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(en) Ireland, Belfast, Organise!, The Leveller #12 - Titanic Spectacle by Jason Brannigan

Date Thu, 01 Nov 2012 12:03:05 +0200


As capitalism continues to bite, our âbettersâ have been treating us to a series of expensive spectacles to distract us from our increasing misery. -- The Titanic centenary, the London Olympics, the European Championship and the red, white and blue flag waving âpageantryâ of the Queens Jubilee continue to bombard our senses giving ânational prideâ a boost while the rich get on with the business of robbing us blind. ---- For those who prefer their patriotic distractions in different colours there is even some sort of âcross communityâ element to all this. The Olympic flame was paraded through Dublin. The Titanicâs heritage belongs to us all. Ach, and sure, anti-monarchical sentiment is off the agenda for even dyed in the wool republicans as Deputy First Minister McGuinness rises to the challenge of welcoming the âforeignâ Queen for the sake of peace.

So everyone can just settle down, get back to all
the pomp, ceremony, nice distracting bright lights,
flegs and bunting with the rest of them. Not
to mention the copious amounts of alcohol
required to wash it all down. Besides we all
had a good aul blow out for Irelandâs wee
stint in Euro 2012 now didnât we.

And yet some still have the temerity to raise
their voices to declare âCapitalism has no
clothesâ.

While Sinn Fein wax lyrical about equality
we see no equality. While Jackie McDonald
asks us all to turn a blind eye to sectarian
commemorations we see no end to
sectarianism.

The truth is that all these celebrations,
circuses and spectacles are a very thin veil
for the real nature of what is going on.
Behind the hype, the glitz, the âtitanic
thinkersâ, titanic restaurant awards, the real
story of the Titanic is one of wage slavery,
exploitation and murder on a massive scale
(see pg 12). It is a disaster that provides a
chilling insight into the nature of capitalism.
One hundred years later fuck all has
changed.

The Queenâs Jubilee is a sickening
celebration of privilege, a hangover of
feudalism in a time when capitalism is
reducing many of us below the position of
wage slaves to that of slaves plain and
simple. While the poor and ill in our society
are demonised as scroungers and frauds
this woman and her family actually are
real benefits scroungers (see pg 3).

The Olympics have witnessed London, a city
marred by huge levels of inequality, turned
into a police state with missiles installed on
top of apartments by the MoD (see pg 3).

Behind the carefully choreographed âfeel-
good factorâ we find ourselves on the side
of the begrudgers who arenât buying in.
We donât want to piss on anyoneâs excuse
for a piss-up but we really arenât feeling
too good.

The pretty colours, flegs, big screens, proud
heritage, royality, tradition nor pomp can
distract us from our very real circumstance.
-----------------------------------------------

Titanicâs Hidden History

Powerful symbols of progress, capitalist
success, opulence, and modernity, the Titanic
and Olympic were launched in Belfast in
1911 and 1912. Both represented a
showcase of capitalism at the start of the
20th century. Both were built, to satisfy the
dreams of the wealthy, by men who had
hard working conditions and hard lives.
Injury was commonplace, disease was
caused by many of the construction
techniques and materials used. During the
construction of the Titanic 8 lost their lives.

Of course the Titanic became the most
famous of the two and the most infamous
maritime disaster in history when the
unsinkable ship sank after hitting an iceberg
on 14th of April 1912.

A Harrowing Insight Into Capitalism

From inception to its tragic sinking the story
of the Titanic provides a harrowing insight
into capitalism. The open class bigotry of
the times were reflected in the design of the
ship, the access to lifeboats and ultimately
in the fatalities themselves.

The available lifeboats were launched from
the First Class decks first, Second Class
decks second, while no lifeboats were
dedicated to the Third Class.

Half the lifeboats, and all of the first six
launched, contained only passengers from
First Class, plus crew members to do the
work. Although no one but First Class
passengers could board a First Class deck
lifeboat, First Class passengers could of
course board Second Class deck lifeboats.
First Class passengers had easy access to
the lifeboats while those in steerage
passengers had not.

The steerage passengers who did survive
did so only by scrambling for the last of the
lifeboats that were launched or by jumping
over board and climbing onto boats that
had already been launched.

Steerage passengers were separated, by
law, from other passengers with lockable
gates! There were many reports of gates
being locked and passengers being
stopped from getting above decks by
armed guards.

Annie Kelly, an Irish third class passenger,
said that the stewards did not wake the
steerage passengers with an alarm and told
worried Third Class passengers who came
up to the deck to go back down as there
was no danger.

After the lifeboats had gone Colonel
Archibald Gracie witnessed a "mass of
humanity" pouring onto the boat deck from
steerage.

Women and children first?

While much is made of heroic myths about
women and children first over half of the
women in Third Class died. Who was
considered a child was also dependent on
class. 14 year old Lucile Carter in First Class
was considered a child, but 14 year old
Annie McGowan in steerage was
considered to be an adult. Only one child in
First Class went down with the ship while
less than a third of the children from Third
Class survived.

While men in First Class had a lower
survival rate than women, compared to men
from other classes they did remarkably
well. At the time when most of the lifeboats
from the First Class decks were launching, it
was not certain among the passengers that
the Titanic was doomed, and many of the
men from First Class who could have gone
aboard a lifeboat decided to remain
behind.

All 30 of the ships engineers and electrical
engineers died. They stayed below decks
until almost the end trying to keep the ship
afloat and the electrical system working.
Only lifeboat 14, not a "First Class"
lifeboat, went back to try and rescue
people after the Titanic went under. It was
only able to pick up three or four
passengers from the water.

The Sinking of the Titanic and the Current âCrisisâ

It is tempting to compare the sinking of the
Titanic with the current financial âcrisisâ.
However it does not provide a very good
analogy.

For a start, capitalism has not hit any
metaphorical iceberg. The ship is not
sinking. It is most definitely afloat, with its
wealthy passengers swanning about
enjoying ever increasing wealth and
opulence at everyone elseâs expense.

What is happening globally with the
capitalist system today is more like the rich
chucking half the crew overboard. The other
half, told there is indeed a crisis, must work
twice as hard to âkeep the ship from
sinkingâ. In the meantime Third Class are
starved below decks, to be dragged up
only to be forced to work for the wealthy
onboard for free.

Jason Brannigan
_________________________________________
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