Thursday, April 28, 2011

SPIRITUAL VALUES?

Religious leaders are fond of stressing the importance of spiritual values as opposed to sordid material concerns. One such leader died recently. He was Sathya Sai Baba one of India's most popular and controversial figures. He was revered as a living god and miracle worker. It was claimed he could make the lame walk and turn water into oil. "Although dogged by allegations of trickery and sexual abuse of some devotees, he amassed a fortune estimated at more than £5.5 billion. A power struggle over the trust has already begun among aides and family members." (Times, 25 April) £5.5 billion should certainly provide some "spiritual" solace for his grieving aides and family.RD

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

George Galloway and life expectancy

"The life expectancy of people in parts of this city is 10 years worse than in Kabul," George Galloway is quoted as saying in The Guardian.

However, once more we find Galloway's flowery rhetoric is somewhat at odds with the known and available facts. The website Full Fact Org explains:-

Direct comparisons of life expectancy that tell a story of lives in some UK communities being shorter than those in war torn and poverty stricken areas of the world clearly have the power to shock. But attempts to make such comparisons have also seen the media and politicians misrepresent statistics in search of the hard hitting headline. So are the comparisons between Scotland's largest city and the Afghan capital valid? The claim seems to be based on the alarmingly low life expectancy in the Calton area of Glasgow. Taking the Calton figure of 54.9 years for men from the 1998 to 2002 figures and comparing these to the most recent Afghanistan figure of between 44 and 45 shows that a difference of 10 years in favour of the Glasgow man from Calton.

But Socialist Courier doubts very much if Galloway will ever permit facts to get in the way of a good soundbite.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

BIG BUCKS AND BIG BANGS

The Sunday Times publishes a science magazine called Eureka which featured a debate on the issue of "Does military funding compromise science?" Arguing the case for the affirmative was Harry Kroto, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1996, who revealed some devastating facts about the extent of the stockpiling of nuclear weapons. "In my Science and Society lectures, I implore future physicists not to make "better" atomic bombs. There are already more than 20,000, enough to destroy the human race many times over. I implore future chemists not to make "better" napalm, and show them the iconic image of the burning Vietnamese girl that shames chemistry. I implore future engineers not to make "better" landmines, and show pictures of African children playing football on crutches because they have lost a leg in a blast." (Sunday Times, 19 April) Mr Kroto we agree with you very much. but unfortunately it is not up to scientists, who are in present day society sponsored by big business to change the world it is up to us the working class RD

Their Scotland or Our World?

Their Scotland or Our World?




That's the issue in this election, says THE SOCIALIST PARTY




On 5 May, you will have your occasional ration of democracy with the opportunity to vote for the glorified regional council known as the Scottish Parliament.




It's all very well having a vote—but are you normally given any real choice? Let's face it, if it wasn't for the politician's head on the front of the election leaflet, could you tell which party was which?




It's tempting—in the absence of any real alternative—to get drawn into the phoney war that is political debate today. Whether Labour or SNP, Lib Dem, Tory, SSP, ,Respect, they all spout the same promises. And it all amounts to the same thing—they offer no alternative to the present way of running society.




Do you really think who wins an election makes any difference to how you live? And do politicians (whether leftwing, nationalist or rightwing) actually have much real power anyway? OK, they get to open supermarkets and factories, but it's capitalism and the market system which closes them down.




Reality Check


Do any of the political parties address any of the real issues:


+ Why is there world hunger in a world of food surpluses?


+ Why are there unemployed nurses, alongside closed-down hospitals and waiting lists?


+ Why are there homeless people in the streets and empty houses with "for sale" signs?


+ Why do some people get stressed working long hours while others get stressed from the boredom of unemployment?




So what's the alternative?


We in THE SOCIALIST PARTY are not standing at this election ourselves but we still are putting forward an alternative to capitalism and the madness of the market—a society of common ownership and democratic control. We call it socialism.




But real socialism. Not the elite-run dictatorships that collapsed a few years ago in Russia and East Europe. And not the various schemes for state control put forward by the old Labour Party. For us socialism means something better than that. We're talking about:




+ A world community without any frontiers.


