Tuesday, January 31, 2012

class war in India

India factory workers in revolt and kill company president. Workers at the Regency Ceramics factory in India raided the home of their boss, and beat him senseless with lead pipes after a wage dispute turned ugly. The workers were enraged enough to kill Regency’s president K. C. Chandrashekhar after their union leader, M. Murali Mohan, was killed by baton-wielding riot police. Once news of Murali’s death spread, the factory workers destroyed 50 company cars, buses and trucks and lit them on fire. They ransacked the factory.

The workers had been calling for higher pay and reinstatement of previously laid off workers since October. India’s factory workers are the lowest paid within the big four emerging markets. Per capita income in India is under $4,000 a year, making it the poorest country in the BRICs despite its relatively booming economy.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2012/01/27/india-factory-workers-revolt-kill-company-president/



Monday, January 30, 2012

THE US CLASS DIVIDE

The recent electoral activities in the USA have enraged Mitt Romney because of the issue of economic justice. "Break the news gently to Mitt Romney, who seems apoplectic that the whole "rich get richer, poor get poorer" thing is being discussed out loud. In front of the children, for goodness sake. "You know I think it's fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms," he told the Today show's Matt Lauer last week. "But the president has made this part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It's a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach." (Washington Post, 16 January) Despite Komney's distaste the issue of the class divide in the USA won't go away RD

CHILD SLAVES OF CAPITALISM

Everyone loves chocolate. But for thousands of people, chocolate is the reason for their enslavement. The chocolate bar you snack on likely starts at a plant in a West African cocoa plantation, and often the people who harvest it are children. Many are slaves to a system that produces something almost all of us consume and enjoy. "The CNN Freedom Project sent correspondent David McKenzie into the heart of the Ivory Coast - the world's largest cocoa producer - to investigate what's happening to children working in the fields. His work has resulted in a shocking, eye-opening documentary showing that despite all the promises the global chocolate industry made a decade ago, much of the trade remains unchanged. There are still child slaves harvesting cocoa, even though some have never even tasted chocolate and some don't even know what the word "chocolate" means." (CNN, 12 January) RD

A CORRUPT SOCIETY

Capitalism is a corrupt society with contracts and sales often the subject of under the counter deals. The world of medical treatment is not exempt from this all-pervading practice. "To head off medical conflicts of interest, the Obama administration is poised to require drug companies to disclose the payments they make to doctors for research, consulting, speaking, travel and entertainment. Many researchers have found evidence that such payments can influence doctors' treatment decisions and contribute to higher costs by encouraging the use of more expensive drugs and medical devices. ..... Large numbers of doctors receive payments from drug and device companies every year, sometimes into the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars,in exchange for providing advice and giving lectures." (New York Times, 16 January) Workers in the USA who imagine their medical treatment is untouched by the taint of monetary consideration should think again. RD

Who owns th North Pole - part 44

China, Brazil and India want seats on the Arctic Council as global warming creates new opportunities for shipping and resource extraction in the vast Arctic region. Japan and South Korea have indicated they want observer status as well. Non- Arctic countries want to exert economic and political influence in the region. China already has a research station in Norway's high Arctic.

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=106455

workers shares - a share in losses

For Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland workers, the chance to buy discounted shares in their employer seemed a no-lose deal. Schemes such as the Sharekicker plan at HBOS, which allowed employees to buy the bank’s shares with their bonuses and get 50 per cent more free shares after three years.

In December 2007, the HBOS share price was 741.5p. A year later, after its takeover by Lloyds, it had plunged by more than 90 per cent to 69p, giving thousands of employees who had taken up the Sharekicker plan not only their jobs to worry about, but their savings.

Many staff were confident of prosperity-laden future of their employer and invested much of their cash back into the very company they worked for. The tragedy is that when things went pear-shaped, many lost both their jobs and their savings.

The Deputy Prime Minister talked of a democratic share ownership culture. A lot of bank workers can be forgiven for feeling cynical towards Nick Clegg’s proposal for employees to have a universal right to ask for company shares.

How much say in the running of HBOS, RBS and Northern Rock did the thousands of employees who owned shares in those firms have? Not even 100 per cent take-up would give a workforce sufficient ownership to earn a voice loud enough to be heard. Groups of individual shareholders can’t come close to the ownership held by pension schemes and other institutional investors, who have been found badly wanting as far as accountability is concerned.

http://www.scotsman.com/scotland-on-sunday/business-opinion/comment/jeff_salway_bank_workers_know_pitfalls_of_share_perks_1_2070693

Sunday, January 29, 2012

LAZY WORKERS

A popular piece of nonsense that the press are fond of spreading is that all Britain's economic woes arise out of the laziness of the working class. Recent research would seem to give the lie to that view. "Workers who spend long hours at the office are more than twice as likely to develop depression as those who do a standard day, according to a study. British researchers found those who spend more than 11 hours a day - or 55 hours a week - at their desk faced a higher risk." (Daily Mail, 26 January) An 11 hour day hardly seems like the ideal for the work-shy. RD

A SENSE OF VALUES?

Government ministers have extremely arduous tasks and from time to time they must make harsh decisions. Thus the education minister has set about the task of cutting expenditure on education and introducing higher university fees. However a sense of priorities must be applied to government expenditure. "The Queen should be given a new royal yacht - likely to cost at least £60m as a way to help overturn Britain's mood of austerity, according to Cabinet minister Michael Gove. The Education Secretary suggested that greater efforts should be made to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year to stop it being overshadowed by the Olympic Games." (Independent, 16 January) Cutting expenditure on working class education is one thing but Her Majesty needs a nice new means of transport. How is my knighthood doing by the way? RD

A DETESTABLE SOCIETY

There are many reasons to detest capitalism. You may detest that millions of children will die from the lack of clean water or your special hatred may be reserved for the millions of preventable deaths caused by malaria, but surely this piece of madness deserves a place in that catalogue of detestations. "For most dogs, a kennel used to comprise a few planks of wood held together with rusty nails to form a rather rudimentary shelter from the wind and rain. But now besotted owners are lavishing up to £3,000 on designer homes for their pets - from a Bauhaus-inspired cube-shaped structure to a pink castle complete with turrets." (Daily Mail, 14 January) A couple of pence for a mosquito net could save a life? Let's spend £3,000 on Rover's kennel. Detestable! RD

a drop o' the hard stuff?

Scotch whisky is now outperforming traditional investments, including the stock market and gold.

Figures from investment firm Whisky Highland show that some portfolios’ value has risen by almost 300 per cent in the last year. Three-year figures reveal that an investment in the 100 best-performing whiskies in 2008 would have risen by 163 per cent in 2011, while gold – which has soared due to the recession – rose 146 per cent. Diamonds rose by just 10 per cent, while shares and crude oil stock values fell.

Arthur Motley, buyer at Royal Mile Whiskies, said: “Collectors used to be interested in whisky as a drink and wanted a good bottle as part of their collection. Increasingly, people are buying as they see prices rising on eBay or at auctions. It is simply seen as an investment.”

David Robertson, Dalmore’s rare whiskies director, said: “People see whisky as an asset and with stocks and shares being so tough and interest from bank accounts so low, investors have been starting to look for other opportunities.”

