Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More on Child Poverty Levels

Research by the Campaign to End Child Poverty found that in 174 of the 646 parliamentary constituencies across the UK, more than half the children live in poverty or are in families struggling on low incomes. An estimated 98% of children living in two zones in Glasgow Baillieston - Central Easterhouse and North Barlarnark and Easterhouse South - are either in poverty or in working families that are "struggling to get by".

Of the 13,233,320 children in the UK, 5,559,000 - more than a third - live in low-income families or families in poverty.

"A child in poverty is 10 times more likely to die in infancy, and five times more likely to die in an accident. Adults who lived in poverty as a child are 50 times more likely to develop a restrictive illness such diabetes or bronchitis." Campaign director Hilary Fisher said

The research was compiled from Government statistics and also includes the numbers of children in families on Working Families Tax Credit.The campaign classes households as being in poverty if they are living on under £10 per person per day.

Monday, September 29, 2008


LUXURY Swiss watch brand Ebel will this week announce a sponsorship deal with Rangers football club that will include the launch of a limited edition watch selling for almost £7,000.

Rangers' blue is used on the dial and the logo is engraved into the oscillating weight seen through the sapphire crystal case back.
Martin Bain, Rangers' chief executive, said: "International brands are now looking at football clubs that offer partnerships which go beyond local exposure."
The club commissioned a global research agency to look at Rangers' exposure across the world last season and found that it reached more then 73 million people in Europe alone. "Importantly, we can now tell brand owners exactly who was watching, in which countries and at what time," said Bain.

The ABC of Inflation

The number of fake £1 coins in circulation has doubled in the last five years and now stands at more than 30 million. This means one in every 50 pound coins in circulation is counterfeit.
The Royal Mint said it was illegal to make or use counterfeited coins.
However what happens when world governments behave like counterfeiters? Nowadays the pound is an inconvertible paper currency and enormous additional amounts have been printed and put into circulation. It is legal but the consequence is inflationary. This article from the Socialist Standard in October 1972 explains some of the fallacies.

The ABC of Inflation
THE LABOUR PARTY and the Tory Party accuse each other of being responsible for the continuing rise of prices, but there is absolutely nothing to choose between the records of the two parties. Measured by the govern­ment's own Retail Price Indexes, the Labour govern­ment 1945-51 scored a 28 per cent rise and the Labour government 1964-70 another 30 per cent (of the 1964 level); while the Tories marked up 50 per cent between 1951 and 1964 and another 17 per cent (of the 1970 level) between 1970 and June 1972. Added to the 32 per cent rise recorded between 1939 and 1945 under the National government (admitted to be an understatement), the present price level is at least four times what it was before the war.
In 1944 the three parties-Tory, Labour and Liberal -in the National government committed themselves to do what they could after the war "to stabilise prices", and at each of the eight general elections Labour and Tories both repeated the promise-and it hasn't meant a thing.
Individual prices can rise (or fall) for several different reasons. Good harvests will reduce prices and bad harv­ests will raise them. Booming trade increases demand and sends prices up, bad trade will send them down again. Even against the present trend of rising prices metal prices fell heavily last year as demand slackened off-the price of copper fell by 40 per cent. Improved methods of production, by reducing the amount of labour required, will operate to lower prices, while the exhaus­tion of easily accessible seams of mineral ores (coal and metals) will operate the other way because mining at greater depths or in less rich seams requires more labour to produce each ton.
During the nineteenth century when all of these price factors operated the general price levels in Britain went up in some periods and down in others, or remained nearly stationary, but the extent of the movement up and down was always within a range of about 25 per cent either way-nothing like the 300 per cent added since September 1939. Wages also rose and fell during the nineteenth century; sometimes in line with the move­ment of prices, sometimes by more or less, and occa­sionally wages moved in the opposite direction to prices.
All sorts of explanations have been offered for the abnormal rise of prices since 1939 as compared with the up-and-down movements of prices in the nineteenth century. Most of the so-called explanations take the form of blaming some group or other for being "greedy"; bankers, or manufacturers, or retailers or trade union­ists. It is an explanation that a glance at certain facts will show to be nonsense. Did the copper companies reduce their prices by 40 per cent in 1971 because they had suddenly become less greedy? Between 1948 and 1968 prices rose by 100 per cent in Britain, but only by half that amount in America and Switzerland: are the British twice as greedy? In the nineteenth century did the whole population go through alternating phases of being more greedy and less greedy? Between the end of 1920 and the middle of 1933 prices fell by over 50 per cent. The fall was continuous for thirteen years. What had happened to greed?
The fact is that sellers always try to get as big a price as they can, "as much as the market will bear", and if they can get more or are forced to take less it is because external circumstances over which they have little or no control determine that it shall be so.
Two popular beliefs are that prices go up because wages go up, or vice versa. It does not occur to those who hold one or the other view that wages are prices - the price the worker gets for the sale of his labour ­power, his mental and physical energies, to the em­ployer. So, properly stated, their two propositions be­come the single useless assertion that prices go up because prices go up.
If they re-stated it in the form that one group of prices (wages) go up because the other group of prices go up-or vice versa-they overlook the truth that both groups of prices go up because of common external fac­tors which affect both of them, more or less to the same extent. To illustrate this we can note that in summers when more Londoners visit the country the harvests are good. Nobody asks whether it is the London visitors who make the corn ripen, or whether it is the ripened corn which attracts the visitors. It just happens that a long hot summer both produces the good harvest and attracts visitors to the country - the sun is the common cause of both.
Paper & Prices
The new factor which has operated to push up prices abnormally since the war-the "sun" in relation to pri­ces and wages-has been the continuous and accelerat­ing "depreciation of the currency". In the nineteenth century the amount of notes and coin in circulation was controlled by the device, enforced by law, that the pound sterling was a fixed weight (about a quarter of an ounce) of gold, and Bank of England notes were always convertible on demand into the corresponding weight of gold. Nowadays the pound is an inconvertible paper currency and enormous additional amounts have been printed and put into circulation. In 1939 the total of notes and coin in the hands of the public was £454 million. It is now over £3,500 million and rising steadily, an amount far in excess of whatever increase would have been necessary in line with the actual increase in pro­duction and sales of goods.
Karl Marx, whose study of the subject has never been rivalled, enunciated the economic law in the form that if the amount of inconvertible paper currency exceeds the amount of gold that would be needed if gold coins circulated, the excess simply operates to push up prices. Before Keynesian doctrines were swallowed by most of the modern economists and politicians, this relation­ship between excess issues of inconvertible notes and the price level was generally accepted by economists (including Keynes). In 1919 the government deliberately put a stop to the issue of additional notes and this played a large part in the subsequent fall of prices. Now the political parties and the trade unions have deceived themselves, against all past experience, into the belief that what they call increasing "money supply" leads to greater production and the maintenance of "full employment".

Facing Facts
Not quite all of the economists and financial authorties have swallowed the "new economics". One excep­tion is the First National City Bank of New York which, in its Monthly Bulletin for January 1970, ridiculed the notion that rising prices are due to greed or to the wage demands of trade unions:
Most of the blame for inflation is misplaced. For although inflation has a hundred faces, it has but one essential cause : overly expansive and erratic monetary policy that has pushed up the quantity of money more swiftly than the quantity of goods and services.
Governments, even if they perceived the truth of this, are afraid to repeat the restrictive policy applied in 1919 because they think it might lead to a big de­pression and much heavier unemployment. The econom­ist Lord Robbins, speaking in the House of Lords on 5th July, said:
I know of no case in history where inflation of the order of magnitude of that from which we are now suffering has been stopped by measures of this sort without that sort of effect.
The government's view, according to Patrick Jenkin, Chief Secretary of the Treasury, is that while curbing the money supply would affect prices it would do so only after a considerable time lag:-
"The immediate effect would be increased unemployment and reduced output. As a solution, it was politically, wholly un­acceptable". (Financial Times 17 July)
They Lord Robbins and Jenkin, are equally afraid that continued and accelerating depreciation of the currency may end with the kind of monetary collapse that Ger­many experienced between the wars.
Most workers believe that if only prices came down or were at least stabilised their chief troubles would be over. They should remember that while it is true that at present hundreds of thousands of workers cannot afford to buy a house on mortgage, exactly the same was true between the wars when prices of houses and prices in general (and wages) were only a fraction of what they are now. For the workers capitalism means hardship whether prices are high or low or falling or rising. H.
Socialist Standard October 1972


"Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) (BRKb.N), which has avoided major acquisitions in the financial sector in recent months, may have had a $3.5 billion two-day paper profit on six major banking and financial services investments. The two-day rally in financial shares, which drove the broad S&P Financials Index (.GSPF) up 24 percent, came as the government announced sweeping measures to rescue the financial system and restore confidence in shaky markets." (Yahoo News, 19 September) RD


"Microsoft founder Bill Gates has recovered his spot at the top of the US money heap, displacing investor Warren Buffett as America's richest person, Forbes magazine's latest list reveals. With 57 billion dollars net worth Gates again leads the list of 400 richest individuals in the world's wealthiest country. He displaced Buffett who briefly held the position this year but who has seen his Berkshire Hathaway investment group's shares slip 15 percent since February and is now worth 50 billion. According to Forbes, whose list was published late Wednesday, the golden 400 have 1.3 billion dollars net worth or more." (Yahoo News, 18 September) RD

Sunday, September 28, 2008


"Trade inequality has seen rich countries dumping subsidised food on to African markets, while erecting barriers themselves. Now prime African farmland is being switched from food to fuel – on the most food-insecure continent on the planet. Making matters worse is the prospect of African governments selling off prime farmland to wealthy countries such as Saudi Arabia, creating the horrifying prospect of fortified farms exporting food from starving countries. The agribusiness giants who have developed and patented genetically modified crops have long argued that their mission is to feed the world, rarely missing an opportunity to mention starving Africans. Their mission is, in fact, to make a profit."
(Independent, 8 September) RD


"In a region controlled by senile dictatorships and fundamentalist faith, the unemployed young – who make up 65 per cent of the population – have very few windows through which to yell their rage. Metal gives it to them. Reda Zine, one of the founders of the Moroccan heavy metal scene, explains: "We play heavy metal because our lives are heavy metal." The point of the music is, he says, to rage against "the vampires of intolerance and superstition". The guitarist of Iran's hottest young metal band, Tarantist, agrees: "Metal is in our blood. It's not entertainment, it's our pain, and an antidote to the hypocrisy of religion that is injected into all of us from the moment we're born." The police states are responding by beating heavy-metal fans with heavy metal bars. In Egypt, the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak – funded by the US and EU – has ordered mass arrests of metalheads for "undermining the faith of Muslims", and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is following close behind. But still millions of young Muslims and atheists defiantly sing along with Metallica: "No need to hear things that they say/Life is for my own to live my own way." (Independent, 8 September) RD

Saturday, September 27, 2008


"The pastor whose prayer Sarah Palin says helped her to become governor of Alaska founded his ministry with a witch-hunt against a Kenyan woman who he accused of causing car accidents through demonic spells. At a speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God on June 8 this year, Mrs Palin described how Thomas Muthee had laid his hands on her when he visited the church as a guest preacher in late 2005, prior to her successful gubernatorial bid. ...Pastor Muthee founded the Prayer Cave in 1989 in Kiambu, Kenya after “God spoke” to him and his late wife Margaret and called him to the country, according to the church’s website. The pastor speaks of his offensive against a demonic presence in the town in a trailer for the evangelical video “Transformations”, made by Sentinel Group, a Christian research and information agency. “We prayed, we fasted, the Lord showed us a spirit of witchcraft resting over the place,” Pastor Muthee says. After the spirit was broken, the crime rate dropped to almost zero and there was “explosive church growth” while almost every bar in the town closed down, the video says." (Times, 16 September) RD


"More than half of Americans believe they are protected by a guardian angel and two in three are certain that heaven exists, according to a study of US religious beliefs released Thursday. The survey, conducted by researchers at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, asked 350 questions about religion to 1,648 adults across the country. Fifty-five percent said they believed they were protected from harm by a guardian angel, a figure that researcher Christopher Bader said came as a surprise. "To find out that more than half of the American public believes this was shocking to me. I did not expect that," he said. Sixty-seven percent said they were "absolutely sure" heaven exists and 17 percent believed it "probably" does. Seventy-three percent of Americans believe in hell, it found.
(Yahoo News, 18 September) RD

Friday, September 26, 2008


"While most of us are tightening our belts, they are planning to increase spending, taking advantage of the falling price of everything from property to private jets. About 80% of those worth £50m or more plan to spend more this year, according to a survey by the US-based wealth analysts Prince & Associates. Take Alwaleed. The small fortune he dropped on the Airbus is, it turns out, pocket change. The 53-year-old recently bought the Savoy hotel in London for £250m and is spending a further £100m giving the grande dame of the Thames the kind of makeover that would make Demi Moore blush. He is also doing up his other favourite five-star bolt holes, the George V in Paris and the Plaza in New York. But there’s no place like home. His £500m palace in Riyadh is constantly being remodelled and enlarged. At the last count it had 317 rooms, including 20 kitchens that can cater for up to 1,000 people."
(Times, 21 September) RD

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Getting the blues in suburbia

Who are the working class?Is there a middle class?Do you agree with this view?Let us know. A member's view from yester year.
There aren't many factory workers like me in the area where I live-a pleasant suburb called Giffnock which lies just over the south side of the Glasgow boundary. I moved there about five years ago and when my workmates heard where I was moving to they were amazed. Al­most all of them live in council flats or houses (Scotland has a much higher per­centage of council and other rented housing than England) and they seemed to place Giffnock in the same wealth bracket as Beverley Hills or Mayfair. "They've all got money up there" I was told.
Of course, when I moved into the place I found the reality to be just as I expected. Nearly every household is de­pendent on at least one wage or salary earner and so far I haven't met or even heard of a single millionaire. On the other hand, I have met people who have equally strange notions about factory workers. They presumably get their ideas (preju­dices would be a better word) from the media and are quick to condemn strikes and wage demands which they imagine industrial workers indulge in every five minutes, just for the fun of it.
Obviously, different sections of the working class have false ideas about the others, but it only needs a look beneath the surface to see the essential sameness of all their lives.
Every morning from Monday to Friday, excluding holidays, I leave home at three minutes to seven. I buy my news­paper in the newsagent round the corner and stand in a shop doorway waiting for my lift to work. I get picked up about five minutes past seven and we are on our way. The streets are deserted and as we approach Eastwood Toll we, pass the big houses and the tall blocks of luxury flats which sell for around £80,000. All of them are in, darkness so the occupants must still be in bed, and' it's the same with the bungalows just along the road.
In the next ten minutes we pass through the massive Pollok council estate. There's plenty of lights burning in the houses here and lots of activity, with people walking along the streets, standing at bus stops or waiting at corners for their lifts. Most of them probably feel, like me, that it's tough having to start so early, but in an hour's time the Fenwick and Kilmarnock roads will be jammed with the cars of the salary-slaves from Newton Mearns, Whitecraigs, Williamwood and Giffnock all heading into. the city. For despite what my workmates may think, most of those who live in the big houses, luxury flats and bungalows are employees too, and the fact that they start around nine changes nothing-except that they get home in the evening an hour or two later than we do.
So there are superficial differences between these owner-occupiers and council tenants but the things they have in common are much more important. Like problems, for instance. When we read about all those redundancies in factories, shipyards and steelworks, does anyone imagine that only the shopfloor workers are involved? "White-collar" workers, right up to the highest levels of management, get the push, too. They are not immune to this (nobody is these days) and many of them live in places like Giffnock.
Just recently we noticed that Ian, one of near neighbours, was home a lot during the day and, his car was usually parked outside his house. Eventually we learned what had happened. He worked as some kind of executive (he sometimes talked about his "staff") in a big whiskey com­pany, and as the trade is in the middle of its biggest slump in over fifty years his employers had "let him go".
Ian's problem now is to find a new employer. Naturally, a man in his position will look up the situations vacant columns in so-called "quality" news­papers like the Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald rather than the more "popular" Daily Record. There was a time when he could have made an appointment at the impressively titled Executive Register, but not now. The Register was closed as part of the government's economy drive so instead of a private interview in a posh office with a fitted carpet, Ian may have to go to the local Job Centre the same as anyone else.
It cannot be denied that the in­habitants of Giffnock are generally a bit better off than those in, say, Pollok. Here and there you can see an extension being built onto the back of a house or maybe double glazing being installed, but they feel the pinch just the same as workers in industry. Another neighbour, Colin, hasn't taken his family on holiday for two years. "Can't afford it", he tells me; the high interest rates which mortgage payers currently face could be the reason. There must be lots like him in Giffnock.
So some of them try to earn a bit extra just as electricians, plumbers, painters, joiners, and other workers do by taking on "homers" in their spare time. The local newsagents have some cards in their windows which demonstrate this. For example, a local man who is probably an architect will draw up plans for your new extension or garage; an accountant offers his services and someone who is "fully qualified will provide English tuition in the evenings. In the next street there is a woman who does part-time market research. They need more cash, too.
The classified ads in the newspapers also tell a story. Some years ago the dis­covery of oil in the North Sea encouraged speculation that the fuel would cost next to nothing, so people in places like Giff­nock rushed to have oil-fired central heating systems installed. Nowadays the rush is to convert to cheaper gas and the ads are filled with unwanted oil burners and tanks but you can't give them away. I know, I had to pay the local dustmen to get rid of mine.
The fact that many people in places like Giffnock live in better houses, do different work or earn more money than some others does not elevate them out of the working class. They still have to work for a living, worry about making ends meet, face the indignity of the sack and in one degree or another, suffer the prob­lems created by capitalist society. This is what places them firmly in the ranks of the workers whether or not they like it or my workmates know it, and the passing of time makes it more and more evident.
V.V. Socialist Standard January 1981