+ Wealth being produced to meet people's needs and not for sale on a market or for profit


+ Everyone having access to what they require to satisfy their needs, without the rationing system that is money.


+ A society where people freely contribute their skills and experience to produce what is needed, without the compulsion of a wage or salary.




If you don't like present-day society ... if you are fed up with the way you are forced to live ... if you think the root cause of most social problems is the market system, then your ideas echo closely with ours.




We are not promising to deliver socialism to you. We are not putting ourselves forward as leaders. This new society can only be achieved if you join together to strive for it. If you want it, then it is something you have to bring about yourselves.




If you agree with this, you’ll obviously not want to vote for any of the candidates on offer. But you can show you want real socialism by writing WORLD SOCIALISM across your ballot paper.




And if you want to know more about us and our aims in this election, phone Edinburgh (0131 440 0995) or Glasgow (0141 579 4109) Branch of the Socialist Party. Or come to one of our regular meetings at The Quaker Hall, Victoria Terrace (above Victoria Street), Edinburgh.) 1st Thursday of each month . 7-9 pm. All welcome.




Glasgow Branch of the Socialist Party 3rd Wednesday of each month at 8 pm in Community Central Halls, 304 Maryhill Road, Glasgow.




Or send off this reply coupon for further information and for a free 3-month subscription to our journal the Socialist Standard. Website: www.worldsocialism.org/spgb


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LONDON SW4 7BR (no stamp required)


or email to spgb@worldsocialism.org




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Printed and published by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, 52 Clapham High St, SW4 7U



Friday, April 22, 2011

THE CLASS DIVISION

It was the sort of news item that would have appealed to "Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells" or some such Daily Mail reader. "Too fat, too drunk, or just too lazy to work - but not to claim benefit. More than 80,000 people are too fat or too dependent on alcohol or drugs to work, according to official figures released today. The first breakdown of medical assessment for more than two million people on long-term sickness benefit shows that 42,360 of claimants are alcoholics while more than 37,000 are drug abusers. A further 1,830 are too obese to hold down a job." (Times, 21 April) No mention is made of the rest of the 2 million that are on long-term sickness benefit, but even more strikingly no mention is made of the capitalist class. Here is a class that has never worked, has no intention of ever working - in some cases for several generations - and whose benefits are somewhat greater than the £94 a week doled out to the working class as sickness benefit. Some of them are depicted in the national press coming out of expensive night clubs stoned out of their minds, but this is reported as the high jinks of the playboys and playgirls. It is all good fun, but it is doubtful if £94 would buy a round of drinks for them and yet that is supposed to be sufficient to keep a chronically ill worker for a whole week.RD

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

THE LOGIC OF CAPITALISM

Capitalism is a very competitive society and the logical outcome of the struggle between competing groups of capitalists over markets, trade routes and natural resources is war. The group with the most advanced weaponry has an enormous advantage, hence the attraction of nuclear weapons. A piece of elementary logic that seems to have escaped this group. "Scotland's Catholic figurehead has urged the UK government to give up its "shameful" nuclear weapon programme. Cardinal Keith O'Brien was addressing a rally against nuclear weapons outside the Faslane naval base on Gare Loch. The head of Scotland's Roman Catholic Church was joined by representatives from churches across Scotland in an Easter witness for peace. Quoting the words of Pope Benedict XVI, he said: "In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims." (BBC News, 17 April) There were certainly plenty of victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki but surely the USA was a victor. RD

Thursday, April 14, 2011

BEHIND THE FINE WORDS

The bombing of Gadaffi's forces by the UN has been depicted as a humanitarian action to protect the citizens of that country. In a recent interview the British Foreign Secretary William Hague gave the real reason for the intervention. "Hague insists these actions were humanitarian after the blanket-toting dictator began bombing his own people. But he also concedes a second reason: Libya is a pivotal state for Britain and Europe. Further unrest in north Africa would create a wave of unwanted immigration, new breeding grounds for terrorism and, more importantly, have "terrible economic consequences for the price of oil", he says. "We can't stand aside." (Sunday Times,10 April) The intervention has more to do with the capitalist class's economic interests than for humanitarian reasons. RD