The most expensive bottle of whisky so far is a bottle of limited-edition Dalmore, bought last year for £135,000

http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-news/edinburgh-east-fife/whisky_investors_cheered_by_rise_in_values_1_2084366




Saturday, January 28, 2012

SCHOOLED FOR FAILURE

It is well known that the very rich take advantage of their wealth to ensure that their children obtain the best possible education. What is not as well known is how those from the poorest families are extremely handicapped by their lack of resources early on in their academic career. "The stark gap between the performance of disadvantaged pupils and their classmates from better off backgrounds is exposed in school league tables for the first time today. Figures show that only 33.9 per cent of disadvantaged pupils achieve the benchmark of five A* to C grade GCSE passes including maths and English compared to a national average of 58.2 per cent." (Independent, 26 January) Just another reason to get rid of the inequalities of capitalism. RD

NO LOG CABINS HERE

One of the illusions fostered by capitalism is that the poorest in the land can rise to a position of prominence by hard work. Thus we have the story of a USA President who came from humble beginnings in a log cabin. Recent figures published about Republican nominees for the highest office would seem to contradict that notion."Mitt Romney -Total net worth: $85 million to $264 million. Jon Huntsman - Total net worth: $16 million to $72 million. Newt Gingrich-Total net worth: $7 million to $31 million." (Yahoo Finance, 13 January) RD

Friday, January 27, 2012

A SLOW LEARNING PROCESS

One of the difficulties experienced by socialists when trying to convince their fellow workers about the importance of class and ownership is that the ideas of nationalism and racism are so prevalent. So it is heartening to see some evidence of social attitudes changing. "Conflict between rich and poor now eclipses racial strain and friction between immigrants and the native-born as the greatest source of tension in American society, according to a survey released Wednesday. About two-thirds of Americans now believe there are strong conflicts between rich and poor in the United States, a survey by the Pew Research Center found, a sign that the message of income inequality brandished by the Occupy Wall Street movement and pressed by Democrats may be seeping into the national consciousness. The share was the largest since 1992, and represented about a 50 percent increase from the 2009 survey, when immigration was seen as the greatest source of tension." (New York Times, 11 January) RD

MORE ELECTION PROMISES

Politicians love nothing better than making promises and the nearer they get to election time the greater the promises. "US President Barack Obama has attacked income inequality as he set the tone for his re-election bid in his third State of the Union speech. Mr Obama emphasised the importance of an economy that works for everyone, in the nationally televised address to Congress. The speech saw a renewed call for higher taxes on the wealthy, something Republicans strongly oppose. The US economy is on the mend, but unemployment remains high at 8.5%." (BBC News, 25 January) After a couple of years of Obama in power we still have 400 Americans with an income equal to that of the total income of half the population, but that does not stop him from going on about "an economy that works for everyone". RD

Thursday, January 26, 2012

BEHIND THE GLITZ

We are constantly being told by the mass media that we should admire the enterprise and inventiveness of the great American computer and electronic companies, but behind all that glamorous facade lurks the ugly realities of capitalism. "As American consumers ogle over shiny new gadgets at this week's Consumer Electronic's Show, the workers that make those products are threatening mass suicide for the horrid working conditions at Foxconn. 300 employees who worked making the Xbox 360 stood at the edge of the factory building, about to jump, after their boss reneged on promised compensation, reports English news site Want China Times. It's not like this is the first time working conditions at Foxconn have made news outside China. But iPhone and Xbox sales surely haven't lagged in the wake of those revelations and neither Apple nor Microsoft has done much of anything to fix things." (Yahoo News, 10 January) Instead of the raise they requested, these Chinese workers were given the following ultimatum: quit with compensation, or keep their jobs with no pay increase. Most quit and never got the money. RD

CAPITALIST "PROGRESS"

For thousands of years tribes have lived in isolated parts of the Amazon jungle without contact with the so-called "civilised" world. Sometimes this contact turns out disastrously. "Loggers in Brazil captured an eight-year-old girl from one of the Amazon's last uncontacted tribes and burned her alive as part of a campaign to force the indigenous population from its land, reports claimed on Tuesday night. ... Luis Carlos Guajajaras, a local leader from a separate tribe, told a Brazilian news website that they tied to her a tree and set her alight as a warning to other natives, who live in a protected reserve in the north-eastern state of Maranhao . "She was from another tribe, they live deep in the jungle, and have no contact with the outside world. It would have been the first time she had ever seen white men. We heard that they laughed as they burned her to death," he said." (Daily Telegraph, 10 January) Capitalism, with its ceaseless drive for profits is always catastrophic for tribal society. RD

The New Vietnam Class War


When around 100 police and local officials came to seize their land outside the northern port city of Haiphong, the family of farmer Doan Van Vuon was ready and waiting, with shotguns in hand and improvised explosive devices planted in the ground. Six security officers were injured in the ensuing shoot-out on January 5, the culmination of a long-running land dispute between Mr Vuon and the local government. Foreign diplomats say that the government is concerned about the potential for such disputes to spiral out of control, at a time when it is facing other threats to social stability such as the record number of labour strikes and soaring food prices.

Jairo Acuña-Alfaro, a policy adviser on the United Nations Development Programme in Hanoi, says that disputes over land use rights were “perhaps the largest source of corruption nowadays in Vietnam”, with many Vietnamese complaining that local authorities often set compensation prices for land too low.

Following the path laid out by China, Vietnam embarked on its first steps toward a market economy in the late 1980s. In 1993, Vietnam allowed citizens to acquire “land use rights” but the state has retained official ownership of all land. As Vietnam’s economy boomed over the last decade, that ambiguity has led to an increase in the number of disputes over land between residents, on the one hand, and developers and local governments, on the other. The case echoes similar land disputes in neighbouring China. In December, a confrontation over land sales turned violent in the southern village Wukan after the local government sent in paramilitary troops to quell demonstrations.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/8625ddc6-4352-11e1-8489-00144feab49a.html#axzz1kXYAo7Ax

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

THE RISE OF INEQUALITY

It is often difficult to get up-to-date figures about ownership and incomes inside modern capitalism, but the BBC recently came up with some interesting data. "US presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid 13.9% tax on his multi-million dollar income - promoting a debate about tax levels among the "super rich". Meanwhile, protesters in the Occupy Wall Street movement claim they speak for the "99%" of Americans who stand in opposition to the one per cent who control the majority of the country's wealth. But how accurate are these figures? While developed countries have grown richer over the past 30 years, not everyone's pay packets are getting bigger at the same rate. Income inequality is on the rise in most developed countries, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In the United States, the 400 richest individuals earn roughly the same as the bottom 50% of the population. About one third of the world's 100 richest people live in the US." (BBC News, 24 January) It seems indisputable that inequalities in ownership and income are on the increase. RD

DOWN-MARKET SHOPPING

Workers are being advised to tighten their belts because of the recent economic downturn, but even the capitalist class are feeling the pinch. "ROLLS ROYCE sold 3,538 cars in 2011 - a new record for the BMW-owned luxury marque. And with Volkswagen-owned Bentley reporting pre-recession levels of 7,003 cars sold last year, the luxury car market as a whole appears to be in rude health. .... According to BBC News, the increase in sales is in the main due to Rolls Royce's "smaller and less ostentatious" Ghost model, which costs a mere £165,000 compared to the £235,000 Phantom." (The Week, 9 January) The owning class are tightening their belts - the safety belts on their "mere £165,000" Ghost models. RD

Dance of the Apprentices

All pupils taking Higher English will have to learn at least one Scottish text under a new requirement by the Holyrood Government to ensure future generations of Scottish young people grow up with an understanding of their culture and literary heritage.

This blogger for Socialist Courier recommends that school students read "Dance of the Apprentices" - a socialist classic some say.

The novel gives a vivid account of the struggles of a Glasgow family from the first World War and into the Depression are at the end of the twenties. It is a story of Glasgow apprentices, their lives dignified with a desire for art and learning and with the ideal of reforming the world. The book follows the fortunes of one particular family - the Macdonnels. The mother dreams of success, struggling to raise her family and her ambitious husband out of slum life. A social critique of Glasgow.

Written by Edward Gaitens (1897 – 1966) who was born in the Gorbals of Glasgow. Leaving school at fourteen, he undertook a variety of casual jobs to support himself over the years. When the First World War broke out he became a conscientious objector and was imprisoned for two years in Wormwood Scrubs.

Feel free to share your own Scottish reading-list suggestions in comments.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Independence for Shetland !!!

In the 14th century Shetland was still a Norwegian province. The Norn language, a form of Old Norse, continued to be spoken until the 18th century when it was replaced by an insular dialect of Scots known as Shetlandic, which is in turn is now being replaced by Scottish English. Udal law is a Norse derived legal system, which is found in Shetland. Scottish Courts have intermittently acknowledged the supremacy of Udal law in property cases up to the present day. Major differences from Scots law include shore ownership rights, important for pipelines and cables. It declares that the Shetland community owns the Sea and Seabed. The Crown Estate has had to admit the supremacy of Udal Law (and unlike the rest of the UK, swans are not legally the British Queen's property in Shetland.)

In 1468 Shetland was pledged by Christian I, in his capacity as King of Norway, as security against the payment of the dowry of his daughter Margaret, betrothed to James III of Scotland. As the money was never paid, the connection with the crown of Scotland has become perpetual. Christian had secured a clause in the contract which gave future kings of Norway the right to redeem the islands for a fixed sum of 210 kg of gold or 2,310 kg of silver. Several attempts were made during the 17th and 18th centuries to redeem the islands, without success.