Strange Bed-Fellows

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams criticises those who buy and sell debt solely for their own profit. Dr Williams attacks "unbridled capitalism" and defends the socialist theorist Karl Marx's critiques of the system.
He said it had become - much as Marx suggested - "a kind of mythology" in which people invested their faith, wrongly assuming it would work for the common good.

In a speech to bankers by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.
he called share traders who cashed in on falling prices "bank robbers and asset strippers".
"We find ourselves in a market system which seems to have taken its rules of trade from Alice in Wonderland, " he said. "One of the ironies about this financial crisis is that it makes action on poverty look utterly achievable. It would cost $5bn to save six million children's lives. World leaders could find 140 times that amount for the banking system in a week. How can they tell us that action for the poorest is too expensive?"

Unfortunately , these two theologians are incapable of taking their arguments to its full conclusion i.e. calling for the abolition of the capitalist system as a whole and not simply eliminating what they consider the unpalatable parts . Both men place their faith in an unachievable ethical fair capitalism .

Council workers in strike action

Up to 150,000 council staff in Scotland staged the second 24-hour strike over pay in two months.

Schools, ferry services and rubbish collections are being disrupted as members of the Unite, Unison and GMB unions take part in the action.

It comes after the rejection of an amended offer from local authority umbrella group Cosla to change the 2.5% pay offer from three years to one year.

The unions are calling for a 5% increase in line with inflation.

Matt Smith, Unison's Scottish secretary, said he was impressed by the turnout for the strike and threatened more industrial action if the dispute continued.

Members of the Socialist Party participated in this walk out, just as ordinary workers who are union members.We reject any notions of wage increases 'ever' being the cause of inflation.Wages always play 'catch-up' with inflation.

There is over a century of socialist writing on this subject which can be accessed on the SPGB website, as this search will show.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Worker's Weekend

The September weekend is almost here, but how did the idea of the weekend come about, this is an article taken from the Socialist Standard April 1972, enjoy your read.

FROM MONDAY TO FRIDAY the weekend is the time most of us look forward to. This is the time for living it up or taking it easy, and so well is this recognised that numerous books and songs have been written and films made which deal with this theme. Indeed "the weekend" has become one of the most important social institu­tions in modern society. Life without Saturday night and Sunday morning would be unthinkable for most
people and yet the weekend is only one more institution which, like any other, is evolutionary in character and must eventually disappear.
Just as the legal and political institutions of a society must correspond to the needs of that society (more accurately, of its dominant class) then so must the insti­tution of leisure. The weekend can only have any real meaning in capitalism: it didn't exist in feudalism and certainly won't exist in Socialism.
In feudalism production was largely agricultural so time off work was partly governed by the seasons of the year. Even so, the Church made sure that many holidays (holy days) occurred in winter when work in the fields was often impossible anyway. And the idea of today's summer break would have been ridiculous in medieval times as summer is when work is most needed in agriculture. Modern industrial society requires its work to be carried on throughout the year as the market knows no seasons and it has the artificial means (fac­tories, mills, etc.) to do this. Indeed, lost working time in capitalism is usually caused by purely social factors - slumps leading to redundancy are an obvious example.
The Church, as the most powerful social and political institution in feudalism, decreed when and how many holy days should be observed. In medieval England and, right into the 17th century, the Catholic countries of Europe there were over a hundred holy days a year on which no work could be done and Church courts in­flicted fasts and penances on those who broke this law. Further opportunities for leisure were provided by the many Fairs at which the known world displayed its wares. Eileen Power describes in Medieval People how Bodo, a Frankish peasant in the time of Charlemagne, and his family looked forward to these Fairs although their real purpose was to provide essential trading out­lets in an age of poor communications. Obviously they have little relevance to modern society and have been replaced by the airborne travelling salesman, the tele­phone, and the manufacturer's prospectus.
Medieval holidays took place irrespective of the day of the week they fell on. The Church was powerful enough to see to that. And they didn't follow the mechanical two consecutive days-out-of-every-seven pattern like today. Rather they occurred in conjunction with important social, religious, and trading events like feast days and Fairs. In capitalism holidays have to coincide with the demands of industry -whereas May Day traditionally fell on May 1, today it has been rele­gated to the first Sunday in May. In other words, times for living it up in feudalism happened when there was an excuse for it. They were times for dancing and drink­ing, sport and lechery, with the clerics wailing that more sin was committed on holy days than on any other. We can confidently say that medieval leisure (or recreation) was geared to the productive forces and social relationships of feudal society.
Meanwhile, as the merchant class grew in strength and power it could see that the medieval system of holidays was incompatible with its need for an ideology fostering the regular working habits required by the new manufacturing system. The cry that England's allegedly weak competitive trading position was due to the "misspending of our time in idleness and pleasure" occasioned by holidays and absenteeism is not the pro-­duct of the mid-20th century but of the early 17th.
With the triumph of capitalism over feudalism and the consequent further weakening of the Church's power, the holy days were steadily eliminated until by the 1830s they had almost vanished. Holidays for much of the new-born working class meant, apart from Sundays,
only Christmas Day. The same trend affected office workers too. The Bank of England closed for 47 holidays in 1761, 40 in 1825, 18 in 1830, and 4 in 1834. In Italy, where the Church is still powerful, the remaining Church holidays are coming under fresh attack and legislation is being prepared to rearrange these for the convenience of industry.
The long term effect of such harshness was that many workers used Sunday to drown their sorrows in and the resulting over-indulgence in alcohol produced wide­spread absenteeism. The shrewder of the employers saw the way to combat this and even rejuvenate the workers by providing more recognised holidays. The 60 hour week in the 1860-70's produced the Saturday half holiday and by 1878 the term "weekend" was in use. Next came secular holidays unconnected with reli­gious festivals and with dates specially picked to suit industry. In the 1890's came summer holidays when whole industries closed down for a week with many workers spending the time away from home. The week­end which we now take for granted -Saturday and Sunday off-was not widespread until after world war two (this writer, employed in engineering, didn't get it until 1948) and was due to the improved bargaining position of the workers caused by full employment.
Leisure as we know it today is the product of a modern industrialism which compels a division of labour within the factory and at the same time gathers all the work of the plant into a unified production process. Similarly, whole industries with their many plants and diverse component units become an integrated network. All these industries are linked together on a global scale so that all the workers directly or indirectly engaged come under this single dominating influence to which they must co-ordinate their use of time. This is why we have the weekend and why we all take our holidays together-to fit in with the requirements of those who as a class monopolise industry - the capitalist class.

