Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Class Struggle

Protesters march against cutbacks
Campaigners from across South Ayrshire are to march through Ayr town centre to protest against council cuts.
They are angry at the closure of Girvan swimming pool and the Gaiety Theatre, two sports barns and registrar's offices in Maybole and Troon.
The minority Conservative-led council said it was spending £8.5m more in 2009/2010 than it did in the last financial year. But it said it had to take tough decisions to balance its books
When the capitalists system finds it is not so profitable it reduces the benefits available to the community, people protest, but unfortunately, a downturn in the economy means the community at large must suffer, the more active will miss the swimming pool and sports barns, however, maybe when the forecasted upturn comes around, the councillors will promise to open them up again if you vote them in.
Unfortunately this has been the roundabout workers up to now have allowed themselves to hang on to, as socialists we say workers can provide all their needs by a system of common ownership which we call socialism.

Friday, February 27, 2009

HOMELESS AND CLUELESS


The number of properties in Britain lying empty is set to pass 1 million

Politicians of all the major political parties have "solutions" for what they call the "homeless problem". In fact there is no homeless problem, what we have is a poverty problem. Here is a recent press story that shows that there are plenty of empty houses available if you have the money. "The number of properties in Britain lying empty is set to pass 1 million. New figures will show that Britain is on course for a record number of houses and flats lying empty. Some of the rise has been caused by home owners facing repossession. Other empty homes were bought by property developers who have since struggled to raise the money to renovate and furbish them for occupation." (Daily Telegraph, 10 February) RD

GRAVE MATTERS

Most workers inside capitalism live miserable poverty-stricken lives but even in death the indignity of poverty follows them."More people are dying alone without family or friends willing or able to pay for burials and cremations, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the cost of "paupers' funerals". Local authorities across Scotland have seen a sharp rise in the number of both older and younger people dying without funds. In Edinburgh there has been a 46% rise in the number of "national assistance" funerals - those paid for by the state - up to 153 a year, while in Glasgow there has been a 10% rise to 96. Aberdeenshire council is now dealing with one a week. A similar pattern is being witnessed in England and Wales, resulting in estimated annual costs of more than £4m for councils." (Observer, 15 February) RD

inescapable burden of debt


Up to five million homeowners could be in negative equity by the end of this year if house prices continue to fall, research has claimed
Andy Thwaites, director of insight at GfK Financial, said: "The shift to negative equity has the potential to be a mammoth welfare disaster for the nation, particularly when so much of the population has recently relied on the capital appreciation in their home to supplement their lifestyle, consolidate debts and fund retirement.The reality is that if there are further job cuts, the problem will become significantly worse."
The average person approaching Citizens Advice for money advice owed £16,971, the organisation said. It would take around of 93 years for people contacting a debt charity for help to repay their borrowings at an affordable rate.
"Low income, combined with irresponsible lending, unreasonable debt collection practices and badly informed financial decisions are at the root of many of our clients' debt problems." David Harker, chief executive of Citizens Advice said " The reality is that they are condemned to a lifetime of poverty overshadowed by an inescapable burden of unpayable debt."


Thursday, February 26, 2009

BORDERS AND BEREAVEMENTS

Socialists want a new world without borders, nationalism or any other of the nonsense of capitalism."Russia has expressed its regret over the deaths of eight Chinese and Indonesian sailors whose ship was fired on by Russian forces. But Moscow blamed last week's incident squarely on the ship's captain. The New Star, a Sierra Leone-flagged ship, sank soon after a Russian warship fired on it off the port of Nakhodka in the far east of Russia. China's foreign ministry issued a strongly-worded protest to Moscow, demanding a full investigation. But Russia says the Indonesian captain illegally crossed its border." (BBC News, 21 February)
The families of those workers from China and Indonesia who lost their loved ones did so because of the insane capitalist society that splits the world into borders and countries. Inside world socialism that would be impossible. We are all brothers and sisters - nationalism is nonsense. Too late for our Chinese and Indonesian workers though, but their deaths make us want to work even harder for world socialism - a society without countries or borders. RD

CAPITALIST PRIORITIES

Despite the economic crisis in the US the government recently announced an increase in its military budget. "The collision of modern American life with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression has had some strange and unintended consequences. In Alpine, Utah, for example, a school has cancelled the entire 6th grade, with the teachers at Mountainville Academy dismissed just before Christmas and the 12-year-olds merged with the 7th grade." (Times, 21 February)
That is the priorities of capitalism - keep up military expenditure to protect the owning class's markets and sources of raw materials, but sack teachers and worsen the education of worker's children RD

We always said bankers were *ankers


When giving evidence to the Treasury Committee on 10 February, the former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, Sir Fred Goodwin said: "My pension is the same as everyone else in the bank who is in a defined benefit pension scheme. It is determined in the same way as anyone else."

It emerged that Sir Fred is drawing a pension of £650,000 a year. Although he is only 50, he is entitled to the payment for life, with a pension pot worth £16 million.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has announced the largest annual loss in UK corporate history. RBS, which had to be bailed out by the government last year, said that its 2008 loss totalled £24.1bn ($34.2bn). Reports had suggested job losses could total 20,000.

Sir Fred's strategy and decision to buy ABN Amro is widely seen as making the bank more vulnerable to the credit crunch and having to be bailed out. The bulk of the losses came as RBS made a £16.2bn write-down on poorly performing assets, mainly resulting from its 2007 takeover of ABN Amro.


Yes , indeed , a well-deserved pension and well-earned luxury for life while all those sacked will struggle on the dole to pay the bills and pay the mortgage but unlike the belated grumblings of Chancellor Darling , Socialist Courier was reporting and condemning Goodwin's feather -bedding way back in August 2007 and October 2007 and March 2008 .