After the islands were transferred to Scotland, thousands of Scots families emigrated to Shetland in the 16th and 17th centuries but studies of the genetic makeup of the islands' population indicate that Shetlanders are just under half Scandinavian in origin

From the early 15th century on the Shetlanders sold their goods through the Hanseatic League of German merchantmen. The Hansa would buy shiploads of salted fish, wool and butter and import salt, cloth, beer and other goods. The trade with the North German towns lasted until the 1707 Act of Union when high salt duties prohibited the German merchants from trading with Shetland. Shetland then went into an economic depression. By the late 19th century 90% of all Shetland was owned by just 32 people. The Crofters' Act in 1886 emancipated crofters from the rule of the landlords and enabled those who had effectively been landowners' serfs to become owner-occupiers of their own small farms.

The East Shetland Basin is one of Europe's largest oil fields. The extracted oil is sent to Sullom Voe, the leading oil export harbour in the UK, producing approximately 25 million tons of processed crude per year and 23 per cent of Scotland’s North Sea Oil revenues. Furthermore, scientists have that up to five billion barrels of oil could be found in unexplored volcanic rocks to the west of Shetland.

As a result of the oil revenue and those cultural links with Norway, a small independence movement developed. It saw as its model the Isle of Man, as well as Shetland's closest neighbour, the Faroe Islands, an autonomous dependency of Denmark.

In 2008 the Shetland Chief Sandy Cluness called for autonomy from Scotland for its 22,000 population. Cluness, the figurehead of the Shetland Islands council, who has no political party affiliation, advocates an independent Shetland assembly with tax-raising powers. Cluness believes that the Shetland council has been hindered by government centralisation and has called for a wide range of services including transport, policing, coastal protection, in-shore fisheries, further education and the arts to be administered from the capital Lerwick, rather than from Edinburgh. In the 1978 devolution vote the Shetland Isles voted against devolution .The general feeling was if we are not to be governed by Westminster, as part of the United Kingdom, then we would rather be on our own than governed by Edinburgh.

It has highlighted the weakness in the independent Scotland argument - if Scotland can gain its independence from the UK what is to prevent Shetland (which is closer to Oslo than Edinburgh) seeking its independence from Scotland, too. If Scotland does become independent again, then is it prepared to surrender a "cash cow" if Shetlanders chose to go it alone? Would an independent Scotland say to a breakaway Shetland "fair enough then, off you go and the oil is yours"?

"Born in iniquity and conceived in sin, the spirit of nationalism has never ceased to bend human institutions to the service of dissension and distress"

Your golden years - thats a laugh!

One in eight Scots will retire this year saddled with debts, research has claimed. The study found that 18% of those due to retire this year in the UK will be in debt. On average, those planning to retire this year with debts will face repayments of £260, around a fifth (19 per cent) of their expected £1290 a month income.

The average amount owed by those wrapping up their working life is around £38,200, with mortgages and credit cards making up the bulk of the debt. The figure is £5000 higher than the year before. The study found half of those with debts still owed money on their home loan and more than half (51%) were struggling with their credit card bills.

Citizens Advice Scotland said older Scots were saddled with "staggering amounts of debt".

Its own research, published last year, found that the average unsecured debt, excluding mortgages, was £17,767. Susan McPhee of CAS said: "That's a staggering amount of debt to service, and still keep warm and put food on the table."

the more you have, the more you can have.

An article worth reading and quoting from by the author Arundhati Roy

"In a nation of 1.2bn, India’s 100 richest people own assets equivalent to a quarter of gross domestic product...
In India, the 300m of us who belong to the new, post-“reforms” middle class – the market – live side by side with the ghosts of 250,000 debt-ridden farmers who have killed themselves, and of the 800m who have been impoverished and dispossessed to make way for us. And who survive on less than 50 cents a day."

"Antilla belongs to India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. I’d read about this, the most expensive dwelling ever built, the 27 floors, three helipads, nine lifts, hanging gardens, ballrooms, weather rooms, gymnasiums, six floors of parking, and the 600 servants. Nothing had prepared me for the vertical lawn – a soaring wall of grass attached to a vast metal grid...Ambani is personally worth more than $20bn. He has a controlling majority stake in Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), a company with a market capitalisation of Rs2.41tn ($47bn) and an array of global business interests. RIL has a 95 per cent stake in Infotel, which a few weeks ago bought a major share in a media group that runs television news and entertainment channels. Infotel owns the only national 4G broadband licence. He also has a cricket team. RIL is one of a handful of corporations, some family-owned, some not, that run India..."

"...scandal after scandal has exposed, in painful detail, how corporations buy politicians, judges, bureaucrats and media houses, hollowing out democracy, retaining only its rituals. Huge reserves of bauxite, iron ore, oil and natural gas worth trillions of dollars were sold to corporations for a pittance, defying even the twisted logic of the free market. Cartels of corrupt politicians and corporations have colluded to underestimate the quantity of reserves, and the actual market value of public assets, leading to the siphoning off of billions of dollars of public money. Then there’s the land grab – the forced displacement of communities, of millions of people whose lands are being appropriated by the state and handed to private enterprise...
...Having worked out how to manage the government, the opposition, the courts, the media and liberal opinion, what remains to be dealt with is the growing unrest, the threat of “people power”. How do you domesticate it? How do you turn protesters into pets? How do you vacuum up people’s fury and redirect it into blind alleys? The largely middle-class, overtly nationalist anti-corruption movement in India led by Anna Hazare is a good example. A round-the-clock, corporate-sponsored media campaign proclaimed it to be “the voice of the people”. It called for a law that undermined even the remaining dregs of democracy. Unlike the Occupy Wall Street movement, it did not breathe a word against privatisation, corporate monopolies or economic “reforms”. Its principal media backers successfully turned the spotlight away from huge corporate corruption scandals and used the public mauling of politicians to call for the further withdrawal of discretionary powers from government, for more reforms and more privatisation..."

"...
Capitalism’s real gravediggers, it turns out, are not Marx’s revolutionary proletariat but its own delusional cardinals, who have turned ideology into faith. They seem to have difficulty comprehending reality or grasping the science of climate change, which says, quite simply, that capitalism (including the Chinese variety) is destroying the planet..."

A Talk on Banking

Glasgow branch have recorded a talk given by Vic Vanni

Mp3 download available here

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Socialist Standard and Red Clyde

The First World War saw Clydeside gain its Red reputation, and the Socialist Standard at the time supported them but cautioned that their actions were not sufficent. It should be noted that "patriotic" printers refused to re-produce an article about Lloyd George and the Clyde.

The Socialist Standard challenged the engineer union workers' faith in their leaders writing it was those " trusted and prominent men, both parliamentarians and trade union officials, [who] were associated with every piece of legislation that fettered the workers more... too slowly, the workers are finding out their true friends and true principles, their cunning enemies and their delusive ways...Instead of abandoning the political machine to ambitious wiseacres and unscrupulous plotters, and letting them, in the secrecy of Cabinet conclaves, everlastingly scheme to set the social changes on you, see to it that those who are now proven the enemies of your class are no longer sent to represent you. Fill their places with class-conscious men of your own ranks, controlled and guaranteed by the political organisation of your own class." The biggest danger that confronted them, in the opinion of the Socialist Standard, – the biggest mistake they could make – "...is to place power in the hands of “leaders” under any pretext whatever. It is at once putting those “leaders” in a position to bargain with the master class for the purpose of selling out the workers. It allows the master class to retain control of the political machinery which is the essential instrument for governing Society. All the other blunders and mistakes the workers may make will be as dust in the balance compared with this one, and not until they realise this fact will they be on the road to socialism."

At first, outbreaks of industrial unrest were only spasmodic they were easily over-ridden by the ruling class. The Clyde trouble of Christmas 1915 is perhaps the best specimen of these sectional and local revolts. The principle of the men was strong, but they were driven down by lies, hunger, victimisation, deportation of their leaders, and, what is more important still, because the strike was local. The Socialist Standard advised the strikers to escalate and spread the strikes. "It is the mass of engineers only, and not a locality of engineers, who can successfully fight. Ten thousand engineers on strike in a town may gain something in a month for that town's men—or they may not; fifty thousand spread over one industrial area may force amendments to an objectionable Bill from a reluctant Cabinet, while one hundred and fifty thousand men who leave their engines, with all their force concentrated on one particular principle, striking at a vitally important time, stand a good chance of getting what they ask for."