Obviously, the way we spend our leisure has changed with the passing of centuries. In feudal times recreation was associated with participating in physical activity such as sport, dancing, etc. Today it means paying to watch others do this, going to the pub, or, more likely, watching TV. But there is an important similarity be­tween the two ages in that both were societies in which men's labour was controlled by a ruling class, so they usually hated their work. Up to the present day work and recreation have been strictly segregated and con­sidered to be mutually exclusive.
But must this always be so? After all, there are some people, even in capitalism, who enjoy and even live for their work. This is especially so when they have some control over what they do and when the work is useful and stimulating. This will certainly be the case in Social­ism, a society of production for use with everyone own­ing and controlling the means of production and dis­tribution in common. People will be able to indulge in work that is engaged in from choice because of the enjoyment and satisfaction which it brings and is not subject to the compulsion imposed by the wages system. What people today call work may well be regarded as leisure or recreation in the future. So even our very concept of leisure changes along with changes in the economic basis of society. Certainly no regimentation of leisure such as today's weekend represents will be tolerated in a free society like Socialism.
If the reader looks around him today he can see that this is not so far fetched as it may seem. Already there is an evolution away from the weekend idea. The in­crease of rotating shiftwork has made many workers dissatisfied with fixed leisure time by giving them a taste of something different. Also, the growth of "Flextime" where workers may report for and depart from work within certain limits is an indication of their desiring and achieving more control over their own time. These developments should mean that workers hearing the socialist case aren't required to mentally bridge such a wide gulf between the practices of capitalism and of Socialism. Our task as propagandists is made easier by developments within capitalism which erode fixed ideas about the world.

V.V. Socialist Standard April 1972

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


"Thousands of Neapolitans crowded into the city's cathedral on Friday to witness the miracle of Saint Gennaro -- whose dried blood is said to liquefy twice a year, 17 centuries after his death. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, announced the blood turned to liquid at 9:45 a.m. (8:45 a.m.) and the glass phial was paraded to crowds outside, who set off fireworks in celebration. "It (the saint's blood) is the seed of hope for all of us," Sepe said. Legend has it that when Gennaro was beheaded by pagan Romans in 305 A.D., a Neapolitan woman soaked up his blood with a sponge and preserved it in a glass phial. The substance usually turns to liquid twice a year - on September 19, the saint's feast day, and on the first Saturday in May. The miracle was only first recorded in 1389, more than 1,000 years after Gennaro's martyrdom. More scientifically minded sceptics say the "miracle" is due to chemicals present in the phial whose viscosity changes when it is stirred or moved." (Yahoo News, 22 September) RD

Monday, September 22, 2008


"An Australian politician has used his first speech to parliament to call for unemployed idlers to be stung with a cattle prod to get them to work. John Williams, a former truck driver, shearer, farmer and small business owner who only took his place in the Senate on July 1, said he had seen many people living on employment benefits who were "determined not to work". "They are simply getting a free ride on behalf of tax payers of Australia and it is about time they received a touch on the backside with a cattle prodder to get them off their butts and actually do some work," he said." (Yahoo News, 16 September) RD

Reading Notes

- Definitions, from Ambrose Bierce’s “The Pocket Devil’s Dictionary”

–- Labour – One of the processes by which A acquires property for B.

- Economy – Purchasing the barrel of whisky that you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford.

- Scribbler – A professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one’s own.

- Scriptures – The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.

- Saint – a dead sinner, revised and edited.

- Justice – A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the state sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes, and personal service.

John Ayers

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Never a truer word spoken

Kitty Ussher, the economic secretary at the Treasury, insisted today that Labour was "a pro-business government"

Nevertheless , however, the Labour faithful should not be too downhearted. Ussher kept calling contributors "comrade" throughout the proceedings.


Israeli Foreign Minister and newly elected Kadima party chair Tzipi Livni
"An ultra-Orthodox Jewish party run by an octogenarian rabbi who has said Hurricane Katrina was divine punishment emerged Thursday as the kingmaker in forming the next Israeli government. Having won a fight to be leader of the ruling Kadima Party, Tzipi Livni now will likely need Shas as a partner to become prime minister. But Shas opposes any compromise on Jerusalem, and including it in a coalition could tie her hands in peace talks with the Palestinians."

(Yahoo News, 18 September) RD


A prominent Saudi Islamic cleric has issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against Mickey Mouse, whom he characterized as an agent of Satan sent to corrupt young minds. Sheikh Mohammed Al-Munajid told Saudi Arabia's Al-Majd Television that his beef with Mickey is that he is a mouse, a creature that Islam sees as "repulsive and corrupting." Al-Munajid explained that Islamic law refers to the mouse as "little corrupter" and a creature that is "steered by Satan," and grants permission to all Muslims to "kill [mice] in all cases." Therefore, according to Islamic law, insisted the sheikh, "Mickey Mouse should be killed." (Israel Today, 16 September) RD

'recession crime wave'

The Socialist Party in its case for socialism have argued that there is an economic cause to crime , rather than an innate human nature reason for its existence .

According to crime figures, around 95 percent of all statutory crime is property-related. This breaks down very roughly as follows: 25 percent theft from or of motor vehicles, 25 percent burglary, 30 percent other forms of theft – fraud, forgery, shoplifting etc., and 15 percent criminal damage to property. The remaining five percent comprises four percent violence against the person and one percent sexual offences . The great bulk of the residual five percent (violence against the person and sexual offences), can be attributed to the everyday stresses and alienations that are part and parcel of our existence in capitalist society. We are conditioned into seeing our fellow workers, with whom, economically, we have everything in common, as rivals; as competitors for jobs and houses.

The system is almost entirely responsible for statutory crime. In socialist society, common ownership and production solely for use would prevail. Almost all statutory crime would fade away. Theft would not exist. What would there be to steal? Your own property? If you really want to be “Tough on crime; tough on the causes of crime”, the solution is very simple – abolish capitalism and establish socialism.

Predictions by the government that deteriorating economic conditions will send crime rates spiralling are borne out by an Observer analysis of official police figures which reveals a significant increase in burglaries across England and Wales. In many cases, the percentage rise was in double digits and in most it was more than 5 per cent. The figures suggest that years of falling crime may be coming to an end. For more than a decade the number of recorded thefts from homes has been on the way down, partly because the plunging value of household goods such as DVD players and stereos has made burglary less lucrative.

Jacqui Smith, warned last month that crime levels will increase amid the economic downturn. A leaked draft of a letter to Downing Street from Smith suggested there will be 'significant upward pressure on acquisitive crime [theft, burglary, robbery] during a downturn'.

It said that if the economic slowdown was on a similar scale to the last recession, property crime would be likely to rise by 7 per cent this year and a further 2 per cent in 2009. Smith's letter warned that the economic climate could boost support for 'far-right extremism and racism'. It also suggested there would be an increase in public hostility to migrants as the job market tightens.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


WORKING-CLASS HEROINE: Price at a book signing in London this year for
“Angel Undercovered.” Like her other novels, “Angels Uncovered” is ghost-written
in a distinctly Katie Price voice: cheeky, unpretentious and hypersexual.

"I regret to inform you that Katie Price plans to put her removed breast implants up for auction on eBay with a minimum bid of one million pounds; that her reality show is a continuing success on British television; that her three autobiographies, all written before she was 30, have been No. 1 best sellers; that her endorsed product lines of lingerie, jewellery and perfume are about to be joined by house wares and baby clothes — and that her original renown springs not from any distinction as an actress, dancer, singer or ... anything, but from a career as a topless model."

