Tuesday, February 28, 2012

COLD REALITY

The recent extremely cold spell in Eastern Europe left many workers in peril of their lives with many homeless workers dying of the cold. This was not the fate of the wealthy minority however. "Monaco-based potash tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlyev has bought the priciest piece of residential real estate in New York City, paying $88 million for a Manhattan penthouse, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Rybolovlyev purchased the apartment from a former head of Citigroup in the name of a trust for his daughter Yekaterina, a 22-year-old college student, the newspaper reported." (The MoscowTimes , 17 February) The demise of state capitalism in the former USSR has certainly ensured the warmth and comfort of the minority capitalist class in that country. RD

BABY ITS COLD INSIDE

One of the illusions that supporters of capitalism like to foster is that although capitalism may not be perfect it is improving. This seems like an idle boast when we consider the absolute necessity of staying warm. "More than nine million households will be living in fuel poverty within four years unless the Government directs £4bn a year from carbon taxes to families in greatest need, campaigners warn. More Britons die every year from living in a cold home than on the roads, they said, with the situation expected to worsen sharply because of soaring utility bills. A new study has revealed that there are a million more households already living in fuel poverty compared with previous estimates, taking the total to 6.4 million. The study, by energy efficiency experts Camco, suggests that the total will hit 9.1 million by 2016." (Independent, 27 February) The old pop song used to declare in order to stay a little longer with a girl friend "Baby Its Cold Outside", but now it seems with "improving" capitalism it is cold inside too! RD

The last volunteer

The last Scottish veteran of Spanish Civil War has died. Thomas Watters was a Glasgow Corporation bus driver who took his first-aid skills to Spain in the Scottish Ambulance Unit. He said the people who made up the International Brigades were not fighting men, but individuals who felt strongly about the need to combat the spread of fascism. "They went out there in ones and twos and the whole body was formed from all sorts of nationalities and languages. It was a huge job but they became very effective."

Socialist Courier takes the opportunity of his passing away to remind its readers of the Socialist Party's attitude to The Spanish Civil War.

Socialists are on the side of the exploited in their struggles against the landed and monied classes. This is true whether the workers concerned are socialist or not, organised or unorganised, and whether the struggle is a strike or a lock-out, or whether it is concerned with gaining "elbow room" for the working class movement, i. e., the right to organise, to carry on propaganda, to secure the franchise and parliamentary government. If there is no democracy, how could socialist ideas be spread? These struggles are all expressions of the class struggle and are in the line of development towards socialism. It is the plain duty of the organised workers in the more advanced countries to support and encourage such struggles, both at home and in the less advanced countries. While our members individually take part in struggles for objects other than Socialism the SPGB as a party does not. It exists and seeks support solely for Socialism, i.e. for activities which the non-Socialist organisations, including the reformist political parties, do not and cannot undertake. Therefore the SPGB only gives material support to socialist organisations.

Whether the Spanish workers were wise in participating in a struggle so costly in human lives may be debatable, but as they have decided to take the plunge, and as they have the most violent partisans of capitalism against them, socialists are, of course, on their side. It must be assumed that the Spanish workers weighed up the situation and counted the cost before deciding their course of action. That is a matter upon which their judgement should be better than that of people outside the country. It is difficult to blame anarchists who took up arms to defend themselves and their unions from murderous bosses; but we can perhaps look to the rejection of political democracy that preceded the civil war and gave the armed authoritarians the support they needed to break cover and launch their assault.

One thing shown is that is the difficulty or the impossibility of achieving real unity by merging together in a Popular Front parties and individuals who differ fundamentally in aim, outlook, and method. It was obvious in 1936 that it would be an enormous task to secure unity between long standing opponents like the Spanish Labourites, Anarchist-Syndicalists, Communists, Trotskyists, Liberal Republicans, Catholic Basque Separatists, etc. The frequent inability to secure effective and loyal co-operation, show that, even the stress of war will not make men who think differently work to a common programme. Neither in war nor revolution has anti-fascist Spain had a worse enemy than Stalinism. The Communist Party can best be summed up by the slogan "Better lose the war than allow the Revolution".

The simple truth was that at the time there never existed the basis for unity on the Republican side.

A war within capitalism could only be fought on capitalist terms. You can't have a democratic army, as the anarchists in the CNT found out. Party rivalries made it impossible to build up an efficient army. There was not one view of what kind of army to build, but three incompatible views—a revolutionary popular army like that of the French after the revolution, a "political" army like that of Russia, or a non-political army like the British. The Anarchists favoured the first, the Communists the second, and the army officers and Liberal-Republicans the third.