Conscription by the military authorities, usually referred to under the misleading but catchy title of the “Man Power Bill.” One reason why the ASE. officials were not so ready to follow their old methods of persuading their members to accept the changes without trouble or friction is the growth of the “Shop Stewards Movement" up and down the country. This movement has helped to undermine the influence of the “official” cliques in the trade unions, as shown by the numerous “unauthorised” strikes, and with the loss of this influence over the rank and file the officials realised that their chance of bargaining for jobs with the master class would be gone.

An anti-war movement was spreading and strikes were not only in progress, but many more were threatened.

Resolutions in the following terms: “That the British Government should enter into immediate negotiations with the other belligerent Powers for an armistice on all fronts, with a view to a general peace on the basis of self-determination of all nations and no annexations and no indemnities. Should such action demonstrate that German Imperialism was the only obstacle to peace they would co-operate in the prosecution of the war until the objects mentioned in the first part of the resolution were achieved. Failing this they would continue their opposition to the man-power proposals” had been passed in various meetings. The Socialist Standard was critical of the wording. "Does their claim for “self-determination” apply to Ireland, India and Egypt? If so, do they really imagine the British capitalist Government will agree to such application? Certainly they must be simple if they believe a threat to strike would bring such a result."

A resolution moved at Glasgow struck a firmer note in the following terms:

“That having heard the case of the Government, as stated by Sir Auckland Geddes, this meeting pledges itself to oppose to the very uttermost the Government in its call for more men. We insist and pledge ourselves to take action to enforce the declaration of an immediate armistice on all fronts; and that the expressed opinion of the workers of Glasgow is that from now on, and so far as this business is concerned our attitude all the time and every time is to do nothing in support of carrying on the war, but to bring the war to a conclusion.”

The Socialist Standard concludes "Read our Declaration of Principles; earnestly consider them; join with us and help to establish them. Then will slave and master be abolished, and a real peace come, to all"

Extracted from here and here

Fact of the day

British companies paid out record dividends in 2011, despite difficult economic conditions and recent evidence that more firms were struggling. Dividends hit a record £67.8 billion.

Total gross dividends rose 19.4 per cent for the full year, even though Britain’s main share index lost ground during 2011. And payments soared 26 per cent in the fourth quarter alone, compared with the same period in 2010.

Capita chief executive Charles Cryer said: “Record dividends are providing a real bright spot for investors ...We are optimistic dividends will make further progress in 2012..."

Something to remember when your wages are frozen.

http://www.scotsman.com/business/economics/dividend_payouts_hit_record_level_of_67_8bn_1_2072152




Sunday, January 22, 2012

ANOTHER EMPTY PROMISE

One of the ideas pedaled by the Liberal Party when they formed a coalition government with the Conservative Party was that their commitment to Liberal Party policies of fairness would temper the worst excesses of Conservative government cuts. Unfortunately capitalism has nothing to do with fairness."Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said planned reforms of the NHS in England must go ahead, despite fresh criticism from MPs over the changes. The Commons health select committee is expected to say that plans to scrap primary care trusts and other changes are hampering efforts to save billions." (BBC News, 22 January) When capitalist governments can save billions of pounds by cutting expenditure principles such as fairness haven't a chance. RD

CRAZY PRIORITIES

In an effort to cut state expenditure and increase profit margins the government has an underfunded NHS. "A recruitment crisis has forced hospitals to call in Army medical staff to run their accident and emergency departments. The national shortage of mid-grade doctors posts between junior doctors and consultants means some hospitals have 30 per cent fewer staff than they need, figures show. This has led to NHS trusts being forced to close units overnight." (Daily Mail, 21 January) It says a lot for the priorities of capitalism that the NHS comes a poor second when compared to military expenditure. RD

The Socialist A.B.C. by Alex Glasgow

We may not accept it as 100% politically correct but it brings a smile

When that I was a little tiny boy
Me daddy said to me
'The time has come, me bonny, bonny bairn
To learn your ABC'
Now daddy was a Lodge Chairman
In the coalfields of the Tyne
And that ABC was different
From the Enid Blyton kind

He sang A is for Alienation that made me the man that I am
and B's for the Boss who's a bastard, a bourgeois who don't give a damn
C is for Capitalism, the boss's reactionary creed
and D's for Dictatorship, laddie, but the best proletarian breed
E is for Exploitation, that the workers have suffered so long
and F is for old Ludwig Feuerbach, the first one to see it was
wrong
G is for all Gerrymanderers, like Lord Muck and Sir Whatsisname
and H is the Hell that they'll go to, when the workers have
kindled the flame
I is for Imperialism, and America's kind is the worst
and J is for sweet Jingoism, that the Tories all think of first
K is for good old Keir Hardie, who fought out the working class fight
and L is for Vladimir Lenin, who showed him the Left was all right
M is of course for Karl Marx, the daddy and the mammy of them all
and N is for Nationalisation, without it we'd crumble and fall
O is for Overproduction that capitalist economy brings
and P is for Private Property, the greatest of all of the sins
Q is for the Quid pro quo, that we'll deal out so well and so soon
when R for Revolution is shouted and the Red Flag becomes the
top tune
S is for sad Stalinism, that gave us all such a bad name
and T is for Trotsky the hero, who had to take all of the blame
U's for the Union of workers, the Union will stand to the end
and V is for Vodka, yes, Vodka, the one drink that don't bring the bends
W is for all Willing workers, and that's where the memory fades
for X, Y and Z, me dear daddy said, will be written on the street
barricades

But now that I'm not a little tiny boy
Me daddy says to me
Please try to forget the things I said
Especially the ABC
For daddy's no longer a Union man
And he's had to change his plea
His alphabet is different now
Since they made him a Labour MP

http://www.wolvestuc.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=279&Itemid=63&showall=1

Saturday, January 21, 2012

HARSH REALITIES

Politicians are fond of waxing eloquent about ethics, morals and other high-flown sentiments. "David Cameron will outline his ideas about "moral capitalism" in a speech on the economy later. ....The leaders of the three biggest Westminster parties have been talking about the need to bring about "responsible capitalism" in recent weeks." (BBC News, 19 January) Behind all this flowery rhetoric the harsh realities of capitalism persist. The majority work for wages and salaries and produce a surplus value that is enjoyed by the privileged minority. Insecurity, poverty and the threat of unemployment is the norm for the working class. RD

Tartan Trots 2

The position of some groups in Scotland on this can be found here including a pro-yes call by the SWP break-away in Scotland which in view of this has the cheek to call itself the "International Socialist Group"

Apparently they think that an independent Scotland could avoid the austerity that all other capitalist governments are being forced to impose. Or perhaps, as good Trotskyists, they are only pretending to believe this to attract support in the hope that when it doesn't work the workers of Scotland will turn to them for leadership. None of which ought to surprise us. The Left, historically, will stand for anything if their leaders tell them to stand for it!

These people are incapable of taking a principled stand on anything. If they really were international socialists they'd come out and say that an independent and inevitably capitalist Scotland would make no difference whatsoever to workers in that part of the world and, like us, urge people there would want socialism to write "world socialism" across their ballot paper in any referendum on Scottish independence.

Here is the passage where they suggest that an independent Scotland might be able to avoid austerity:

"However, on a more positive note, in campaigning for a "yes" vote for independence we can promote the argument for an "anti-austerity Yes vote". Cameron (and now British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband) wants to doom us to at least a decade of austerity. By campaigning for Scotland to escape that nightmare we can fight for our vision of a new society and that can help build resistance south of the border."

They can campaign (and vote) as much as they like against the nightmare of prolonged austerity but it won't make any difference as that's what capitalist conditions demand at the moment. Better to campaign, like us, to replace capitalism with socialism.

The Black Triangle Badge

It was a badge used by the SS guards to mark prisoners as “workshy” in Nazi concentration camps. Now the “black triangle” symbol has been adopted by a group of campaigners fighting the so-called “fit-to-work” assessments implemented by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in a bid to stamp out benefit fraud.

Set up Edinburgh campaigners 18 months ago, the Black Triangle Campaign was launched in memory of Edinburgh writer Paul Reekie, who took his own life – allegedly after having his benefits cut during a bout of serious depression. Reekie did not leave a suicide note, but he laid out two letters on his table, found after his death. One was notifying him that his housing benefit had been stopped. The other was informing him that his incapacity benefit had been stopped.