(New York Times, 12 September) RD


Lebanese troops have intervened a number of times to quell violence

"A gunfight between rival Christian political groups in northern Lebanon has left two people dead and three wounded, security officials say. The clash between the anti-Syrian Lebanese Forces group and the pro-Syrian Marada group was triggered by a disagreement over hanging banners. On Tuesday, leaders of 14 of Lebanon's rival factions started talks aimed at solving deep divisions in the country. The army has now set up checkpoints around Bsarma where the clash occurred. Violent incidents across Lebanon in recent days have raised fears of a return to sectarian violence that left at least 65 people dead in May, correspondents say."
(BBC News, 17 September) RD


"China is promising change after the fatal mudslide triggered by the collapse of a illegal waste reservoir in its northern Shanxi province last week became the latest tragedy in its notoriously dangerous mining industry. With an official death toll of 254 and climbing, and hundreds more displaced, the government has ousted a string of Communist Party and government officials with Governor Meng Xuenong, who resigned on Sunday, the latest casualty. The catastrophe was just the latest man-made disaster to hit Shanxi, a poor province rich in resources known as China's "coal capital". Famous for its abundance of energy and metal resources, the province is also notorious for its frequent mining accidents, which have been attributed to lax supervision by provincial authorities and mine owners' blind quest for profit." (Asia Times, 16 September) RD


"Global numbers afflicted by acute hunger rose from 850 million to 925 million by the start of this year because of rising prices, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said Wednesday. The number of people suffering from malnutrition, before the worst effects of global price rises, "rose just in 2007 by 75 million," Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Rome-based agency, told an Italian parliament committee, according to ANSA news agency. An FAO prices index showed global food price rises of 12 percent in 2006, 24 percent in 2007 and 50 percent over the first eight months of 2008, Diouf added -- suggesting the number affected is likely to top one billion by the end of the year. "Thirty billion dollars per year must be invested to double food production and eliminate hunger," Diouf said, calling the figure "modest" in comparison with the amount many countries spend on arms and agriculture." (Yahoo News, 17 September) RD

Thursday, September 18, 2008


"Russia's defence spending will grow by 27 percent in 2009, Interfax news agency quoted Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as saying on Tuesday. "Nearly 2.4 trillion roubles ($94.12 billion) will be allocated for the needs of national defence and security (in 2009)," Interfax quoted Putin as saying. "This is an increase of 27 percent."
(Yahoo News, 16 September) RD


"Being homeless in this upper crust enclave is not exactly like living on the street in other places. There are handouts of $2,000 and bottles of Dom Perignon, lucky finds of Gucci shoes and diamond-encrusted bracelets, a chance to rub shoulders with rich and famous locals such as Mark Wahlberg and Master P, even empty houses to live in. "This is the finest place you can be," said Isaac Young, an affable 59-year-old with a wide grin and a smooth baritone voice who has been homeless in Beverly Hills since 1992. In this manicured community of 35,000, Rolls Royces and Lamborghinis glide around city streets, movie stars live in gated mansions and Rodeo Drive price tags provoke gasps from tourists. But the city also features about 30 rather scruffy residents who live in parks, bus shelters and alleyways. They're an incongruous sight amid the shows of superfluous wealth, underscoring the pervasiveness of the huge homeless population in Los Angeles County. Some 74,000 people live on the streets or in shelters, making the county the nation's capital of homelessness." (Yahoo News, 13 September) RD


"The Bush administration is pushing through a broad array of foreign weapons deals as it seeks to rearm Iraq and Afghanistan, contain North Korea and Iran, and solidify ties with onetime Russian allies. From tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to missiles, remotely piloted aircraft and even warships, the Department of Defence has agreed so far this fiscal year to sell or transfer more than $32 billion in weapons and other military equipment to foreign governments, compared with $12 billion in 2005."
(New York Times, 13 September) RD


Don’t Buy That Textbook, Download It Free

"In protest of what he says are textbooks’ intolerably high prices — and the dumbing down of their content to appeal to the widest possible market — Professor McAfee has put his introductory economics textbook online free. He says he most likely could have earned a $100,000 advance on the book had he gone the traditional publishing route, and it would have had a list price approaching $200. “This market is not working very well — except for the shareholders in the textbook publishers,” he said. “We have lots of knowledge, but we are not getting it out.” While still on the periphery of the academic world, his volume, “Introduction to Economic Analysis,” is being used at some colleges, including Harvard and Claremont-McKenna, a private liberal arts college in Claremont, Calif." (New York Times, 14 September). RD


"The Church of England owes Charles Darwin an apology for its hostile 19th-century reaction to the naturalist's theory of evolution, a cleric wrote on an Anglican Web site launched Monday. The Rev. Malcolm Brown, who heads the church's public affairs department, issued the statement to mark Darwin's bicentenary and the 150th anniversary of the seminal work "On the Origin of Species," both of which fall next year. Brown said the Church of England should say it is sorry for misunderstanding him at the time he released his findings and, "by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand (Darwin) still."
(CNN.com, 15 September) RD

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


"Had Lehman been handed a get-out-of-jail card, demands for similar treatment from other beleaguered businesses would have poured on to Paulson's desk. There are plenty of them. General Motors and Ford have made pre-emptive strikes. Remarkable, isn't it, how those who champion the survival of the fittest are quickly converted into supporters of lame ducks when they become one. Banks that deprecated state intervention while sloshing about in easy money are calling for the creation of government agencies to "facilitate the consolidation of the financial sector". (Daily Telegraph, 16 September) RD


"Just about every segment of the medical community is piling on the pharmaceutical industry these days, accusing drug makers of deceiving the public, manipulating doctors and putting profits before patients. Recent articles and editorials in major medical journals blast the industry. Medical schools, teaching hospitals and physician groups are changing rules to limit the influence of pharmaceutical sales reps. and three top editors of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine last month publicly sided against the drug industry in a U.S. Supreme Court case over whether patients harmed by government-approved medicines may still sue in state courts." (Yahoo News, 11 September) RD


"One of the most comprehensive surveys of British living standards in recent years has revealed that almost a quarter of children will experience living in overcrowded accommodation in poor states of repair. The survey, conducted for the homelessness charity Shelter, also found that 13 per cent of children will live for at least a year in accommodation in poor states of repair." (Observer, 14 October) RD


"Menswear has a special edge this fall, thanks to the season's most extravagant fashion essential, which goes beyond the classic coat. Now men can strut around town in a peacoat made entirely of crocodile skin. Created by Véronique Nichanian, a leading clothing designer at Hermès, this piece of fashion was inspired by 16th-century European navies. Available in navy blue. $150,000." (Newsweek, 6 September) RD


"High street fashion brands are making "glacial progress" towards ensuring overseas workers earn a living wage, campaigners say today. The £36bn-a-year industry has only begun to "dabble" with moves to improve the "paltry" pay of those working for its suppliers, according to a report from the anti-sweatshop coalition Labour Behind the Label. Most companies say it will be years before they have a workable scheme. The report, published two days before the start of London fashion week, follows exposés of alleged sweatshop conditions, particularly among suppliers in Bangladesh and India. But the report's author, Martin Hearson, says garment workers in other countries including Turkey and Morocco and in Eastern Europe are also not getting a living wage. "The people who make our clothes live in poverty, usually earning half of what they need to meet their basic needs and those of their families. And 10 years since the bulk of the industry signed up to the principle that all workers should earn living wages, nothing has been done to make that principle a reality." (Guardian, 12 September) RD

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Reuters Photo: A metal border fence stretches across a valley separating the US and Mexico, near Campo,...
"The U.S. Customs and Border Protection is putting off plans for a "virtual fence" being built by Boeing Co along the Mexico border and instead will focus on getting a physical fence in place, the Wall Street Journal said. The highest priority is to put out a system of physical fences and barriers that will keep people and vehicles from illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Jayson Ahern, U.S. Customs and Border Protection deputy commissioner, told the Journal. The physical fence is over budget and needs $400 million more than is budgeted, people familiar with the situation told the paper." (Yahoo News, 10 September) RD