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Running fast to stay still


Lord Mandelson introduces the Royal Mail bill in the House of Lords


The working class has always to struggle to achieve benefits, the capitalist class will always attempt to erode any benefits when there is a downturn in business, contrast the billions of pounds given to banks with the government dealings with the post office

The Government today launched controversial proposals to part privatise the Royal Mail, sparking a fresh row over its plans to sell off part of the business.
It’s the way I tell them as the Irish comedian says, when it’s workers benefits the government have Lord Mandelson telling us on Wednesday he was determined not to walk away from the plans, despite the "political pain" - adding that without new investment the Royal Mail was in danger of running out of money.
He argues that the taxpayer cannot be expected to fund potential liabilities in the region of £8bn without seeing an improvement in the performance of the company.
The BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, said that by introducing the bill in the House of Lords, the government had given themselves a couple of months to try to win the argument.
The Communication Workers' Union accused the government of trying to "scare" MPs into voting the plan through, by publishing a letter from Royal Mail pension fund trustees warning that it faces disaster if the sale does not go through.

capitalism makes you sick


Long working hours may raise the risk of mental decline and possibly dementia, research suggests

The study found that those working more than 55 hours a week had poorer mental skills than those who worked a standard working week.
Lead researcher Dr Marianna Virtanen, from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, said: "The disadvantages of overtime work should be taken seriously."


It is not known why working long hours might have an adverse effect on the brain. However, the researchers say key factors could include increased sleeping problems, depression, an unhealthy lifestyle and a raised risk of cardiovascular disease, possibly linked to stress. The effects were cumulative, the longer the working week was the worse the test results were. Employees with long working hours also had shorter sleeping hours, reported more symptoms of depression and used more alcohol than those with normal working hours.


Professor Mika Kivimäki said "It is particularly important to examine whether the effects are long-lasting and whether long working hours predict more serious conditions such as dementia."


Professor Cary Cooper, an expert in workplace stress at the University of Lancaster, said it had been long established that consistently working long hours was bad for general health, and now this study suggested it was also bad for mental functioning.

"But my worry is that in a recession people will actually work longer hours. There will be a culture of "presenteeism" - people will go to work even if they are ill because they want to show commitment, and make sure they are not the next to be made redundant."


Harriet Millward, deputy chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "This study should give pause for thought to workaholics..."

capitalist crisis kills

With South Korea about to enter its first recession in a decade and exports suffering their biggest ever drop, the country's health ministry has launched a suicide prevention program. South Korea's suicide rate nearly doubled during the Asian financial crisis 10 years ago with experts blaming it on stress caused by job and income losses.
"There is a fundamental connection between economic hardships and our high suicide rate," said a ministry official
In South Korea, a commuter train operator is even installing doors blocking access to railway tracks due to a sharp increase in people committing suicide by jumping in front of trains.

Millions of people in Asia have lost their jobs and retirees and other small investors have lost their life savings due to plunging stock markets and the collapse of investment funds. Asian governments are setting up hotlines and counseling centers to help those hit hardest by the financial crisis and the subsequent economic downturn.
Paul Yip, a mental health and suicide prevention specialist in Hong Kong, has seen a jump in the number of patients coming to his clinic for help to cope with the downturn.
"Work is very important to the Asian because we don't have very good social security and losing one's job is associated with the loss of 'face'. So the trauma can be great,"
Hong Kong started special hotlines in October for people suffering from the financial crisis and it opened "depression clinics" in some public hospitals this month.
"The clinics were opened in expectation of more people suffering depression because of the crisis. The government has also ordered more anti-depression drugs," said William Chui, education director at the Society of Hospital Pharmacists.

In Japan, some half a million contract workers are expected to be laid off in the six months until April. The industrial center of Aichi in central Japan, home to Toyota car factories and other manufacturers, has been particularly hard hit.An official in Aichi said the number of people bringing their problems to mental health centers rose by nearly 15 percent in December, compared with the same period in 2007. Japan's suicide rate rose sharply during a severe recession in the late 1990s when guarantees of lifetime employment collapsed, there were mass retrenchments and university graduates struggled to find jobs.

CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?

"At an exclusive soiree tomorrow evening at an upmarket London bar, an elite circle of VIPs will sprawl on velvet beds as they receive relaxing, complimentary massages. Around the corner at an equally glamorous event, guests will be entertained by circus performers and big-name DJs as they sip champagne. Most of Britain may be in cost-cutting mode as the recession worsens, but it seems that someone forgot to tell the fashion industry. London Fashion Week kicked off its 25th anniversary celebrations by popping bottles of Moet et Chandon before 10am yesterday, and fashion labels promised a weekend of opulent and expensive parties." (Times, 21 February) RD

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A GLOOMY VIEW OF CAPITALISM


Socialists are often accused of painting too bleak a view of how capitalism operates, but even members of the capitalist class are in despair about the present capitalist crisis.
"Renowned investor George Soros said on Friday the world financial system has effectively disintegrated, adding that there is yet no prospect of a near-term resolution to the crisis. Soros said the turbulence is actually more severe than during the Great Depression, comparing the current situation to the demise of the Soviet Union. He said the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September marked a turning point in the functioning of the market system. "We witnessed the collapse of the financial system," Soros said at a Columbia University dinner. "It was placed on life support, and it's still on life support. There's no sign that we are anywhere near a bottom." His comments echoed those made earlier at the same conference by Paul Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman who is now a top adviser to President Barack Obama. Volcker said industrial production around the world was declining even more rapidly than in the United States, which is itself under severe strain."I don't remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression, when things went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world," Volcker said." (Yahoo News, 21 February)
The truth is that capitalism operates on a slump and boom cycle and no capitalist can accurately forecast how it will operate. RD