Leith GP Dr Stephen Carty stands up for his patients when he discovered many were being told they were fit for work after passing a number of tests that did not involve consulting medical experts.

“I have grave concerns about the harm that is being done to patients who are being put through this Work Capability Assessment processes” he says. “It is essentially a computer system used by Atos to assess patients. What is happening is that people are being seen by individuals with very little occupational health training – and they don’t request any meaningful information from a GP who has been treating the patient.”

Dr Carty’s list of people deemed fit to work, whom he insists are not capable of normal employment, is almost endless. Right he lists four case studies, including one man who had his benefits axed after being told he had to go out to work shortly after being sectioned in a mental hospital.

Friday, January 20, 2012

PRIMITIVE PORNOGRAPHY

"The Jarawa tribe is 403-strong. Its members are trusting, innocent and hugely vulnerable to exploitation, living in a jungle reserve on South Andaman. The islands are a spectacular magnet for tourists, set in the Bay of Bengal and belonging to India. But on this occasion the officer had accepted a £200 bribe to get the girls to perform. "I gave you food," he reminded them at the start of the video." (Guardian, 7 January) Who gives the policeman £200? Tourists who want to film pre-puberty children dancing naked. Doesn't it make you sick? "Denis Giles is the campaigning editor of the islands' Andaman Chronicle newspaper. He told the Observer it was principally the young who had come out of the jungle, fascinated by outsiders and what they have to offer. As they grow older, they lose interest, realising that the outside world is not for them." Good thinking Jarawa people. We don't fancy it much either. RD

SHORT TERM GAMBLERS

One of the illusions that is prevalent in financial circles is that the wheelers and dealers are studious investors who weigh up all the prospects for the long term. "Michael Hudson, a former Wall Street economist at Chase Manhattan Bank who also helped establish the world's first sovereign debt fund recently said: "Take any stock in the United States. The average time in which you hold a stock is -it's gone up from 20 seconds to 22 seconds in the last year. "Most trades are computerised. Most trades are short-term. The average foreign currency investment lasts - it's up now to 30 seconds, up from 28 seconds last month. The financial sector is short term, yet they talk as if they're long term." (Daily Telegraph, 18 January) The reality is that capitalism is a mad struggle that makes crazy gamblers look clever by comparison. RD

The Tartan Army

Alex Salmond has set out his vision for an independent Scottish defence force, saying it would consist of the same number of army, RAF and navy personnel as under plans being drawn up by UK ministers. The First Minister said the coalition government’s defence review plan of one naval base, one air base and one mobile armed brigade was “exactly the configuration” required for Scotland. The defence review set out by the coalition government last year proposed about 6,500 troops being stationed in Scotland, with a further 6,500 employed at the Trident submarine base in Faslane and 2,400 personnel at RAF Kinloss. The three Scottish regiments – the Scots Guards, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards – would make up the core of any Scottish army, the SNP added.

Such a set-up would total about 15,400 troops, an armed force of an equivalent size to that of Kuwait.

One consequence of the SNP being responsible for running capitalism is keeping its armed forces up to standard! Under capitalism resources are squandered on armaments. Even in so-called “peace-time” the preparation for war causes a massive waste of labour, materials and technology.

Capitalism means war and that therefore to get rid of wars and the threat of wars – and the constant preparation for war represented by maintaining armed forces – you have got to get rid of capitalism. Capitalism continues to be a war-prone society has been proved yet again. So has the urgent need for world socialism so that wars, the threat of war and preparation for war can become things of the past. It's the only way to lasting world peace.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A MAD, MAD WORLD

The insanities of capitalism are many but it is doubtful if you could find a nuttier example than this one. "A one-cent copper coin minted in 1793, the first year that the United States produced its own, has fetched $1 million at a Florida auction. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the final bid by an unknown buyer for the coin was one of the largest sales at the Florida United Numismatics coin show and annual convention." (Associated Press, 7 January) This is happening in the same society wherein millions are trying to survive from day to day on less than $1.25 a day. RD

A GRIM FUTURE

Having worked all their adult life many workers fondly imagine that after retirement they will be able to live out the rest of their life in comparative security, but capitalism doesn't work that way. "Millions more pensioners could be forced to sell their houses to pay for nursing homes in old age amid plans to almost double the cost of care The elderly may be required to pay up to £60,000 - £25,000 more than the current Government cap on fees - for a place, ministers said." (Daily Mail, 17 January) RD

poor education

15 year-old children at the bottom of the class are so far behind they are performing “as if they were 10 years old”, a report handed to MSPs has claimed. The paper, written by local government experts, concluded that Scotland has the highest gap between top and bottom in schools of anywhere in western Europe.

It confirms previous studies by international bodies which have also claimed that low achievers from poor families are “slipping through the net” in the classroom.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/education/brightest_pupils_5_years_ahead_of_poorest_1_2064261

Another union ready to fight

Doctors are threatening their first wave of industrial action in nearly 40 years, after they overwhelmingly rejected proposed changes to their pension plans. Under the final offer proposed by the UK government, some doctors will see their pension contributions rise from 8.5 per cent to 14.5 per cent of their salary. They will also have to work longer before they can retire. Existing methods of pension accrual will be replaced by a career average revalued earnings scheme for all doctors and there will be no automatic lump sum, currently enjoyed by some doctors upon retirement. According to the BMA, the proposed changes would see doctors working until 68, an age beyond which many feel “competent and safe”.

A UK-wide survey by the organisation of 130,000 doctors and medical students – including 6,638 in Scotland – found an overwhelming majority opposed to the pension reforms, with almost two-thirds prepared to take some form of industrial action. More than a third (36 per cent) of doctors aged 50 and over said they intended to retire if the changes went through. It is unlikely they will agree to an all-out strike. However, one option is for a form of work-to-rule, which could see the cancellation of some clinical procedures, particularly at weekends.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/health/gps_set_for_first_industrial_action_in_37_years_1_2064378

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TELLING PORKIES

Politician are renowned for their fondness of "scientific inexactitudes", but the Republican candidate for office Newt Ginrich takes a bit of beating. "When Gingrich was campaigning in Laconia on Wednesday, a fellow came up to the former House speaker and asked, "Won't you buy a home in the Lakes Region if elected president?" This was a reference to Mitt Romney's house in New Hampshire. Gingrich replied, "No, I can't afford things like that. I'm not rich." (Mother Jones, 6 January) Gingrich had to file the financial-disclosure form required of presidential candidates. It revealed that he has a net worth of at least $6.7 million and that his income was at least $2.6 million in 2010. That's about 65 times the income of the average family of four in the United States. RD

THE FAILURE OF ANC

When the ANC triumphed over apartheid the celebrations were world wide, but what was the outcome? "The venerated party once banned for decades under apartheid has won every national election since racist white rule ended in 1994, and President Jacob Zuma vows the party "will rule until Jesus comes." Yet as the African National Congress marks its 100th anniversary this weekend with fanfare and dozens of visiting presidents, critics say the ANC has failed to unchain an impoverished majority still shackled by a white-dominated economy. Unemployment hovers around 36 percent and soars to 70 percent among young people. Half the country's population lives on just 8 percent of the national income, according to the Congress of South African Trade Unions." (Associated Press, 5 January) The sad truth is that an apartheid version of capitalism has been replaced by an ANC version, but it is still capitalism. RD

the cream

The founding family which owns 35 per cent of the shares of Scottish milk giant Robert Wiseman Dairies is set to pocket nearly £100 million after agreeing to sell the firm to German yoghurt maker Müller.