Reading Notes

- On filling the heads of soldiers with propaganda to make them perform their killing the more easily, from Edward Rutherford in “The Rebels of Ireland” “How many?” “Three hundred thousand?” Pincher despised the Irish and hated the Catholics, but he was not a dishonest man. “That number” he ventured , “may be somewhat high, you know.”“No, I assure you,” said Barnaby (one of Cromwell’s men) “It is so. The whole army knows it.” And now Doctor Pincher understood. The army of Oliver Cromwell, having questioned the need to convert the Catholics, had been fortified by these reminders of the atrocities to avenge. And he sighed. Every army, he supposed, has to be told a story. -
During the struggle between the capitalists and the aristocracy, the proletariat was used by the latter to win the fight and then cast aside, pointing the way to a new direction for the workers – class consciousness and political action. Gustav Bang in “Crises in European History” writes,”The proletariat had been betrayed and they knew it. They began to perceive that only through independent action could they make any progress. For obviously any cooperation with the bourgeoisie ran counter to all common sense, since the interests of the two classes were diametrically opposite. The capitalists were given added political power without the slightest gain to the workers – the circumstances attending the latter would be no less oppressive and slave-bound. The capitalists, with the aid of the workers, had acquired new powerful political means that could be used with equal effectiveness against the workers below and the landed aristocracy above. The emancipation of the working class must be its own class-conscious work.” On which rests much of our case for achieving socialism.
John Ayers


"The rate of suicides among-active duty soldiers is on pace to surpass both last year's numbers and the rate of suicide in the general U.S. population for the first time since the Vietnam war, according to U.S. Army officials. As of August, 62 Army soldiers have committed suicide, and 31 cases of possible suicide remain under investigation, according to Army statistics. Last year, the Army recorded 115 suicides among its ranks, which was also higher than the previous year." (CNN.com, 9 September) RD

Monday, September 15, 2008

Food for Thought

- In the world of the super rich, Toronto is a great place to be. There,$25 million will get you a super prime condo. In New York, that’s a downpayment and in London it doesn’t even count where condos sell for $11 800per square foot. A house in France reportedly sold recently for $775million and in India they are building a one billion dollar condo. That would be the one being built for Mukesh Ambani and his family of 6 whoneeded new digs when infighting with his brother over their father’s wealth made living in a 22 story building impossible. This new one is 27 stories but equivalent to sixty. It is in Mumbai, built on land bought way below market price from a trust that originally planned to build an orphanage for Mumbai’s countless orphans. More than half of the residents in Mumbai live in slums. (Toronto Star 16/08/08)
- That contrasts wildly with “The High Cost of Low Wages” (Toronto Star,22/08/08) which asked the question, “Why should billion dollar corporations be allowed to pay poverty wages in Canada?” (so the superrich can pay for billion dollar condos, stupid!) More than a million workers in Toronto earn less than $30 000 per year. As the economy shrinks and pinches the workers, big oil and banks report record profits.As we continually point out, don’t expect capitalism to work for the workers.- Capitalism also forces people to act in strange ways –
1.Jazz Airlinesrecently announced that in order to save weight, and therefore fuel, they were removing life jackets from all its planes, including those flying over water. Now you have to hang on to your seats, literally!
2.The high price of gas – a Kentucky woman was arrested for trading sex for the pricey commodity.
3. A German purse thief escaped a would-be captor byexposing her breasts and yelling rape.
4. A man is arrested in San Jose for breaking into a small airport and siphoning airplane fuel into his cargas. tank.
5. Police in Peel Region (near Toronto) arrested two men and confiscated fake high-end labeled goods worth $10 million.
6. In Toronto thieves make off with 14 catch basin (road sinks) covers for scrap value and leave gaping holes in the roadway edges. The rest are being welded on.(mostly taken from “Proof the World is getting Worse”, Toronto Star).-
On the environmental front, Clayton Ruby (Toronto Star 16/08/08)reports that the Alberta Tar Sands Project is the ‘single most destructive fossil fuel development in the world.’ There are 207 countries in the world that track the emissions they emit and the tar sands alone out performs 145 of them. Each day the project uses 300 million cubic feet of natural gas, enough to heat 3 million Canadian homes. Each barrel produced in Alberta produces three times the greenhouse gas emissions of a conventional barrel of oil, yet $50 billion a year is being invested there instead of developing new clean technologies. Is there a better example of how capital slavishly follows the path of greatest profit now, without regard to humans or their environment? Harper’s intensity targets which reduces emissions per unit while letting overall emissions rise freely on greater volume, Dion’s carbon tax that allows trading of carbon credits,and Layton’s ‘make the polluters pay’ (as if!) don’t even begin to address the problem, just as you would expect. Our government did go to Washington to tout the green energy (sic) of the tar sands. Unfortunately for them,while there, a large flock of ducks landed in the ever-growing tar ponds, died en masse, and hit the headlines.- In the 1990s, Big Tobacco was in a life and death struggle to retain market share as cigarette prices soared to $50/200. The answer was to work through Canada’s native reserves and smuggle cigarettes in at cheap prices. They got caught and the resulting civil settlement reported onAugust 1 (Toronto Star) said that Imperial Tobacco and Rothman’s, Benson &Hedges paid out $300 million. On the second of August the same newspaper reported that the federal government paid out compensation to the tobacco farmers, who are being squeezed out of the market by a diminishing customer base, to the tune of …$300 million! John Ayers

Sunday, September 14, 2008


"Over the past five years alone, the average earnings of chief executives of FTSE-100 companies have doubled to £3.2m. Their pay has been rising five times faster than their employees'. The top 1 per cent of the population now enjoy 23 per cent of national wealth, while the poorest half share a mere 6 per cent. For most of the 20th century, Britain became steadily more equal. For the past three decades the movement has been in the opposite direction and it is estimated that Britain's wealthiest person, Lakshmi Mittal, is worth more than twice as much as anybody in the past 150 years." (New Statesman, 11 September) RD


"The Iraqi government is seeking to buy 36 advanced F-16 fighters from the U.S., American military officials familiar with the request told the Wall Street Journal. This move could help Iraq reduce its reliance on U.S. air power and potentially allow more American forces to withdraw from the country than had been proposed. The F-16, made by Lockheed Martin Corp, is the most sophisticated weapons system Iraq has attempted to purchase so far. Late in July, the U.S. Department of Defense had approved up to $10.7 billion in arms sales for Iraq, including a $2.16 billion sale of M1A1 Abrams tanks built by General Dynamics Corp. The U.S. recently announced F-16 sales to Morocco and Romania. Those sales, each for roughly $100 million per plane with training, related equipment and support included, offer an indication of how lucrative the Iraq deal could be for Lockheed Martin and its suppliers. Iraq now appears determined to significantly expand the air power of its military, which has become more competent and confident in recent months but depends heavily on the U.S. for air support. Iraq quickly has become one of the biggest weapons buyers in the world as it seeks to strengthen and professionalise its fighting force." (Yahoo News, 5 September) RD


"Royal Dutch Shell is to become the first western oil company to sign a deal with the Iraqi government since the US-led invasion of 2003, agreeing a plan to capture and use gas in the Basra region that could be worth up to $4bn." (Financial Times, 8 September) RD

Saturday, September 13, 2008


"In 2004 a FTSE chief executive earned 54 times more than the least-paid employee, compared with nine times in the 1970s. In the US, always more extreme, the pay gap is an almost unbelievable 430 times." (Observer, 7 September) RD


Many Asian countries are depicted as "third-world" where an undeveloped economy leaves millions starving, but here is an example of an Indian capitalist who has learned the trick of exploiting workers to make a fortune."Vijay Mallya, the founder and chairman of fast-growing Kingfisher Airlines, launched his first international route yesterday linking Heathrow with India's IT capital Bangalore - a daily service that puts the carrier in head-to-head competition with BA. ...The father-of-three, ranked 476th in Fortune's list of the world's wealthiest people, has 26 homes around the world and 260 vintage cars. He made his fortune as chairman of Indian drinks group United Breweries, the Kingfisher-beer owner that last year acquired Scotch whisky maker Whyte & Mackay for £595m." (Daily Telegraph, 5 September) RD


Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili shakes hands with a U.S. Air Force member as he and Vice President Dick Cheney inspect humanitarian aid at an airport in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Sept. 4
Capitalist statesmen often speak of high ideals like freedom and democracy but behind the high-sounding rhetoric there is usually a harsh reality. A recent example was the US vice-president's speech in Georgia."Speaking in Georgia on Thursday, Cheney slammed Russia's "illegitimate, unilateral attempt" to redraw the country's borders and promised ongoing support for Georgia's efforts to join NATO. The Vice President's trip was accompanied by a $1 billion aid package announced in Washington Wednesday, for the purpose of rebuilding Georgia's shattered economy and infrastructure. Upon arriving in Azerbaijan on Wednesday, Cheney told the people of that country and their neighbours in Georgia and Ukraine that "the United States has a deep and abiding interest in your well-being and security." Fine words indeed, but behind them was a more sordid reason than concern for the well-being of the Georgian citizens. "Vice President Dick Cheney, on a tour of former Soviet Republics, was working to shore up U.S. alliances in the wake of Russia's military humiliation of Georgia - a mission whose outcome could have profound consequences for Washington's efforts to maintain and expand the flow of oil and natural gas to the West while bypassing Russia. " (Time, 4 September) RD

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cold Profit

Asked how high gas and oil prices could be affected by a harsh winter, energy firm , E.On , executive Mark Owen-Lloyd replied:

"It will make more money for us."