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

FAMILY VALUES

At every election politicians put on their best suit and their most sincere smile and gush on about "family values". If they still have a wife they haven't divorced or been caught with their pants down with someone else's wife they will wax eloquent on the subject. After the election though what will be the result of all that rhetoric? "British families are facing the biggest peacetime squeeze on their finances since 1921, according to a leading economic consultancy. Soaring inflation and weak earning growth will leave the average family £910 worse off than two years ago, according to analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR)." (Sunday Times, 10 April) Politicians will shrug off criticism, blame someone else, pay off their mistresses and lawyers and prepare for the next election's defense of family values. After all it is only members of working class families who have suffered a decline in real income. RD

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

THOSE LAZY WORKERS AGAIN

Readers of the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and other slimy media apologists for capitalism will be aware that the biggest danger to Britain today is lazy overpaid workers, exulting in their pampered useless existence while an over-indulgent welfare state caters for their every indulgence. The following news item may strike such people as a little strange though. "Almost every NHS nurse works more than their contracted hours and one in five does so every shift, a new poll shows. Some 95% of nurses say they work longer hours than they are paid for, according to ICM research for the Royal  College of Nursing. ..Many nurses say they have to skip meals and rarely or never get the breaks at work to which they are entitled..." (Observer, 10 April) RD

Monday, April 11, 2011

ANOTHER REASON TO BE A SOCIALIST

If you have tears to shed then shed then now. "A 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl, Hena, allegedly was ambushed when she went to an outdoor toilet, gagged, beaten and raped by an older man in her village (who was actually her cousin). They were caught by wife of the alleged rapist, and the wife then beat Hena up. An imam at a local mosque issued a fatwa saying that Hena was guilty of adultery and must be punished, and a village makeshift court sentenced Hena to 100 lashes in a public whipping." (New York Times, 30 March)  After 70 lashes she was in such agony that she was taken to hospital where she died. The authorities claimed that she committed suicide because that is what someone who commits adultery must do. Bangladesh is a long way from here but we are all guilty of Hena's death if we don't do something about it. That is why we are socialists.

Who owns the North Pole part 28

Yet another in this seemingly endless Arctic saga to control and dominate the North Pole.

Russia is going to deploy a special motorized infantry brigade in its Arctic sector in 2011, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The brigade will be deployed in the Kola Peninsula in the western part of Arctic but would be responsible for operations in the whole Arctic region. The new Arctic brigade will be created on the grounds of an existing motorized infantry brigade and will be based in the town of Pechenga near Russia-Norway border.

Earlier, Russia's Security Council approved the fundamental principles of the national Arctic policy until 2020. This document envisioned deployment of the armed forces in the region, capable to maintain security in various military-political conditions.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

feeding the world

Lord Rees, the astronomer royal and controversial winner of last week’s equally controversial Templeton Prize, has a much more benign and optimistic vision for 2050.

“A population of nine billion can be supported and fed on the Earth,” he said. “They can’t all live like modern-day Americans, but they can be supported. By applying the best techniques, better transport and refrigeration, it shouldn’t be too difficult to feed nine billion. So one shouldn’t be too alarmist. If there are problems, it will be about mismanagement. Like poverty, it’s more about lack of will than ability to sort it out.”

The caring unpaid over-worked angels

Nurses are "propping up" the health service by consistently working over their contracted hours and providing last-minute shift cover.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland found just one in 10 nurses feel they have good staffing levels where they work. 96% of nurses reported working in excess of their contracted hours, with a quarter saying they did so every shift. One in six said they rarely or never took the breaks to which they were entitled. 29% said they missed their meal time at work at least three times a week. One in five nurses said that in the last six months they had spent a week or more at work despite feeling too ill to be there. Another 29% said they provided last-minute cover for absentee staff at least on a fortnightly basis.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland said there were "serious concerns" for patient care in the NHS

Saturday, April 09, 2011

DOOMED OR SAVED?