"Arming of the people is meaningless. The nature of military warfare is determined by the class directing it. An army fighting in defence of a bourgeois state, even if it should be antifascist, is an army in the service of capitalism . . . War between a fascist state and an antifascist state is not a revolutionary class war. The proletariat's intervention on one side is an indication that it has already been defeated. Insuperable technical and professional inferiority on the part of the popular or militia-based army was implicit in military struggle on a military front" - Agustin Guillamon, Friends of Durruti.

If you have an overwhelming majority, you don't need any army anyway. No amount of oppression can be made to work against it, as the Communist Party found out in Moscow in 1989. But that overwhelming majority has to know what it is about. And that is what the Friends of Durruti concluded:
"What happened was what had to happen. The CNT was utterly devoid of revolutionary theory. We did not have a concrete programme. We had no idea where we were going . . . By not knowing what to do we handed the revolution on a platter to the bourgeoisie and the Communists who support the farce of yesterday."

Murray Bookchin also writes "Not only did the CNT lack the support of a majority of the Spanish people, they argued, but it lacked the support of the majority of the Spanish working class. Anarchosyndicalists were a minority within a minority. Even within the CNT membership, a large number of workers and peasants shared only a nominal allegiance to libertarian ideals. They were members of the CNT because the union was strong in their localities and work places. If these people, and the Spaniards generally, were not educated in Anarchist principles, warned the moderates, the revolution would simply degenerate into an abhorrent dictatorship of ideologues." - Spanish Anarchists.

The International Brigades to this day hold a place of honour for many, who revere them as defenders of democracy and anti-fascists leading the way in a war that could have stopped fascism before the great slaughter of world war two. Many died, bravely; and their defence of Madrid reads like something from an epic poem. Their enthusiasm was not enough to actually save political democracy in Spain. Heroism is not enough, although there was plenty of that. We, in the Socialist Party, nevertheless, hold that it was not in the best interests of the socialist movement, or democracy, or of the conditions of the workers, to participate in wars such as the Spanish Civil, taking into account the consequences of these wars, participation could not be justified either by the hope of achieving socialism, the safeguarding of democracy or the improvement in the conditions of the working class. We could make the World Socialist Movement very much more popular by not constantly challenging popular working class thinking. We could adopt popular concerns as or own and jump on any number of bandwagons. We could quickly grow in numbers by lying and deceiving our fellow workers. But it almost goes without saying that by doing so we would abandon the struggle for socialism.

The "anarchist revolution" was first stopped by the Republican government with the Stalinist "Communists" in the lead and then savagely crushed by the Franco fascists. The losers, as always, were the common people, pawns in a struggle between power brokers. Those who weren't killed were crammed into Franco's concentration camps, penal labour battalions, or settled down to a hungry future. The country swarmed with 57 varieties of police. The Spanish Civil War cost 600,000 lives, ended with a Franco victory in March 1939, and the fascist dictatorship lasted until his death in 1975. Rubble doesn't make a good basis for building socialism.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The World Bank

Glasgow branch is at present conducting a series of meetings on British banking so it maybe useful to add an international dimension.

The World Bank was established in 1944 to promote economic development and virtually every country is now a member. This spring the bank's 187 member countries choose a new president to succeed Robert Zoellick, whose term ends in July.

Until now, the unwritten rule has been that the US government simply designates each new president: all 11 have been Americans, and not one has been an expert in economic development, the bank's core responsibility, or had a career in fighting poverty or promoting environmental sustainability. Instead, the US has selected Wall Street bankers and politicians, presumably to ensure that the bank's policies are suitably friendly to US interests. US officials have traditionally viewed the World Bank as an extension of US foreign policy and commercial interests. With the bank just two blocks away from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, it has been all too easy for the US to dominate the institution.

For too long, its leadership has imposed US concepts that are often utterly inappropriate for the poorest countries and their poorest people. It completely fumbled the exploding pandemics of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria during the 1990's, failing to get help to where it was needed to save millions of lives. Even worse, the bank advocated user fees and "cost recovery" for health services, thereby putting life-saving health care beyond the reach of the poorest of the poor - precisely those most in need of it. In 2000, at the Durban AIDS Summit, [it was] recommended a new "Global Fund" to fight these diseases, precisely on the grounds that the World Bank was not doing its job. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria emerged, and has since saved millions of lives, with malaria deaths in Africa alone falling by at least 30 per cent.

http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/economics/resource-wars-and-other-crises-await-if-global-cooperation-fails

Friday, February 24, 2012

A GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND?

