of 31 December 1999 reports the case of a retired miner who froze to death because he could not afford the pay for electricity to heat his house – a one-bedroomed bungalow in Scotland. William Gallagher was only 64, but could not survive the Christmas cold. His wife had in desperation gone to the post office to buy a power card, but she could only afford £5. It would, however, have taken four £5 cards to restore the service as the couple had used up their emergency credit.
The Times article points out that the number of elderly people dying of cold in Britain rose by 50% to 44,000 last winter, having averaged 30,000 over previous years. It is a national disgrace that demonstrates the utter poverty in which pensioners in Britain live, which will scarcely be alleviated by the 75p a week rise they have been given, or by the single £100 winter fuel payments to be given to pensioners this winter.
Everybody is destined to become a pensioner, so that quite apart from any other consideration, everybody should fight to improve the conditions imposed upon the elderly. They can no longer expect to be looked after when they are too sick to care for themselves. Is that the way for people to end their days? It is time that the issue of pensions and care for the elderly was taken up by the broad working-class movement in a serious manner. We cannot allow this national disgrace to continue.
The only real, and lasting, solution is to get rid of capitalism which even in a rich imperialist country like Britain, claims the lives of 40,000 old people each year, who die, not because we have no fuel, but because we have too much of it. If this is what imperialism offers to the poor inhabiting the rich countries, which account for 86% of the global income, it is not difficult to imagine the plight of those of its victims, constituting 80% of the world’s population, who live in the oppressed countries in the vast continents of Asia, Africa and Latin-America.