Whether meant as a joke or not , spoke the truth of what drives capitalism .

Who owns the North Pole - Part 13

The saga of the Arctic continues with this report from the BBC that a senior US Coast Guard commander has warned of the risk of conflict in the Arctic, unless disputes over international borders are resolved.

"The potential is there with undetermined boundaries and great wealth for conflict, or competition.There's always a risk of conflict," Rear Admiral Brookes said. He added that this was especially the case "where you do not have established, delineated, agreed-upon borders".

Russia is staking the largest claim to the Arctic but Denmark, Norway, Canada and the United States are all involved in border disputes as well . Even China is deploying a research ship to within 200 miles of the North Pole.

The US Coast Guard mounted a pilot operation to Alaska's Arctic coast this summer. Training exercises included search and rescue, and the protection of oil and gas installations, and plans are now being drawn up for permanent bases

Socialist Courier will continue to follow this development of a virgin territory becoming an area of economic and military rivalry due to its valuable natural resources becoming viable and exploitable .

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Labour cant and won't

Goodness me , after all this time Labour has re-discovered that class counts .

"...we know that inequality doesn't just come from your gender, race, sexual orientation or disability. What overarches all of these is where you live, your family background, your wealth and social class..." says Harriet Harman to the TUC conference

Ms Harman accused the Conservatives of being "false friends of equality" and of "sidling up to the unions".

Hmmm.....Socialist Courier wonders what the reason for her own speech may have been , eh ?

This is just more hypocrisy and cant from the Labour Party .

Gordon Brown conceded in an interview with Monitor magazine that "social mobility has not improved in Britain as we would have wanted".

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Money worries 'may harm health'

The economic downturn could be bad news for our bodies, as well as our pockets

Britons are cutting back on expensive fruit and vegetables, and gym membership, claims a report by the Blood Pressure Association.

Some say they are drinking more alcohol than before the recent credit crunch.

Professor Graham Macgregor, the Blood Pressure Association's chairman, said: "It is clear that Britons are under pressure and this could have serious consequences..."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Capitalism bills

Almost a quarter of the UK's population will be suffering from fuel poverty next year, according to new research.

People on low incomes will be the worst hit by the price increases because of prepayment schemes. Five million people pay for their energy this way, incurring higher tariffs, and by 2010 they are expected to be paying £65 more than those who get a quarterly bill.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Socialist Standard September 2008

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Also available as HTML (image lite) and PDF

Pages: 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24


“The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one”
George Bernard Shaw


We have grown used to Popes, Bishops and assorted reverend gentlemen telling us what god's plans are but now it seems we have a politican that also has a hotline to heaven. "Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a "task that is from God." In an address last June, the Republican vice presidential candidate also urged ministry students to pray for a plan to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state, calling it "God's will." Palin asked the students to pray for the troops in Iraq, and noted that her eldest son, Track, was expected to be deployed there."Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God," she said. "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God's plan." (Yahoo News, 3 September) That is the great advantage of being a neocon you have a direct line to the almighty that is denied to the war protesters and enviromentalists! RD


"Agriprocessors, the Brooklyn-based company that is the nation’s largest kosher meat producer, is well known for the labour troubles at its meatpacking plant in Iowa — federal agents detained 389 of its workers as illegal immigrants in May, and labor officials in Iowa have accused it of employing 57 under-age workers. But Agriprocessors is also having labour troubles closer to home, with the company asking the United States Supreme Court to overturn a vote to unionize at its distribution centre along the Brooklyn waterfront. If successful, the company’s appeal could have repercussions at companies across the country: it is trying to persuade the Supreme Court to rule that illegal immigrants do not have the right to join labour unions."
(New York Times, 31 August) RD


"Americans are changing the game plan for retirement, with millions labouring right past the traditional retirement age and working into their late 60s and beyond. While the average retirement age remains 63, that standard may soon be going the way of the gold watch — a trend expected to accelerate as baby boomers close in on retirement without sufficient savings. For 64-year-old John Lee, "retirement" bears a strong resemblance to his full-time working career — full of 40- and 50-hour weeks as an IT technical support specialist. He's not strapped but likes the extra cash and the feeling of being needed. But for Melissa Fodor, a retired travel agent who works part-time as a caregiver for the elderly, the extra work "keeps my head above water" and there's no end in sight to that financial need at age 68. Although the work is satisfying, she confides that "financially I'm kind of scared most of the time. Because what should happen if my health and my body fail?" (Yahoo News, 31 August) RD

Saturday, September 06, 2008


"There is a lot more poverty in the world than previously thought. The World Bank reported in August that in 2005, there were 1.4 billion people living below the poverty line — that is, living on less than $1.25 a day. That is more than a quarter of the developing world’s population and 430 million more people living in extreme poverty than previously estimated. The World Bank warned that the number is unlikely to drop below one billion before 2015. The poverty estimate soared after a careful study of the prices people in developing countries pay for goods and services revealed that the World Bank had been grossly underestimating the cost of living in the poorest nations for decades. As a result, it was grossly overestimating the ability of people to buy things. And the new research doesn’t account for the soaring prices of energy and food in the past two years." (New York Times, 2 September) RD

Karl’s Quotes

On the Value of labour-power, “ What, then, is the value of labouringpower? Like that of every other commodity, its value is determined by the quantity of labour necessary to produce it…A certain mass of necessaries must be consumed by a man to grow up and maintain his life. But the man,like the machine, will wear out and must be replaced by another man. Beside the mass of necessaries required for his own maintenance, he wants another amount of necessaries to bring up a certain quota of children that are to replace him on the labour market and to perpetuate the race of labourers. Moreover, to develop his labouring power, and acquire a givenskill, another amount of values must be spent…As the costs of producing labouring powers of different quality do differ, so must differ the values of the labouring powers employed in different trades. The cry for an equality of wages rests, therefore, upon a mistake, is an inane wish to be fulfilled…Upon the basis of the wages system the value of labouring power is settled like that of every other commodity; and as different kinds of labouring power have different values, or require different quantities of labour for their production, they must fetch different prices in the labour market. To clamour for equal or even equitable retribution on the basis of the wages system is the same as to clamour for freedom on the basis of the slavery system. What you think just or equitable is out of the question. The question is; What is necessary and unavoidable with a given system of production?”
(from “Value, Price andProfit” pp39/40. In other words, inequality is part of the capitalist modeof production and can only be rectified by an end to the wages system.