One of the great illusions shared by nut case nationalists and religious freaks alike is that England unlike the rest of the world is something special and is in the words of William Blake " a green and pleasant land"."New data has revealed the number of people sleeping rough in England has risen by 23 per cent in a year. The figures were gathered by local authorities in a single night last autumn, and compared with an assessment 12 months earlier. The statistics show that on one night in 2011 there were 2,181 rough sleepers in England, up 413 from 1,768 on the same night the previous year. London and the South East had the highest number of rough sleepers with more than 400 in each region." (Independent, 23 February) Surely the concept of "pleasant" should at least include a pillow, a blanket and a mattress? RD

COMIC BOOK CAPITALISM

It has been recently reported that millions of workers are trying to exist on the equivalent of $1.25 a day, so what have we to make of the following news item? "A "jaw dropping" collection of early comic books has sold for $3.5m (£2.2m) at auction in New York. The trove of 345 comics had been bought by the late Billy Wright from Virginia when he was a boy. A copy of Detective Comics No. 27, which sold for 10 cents in 1939 and featured Batman's debut, got the top bid on Wednesday - raising $523,000." (BBC News, 23 February) It speaks volumes for the values of capitalism that a couple of comic books are of more value than human lives. RD

Heart care 'more likely for rich'

An estimated 182,000 people in Scotland have coronary heart disease (CHD), around 3.3% of the population. Rates of heart disease in Scotland remain the highest in Western Europe, despite new cases falling by nearly a third in the last 10 years.

There is evidence that rich people are more likely to receive NHS treatment for heart disease than poor people, according to the public spending watchdog.

In some more deprived areas around 25% of men over 75 have CHD but, according to Audit Scotland, people in deprived communities "are not always getting the same level of treatment as the rest of the population"


Treatments such as angioplasty, which widens the arteries, or heart bypass surgery, are over 20% less than expected in deprived areas. The least deprived areas saw over 60% more than expected. Audit Scotland said this "implies a lower level of access to these treatments for people in more deprived areas".

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A WONDERFUL TOWN?

The USA is undoubtedly the wealthiest country in the world and New York is probably the home to some of the richest capitalists in the world, but that is poor consolation for members of the working class trying to get by on the minimum wage. "New York is an expensive place to live, and unaffordable for workers struggling on $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum wage. Nineteen other states, recognizing that the federal minimum is too low for survival, even with food stamps or other government assistance, have increased their minimum above that level. Lawmakers in Massachusetts raised it to $8 an hour. Connecticut's is $8.25, and it is $9.04 an hour in Washington State. It is time for New York to raise its minimum wage enough to help more than 600,000 struggling workers." (New York Times, 12 February) RD

Targetting the vulnerable

Sick and disabled Scots and their families will lose out under UK Government benefit reforms, according to new figures published by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

CAS says 115,000 Scots will lose out on sickness benefits over the next three years. Of these, 36,000 will only be eligible for Jobseeker's Allowance. They will face a drop in income of at least £27 a week, and will have to seek work. Another 65,000 will drop out of the benefits system altogether – either because it is deemed a partner can support them, or because they have not paid sufficient contributions having been out of work for a lengthy period. This group faces a loss of at least £99 a week.

22,500 people in Glasgow will lose entitlement to a total of £73.7 million, with 19,600 told they are not eligible for Employment and Support Allowance. Meanwhile, in West Dunbartonshire, 2800 people will lose entitlement, saving the Government £9.1m, but will be plunged into an employment hunt in an area where there are 20.6 people looking for every post advertised through a Jobcentre.

CAS says the only way for people to replace the income they will lose under the scheme is to find a job, but Ms McPhee, CAS Head of Policy, said this was unrealistic. "With unemployment at a 16-year high, the economy struggling to grow, and former sickness benefit claimants facing discrimination from employers, many of these people will struggle to find a job."

Scottish independence?

American billionaire Donald Trump is to throw the full might of the Trump organisation behind a Scottish anti-wind farm group.

