It is a scandal that thousands of ancient artefacts appear to have been stolen from the British Museum and sold off on eBay—and that the museum management tried to cover it up. But the far bigger scandal is that ancient artefacts from around the world are in the Museum at all.
The most famous of these are the so-called Elgin Marbles. These are sculptures from the 5th century BCE Temple of Athena also known as the Parthenon, on the Acropolis, the centre of ancient Athens. They are named after the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire that ruled Greece in the early 19th century. Lord Elgin vandalised the temple, stealing the sculptures from the Greek people and later donated them to the British Museum.
Today, the British government disgracefully refuses to return the sculptures to Greece, despite repeated requests. It insists, somewhat hilariously, that they are safer in the British Museum than in the Greek government-built museum near the Acropolis. Britain’s refusal to return the Marbles is a piece of imperialist arrogance that socialists should absolutely oppose.
The Elgin Marbles are just the most well known imperialist plunder stashed in the Museum. There are also antiquities from Egypt, Iraq, India, China and Africa plundered by British imperialism. They include artefacts from the Emperor of China’s Old Summer Palace ransacked and burned down by British troops in 1860 during the Second Opium War, and a ring that once belonged to Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore in India, before being overthrown by East India Company troops in the 18th century.
These incredible artefacts are our common human heritage and should not be treated as the spoils of war by our rulers, the last cultural booty from the bloody British Empire. They should be returned at once to the peoples whose ancestors produced them.
Baby milk war is just formulaic
Iceland Foods boss Richard Walker is pitching himself as the friend of struggling parents. He’s calling for changes to regulations that make it illegal to advertise baby formula for infants under six months old because it prevents Iceland from selling its “special offers”.
Walker also opposes the wider restrictions that apply—the same rules mean food banks can’t distribute formula to families in crisis. The government claims such laws exist because such advertising and distribution “discourages breastfeeding”.
A plague on both their houses.
Formula firms profit from parents’ desire to provide the best for their children by claiming unproven health benefits for a wildly overpriced product. And the supermarket bosses are lying when they say they want to support parents struggling during a cost of living crisis. Instead, they are fighting like rats in a sack, desperate to keep profits soaring.
But the biggest culprit are the Tories who have hollowed out services that support women to breastfeed, if they wish to. Much of the specialist midwifery and health visiting services needed have been smashed in recent years. This lack of support is a much larger material factor in why breastfeeding rates in Britain are so low—rather than how baby formula is advertised.
Still fighting NHS charge
Thanks for covering the case of Omisha, a child diagnosed with a rare cancer and charged thousands of pounds by the NHS for lifesaving care (Socialist Worker, 23 August). Following pressure from the family and community campaigners, the Trust in east London finally wrote to say they would put the debt on hold. But readers should know that this does not mean the debt is cancelled.
Omisha’s £76,000 NHS bill remains on the hospital’s records and the Trust can still pursue the family for the money if their circumstances change. And the Trust must still report the debt to the Home Office, meaning it could affect her dad’s next visa application. Nevertheless, the “write-off” means the debt is on hold, and the Trust will not send debt collectors to chase the money. This is a big deal for the family members, who are very relieved at the win, but the campaign is far from over.
Please sign the petition at tinyurl.com/JusticeForOmisha
Onlyfans ads far from only offenders
The Advertising Standards Authority recently cleared a billboard advert for an Onlyfans model after complaints that it is offensive. Onlyfans is a website where people can sell pornographic content that they’ve made. This has prompted a row among people fighting for women’s liberation.
One sex worker wrote in an article, “Sex sells, we all know this. For as long as advertising has existed, women’s bodies have been used to sell products. So why is it such a shock when us women turn the tables and take full advantage of the beauty ideals that have long been placed on us?”
On the first count, she is right. Women’s bodies have been used to sell everything from shampoo to cars. But I have an issue with her second point. Are women really seizing control of their sexuality and image on Onlyfans? I would have to disagree. The bosses grab 20 percent of the money anyone hopes to make on Onlyfans. Worse, I think Onlyfans ads normalise pornography.
But I know that even if such billboards didn’t exist, there would still be advertising where women are exploited. Socialists must fight for a world that puts an end to all of this.
Just a thought
Arise, Rayner of Sell-Out
Angela Rayner’s role in Starmer’s Labour Party is the same as John Prescott’s role under previous leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. She is there to provide some sort of working class cover for relentlessly pro‑business policies. If Prescott/Rayner support it then it can’t be too bad. Her reward? We can inevitably look forward to a future Baroness Rayner.
Tories’ exam revenge
Why are the media and politicians going on about the school exam “grade inflation” that supposedly went on at the height of the pandemic? And why is it being used as an excuse for harsher marking now? Back then, teachers used course work to grade pupils results because it wasn’t possible to sit exams. A lot of children that don’t have access to expensive coaching on how to pass a timed test suddenly found that it was their actual understanding of the subject being tested. And lo and behold, they did far better at the end of the year than if they’d sat traditional exams. The Tories couldn’t have that, could they?
A teaching assistant
Consultants aren’t workers
Why is Socialist Worker giving so much uncritical support to striking hospital consultants? These people are not workers, they are in effect senior managers. Not only do they supervise others, they also hire and fire workers beneath them. And they have massive control over their own labour when compared to junior doctors—let alone nurses and porters. Then there are their salaries. These average at over £120,000 a year. Look in any hospital car park and see the effect of that.
Remember, doctors were against the founding of the NHS.