Monday, February 23, 2009

THE NEW GOLD RUSH

At the beginning of the last century Jack London wrote many novels and short stories about the Gold Rush. They were tales of adventure and heroism. Today we are experiencing another Gold Rush, but this time it is not about bravery, it is about fear and panic. "You know that something is going very badly when the bestselling investment is a metal that is good for nothing except to cap rotten teeth and repair fragile relationships. The price of useful metals, such as copper and aluminium tumbled yesterday, but gold futures in New York rose above $1,000 per ounce. ...This rally is about hoarding. That is what makes it scary and it is the reason why it is likely to continue till more optimistic economic news drives investors to more productive investments. Only 11 per cent of the annual 3,600 tonnes of gold consumed has any useful application, such as dentistry or electronics. The great majority of gold sold, about 60 per cent, is for jewellery and the rest is hoarding - investors buying bullion and ordinary people buying bars and coins. ...This gold rush is all about fear ." (Times, 21 February) RD

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Food for Thought

According to the Lancet nutrition series (January 2008), 178 million children under 5 suffer from nutritional deficiencies - 55 million acute and 19.3 million severely acute (wasting).
Unlike many diseases, malnutrition has a cure - a balanced diet, regular consumption of fortified foods, supplements when local foods don't have the nutrients needed, and animal-based products like milk, fish, eggs and cheese.
One solution is to increase spending on nutrition. According to the Lancet nutrition series, $300 million a year is spent on nutrition while $6 billion is spent on HIV/AIDS.
"Nutrition can only be sustainable if people ultimately pay for it," said Dr. Alfred Sommer, dean emeritus of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
What he means is for people to pay in pounds and pence, dollars and cents. No matter how well meaning those experts and NGOs are, they are bound by the confines of the capitalist system and the most obvious solution of actually providing such nutrition freely is simply beyond their ken. ajohnstone

LABOUR IN ACTION

The World Bank recently estimated that 2.8 million children could die by 2015 if the global financial crisis is not checked. Commenting on this the Prime Minister Gordon Brown commented:
"It is as if the entire population of Rome were to die in the next five years."
(Times, 21 February)
This from the leader of the Labour Party who vigorously defend the killer society that is capitalism! RD

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Who Pays for the Crisis ?


A 100,000 people have taken part in protests in Dublin to vent their anger at the Irish government's handling of the country's recession. They oppose plans to impose a pension levy on 350,000 public sector workers. Reports say the plan could cost the 350,000 public sector workers between 1,500 euros and 2,800 euros (£2,500) a year.
Ireland, which was once one of Europe's fastest-growing economies, has fallen into recession faster than many other members of the European Union. The country officially fell into recession in September 2008, and unemployment has risen sharply in the following months. The numbers of people claiming unemployment benefit in the Irish Republic rose to 326,000 in January, the highest monthly level since records began in 1967.
Trade union organisers of the march said workers did not cause the economic crisis but were having to pay for it.

"I've a mortgage to pay, I've children to put through school, and now I'm being told I have to take cutback, after cutback, after cutback." said one protester

"Our priority is about ensuring that people are looked after, the interests of people are looked after, not the interests of big business or the wealthy," Sally-Anne Kinahan, Irish Congress of Trade Unions secretary general

Grand sentiments from a trade unionist but always there must be added a caveat and it was from Karl Marx - that trade unions can only offer defensive strategies against the encroachments of capital and it is only when the working class recognise that it the abolition of wage labour and the whole stinking system of the capitalism that their real interest will be served .

CONSPICIOUS CONSUMPTION

The contrast between the lives of many workers surviving on $1 a day and the filthy rich was well summed up by this newspaper article.
"Perhaps more than any other commodity, fine wine came to symbolise the conspicuous consumption of life BC - Before Crunch. Barely a month went by without some extravagant tale of vinous excess. Most famously there were the "Barclay Six", the bankers who ran up a £42,000 wine bill at one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants, but they were examples of a decade-long phenomenon. The sheer perversity of spending so much money on something so ephemeral seemed to be the very point of such orgiastic spending. The rich could, almost literally, piss their money away. Or just spray it on the walls, which are how one bonus-fuelled investment banker disposed of £21,000 of Crystal champagne in the London club, Movida."
(Times, 19 February) RD

Smoke and Mirrors

One of the striking fetures of this crisis is the seeking out of scapegoats . And for the government the culprits are those bonus-greedy bankers . Simplistic explanations of the inherent instability of capitalism . A simple search of this blog will reveal that Socialist Courier has been exposing those overpaid bankers long before this crisis appeared , something Brown and Darling were at the time turning a convenient blind eye to. ( note though , Socialist Courier doesn't take credit for predicting the crash ) . So bonuses are to end but what else - very little .

As always the people who will be paying the real price of this slump , is not the rich but it will be the working class - once more .

The Scotsman reports
HOMES were repossessed at the rate of 110 a day last year – but experts warn the figure could double this year as the recession puts hundreds of thousands of homeowners at risk of defaulting on their mortgages.Figures released yesterday by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) revealed that 40,000 homes across the UK were seized in 2008, a 12-year high, and up 54 per cent on the previous year's 25,900.The CML does not provide separate repossession figures for Scotland, but housing charity Shelter Scotland estimated they could reach 7,000 by the end of 2009. By the end of 2008, 182,600 of the UK's 11.7 million mortgages were in arrears of more than three months.
One expert accused the group of being "too conservative" and said repossessions were likely to peak at 82,000 homes, or 225 a day.
Brown vowed to "do everything we can to stop repossessions" but the government was accused of "giving false hope" to people at risk after it emerged that a rescue scheme announced in December will not come into effect until April.

SC await a news item of just one bank executive losing his/her house in Barnton or whatever rich peoples enclave they and seeking the help of Shelter or the council housing department .

Also data from the Ministry of Justice showed that nearly 56,000 people applied to become bankrupt through the courts last year, up from about 53,000 in 2007 and the highest number since comparable records began in 1995.

Friday, February 20, 2009

THE HARD SELL

Attracting votes demands some reformist parties to what can be described as the Hard Sell, however, it takes on a new meaning according to an article by Marc Lacey in Mexico City in “Scotland on Sunday” 15th February.

The Mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard does not even recog­nise the authority of President Felipe Calderon after a dis­puted election two years ago. He argues that Calderon's use of the military against the drug cartels has worsened the situ­ation, causing extreme poverty and more crime in rural areas dependent on drug-trafficking for income. His new initiatives may be more about politics than any­thing else, and with elections looming in July, candidates across Mexico are beginning to lay the groundwork for their campaigns.

To bolster the fortunes of his leftist Party of Democratic Re­volution and to further his own dream of becoming the coun­try's president in 2012, Ebrard has pushed to legalise abortion and gay civil unions in the cap­ital and crack down on illegal street vendors and unlicensed taxi operators, who have long been associated with crowds and crime. His plans to expand subway and bus services are ambitious and popular.

In announcing the erectile dysfunction programme in November, Ebrard, 49, por­trayed it as a way of bringing smiles to the faces of those who have reached the "tercera edad"; or third age, as Mexicans call the golden years.
"Everyone has the right to be happy," the mayor said, noting that many of the poorest elderly people do not qualify for em­ployer-based health plans and have been abandoned by their families. "They don't have med­ical services, and a society that doesn't care for its senior cit­izens has no dignity"
Getting men into public clin­ics with the promise of free medicine could help them get treatment for other related health problems, like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and de­pression believe health offi­cials. "This is a public health problem," said one doctor.
Not everyone is enamoured by the new programme. One of Eb­rard's rivals for the presidency, Fidel Herrera, 59, the governor of Veracruz State from the In­stitutional Revolutionary Party, dismissed the Viagra handouts as ridiculous. "What's the point of encouraging old people to have sex?" he asked in a recent interview. "There's such a thing as nature. You can't play God:"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

WHAT'S IN A NAME?





Capitalism always dreams up euphemisms to disguise the horror that is the buying and selling system, but we doubt if this change of name makes the plight of workers forced into this occupation any easier to bear.
"Jose Luis Gonzalez, 60, has been called many things — almost none of them nice — in his 40 years working the streets of Lima, Peru's sprawling capital. "They call us vultures or scavengers most of the time, but sometimes they are meaner, saying we are thieves, criminals. It has never been easy work," he says. Gonzalez is one of an estimated 100,000 people in Peru who make a living diving through garbage to collect refuse — paper, metal, glass — that can be resold for a profit. It is a hard scrabble life, but one thing positive may now be handed to him and his fellow trash sifters: a new name for their profession. Early each morning, he mounts his modified tricycle cart, pedalling through the streets of the seaside district of Barranco in search of treasures. He forgoes a shrill horn for his booming voice, shouting for glass, paper or used items that he can resell. "You have to be considerate and not make a mess. If you cause trouble, the police will take your cart, and then you're stuck," he says. On a typical day, which usually includes six hours' collecting goods and two hours' sorting and selling items to middlemen at a municipal lot, he clears around $3.50. ...Now, the new National Movement of Recyclers of Peru is hoping to change that. Founded six months ago, the group has an ambitious plan that would double income levels while helping the country's municipal government deal with the problem of solid waste. The first step is changing the image Peruvians have of this army of cart-riding men and women, promoting the word recycler instead of more traditional and derogatory terms like garbage picker and scavenger. "The movement increases self-esteem. Society has always scorned recyclers, seeing them as the last rung on the ladder," says Galo Flores, who provides support to the movement through a local organization, Ciudad Saludable (Healthy City). (Tme.com, 18 February) RD

DAFTER AND DAFTER

In a USA beset with the economic problems of unemployment and repossessions the Roman Catholic Church has come up with an old piece of nonsense to console the faithful. "The announcement in church bulletins and on Web sites has been greeted with enthusiasm by some and wariness by others. But mainly, it has gone over the heads of a vast generation of Roman Catholics who have no idea what it means:
“Bishop Announces Plenary Indulgences.” In recent months, dioceses around the world have been offering Catholics a spiritual benefit that fell out of favour decades ago — the indulgence, a sort of amnesty from punishment in the afterlife — and reminding them of the church’s clout in mitigating the wages of sin. ... “Why are we bringing it back?” asked Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who has embraced the move. “Because there is sin in the world.” ... According to church teaching, even after sinners are absolved in the confessional and say their Our Fathers or Hail Mary’s as penance, they still face punishment after death, in Purgatory, before they can enter heaven. In exchange for certain prayers, devotions or pilgrimages in special years, a Catholic can receive an indulgence, which reduces or erases that punishment instantly, with no formal ceremony or sacrament. There are partial indulgences, which reduce purgatorial time by a certain number of days or years, and plenary indulgences, which eliminate all of it, until another sin is committed. You can get one for yourself, or for someone who is dead. You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day." (New York Times, 9 February) RD

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It's poor sick old people paying for the bankers

New York City's Department for the Ageing, which runs more than 300 community centres for ageing residents and provides services such as food delivery to the homebound, affordable housing and heating subsidies, has cut its 2009 budget by $4 million and faces another proposed cut, of $9.5 million, in 2010. New York state also is proposing cuts in health care and services for the elderly as part of a drive to close a $13 billion 2009 budget gap. Among the proposals is a cut in the state contribution to the Federal Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, for elderly, blind or disabled people with little or no other income.

"We are outraged that the government, which has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out financial institutions -- and they in turn have given $18 billion as bonuses to their top executives -- has no funds to support vital services for their senior citizens," said New York City head of the State Wide Senior Action Council. " We are of a generation that fought in the sixties," she said. "We're out there doing it again."

City figures show that in 2006, one-fifth of New Yorkers age 65 and older lived in poverty, twice the national average. Advocacy groups say by now it is closer to one-third, and New York is second only to Detroit among major U.S. cities in its rate of poverty among the elderly. Minorities tend to fare worst, with 30 percent of Hispanic, 29 percent of Asian and 20 percent of elderly blacks in poverty compared with 13 percent of elderly whites in New York City.