Wiseman produces about a third of the fresh milk consumed in the UK

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

THE SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE

It is difficult to imagine someone disputing Professor Hawking's views on cosmology or theorical physics but we certainly dispute his ideas on sociology and politics. "It is possible that the human race could become extinct but it is not inevitable. I think it is almost certain that a disaster, such as nuclear war or global warming, will befall the earth within a thousands years," Professor Hawking, the Cambridge University cosmologist and theoretical physicist said. "It is essential that we colonise space." (Daily Telegraph, 6 January) Rather than follow Hawking's fanciful notion of space colonisation we think a more realistic view is to change the basis of society from one of production for profit to one of production solely for use. RD

EMPTY HEADED NONSENSE

We live in a society wherein the majority of people work and produce wealth while a minority live in wealth and luxury without working. This is bad enough but when the useless parasite class that produce nothing also claim how wonderful they are it is hard to bear. "Make no mistake - Paris Hilton is more than a pretty face. The 30-year-old heiress has boasted about her entrepreneurial skills - while posing topless - in an new interview with FHM, claiming her empire has generated more than a billion dollars in six years." (Daily Mail, 4 January) Ms Hilton has produced nothing in her life. her immense wealth was inherited from her parasitical parents. Speed the day that we can rid the world of such boastful nonsense. RD

The national nonsense of we...we

Nation is the name given by their rulers or would-be rulers to a collection of people with a distinct culture usually but not always based on a common language. The geo-political entity of the state and its machinery of government are not necessarily the same as the nation; and this forms the ideological basis for nationalism - the belief that a nation should become a state. Nationalism emphasises the distinctiveness of a nation and usually points to its statehood. Nationalist movements arose with the development of capitalism and the state. In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx supported some nationalist movements because they were historically progressive in that they served the class interests of the rising bourgeoisie in its struggle against the traditional aristocracy. In the twentieth century, nationalism was, and still is, associated with movements for ‘self-determination’. Nationalism, whilst a powerful tool of oppression, was created in part as a defence against imperialism and colonialism, against dominance from outside and in fear of being denied the rights of self-determination. It manifests itself like a sophisticated tribalism, with pride, tradition, attitudes of superiority, enemies real and imagined, and flag-waving. The concept of the nation is very real force in the minds of people today. The outlook of “us and them” is a strong notion in the lives of many people. The idea that the world is naturally divided into nations is widespread.

Socialists do not support movements for national liberation. Certainly socialism will allow the fullest linguistic and cultural diversity, but this cannot be achieved through nationalism. Marxism explains how workers are exploited and unfree, not as particular nationalities, but as members of a class. To be in an ‘oppressed minority’ at all it is usually necessary to first belong to the working class. From this perspective, identifying with the working class provides a rational basis for political action. The objective is a stateless world community of free access. Given that nationalism does nothing to further this understanding, however, it is an obstruction to world socialism. Nationalism is a perversion of a shared identity in the interest of some local elite.

Nations have taken a great deal of building. It wasn't always easy. Historians such as Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawm have demonstrated that a nation is not a natural community that existed before the state, but that it's the other way round: the state existed first and then proceeded to impose on those it ruled over the idea that they formed a “nation”. States pre-existed and in a very real sense created nations. Nations are groups of people ruled by a state or a would-be state. There is almost no nation-state that has not had its boundaries drawn in blood, its foundations dug out of human flesh. The effort, though, has to be ongoing. States have required the use of an education system, to standardise learning, spread a national history and a sense of shared culture. The capitalist class needed the state, and its legitimising idea of nationalism and the nation. Culture resides in sets of ideas, values and practises that set out a sense of precedent, self and future possibility. By imposing the idea of the nation upon a culture, complete with its inherent notions of territorial ownership and property, the ruling class impose their notions of property on the very self-image of the people within that culture. In school workers are taught the history of the kings and queens, and of the wars in which the ruling class has been involved in over the centuries. The media reinforce this by reporting news from an almost exclusively parochial angle and encourage identification with “the nation” via identification with “our” sports teams and performers.

The most important word in the political vocabulary is “we” since to get someone to use “we” in relation to some group of people is to get them to identify their interest as the interest of that group. Socialists are trying to get all those excluded from ownership and control of means of production to recognise the fact of their common interest as one class within capitalist society, to regard themselves as “we” and to use “our” and “us” only in relation to that class and its interests. Those who do own and control means of production and who derive a privileged income from this, they seek to convince the people they rule over that the “we” they should identify with is “the nation” as the nation part of what they call the “nation-state” they rule. The idea of “we” as collectively joined and looked after by our rulers is the most profound falsehood. The notions of nationality were irrelevant during the time of feudalism, just as they are today where the capitalist class, not the people of “Britain” or "Scotland", privately owns the means for producing wealth. To say “this is our country” implies that we all own it collectively, where we most certainly do not.

Class existed before the nation state. Throughout history one ruling class or another has attempted to impose its view on those they ruled over, manipulating their passions and pretending that its interests and their interests were the same. So, in another of life's ironies, the masses waste their energy fighting amongst themselves, believing their interests and the interests of their rulers are linked.

So long as people think in terms of the "common good" of the "national economy", in terms of the overall performance of one unit in the world-wide division of peoples, they are, whether consciously or not, serving the interests of the capitalist class. All evaluations, priorities and hierarchies of value within a "national culture" are made from the point of view, from the self-interest, and, indeed, the apprehended self-hood, of the members of the capitalist class. When the economy is "doing well" it is doing so for the capitalists, when the economy is ailing, it is ailing for the capitalists. Workers, of course, do not share a common interest with their masters. It does not follow that if the "national wealth" increases, or if trade increases, or even if profit increases, that higher wages will be gained by workers. In fact capitalists can only make a profit by appropriating the wealth produced by the workers to themselves; but in the topsy-turvy world of ideology, it seems that workers will only have good pay and wealth when the capitalists are doing well. So it appears that workers and capitalists share a common interest. In fact, the interest of workers is conditioned by the interest of the capitalist, in exactly the same manner as hostages held by a kidnapper: unless the kidnapper-capitalists's demands are met, they will not allow the hostage-workers to have what they need to live. There is a well-documented effect of hostage situations, called "The Stockholm Syndrome" in which hostages under duress began to identify with their kidnappers, and believe in their cause. Nationalism works in much the same way. It is the Stockholm Syndrome on a grand scale. The working class who are dependent (under the current system) on the capitalists, to whom they are bonded by state-boundaries across which they are not permitted to escape, begin to believe that they share an identity with them.

Without the ideology of nationalism, capitalist states would be unstable since, being based on minority class rule, they need a minimum allegiance from those they rule over. Nationalism serves to achieve this by teaching the ruled to be loyal to "their" so-called "nation-state".

Xenophobia becomes a useful ally in promoting nationalism. Jonathan Swift wrote “the first principle of patriotism is to resent foreigners,” setting one section of population against another, has been used ultra-successfully all around the world – so successfully that great swathes of people can now rouse themselves, with no apparent external cue, against the newest threat, the most recent immigrant group, asylum seekers, anyone who looks or sounds like they may be from a group that’s not their own. Enemies are required by the state elites. Enemies within and without, social, cultural, economic enemies to keep the population vigilant against all possible threats, to keep them fully occupied, suspicious of each other, divided, protecting the national interest against any wayward individual or group – including themselves.

Some socialists thought that nationalist beliefs would fall apart as capitalism covered the globe and the entire planet became based on capitalist values. As nations became dependent on each other and general education increased among the masses, surely people would see that the concept of the nation would be obsolete? The next clear step would be to end the tyranny of the privileged minority that controlled the vast amounts of wealth and property and move towards common ownership. World socialism would be the end result. However, today capitalism is still here, and so is the idea of nationality. Nationality is perhaps more potent then it has ever been. People something to sustain them. They feel lost in this vast meaningless world of capital, just another cog in the machine, and they would be right. Since the working class finds little meaning in its wage labour, a draining process, as the people alienate themselves from their own life activity, they search for meaning in other places. Often they find meaning in religion and/or the idea of the nation, as these notions are clear and often connected, already set out by the ruling class and don't require much thought or struggle.

Tying nationality to sports can also sustain this backward nationalist mindset. People can hate other peoples or nations simply because they compete with them in sports. This can lead to acts of incredibly insane violence, since people, having no meaning in their work life, put great passion and meaning into their enjoyment of sports. Since the sport and the collective meaning and support of the sport tends to become their life, supporters of opposing teams and nations may seem like a threat to all they hold dear. This seeming threat to the very meaning of their lives can cause them to explode into open fighting. With no meaning from work, the sport, and sense of identity that comes with it, becomes their lives, and they defend it accordingly. It is no coincidence that a person with a immensely draining, alienating job and repetitive work, will tend to cling desperately to this collective idea of nationality, as they find meaning and comfort in this idea, since they have no meaning in their work.

The illusions of nationality are yet another tool of the ruling class, intended to trick workers into thinking that this really is some kind of collective society, and to misplace their passions that could otherwise be directed into the class struggle.