Away back in 1904 a group of men and women organised to bring about a new society based on common ownership. They were members of the working class they worked for a living. Their only income was a wage or a salary. Needless to say their activities and ideas were never reported in the press. They still are not But what about this group of fruitcases? "The end of the world is nigh; 21 May, to be precise. That's the date when Harold Camping, a preacher from Oakland, California, is confidently predicting the Second Coming of the Lord. At about 6pm, he reckons 2 per cent of the world's population will be immediately "raptured" to Heaven; the rest of us will get sent straight to the Other Place." (Independent, 27 March)  This nonsense gets across to people unlike the rational view of those workers because it suits the owning class's interests. It should be noted that the crazy religious mob we refer to have assets of $120 million, we are skint. RD

Friday, April 08, 2011

Don't bet on the GGs

With the endorsement of the Socialist Party Scotland (Committee for a Workers’ International), the Socialist Workers Party and Sheridans's Solidarity, George Galloway will head the Glasgow list under the humbly named ‘George Galloway (Respect) - Coalition Against Cuts’ in the upcoming Scottish parliament elections. Once mor we witness the personality of the cult developing. Charismatic politicians have a propensity to capture public worship either through making articulate speeches or wearing fine suits. Galloway has a gift of making fine speeches and a flair for fashion. This emphasis upon the individual has been an increasing symptom of the emptiness of capitalist politics. The emptier the politics, the bigger the personalities.

The leaders we are asked to support, and sometimes choose between, are a myth, created and maintained by--leaders. They are poor examples of honesty, integrity, even of humanity. They are not interested in truth, justice, or any of the grand notions they spout about. They exist, have always existed, will always exist, for one purpose only: to line their own pockets and empty yours. They are parasites on the social body, unwanted, unnecessary and destructive. To follow leaders is to hand over your heart on a platter, with knife and fork attached.

The Socialist Party has no leaders. Socialism wouldn't operate that way and neither do we. All decisions are made by common vote, all administration is above-board and open to inspection, and all work is voluntary. None of us is perfect, and that's why democracy works better than leadership. Mistakes by one person are not disasters for the many. Private interests don't count. Power doesn't exist. Socialists are their own leaders, and they follow nobody but themselves. Socialism could not work with people unwilling or unable to think for themselves, to take responsibility, or to co-operate, but fortunately it doesn't have to. Human beings are better than that. We can think, and we can co-operate, and we don't need rescuing by some "heroic" and entirely untrustworthy leader of the Left. Galloway is a living confirmation of the Socialist Party’s case of avoiding leadership and leaders in our movement.

To Galloway we say the Socialist Party are unable to support your list of demands. None of them addresses the essential problem of our society - the ownership of the means of production by a tiny number of capitalists and the enforced exploitation of the working class through the wages system. Lacking an honest revolutionary stance for a new society, the reformism of Galloway becomes caught in a pointless and frustrating circular battle with an economic system that is based on exploitation. As long as the accumulation of capital takes precedence, either in the hands of the individual capitalist or state institutions, the primary concern of exploitation of labour and making profit will take precedence over the concerns of human need. So long as the essential resources for living are controlled by their owners - whether as western style private capitalists or monopolist state bureaucrats, like that of the Soviet State-Gangster Capitalism you so venerated - the strife and anguish of the class struggle will remain.

The effect of your election campaign will be to help continue this mystification and confusion of the workers as to their own interests, as well the sullying of the name of socialism. The job of socialists is to bring the class struggle to an end, not to try and accommodate themselves with this system. Once we understand our real interest and begin to consciously organise to get it no leader or deceiver is going to be able to deflect us from our course, and the days of the likes of George Galloway will be numbered.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

MONEY AND MADNESS

It is  said that power and money can turn people mad and their seems to be a couple of recent examples of that notion. First of all we have the Lybian dictator Gaddafi declaring "My people love me" as the the country explodes in a civil war and the following crazy declaration of the balding, ageing and the far from handsome but immensely rich prime minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi. "When asked if they would like to have sex with me, 30% of women said "Yes", while the other 70% replied, "What, again?" (Sunday Times, 3 April) RD