THE TERMINATOR

California has been warned it could run out of cash by the end
of February
In the movies Arnold Schwarzenegger often played the hero, but in real life he has had to bow to the realities of the capitalist system that has slumps and booms undreamed of in the Hollywood fantasy land. "Cash-strapped California is to start notifying 20,000 state workers that they may lose their jobs. A spokesman for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made the announcement after California lawmakers failed to approve a $40bn (£28.2bn) budget. California, the world's eighth biggest economy, has been hit by the housing crisis, unemployment and falling consumer spending. ..California has already laid off state workers for two days a month, put 2,000 public projects on hold and delayed tax refunds." (BBC News, 17 February) RD

Monday, February 16, 2009

A BOOM BURST SYSTEM

In yesterday’s Sunday Mail 15th February, there is an announcement that Holyrood politicians, Paul Martin and Alex Fergusson will lead prayers for the victims of the credit crunch. The MSPs will speak at the annual National Prayer Breakfast Scotland. MSP Martin will chair the event and Holyrood presiding officer Fergusson will offer the welcome. As socialists we think you can spend a lifetime on your knees if you believe praying is a solution to capitalism’s world wide problems, our answer is world wide socialism
In the real world: During the week I listened to the Prime Minister Answer questions from the parliamentary committee re.”The banking Fiasco”. He made the point that interest rates were at an all time low and the inflationary rate was almost zero. The target for inflation was 2% so any increase in the money supply would give the bank of England some leeway in keeping to the 2% target.
Pensioners and unemployed workers, people on limited income, faced with the rising costs of essential food prices, result of the inflationary measures the increased money supply will cause, suffer a reduction in their already meagre standards. I say the essentials because it’s not everyday that workers are buying TVs. etc. Other workers faced with the same problems have the difficult job of battling for a wage rise in slumping markets. The process of inflating the money is not new, however, it allows the employers not to be seen attempting to cut wages and disguises the class struggle to some extent. The slump happens because the workers are so productive the capitalist are unable to sell their products, the useful workers who are capable of producing commodities in abundance will have to suffer until their bosses can make a profit, the workers who are still in a job will be urged to be even more productive. Who said he had eradicated the boom, burst system?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

CHEAPER KILLERS

"The United States army is to accept immigrants with temporary US visas, for the first time since the Vietnam war, according to the New York Times. Until now immigrants have had to have permanent residency - a "green card" - in order to qualify for the services. But those with temporary visas will be offered accelerated citizenship if they enrol, the Times says.
(BBC News, 15 February)
This sums up how capitalism operates. They need you to work for the lowest possible wage and may have to let poorer workers into their country to depress your wages, and if you don't want to kill people? They will use lower paid workers to do the job. Capitalism sucks. RD

Saturday, February 14, 2009

HARD TIMES

HARD TIMES

"Think pawnshops, and you probably conjure up old jewellery, desperate customers, and seedy store fronts. Hardly, it would seem the ingredients for innovation. Yet amid recession, the country's largest chain, Cash America International (NYSE:CSH - News), is using the credit-crunch boom time to lure new customers and expand. To woo the growing number of consumers facing a credit squeeze, Cash America is boosting the amount of short-term loans it offers online, and is adding a cash-advance feature to electronic payroll cards. Such cards are gaining popularity among employees with poor credit, or those without traditional bank accounts." (Yahoo News, 5 February) RD

CAPITALIST PRIORITIES

As unemployment soars and re-possessions increase it speaks volumes for the priorities of capitalism that military expenditure keeps on rising.
"The cost of Britain's military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq this financial year has soared to more than £4.5bn, an annual increase of more than 50%, figures released yesterday reveal. Operations in southern Afghanistan accounted for a little over half, nearly £2.6bn, compared with £1.5bn last year. Most of the money was spent on providing tougher armoured vehicles for soldiers who face a growing threat of roadside bombs. Surprisingly, as the government prepares to withdraw from Basra, the cost of Britain's military presence in southern Iraq this year increased to nearly £2bn, compared with less than £1.5bn last year, according to the figures released by the Ministry of Defence. ...The defence budget will be increased by more than £500m to reach a total of just over £38bn this year, the MoD said yesterday." (Guardian, 13 February) RD

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"How Near is Socialism?" Discussion

How Near is Socialism?

Glasgow Branch of the Socialist Party

February
Spring/ Branch Programme

COMMUNITY CENTRAL HALLS
304 MARYHILL ROAD, 8.30pm

Speaker John Cumming 18 February

How Near is Socialism?

For over a century the objective conditions necessary for the establishment of socialism, i.e. the development of the means of production and distribution of wealth to a level which first permitted abundance and now superabundance, have existed. So, why has it not happened? When will it happen?

These questions are obviously much easier to ask than they are to answer

Subjective Conditions, a majority of socialists.

To answer these questions, it would probably help to look at some indicators within society which might show us what progress, if any, has been made in the last century or so towards increasing socialist consciousness, and consequently towards socialism itself.

Some Indicators within society

What does the decline of belief in religious superstition during the last century tell us about the state of consciousness amongst wageslaves?

Has this decline been accompanied by a correspondingly better understanding of the society in which they live?

What effects do globalization and improved. communication systems, such as the internet, have upon the potential for greater class consciousness amongst workers?

Globalization is not new: it is a development which has been in progress for at least several hundred years, but its effects have become much more noticeable as a result of modern communication systems. Globalization has joined the lexicon of buzz-words used by our bosses' media machine.

What are the effects of this media machine upon the minds of the working class

We are often told that certain events should be seen as "important", or "significant", or even "historic". The recent presidential election in the United States of America was reported as such an event.
The fact that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were both seeking to be candi-dates for the presidency, we were told, was in itself an "historic achievement".Now that Barack Obama has become the new President of the United States, we are invited to see this as some kind of great event. There is much goodwill, and sadly adulation, for this latest disappointment-to-be who now occupies the White House. Will those who support this man today be ready for socialism any time soon?