Monday, January 16, 2012

ARE COPS RACIST?

There is this beautiful illusion, prompted no doubt by TV detective series, that policemen are wonderful people who are extremely clever and admirable human beings. "London School of Economics (LSE) and the Open Society Justice Initiative shows during the past 12 months a black person was 29.7 times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person. .... Mounting disquiet over the policy's damaging effect on black communities prompted Scotland Yard last week to announce a scaling back of its use of section 60, which has become a central element of the Yard's anti-knife crime strategy. A separate analysis, based on Home Office data, reveals that less than 0.5% of section 60 searches led to an arrest for possession of a dangerous weapon, five times fewer than a decade ago." (Observer, 14 January) Sorry to spoil your illusions, but some policemen are religious, racist and sexist bigots. Let's face it they are just badly miss-informed workers. RD

False Hope

Will “independence” make the Scottish workers better off and happier? Is it “London rule” that is responsible for the problems faced by workers in Scotland, or is it capitalism?

Independence solves none of the problems resulting from exploitation. Poverty in the midst of a potential for plenty remains, and massive disparities of wealth continue to exist. It can be seen in retrospect that independence for the vast majority of the people has simply meant the exchange of one set of exploiters for another. The realisation of " political independence " by a country leaves the workers' conditions untouched (or actually worsens them in some cases). As socialists, we don't take sides in this inter-capitalist argument. We don't support one section of the capitalist class or the other, and we don't have any illusions about the "sovereign power" of Parliaments to pass reformist legislation that can make capitalism work in the interest of the exploited class of wage and salary earners. Capitalism just cannot be reformed to work in this way; so transferring some of the powers of the House of Commons to a Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh makes no difference.

Nationalist movements are not just movements to secure independence from the foreign governments that kept them in subjection, for even after achieving independence they continue to preach the same anti-foreign doctrines as before. Nationalism has been and is everywhere the form in which each capitalist group tries to carve out a place for itself in the world of warring capitalist states, where politicians who have used nationalism to gain independence from a colonial power need it just as much afterwards in order to persuade the workers to go on fighting capitalism's battles. It is an illusion to think that nations can be friendly in a capitalist world provided that they are all “independent” and it is equally an illusion to think that the Powers, great and small, could dispense with nationalism.

If the worker is to be won for socialism, it is by getting him to understand the principles of socialism. When other countries have achieved independence, little changed except the functionaries of the state machinery. National independence is good for local politicians, manufacturers and business men; it opens up careers and money-making opportunities for them, as also for local holders of government civilian posts who may have found their advancement hindered while a foreign or central administration had control. Workers have nothing to gain from the re-drawing of the border, but some regional entrepreneurs and bureaucrats certainly do have a chance of making good if only they can persuade the electorate to back them. Scotland like every other country in the world, is a class-divided country where the two classes - those who own and class and those who work and produce - have diametrically opposed interests. The bonds which bind worker with worker, irrespective of nationality, are those of class solidarity.

Yet capitalism knows no boundaries, money has no accent. Independence is just not possible within the context of globalized capitalism. Certainly, formal political independence, or sovereignty, is possible, where states have the full power to make decisions without reference to any supra-national rules or decision-making procedures. But there’s a difference between the mere legal power to do something and what can be done in practice. In practice all states, when exercising their sovereign power to make decisions, have to take into account the economic reality that there exists a single world market economy on which they are dependent. A state can exercise some degree of influence on how the world market operates in relation to it - it erect tariff walls, subsidise exports, devalue its currency - but this depends on its economic clout (such as the productivity and size of its industry and the extent of its internal market). Over the years capitalism has become more and more international, more and more globalised. This has tended to reduce the margin of manoeuvre open to states, i.e. has reduced their "sovereignty". The vital decisions affecting the local economy have little to do with Holyrood or Westminster. The inexorable process of globalisation has increasingly made redundant the question of "national sovereignty". Yet regional nationalists imagine they can buck the trend without even being against capitalism.

The nationalists emphasise a Scottish Parliament's "constitutional right" to control the economy, completely ignoring the fact that experience has shown this to be a purely paper right. The capitalist economy works according to certain economic laws which no government or legislative body can over-ride. So the argument about sovereignty is not really about what the constitution may or may not say. It's about the effective power that a capitalist state can exercise within the capitalist economy. Capitalism has always existed within a framework of competing states, none of which is strong enough to impose its will on all the others. States, as weapons in the hands of rival groups of capitalists, intervene to further the interests of the capitalists that control them. They do this by using state power to set up protected markets, raw materials sources, trade routes and investment outlets. In normal times their weapons are tariffs, taxes, quotas, export rebates and other economic measures. When they judge that their vital interest is at stake their weapons are . . . weapons. They go to war. The extent to which a capitalist state can distort the world market in favour of its capitalists depends both on its industrial strength and on the amount of armed force at its disposal. This is why all states are under pressure to acquire the most up-to-date and destructive armaments that they can afford. In the jungle world of capitalism might is right. "Sovereignty"—the margin of independent decision-making that a state has—also depends on might.

The interest of the wage and salary working class in all countries is to reject all nationalism, to reject in fact the very idea of “foreigner”, and to recognise that they have a common interest with people in other countries in the same economic situation of being obliged to sell their mental and physical energies in order to get a living. That interest lies in working together to establish a world-wide society of common ownership, democratic control and production for use not profit. Independence will not give the people of Scotland effective control over their own affairs. The only change that will do that is a change in the whole social system, replacing competitive production for profit and minority ownership by co-operative production. Neither devolution nor an independent Scotland (nor a United Kingdom, because we point out that no state today can be independent of the capitalist world market does not mean that we therefore favour the union) can achieve this. It is only feasible in a moneyless, frontierless society which, for those with vision, is the next stage in human social evolution. It is for the Scottish workers to see that their position demands that they should fight only for their class emancipation, and that nothing, constitutional reform or national independence, should draw them away from their determination to fight for the realisation of socialism. What is the “independence” some Scots yearn after, if it means being trapped inside of the bigger prison of capitalism?

“It’s a truism, but one that needs to be constantly stressed, that capitalism and democracy are ultimately quite incompatible.” - Noam Chomsky

Sunday, January 15, 2012

JET AGE SHOPPING

Every day you can read of shops in the High Street closing down as the economic recession worsens, but it is not all doom and gloom in the retail business. "Finally, the shop we've all been waiting for. I'm talking about the first showroom for private jets, of course. The Jet Business is billing itself as the "one-stop shop for the private jet shopper" and will open in Grovenor Place, Belgravia - just a runway's length from Harrods - this week." (Sunday Times, 8 January) instead of having to shop around the various manufacturers or go through a broker you just pop in and tell them your requirements. In case you were thinking of paying a visit to this glitzy showroom with its full size cabin mock-up of an Airbus corporate jet it should be noted that visits are by appointment only. That should keep out you Ryanair customers. RD

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Capitalism as usual

1. On Friday, December 2, Angela Merkel said,
" The German government has made it clear that the European crisis will not be solved in one fell swoop. It's a process and this process will take years." In other words, years of unemployment, under employment, poverty and misery for the workers.

2. Canadian blackberry producer, Research In Motion (RIM) is faced with the usual dilemma -- deliver a new family of highly-anticipated smart-phones on time, but with flaws, or invite the ire of the markets by delaying the release to get the product right. It's a no- brainer in capitalism -- get the crappy stuff out fast!

Strangely, The Toronto Star published an article with the title "Wage Hike the Key to Cutting Poverty" and then goes on to tell how supervision is needed to get employers to pay immigrants the minimum wage. Many pay cash only and at rates below the legal minimum.

The same newspaper reported on the slowness on Employment insurance claims. One claimant had to wait 46 days for his insurance, missed his mortgage, car insurance, and hydro payments and was slapped with a $400 non-sufficient funds penalty. It also reported the grim fact that a poll commissioned by the Canadian Payroll Association showed that 57% of respondents could not deal with a one-week delay in their pay -- astonishingly high in a rich country. John Ayers


CAPITALISM IN ACTION

Supporters of capitalism are fond of depicting the development of the profit system as a humanising, liberating advance over pre-capitalist society. Yet for thousands of years so-called primitive people have lived in the Amazon area without the benefits of production for profit until they were hit by the advance of capitalism. "Loggers in Brazil captured an eight-year-old girl from one of the Amazon's last uncontacted tribes and burned her alive as part of a campaign to force the indigenous population from its land, reports claimed on Tuesday night." (Daily Telegraph, 10 January) In its ruthless quest for profits capitalism is far from humanising or liberating. RD

The right to life

In the words of Nobel laureate and Dr Amartya Sen:
"Famines are very easy to publicise, people dying of hunger is one thing. But people being underweight, stunted, their lifestyle, their probability of survival being diminished, all that is not so visible..."