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A THATCHER NIGHTMARE

Margaret Thatcher like all previous, present and future prime ministers of Britain was an enthusiastic supporter of capitalism. She depicted capitalism as a "property owning democracy" as her government rushed to sell off council homes. Today such a boast about capitalism must seem somewhat empty to thousands of workers who find themselves the victims of this "property owning democracy". According to the Centre for Economic and Business Research the statistics would seem to suggest that this particular Thatcher dream about capitalism has turned into a nightmare. "650,000 households are struggling to pay the mortgage. 117,000 people are in arrears." (Sunday Times, 3 April) RD

Monday, April 04, 2011

Food for Thought

In the Obscene and Heard category – as Yemen struggles to get rid of its President/dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was about to hand absolute power to his son, as a king would, The Toronto Star reported (26/March/2011) his speech, " We in leadership, we don't want power, but we need to hand it over to trustful hands, not to sick, hateful, corrupt collaborator hands." Astounding nerve, even for his clique of rogues, thieves, and murderers.
In the UK, angry demonstrators occupied dozens of bank branches in protest of government cuts to people services such as cuts to laundry service for the elderly, to daycares, to libraries, while banks, as in Canada, make incredible profits and pay miniscule taxes. For example, Barclays paid $177CA million against an astonishing year's profit of $18.2 billion. Unfortunately, the group says it is not against taxes, they just want the banks to pay their fair share. They will have to come up with a much better alternative to that solution, say the end of money and finance and the establishment of common ownership!
In contrast to the wealth of the banks, The Toronto Star, in an article on The privatization of Britain's housing, revealed that, in England, 4.5 million people are waiting for public housing, and 100 000 households are officially 'homeless'.
 The Harper government appointed Christiane Ouimet as Integrity Commissioner in 2007 to look into reprisals against whistleblowers. Of 228 cases brought before her, only seven were investigated, and no wrongdoing was found in any of them. She was accused of bullying her staff but apparently, no one blew the whistle. She recently resigned two days before an audit was due to begin. Despite the lack of action in four years, she received a separation allowance of $354 000, $53 100 in lieu of forgone benefits, and twenty-eight weeks' severance pay of $137 000. Most workers are lucky to get twenty-eight weeks' unemployment benefits when capital no longer needs them.
Here comes 1984. Miami-Dade (Florida) police department is set to use drone cameras like those used in Afghanistan against the Taliban, for surveillance purposes.

For socialism, John Ayers

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Food for Thought

Poverty is endemic in the 'Third World", as everyone knows. It is just as evident in the rich First World. According to http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/02/21-5, in the US, the richest nation, six million lost their jobs in the recent recession, 25 million are underemployed, $8 trillion was lost in the housing/mortgage crisis, one quarter of all mortgages are underwater (owe more than the value of the house), 50 million live in poverty, one eighth of the population are on food stamps, one half of all children will be in food stamps sometime in their lifetime.
 In Canada, three million live in poverty and the latest blueprint to reduce the problem produced by the House of Commons, was dismissed outright by Tory minister of Human Resources, Diane Finlay, as the party's strategy of growing the economy will take care of it. A rising tide lifts all boats, trickle down effect etc. etc. etc. and on forever.
In China, that land of endless booming economy, have the boats been lifted? The Toronto Star reported (6/March/2011) that seventy Chinese congressional deputies (out of 2 990) have a combined fortune of $75 billion. Five hundred million Chinese live on less than $2 a day. They must be in a sinking boat!
Meanwhile, Canada's top banks reported first quarter earnings of Toronto-Dominion Bank, $154 billion (taxes $343 million) Royal Bank of Canada, $1.84 billion (taxes $612 million)
CIBC, $799 million (Taxes $268 million) National Bank, $465 million (Taxes $129 million).
That's for a quarter year! They were expecting, and got, big tax concessions in the recent budget. Unfortunately for them, it was defeated and the government fell. Steadily falling corporate tax rates and the used of tax havens (how patriotic these banks are!) has saved billions in unpaid taxes. "That's a lot of schools, a lot of hospitals." Said Toby Sanger, economist for The Canadian Union of Public Employees. Time to wake up! John Ayers

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