These are some of the items Comrade John Cumming will be discussing at our 18th February branch meeting, looking forward to seeing you all there.

NO "FAT CATS" HERE

We are used to reading about malnutrition in so-called "poor countries", but this is not just a problem in Asia or Africa. "More than 3 million people in Britain are seriously underweight and at risk of malnutrition, researchers warned today after an investigation into the medical consequences of poverty and social isolation. The British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (Bapen) said the NHS committed huge resources to tackling obesity, but paid scant attention to malnourishment. In a survey it found 28% of people admitted to hospital showed symptoms of malnutrition, including weight loss and a low body mass index. About 30% of new care home residents and 19% of people admitted to mental health units had the same problems." (Guardian, 10 February)
In one of the most developed countries in capitalism we have this shameful plight for the old and poor. After a lifetime of working for wages many workers find themselves in this sad predicament. RD

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

ALTERNATIVE LIFE STYLES

Two pieces of literature came through many workers letter boxes recently. Here is one from The Observer, 8 February –
"Prince Edward spent last week on an official visit involving lots of good works to Barbados, including lunch yesterday at the Sandy Lane hotel (favoured by Michael Winner and Simon Cowell, with rooms costing around £3,000 per person per night) and an afternoon at the resort's golf course."
Here is another from the charity WaterAid
"Every 17 seconds, a child in the developing world dies from water-related diseases, in around the time it takes you to read this paragraph, someone, somewhere, will die. Everyday, people in the world's poorest countries face the dilemma of having to trust their health and that of their children to the consequence of drinking water that could kill them. It's a gamble that often carries a high price - seeing children needlessly dying is simply heartbreaking." WaterAid suggest that the answer is to send them £2 a month. Socialists suggest that we get rid of this insane society even though it might interfere with Prince Edward's £3,000 a day golfing trip. RD

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Running fast to stay still

Labour Research January 09 has an article called “Reviewing a century of the state pension”

It is noted that for a hundred years pensions have been struggling to remain at 25% of the national average earnings, the Trade Unionist who said we are running fast to stay still got that one correct, as socialists we say reforming the capitalist system can only ensure its continuation and workers must bin this system for one based on the common ownership of the means of production, a system where all the necessities are produced in the quantities that provide for everyone. Where pensions are a thing of the past.

The article below, gives an excellent account of the struggle to remain just where we are.

“The first pension payments were for those aged 70 and over and were between one and five shillings a week with nine out of 10 of the 650,000 recipients getting the full amount . Five shillings (25p) was then the equivalent of 25% of national average earnings.Comparing pensions and earnings has long been a way of assessing how pen­sioners are doing in comparison to the working population and the long-term trend has not been in the pensioners' favour. In fact, it wasn't until the 1970s that the basic state pension again rose to around 25% of average earnings, briefly topping that level - at 26% - in 1979. Before 1974 the state pension was not increased at specific times or by an amount based on any kind of formula and since 1979 annual increases have been based only on inflation. Restoring the link with earnings is one of the key pension reforms demanded by trade unions, and a regular element of the pensions' resolutions passed at the TUC each year. Speaking at a lobby of parliament organised by campaigning group the National Pensioners Conven­tion (NPC), TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said that although the state pension remains a key achieve­ment, "its value has melted away since the link with earnings was ended by the last Conservative government". If the link to earnings had been retained then a single pensioner entitled to the full basic state pension would now be getting £143.15 a week instead of the actual rate of £95.25.”

How has this past 100 year pension struggle developed?


“Trade union persistence on this issue finally paid off in 2006 when the govern­ment decided that it would restore the link to earnings increases but only from 2012. The current basic rate is the equivalent of just 15% of average earn­ings and the restoration of the earnings link from 2012 will effectively set this as the long-term level unless a future gov­ernment makes additional increases.
The low level of the basic state pen­sion has been acknowledged for many years and various governments have tried to address this. At the end of the 1950s the Conservatives came up with the idea of a graduated retirement ben­efit that was the first attempt at sup­plementing the basic pension. The Labour government of 1974-79 decided that this was inadequate and wound the scheme up and replaced it with the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS). The idea was that this would provide a pension worth roughly 25% of "band" earnings - that is earnings between the lower and upper earnings limits for National Insurance contribu­tions - on top of the basic pension, mainly for workers who were not covered by occupational pension schemes.
Employees could start building up entitlement from 1978 but before anyone could retire on the full benefits of the scheme the Conservatives began to make cuts with a major reform introduced in 1986 followed by further changes in 1995. According to calculations made by the Pension Policy institute, the combined impact of these reforms is that a man on average earn­ings retiring today with a full SERPS contribution record gets a pension 17.5% lower than he would have done if the reforms had not been implemented.”