A survey conducted by the Naandi Foundation in India found that 42% of children under five are underweight and 59 per cent have stunted growth.

When asked why they did not give their children more non-cereal foods, 93.7 per cent mothers said they did not do so because non-cereal foods were expensive. Fifty per cent of Indian women are anaemic.

836 million people live under less than Rs20 (38 US cents) a day.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by all United Nations member states in 1948, lists the right to food among a state's obligations. Article 21 of the Indian constitution, which provides a fundamental right to life and personal liberty, has been repeatedly interpreted by the Indian Supreme Court as enshrining within it the right to food. Article 47 of the Indian constitution obliges the Indian state to raise the standard of nutrition of its people.

But capitalism pays no heed to human rights when it comes to making profits!

Friday, January 13, 2012

BEHIND THE RHETORIC

Western governments are fond of posing as lovers of freedom and democracy and as enemies of dictatorship, but behind the laudable rhetoric lurks a sordid reality. "The Obama administration is moving ahead with the sale of nearly $11 billion worth of arms and training for the Iraqi military despite concerns that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is seeking to consolidate authority, create a one-party Shiite-dominated state and abandon the American-backed power-sharing government. The military aid, including advanced fighter jets and battle tanks, is meant to help the Iraqi government protect its borders and rebuild a military that before the 1991 Persian Gulf war was one of the largest in the world; it was disbanded in 2003 after the United States invasion." (New York Times, 29 December) Why is the US government taking this action? Well $11 billion arms sales are not to be ignored but the menace of neighbouring Iran's threat to US oil supplies in the area is probably more likely to be the reason. RD

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

AN INHUMAN SOCIETY

Capitalism is a society that constantly attempts to cheapen production so that it can boost profits. This drive is not confined to the factory it also applies to the hospital. "Hospitals have been accused by ministers of treating patients like parts on a production line after official figures suggested that hundreds of thousands of people every year are being sent home before they are well enough. More than 660,000 people were brought back to hospital last year within 28 days of leaving, statistics show, sparking allegations that patients are being hurried through the system so the NHS can meet waiting-list targets." (Daily Telegraph, 29 December) Needless to say that this heartless treatment only applies to members of the working class. The owning class enjoy the best possible medical treatment just as they enjoy the best of everything that society can provide. RD

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Food for thought

The Toronto Star of December 10 published the latest Corruption List by Transparency International. New Zealand leads the 'clean' list with 9.5 out of ten, Canada ranks tenth (8.7) and at the bottom are Somalia and North Korea ranking at 182 tied (1 out of 10). Not surprisingly, the Arab Spring countries rank below 5 with Egypt in 112^th spot at 2.9 out of 10. Obviously, transparency isn't high on the priority list in capitalism. It didn't say where China ranked but this may be an indication. In Wukan Village, farm workers have been protesting over the selling of the land to developers without their permission. In fact, they were offered rice and cooking oil to sign a blank paper. The police responded to the protests by blockading the village. The standoff continues. Does anyone need further proof that China is a capitalist country?
Chinese-Canadian and world champion figure skater, Patrick Chan complained recently how his parents had to sacrifice so much for him and that probably wouldn't have happened if they had stayed in China. TheToronto Star, in reply, reported on a Chinese gymnast who, after a career ending injury, was forced to sell off his medals and beg in the streets to survive. Like any commodity, use it and throw it away! John Ayers

scottish child poverty

Children in one in five Scottish families live in poverty, campaigners have warned, with fears that number is set to rise. The highest levels of child poverty are in Glasgow, where in some parts every other child lives in a family struggling to put food on the table or pay heating bills.

John Dickie, spokesman for Scottish members of the Campaign to End Child Poverty said “It is shameful that in almost every part of our country there are children who are missing out and seeing their future life chances seriously harmed. An increasing number of children, particularly in Scotland, are living in families without paid work and we are deeply concerned about the effect that rising unemployment is having on child poverty."

Justice for all?

Legal experts have raised concerns about a lack of justice over health and safety failures.

Only 3% of complaints ever lead to a prosecution or enforcement notice in Scotland. The number of cases recommended for prosecution has fallen by nearly 50% in two years.

One in three deaths at work is not scrutinised by a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) , despite being mandatory by law. The cases that do result in an FAI, they take an average of 30 months to set up. In one-third of instances, it took three to four years for an FAI to be held. None took under a year.

Patrick McGuire
, of the major personal injury specialists, Thompsons Solicitors Scotland, said: "Breaching health and safety legislation is a crime but is not treated with the seriousness it deserves. For as long as the perception remains that this is not a 'proper crime' that devastates lives, the effectiveness of health and safety legislation will not be maximised. Disregarding people's safety at work or anywhere is a serious offence. It deserves the most serious enforcement measures possible."

Monday, January 09, 2012

HARD TIMES

We are told every day by the mass media that we are living through an economic downturn, but some seem to be surving it rather well. "Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has reported record sales for 2011, having sold 3,538 cars. Sales at the BMW-owned luxury marque grew by 31% from the previous year, although the growth rate was weaker than in 2010 when sales jumped by 150%. Rolls-Royce's £165,000 Ghost model, which is smaller and less ostentatious than the £235,000 Phantom models, has been the main driving force for sales." (BBC News, 9 January) So while members of the working class are told to tighten their belts the owning class are still buying their Rollers in increasing numbers. RD

The Referendum - Where We Stand

The Herald reports on the independence referendum and when it is most likely to come.

Independence for Scotland?

Our rulers have decided to ask us our opinion on the matter. We should be flattered, but don’t be fooled. Constitutional reform is of no benefit or relevance to us. It leaves our lives and the problems the profit system causes completely unchanged. Exploitation through the wages system continues. Unemployment continues. A polluted environment, and the general breakdown of society all continue. As far as solving these problems is concerned, independence is just a useless irrelevancy.

Independence would be an extension of democracy, bringing power nearer to the people, so how can socialists not be in favour of this? Yet supporters of capitalism who talk about “democracy” always mean only political democracy since economic democracy - where people would democratically run the places where they work - is out of the question under capitalism, based as it is on these workplaces being owned and controlled by and for the benefit of a privileged minority. You can have the most democratic constitution imaginable but this won’t make any difference to the fact that profits have to come before meeting needs under capitalism. The people’s will to have their needs met properly is frustrated all the time by the operation of the economic laws of the capitalist system which no political structure, no matter how democratic, can control. If our rulers want to reform the machinery of capitalist government in this way, that’s up to them. But spare us the pretence that it’s some great extension of democracy. It is not imperfections in the political decision-making process that’s the problem but the profit system and its economic laws. And the answer is not political independence but the replacement of capitalism by socialism.

Socialists are not nationalists - in fact we are implacably opposed to nationalism in whatever form it rears its ugly head - and we see the establishment of an independent Scotland as yet another irrelevant, constitutional reform. One of the last things the world needs at the moment is more states, with their own armed forces and divisive nationalist ideologies. Nationalists like the SNP who preach the opposite are spreading a divisive poison amongst people who socialists say should unite to establish a frontier-less world community, based on the world’s resources becoming the common heritage of all humanity. Socialists and nationalists are implacably opposed to each other. We are working in opposite directions. Us to unite workers. Them to divide them.

In the end the point at issue - independence which leaves profit-making, exploitation and all the other social problems untouched - is so irrelevant that it is not worth taking sides. We don’t see any point in diverting our energies to changing the constitution but we certainly want things to change. We want people to change the economic and social basis of society and establish socialism in place of capitalism. Just because we are not prepared to back the efforts of Scottish nationalists to break away from the United Kingdom - and vigorously oppose their efforts to split the trade union movement - does not mean that we are unionists. We don’t support the Union. We just put up with it! Socialists are just as much opposed to British nationalism as we are to Scottish. So we won’t be voting “yes” or “no”. We’ll be writing the word “SOCIALISM” across the referendum voting paper whenever it eventually takes place.

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