the way the old bosses did - what used to be known as "self-managed exploitation". The aim of emancipating the labouring masses is so that the land and all forms of production and distribution is converted into collective property. As long as this is not accomplished, the cooperatives will be overwhelmed by the all-powerful competition of monopoly capital and vast landed property. Even in the unlikely event that a small group of cooperatives should somehow surmount the competition, their success would only beget a new class of prosperous co-operators in the midst of a poverty-stricken mass of proletarians.

Co-operatives lay rest to the lie workers cannot organise production without bosses. But we cannot self-manage capitalism in our own interests as it is weighted against workers. The only way we can really live without exploitation and bosses is by abolishing capitalism. The fact is that there is no way out for workers within the capitalist system. Not cooperatives, not reforms, not trade unions. At most these can only make their situation a little less unbearable. Co-operatives usually only flourish to the extent that they can be successfully accommodated within capitalism. Co-ops by their very nature as worker owned and operated enterprises are always going to be marginal to the capitalist economy because of the enormous concentration of capital in the hands of the capitalist class - which concentration has become more accentuated, not less , in recent years. Co-ops like many other small businesses are struggling to exist and to compete against the might of established capitalist corporations. They are going to need every bit of money they can lays their hands on just to keep afloat. A cooperative is after all a capitalist business unit and as such has the potential as much to divide as to unite workers. It is engaged in capitalist competition after all - and all that that entails

We dont want to embark on setting up coops simply because its nicer way of doing business in capitalism. No, the point has to be to ultimately break as far as is possible with the logic of capital. Otherwise co-ops will simply be coopted by capitalism (if you might excuse the pun). We've seen this happening with
Mondragon. It has moved steadily away from its original egalitarian ideals and it has been able to do this because it lacks any firm anchorage in a genuine socialist outlook. Co-ops in the absence of such an outlook will simply drift into becoming like conventional capitalist businesses, competing with each other and if necessary shedding labour and cutting wages in the process. With co-ops we still have capital, the requirement to turn over capital and restore it to it's initial form, which, no matter how the democratic structures attempt to put use values first, means that the essence of commodity exchange and labour exploitation continues to occur, merely without the person of the individual capitalist.

Being an employee of a co-op is much like being an employee of a joint-stock company, still a hierarchical relationship built on market forces. The co-operatives themselves are in competition for labour and finance. Why do you think the Tories here have discovered mutualisation of public services? It's a means to break unions, enforce market discipline and extend market relations. Mutuals/co-operatives are a worthwhile means to resist market relations, but they in no way supercede them.

The co-op system would not do away with capital, the need to turn it over in the circuit of money-commodity-money, which will mean:
a) Crises would still occur.
b) That income of a co-op will be proportional to its capital, not to the needs of its membership.

The co-operative group: are the fifth largest food retailer, the third largest retail pharmacy chain, the number one provider of funeral services and the largest independent travel business. The Co-operative Group also has strong market positions in banking and insurance. The Group employs 120,000 people, has 5.5 million members and around 4,800 retail outlets. Co-operatives across the UK have reported a combined turnover of £27.4 billion, with profit before tax reaching £539 million. According to Co-operatives UK there are over 4,735 jointly owned, democratically controlled co-operative businesses in the UK, owned by 10.8 million people and sustaining more than 237,000 jobs.

 Are we any closer to socialism for all of this?