Disappearing contributions
At the same time as cutting back on SERPS, the Conservative government introduced a new system of personal pensions with the clear intention to increase the amount of pension benefits provided by the individual rather than by the state. The personal pensions system proved an expensive fiasco. It was very expensive for the many individuals who contributed to pension plans only to find that a lot of their contributions disap­peared into fees and charges or that the lump sum available at retirement was much lower than expected because of poor investment returns. Several major pension companies were also found guilty of mis-selling pensions.
Trade unions wanted to see more compulsion on employers to contribute to pensions, but the Labour government elected in 1997 steered away from this proposal and instead launched a new system of persona! pensions, called stakeholder pensions. The intention was that stakeholder pensions would tackle some of the major personal pension system - high fees and charges. Employers were required to make stakeholder pensions available to employees but there was no requirement for employers to contribute.
Stakeholder pensions failed to take off and the government was left still facing a major pensions challenge. This consisted of an inadequate basic state pension, a complicated earnings-related pension that failed to provide additional benefits for many low-paid workers and a system of private pensions that many workers were reluctant to invest in. This combination of factors was made worse by massive cutbacks in occupational pen­sion schemes. A period of falling stock markets undermined the financial posi­tion of many of the main occupational pension funds in the private sector. From the mid-1990s a growing number of employers were closing these final-salary schemes to new employees and replacing them with defined contribution schemes whose payouts were dependent on fluc­tuating stock market returns.
There are several elements in the government's current pensions strategy that try to address these problems. It has changed the entitlement rules for the basic state pension and replaced SERPS with a new Second State Pension. In both cases it is now much easier for parents and carers with significant breaks in employment to build up pension entitle­ment and with the reduction in qualifying years more people will be entitled to the full rate. The Second State Pension is gradually being transformed into a simple, flat-rate payment and so will be much easier for people to understand than SERPS. Although the new pension will be less generous for those on above ­average earnings, it will provide more generous benefits for those below average earnings.
The third element of the strategy is to introduce new pensions accounts, a system that will require employer contri­butions. From 2012, employees will be automatically enrolled into a personal account with a 4% contribution made by them and 3% from the employer.
Employer obligations
The issue of employer responsibility was made clearly at last year's TUC Congress by Adrian Askew, general secretary of the Connect communication workers' union, in the debate on pensions. "While increases to the state pension are most welcome, that alone will not provide a reasonable standard of living in retire­ment," he said. "The state pension should in reality be a decent safety net but employers/businesses need to recognise their responsibility and not simply argue that increases to the minimum provisions provided by the state are adequate and somehow absolve them as employers of their obligations."
While it is too early to say whether the new system will begin to fill one of the many gaps in the UK pension system, what is clear is that for most trade unions, the basic state pension is the core of the system and needs to be increased substantially as part of a strategy to reduce poverty among pensioners. The means-testing system of pensions credits, in place since 2003, has helped some pensioners but £1.3 billion a year goes unclaimed - 1.8 million pensioners are eligible for the top up but don't receive it.
Speaking at the lobby of parliament last October, NPC general secretary Joe Harris said: "After 100 years of the state pension it's a national disgrace that at least 2.5 million older people are still living below the official poverty line, and millions more are struggling to meet the rising costs of living." The NPC, sup­ported by the TUC, wants to see the basic pension paid to all existing pensioners on a universal basis with the single pension raised to £151 a week.

Monday, February 09, 2009

THE FUTILITY OF REFORMS

Roger Turner the General Secretary in his News and Views article of the January/ February issue of the Unite magazine, relates some facts about pensions and pensioners that demonstrate that pensions are not a solution to working class poverty, however, I’m sure he will not point out to his members that the solution is to stop trying to recycle capitalism, best thing is to bin it. The article reads,
Are you living in comfort

A Survey by pension’s provider Friends Provident claims that people can live ‘comfortably’ on an income of £832 a month, excluding rent or mortgage payments.
I don’t know what Friends Provident means by ‘comfortably’ but whatever it is; it is luxury beyond the dreams of avarice for the majority of pensioners.
The state pension is £363 a month. Pension Credit pushes this up to £496. Does this mean that your average pensioner is living half comfortably? Or could half a pensioner live in comfort, while the other half made do on the breadline?
Who knows? These surveys rarely reflect the real world. What is certain is that after 100 years of the state pension failing to meet the needs of pensioners – it celebrates the anniversary of its introduction in 2008 – most pensioners are still struggling to make ends meet.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Food for Thought 4

- Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nnahyan, owner of Manchester City football Club, offered Milan $250 million for the services of player, Kaka, and one million per week in pay for the latter. Sounds like a lot until you learn that the Sheik’s family’s worth is estimated at one trillion dollars, so 250 million is less than one day’s interest (assuming 10% accumulationrate). How hard it must be spending that much every day!

Charities are experiencing hard times, right? No so the Toronto Sick Kids’ Hospital in Toronto. In an article telling us that its top fund raisers are leaving (Toronto Star, 9/Jan/09), it is revealed that the top guy, hired in the US, is paid over $600 000/year and its top ten officials shared $2.8 million, up 35% from the previous year. A spokesperson for the hospital commented, “Our philosophy is we hire for excellence in fundraising and marketing.” Of course, most people who do all the leg-work and phone work, do it for nothing as volunteers.

In the military sphere, the 108th. Canadian soldier died recently. For what? You may well ask. In “Everything for Sale in Land of Graft”, Dexter Filkins (Toronto Star, 2/Jan/09) tells us that, “Kept afloat by billions of dollars in American and other foreign aid, the government of Afghanistan is shot through with corruption and graft. From the lowliest traffic cop to the family of President Hamid Karzai himself, the state built on the ruins of the Taliban regime seven years ago now often seems to exist for little more than the enrichment of those who run it”.

Canadians are waiting to hear, in the light of the imminent closing of Guantanamo torture camp, the fate of Omar Khadr, who was 15 years old when attacked by American insurgents and had the audacity to fight for his life by allegedly (a lot of doubt and strange cover up on the facts) lobbing a grenade and killing an American medic while he (Khadr) was shot in thechest. Now 22, he is incredibly charged with “murder in violation of the laws of war”. Figure that one out!
John Ayers

Saturday, February 07, 2009

FOOD FOR THOUGHT 3

Dave Carpenter reports that about 1 in 6 of American homeowners are “under water”, i.e. the home’s debt exceeds its market value. That’s double last year’s figure.
(Toronto Star (03/01/09)

Fired workers in Guandong, China, smashed motorcycles and company equipment in anger as their dreams of prosperity and their $175/month jobs disappeared and the reality of capitalism bites – you work at the pleasure of capital.

In “Canada Should Strut It’s Stuff” (David Olive, Toronto Star, 18/Jan/09), an article designed to show the world what Canada is made of, the author reveals that and estimated 900 000 children in Canada live in poverty and wretched conditions. Some stuff! Some strut!