Friday, September 05, 2008


"The number of soldiers who end up in prison for violent offences has increased dramatically in the past four years, according to a report that has raised concerns about the mental health of military personnel returning from war zones. Compiled by probation officers, the report estimates at least 8,500 soldiers are in custody - 9 per cent of the UK prison population and nearly double the estimate of a previous study by the Home Office in 2004, which put the figure at 5 per cent. ...A pilot study at Dartmoor prison concluded that almost 17 per cent of inmates had been members of the armed forces." (Observer, 31 August) RD

Thursday, September 04, 2008


"Britain, somewhat proudly, has been crowned the most watched society in the world. The country boasts 4.2 million security cameras (one for every 14 people), a number expected to double in the next decade. A typical Londoner makes an estimated 300 closed-circuit (CCTV) appearances a day, according to the British nonprofit Surveillance Studies Network, an average easily met in the short walk between Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament." (Newsweek, 29 August) RD


"For Andrew Baynham and his fellow workers at a car parts manufacturer in Hereford, the news was not completely unexpected. "There was a general feeling that it was coming for a while," he says. But it was still a bombshell when he heard recently that the factory where he spent the last 18 years may close. "There was shock when it was announced." If the gloomy forecasts of recent weeks are borne out, thousands of other people may find themselves in the same situation as Andrew. More and more people now fear the worst about their own jobs as the daily diet of bad news about the UK's faltering economy continues. One in ten workers think they could be made redundant in the next year, recent research from the TUC found, as job insecurity spreads. ...The process of corporate retrenchment is already under way with housebuilders such as Barratt Developments and Persimmon cutting thousands of jobs in response to the slump in home sales. Further job losses in the City seem inevitable as banks nurse huge credit losses while it is feared up to 40,000 jobs could go in the services sector with estate agents and retail staff worst hit. One member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has warned that up to two million people could find themselves out of work by Christmas if economic trends continue."
(BBC News, 2 September) RD


"The rich-poor gap also widened with the nation's top one percent now collecting 23 percent of total income, the biggest disparity since 1928, according to the Economic Policy Institute. One side statistic supplied by the IRS: there are now 47,000 Americans worth $20 million or more, an all-time high." (San Francisco Chronicle, 2 September) RD


"The economic downturn is threatening an increase in “acquisitive” crime, illegal immigration and extremism, putting further strain on tight police budgets, senior Home Office officials are warning ministers. According to a leaked document, property crime, which accounts for some 70 per cent of all recorded crime, could increase by as much as 9 per cent over this year and next if the downturn deepens to the levels of the early 1990s." (Financial Times, 31 August) RD

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


"People are dying "on a grand scale" around the world because of social injustice brought about by a "toxic" combination of bad policies, politics and economics, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday. Avoidable health problems caused by social factors – as opposed to biology and genetics – are causing large-scale health inequalities in the UK, the WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health has found after a three-year study. Evidence showed that a boy born in the relatively deprived Calton area of Glasgow was likely to live on average 28 years fewer than one born a few miles away in Lenzie, a village by the Glasgow-Edinburgh railway. Life expectancy at birth for men in the fashionable north London suburb of Hampstead was found on average to be 11 years longer than for men born in the vicinity of nearby St Pancras station. Adult death rates were generally 2.5 times higher in the most deprived parts of the UK than in the wealthiest areas."
(Independent 29 August) RD


"Air Canada's regional carrier Jazz is removing life vests from all its planes to save weight and fuel. Jazz spokeswoman Manon Stuart said Thursday that government regulations set by Transport Canada allow airlines to use floatation devices instead of life vests provided the planes remain within 50 nautical miles of shore. Safety cards in the seat pockets of Jazz aircraft now direct passengers to use the seat cushions as floatation devices. ... Woody French, mayor of Conception Bay South, Newfoundland, called it a cheap move. French has been advocating for an airline passenger bill of rights."A lot of these airlines say 'Well, our passengers are our main concern.' That's a bit of a misnomer," French said. "We're a distant second. Profits are the first." (Yahoo News, 29 August) RD

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Away back in 1867 Karl Marx in Das Capital explained how the so-called primitive accumulation of capital was based on robbery and murder. In Peru today a similar process is taking place. In Britain we had the highland clearances and the enclosure acts, in Peru it is the expulsion of the indigenous population. "Peru is considering sending in the army to break up protests by Amazonian Indians who claim the government is preparing a massive land grab in the country's remote jungles. ... The government has responded to an appeal for talks by declaring a state of emergency in three states and threatening protesters with military action. "Indigenous people are defending themselves against government aggression," said an Amazon Indian rights campaigner, Alberto Pizango. "This is not an ordinary or everyday demonstration. The Indians have told us they are not afraid. If the government declares a state of emergency they prefer to die there and show that this government violates human rights." Relations between indigenous groups and the President Alan Garcia have become increasingly hostile as the government has sought to exploit what are thought to be rich oil and gas deposits in lands owned by Amazon Indians. Energy companies have pushed deep into supposedly protected areas in the past year, leading to clashes with some of the most remote tribal peoples left in the world."
(Independent, 21 August) RD


"One of the most exclusive clubs in the U.S. has picked up more members. About 47,000 people had a net worth of $20 million or more in 2004, the latest available year, according to new estimates by the Internal Revenue Service. While that was up only slightly from 46,000 in 2001, it was up 62% from 29,000 in 1998. The IRS also reported increases in the number of people with a net worth between $10 million and $20 million: 79,000 people qualified for this group in 2004, up from 77,000 in 2001 and 51,000 in 1998."
(Wall Street Journal, 28 August) RD


"Npower and Scottish Power are the last of the big six energy suppliers to increase prices this year, taking the average household bill to almost £1,500 a year - that is a 40 per cent increase on last year. .... For millions of vulnerable consumers, particularly the elderly and low-income families, the stark reality will mean huddling in a cold house that they cannot afford to heat this winter." (Times,30 August) RD

Buck House

Buckingham Palace , the Queen's official London residence was estimated to be worth £935 million. The palace has 775 rooms, including 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. It also has a cinema, swimming pool, 40 acres of land and it's very own post office.
It was reportedly purchased for only £21,000 by George III in 1761.

The Queen's weekend retreat, Windsor Castle, has also been valued for the first time at £180 million.

The Market System Must Go! Why reformism doesn't work

While looking at the recent pieces,to place in Glasgow's website, on this Blog, 'The struggle for even more reforms is irrelevant and only gets in the way , as well as 'Slowly does it' , I was reminded that our pamphlet,
'The Market System Must Go!' was subtitled ,'Why reformism doesn't work'.
The link takes you into Glasgow's site and the pamphlet is available in HTML or PDF formats.

This pamphlet, on the subject of ‘reform or revolution’, is intended to explain why the Socialist Party advocates a revolutionary transformation of existing society rather than piecemeal reform, like the Labour Party or the Conservatives. It is primarily intended to be a detailed back up to our more introductory pamphlets putting the case for revolutionary change, and to our journal The Socialist Standard.

Much of the material in this pamphlet is from the late nineties , but some has been adapted from previous editions of our pamphlets, principally the now out-of-print Questions of the Day. The earlier chapters develop the case against reformist politics in general, while later chapters discuss specific subjects of concern to modern reformers, ranging from the welfare state to tax reform. It provides a comprehensive critique of the outlook of those who oppose the politics of democratic socialist revolution in favour of reform
activity, and is to be particularly recommended to those who consider that reform intervention can make capitalism run in the interests of the wage and salary earning working class.

Monday, September 01, 2008


"More than one out of four people in Buffalo are poor, according to the latest estimates by the U. S. Census Bureau. Figures released Tuesday on U. S. income and poverty show Buffalo still has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation — 28.7 percent in 2007. That compares with 29.9 percent the previous year. But given the margin of error figured into the estimates, Buffalo’s poverty really hasn’t improved from 2006 to 2007, said Wende A. Mix, an associate professor in the geography and planning department at Buffalo State College. “Statistically,” she said, “there’s no change.” That also was true nationally, where the poverty rate was 12.5 percent in 2007, according to the Census Bureau report. ...In the report released Tuesday, Detroit’s poverty rate of 33.8 percent was the highest among cities with more than 250,000 people, followed by Cleveland, at 29.5 percent; Buffalo; El Paso, Texas, 27.4; Memphis, 26.2; Miami, 25.5; Milwaukee, 24.4; Newark, 23.9; Philadelphia, 23.8; and Cincinnati, 23.5. The Census Bureau pointed out, though, that the poverty rate for Buffalo was not statistically different from the rate for El Paso, Memphis and Miami, and cautioned about comparisons. “Their percentages might be slightly different, but with a margin of error, there’s really no difference,” said Mix, who works with the census data. “Statistically, there’s a lot of ties here.” But advocates for the poor said it doesn’t matter whether Buffalo has the highest poverty rate or the 10th highest, it’s still unacceptable. “No matter what the numbers show, the fact that close to a third of all the residents in the city are living in poverty is an absolute disgrace,” said Bill O’Connell, executive director of the Homeless Alliance of Western New York." (Buffalo News, 26 August) RD

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