The tycoon's staff, based at Trump Towers in New York, are to work on a daily basis with Communities Against Turbines Scotland (Cats). Trump is also sending his executive vice-president and legal counsel, George Sorial, to an anti-wind farm meeting to be held by the group in St Andrews, Fife, next Thursday. Sorial said the billionaire would use all of the resources at his disposal to do "whatever it takes" to prevent Scotland being "encircled by these monstrous turbines". He went on to state "We have agreed to provide financial support to Cats. We have agreed to assist them with marketing and PR. We have agreed to provide them with staff, with some of our team at our New York office working with them on a daily basis."Nothing to do with Trump's £750 million Balmedie golf resort, of course.

Work on the hotel has stopped while there is still a chance the offshore wind farm will be approved. Sorial added: "No sane developer would build a hotel that looks into what is essentially an industrial plant. Until this issue is resolved, as much as we would like to build the hotel, we will not."

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/trump-to-bankroll-scots-wind-farm-war.16833920

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

THE REAL WORLD

As financial TV experts pontificate on the worsening economic European turndown it is worth reflecting on what it means to the workers who have to suffer its effects far from the comforts of the TV studio. "In the heart of central Athens, a stone's throw from the city's glorious ancient sites, another face of today's Greece is on show. Hundreds weave their way around the small, bare courtyard of the municipal soup kitchen, queuing patiently. Visitors have gone up by a quarter in the past few months as homelessness here reaches new heights. .... Homelessness has soared by an estimated 25% since 2009 as Greece spirals further into its worst post-war economic crisis." (BBC News, 4 February) RD

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A DISASTROUS SYSTEM

Disasters like earthquake will occur in any social system, even world socialism, but at least once we are free from the production for profit motive of capitalism we will be better able to deal with such catastrophes. "A six-storey building that collapsed and killed 115 people during last year's earthquake did not meet construction standards, according to a government report. The report, which called it "technically inadequate", was contested by the building's designer. The Canterbury Television (CTV) building in Christchurch collapsed during the magnitude-6.1 earthquake on 22 February. It accounted for nearly two-thirds of the quake's 184 victims." (Guardian 8 February) In order to create the biggest possible profits production costs like building material has to be of the cheapest available as over a hundred grieving families now know to their cost. RD

you are being watched

Britain has 20% of the world's CCTV cameras, says a study, despite having only 1% of the world's population. There are at least 51,600 CCTV cameras controlled by local authorities in the UK – costing a total of £515m between 2007 and 2011.

Fife has the second-highest number of cameras in the UK and Aberdeen is sixth highest. Fife has 1420 cameras, which cost just under £1 million between 2007 and 2011. Aberdeen has 942 cameras, which cost £1.78m. Edinburgh City Council was the biggest spender in Scotland over the same period, amassing costs of £6.3m for just 232 cameras.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties at Big Brother Watch said "Britain has an out-of-control surveillance culture that is doing little to improve public safety but has made our cities the most watched in the world...There is no credible evidence that more cameras will reduce crime"

Monday, February 20, 2012

Some Sottish business news

The number of customers in Scottish stores plummeted compared to the rest of the UK according to a new report that warns of “troubled times” ahead for Scotland.
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has reported an 8.5 per cent drop in footfall in the three months to January 2012, which included the peak Christmas period, compared with the same three months to January 2011.
http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/troubled_times_for_shops_as_customers_fall_1_2126645

Industry confidence in the embattled construction sector took a further hit today as a major survey of employers flagged low expectations for jobs and profits. Two out of three Scottish building firms predicted publicly-funded construction activity will drop in 2012, and a third expect construction employment to fall. Most anticipate another difficult year for housebuilding within the private sector, with nine out of ten companies warning that the area would be stagnant or in decline in the next 12 months.
http://www.scotsman.com/business/construction_sector_fears_another_hard_as_nails_year_in_prospect_1_2126667

Heineken have dented hopes of better conditions for Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) pensioners after a three-year battle. Heineken, makers of Deuchars IPA, Newcastle Brown Ale and John Smiths have a refused to peg annual pension increases to inflation. A commitment to the Scottish brewer’s tradition of paying inflation-linked annual rises was made in March 2008, before the joint takeover by Heineken and Carlsberg.
http://www.scotsman.com/business/heineken_has_done_its_fair_share_on_s_n_pensions_1_2126664