For those who have lost their jobs, unemployment insurance is much harder to get and much lower, and lasts for shorter periods than previously. In the 1970s, unemployed workers received 75% of their wage, today it’s just 55 %. In the 1990s recession, workers received $150/week more than today. Requirements are tougher and part time workers need not apply. Only 42% of Canadians who are unemployed receive relief, just 25% in Ontario. The futility of reform.

On the other hand, some are coping quite well. The Wall Street financial sector, the one that ran the surest, most prestigious institutions into the ground and then came begging for a trillion dollars, has just handed out $18.4 billion in employee bonuses. To the chagrin of president Obama, who castigated them publicly, and then ordered more bailout money!

According to The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada’s top 100 CEOs pocketed one billion dollars last year, averaging $10 million apiece, which means that by coffee time on the second work day of the year, they’ve made the average Canadian workers’ annual salary of $40 237.
John Ayers

Friday, February 06, 2009

Food for Thought 2

In the article, “The Zero Hour is Coming” by Peter Gorrie (Toronto Star, 3/Jan/2009, the author presents the incompatible idea that we can have zero growth and keep capitalism. Apart from that impossible theory in capitalism, he does make a couple of good points. He chides environmentalists for proposing ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep our growth model,
“Even many environmentalists trumpet growth cloaking it in green. With clean, efficient, carbon technologies, they say, we can have more of everything and keep the planet inhabitable.”

He cites a recent Pembina Institute/ David Suzuki Foundation report thatclaims that within 12 years, Canada could cut emissions to 25% below 1990 levels, expand the economy 20%, and create 1.2 million jobs. On growth, Gorrie quotes a senior economist at York University, Peter Victor,
“ What’s wrong with growth? In the first place, it hasn’t fulfilled the promise of full employment, less poverty and a better environment: Growthhas been disappointing.”
No kidding. I wonder when they will come to the realization that we need a better system!
- Also on the environment, a Moncton recycling initiative by a community group has had to close, put five people out of work, and send its stock to the landfill because it is losing money. Money rules! John Ayers

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Karl’s Quotes

On value, price, and supply and demand,

“ But to consider matters more broadly : You would be altogether mistaken in fancying that the value of Labour or any other commodity whatever is ultimately fixed by supply and demand. Supply and demand regulate nothing but the temporary fluctuations of market prices. They will explain to you why the market price of a commodity rises above or sinks below its value, but they can never account for that value itself. Suppose supply and demand (were) to equilibrate, or, as the economists call it, to cover each other. Why, the very moment these opposite forces become equal they paralyse each other, and cease to work in one or the other direction. At the moment when supply and demand equilibrate each other, and therefore cease to act, the market price of a commodity coincides with its real value, with the standard price round which its market prices oscillate. In inquiring into the nature of that value, we therefore having nothing at all to do with the temporary effects on market prices of supply and demand. The same holds true of wages as of the prices of all other commodities.”
(Value, Price and Profit, p26 Little Marx Library)

SCREWING THE TAPS

It’s estimated $100 billion /year is spent on bottled water. It would cost $30 billion to provide clean water to everyone on earth. (globalnetnews-summary@riseup.net - a movie review of “Flow: Who owns the world’s Water” by Jessica Moseby.)
Still on bottled water, Maude Barlow of The Council of Canadians revealed CBC Radio interview) that Ontarians buy one billion bottles per year and two-thirds end up in landfill sites. Also, she said, close to four million, mostly children, die from consuming contaminated water every year. Please synthesize these last two items to demonstrate the insanityof capitalism. John Ayers

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

THE SPECTRE OF UNEMPLOYMENT

"Unemployment is mounting around the world as big international companies, including Boeing, Conoco-Phillips, GKN, in Britain, and SAP, of Germany, rush to cut their costs. The job scythe, which could put 50 million people out of work world-wide, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), is reaching beyond the financial sector and into every corner of the global economy. ... The ILO report says that unemployment could rise by between 18 million and 30 million this year, and as much as 50 million if the world economy continues to deteriorate. In its worst-case scenario, global unemployment, which stood at 179 million in 2007, could rise to 230 million." (Times, 29 January) RD

Food for Thought

The Canadian Parliament resumed operation this week after being prorogued (suspended) for two months by PM Harper. This is highly unusual. Other leaders who suspended their legislatures, with their countries, from whom Harper may have learned are, Adolph Hitler (Germany, 1933), Francisco Franco (Spain, 1939), Benito Mussolini (Italy, 1939), August Pinochet (Chile 1973). A (pro)rogues gallery if ever there was one!- Indicators of the deepening recession and who pays the price keep surfacing – Microsoft lays off workers, 5 000, for the first time in its 34 year history.- In “The World is sinking in a Sea of Debt” (Toronto Star 24/01/09) Brett Popplewell tells us that we are all poor, that Western society has existed on credit for three decades and if each member of the G7 were to make good on all their liabilities, they would all be forced intobankruptcy. Apparently, Canada owes (in US dollars) $266.199 billion, US owes S7.39 trillion, UK owes $793.346 billion, France owes $1.5 trillion, Germany owes $1.85 trillion, Italy owes $2.13 trillion, Japan owes $5.7 trillion. John Ayers

Monday, February 02, 2009

THE WASTEFUL SOCIETY

" Turn a corner near King Harry ferry just south of Truro and through the trees you suddenly glimpse the giant ships - car carriers, bulk carriers, banana boats. There are 10 ships here, looked after by skeleton crews of three or four to each vessel. As well as the Filipinos, there are Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian sailors with too much time to kill, often not enough work to do and little access to the outside world. Sailors on one of the laid-up ships spend time cycling round the vast empty decks, trying to keep fit. Some organise games of football on board and many are becoming excellent darts players. On one vessel they seem to have given up the ghost and are padding around unshaven and in flip-flops, asking anyone who passes if they have any spare DVDs - they have watched all theirs dozens of times."
(Guardian, 31 January) RD

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