Sunday, February 19, 2012

THE OLYMPIAN SPIRIT

This year sees the start of the Olympic Games, it will be a period of excessive nationalist nonsense in the world's media and the re-iteration of endless balderdash about fine sporting ideals. But, this is capitalism and sporting tradition comes a poor second to making a few bob out of a business opportunity. "London landlords are evicting tenants to cash in on the Olympic Games by charging tourists fortunes. Homes in the east London boroughs where many events are to be held are fetching between five and 15 times their typical rates as properties are rebranded as short-term Olympic lets." (Daily Mail, 3 February) RD

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Take a stroll through certain streets in New York and you are almost certain to be approached by some homeless down-and-out looking for a few dollars. A similar stroll through Mumbai's streets will be even more likely to produce the same destitution. This of course is not the lot of all citizens of these mega-cities."The property market may be in poor shape in many parts of the world, but the super rich continue to spend eye-watering sums on new homes. The latest deal to grab headlines is a penthouse apartment with panoramic views of New York's central park, sold to a Russian fertiliser magnate for $88m (£56m). .... It is widely believed that the world's most expensive private dwelling is in Mumbai, India. The 27-storey Antilla tower, which boasts three helipads, six floors of parking and a series of floating gardens, was built at a cost of $1bn (£0.63bn) for India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani." (BBC News, 18 February) RD

Imperial Caledonia

The SNP's choice for the referendum date 2014 cannot be a simply a coincidence but a ploy on its symbolism. However, t he Scottish Wars of Independence and the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn were in reality a fight between two sets of Norman knights, English Norman and Scottish Norman, as in those days the ruling class in both countries was actually Norman.

The Act of Union was on behalf of the Scottish wealthy - a bailout. The disastrous Darien Scheme was backed by about a quarter of the money circulating in Scotland and its failure left the nobles and landowners – who had already been suffering a run of bad harvests – practically ruined. The Scottish ruling class voted to end its own parliament in Edinburgh. Did the Scottish ruling class, those "parcel of rogues", betray their country by accepting the Union? The hypothesis is only valid if we accept that those lords and merchants were somehow obliged to place "Scotland" above their own socio-economic interests. The surrender of Scottish sovereignty did not threaten the interest of them but indeed it specifically protected them. Scotland kept its own legal, church and education systems. More importantly, the Act of Union also gave the bankrupt Scottish ruling class access to the money markets of London. The Union was a very good deal for the Scottish ruling class. Most importantly, Scottish commerce got access to the growing empire that the English were carving out. Historically, the Scots were partners in the British empire, not an oppressed nation within it.

"It was not 'English capitalism' which caused the bones of countless Bengalis to bleach in the sun, but a fully integrated British capitalism in which the Scots played a leading role. Indeed, the capitalist class in Scotland was at the forefront, not only of colonial expansion, but also of the overseas investment characteristic of the imperialist stage of capitalism: during the late Victorian period Scotland invested abroad on a scale per head with no parallel among the other nations of the United Kingdom." - Neil Davidson (Scottish Imperialism and National Identity)

Today, the independence movement is again fundamentally a question of members of the capitalist class promoting their own particular self-interest.

The Scottish National Party represent the section of the Scottish elite which feels it could do better in negotiating with international financiers as a separate entity than as a part the United Kingdom. As an ex-Royal Bank of Scotland oil consultant, Alex Salmond no doubt intends cashing in Scotland's on North Sea oil reserves. Those oil and gas reserves play a large role in the opposition of the UK and unionist parties to separation. The major international oil corporations would have little problem with North Sea Oil being transferred from UK to Scottish political control, particularly if any new Scottish government was prepared to cut corporation tax even further. The SNP has been courting the oil companies, opposing both the Con-Dems’ proposed one-off windfall tax on their profits and downplaying the effects of potential oil pollution and spillage. However, North Sea oil still provides substantial tax revenues for the UK government. Therefore, any British government will strongly oppose such a move.

There exists a section of the “business community” like fund-manager Angus Tulloch and transport operator, Brian Souter, who fund the SNP, and they do so not because they want to raise Glasgow’s life expectancy from the lowest in Britain, but because they believe that Scotland’s super-rich will benefit.

The Scots are not an oppressed minority. Indeed, the idea that the Duke of Buccleuch is oppressed because he is Scottish is laughable. A worker in Glasgow or Edinburgh has more in common with his or her counterpart in Liverpool or Birmingham that he or she does with a landed Scottish aristocrat.

But even if it is likely that the Scottish working class will be promised a share of the oil revenues should they vote yes in 2014, like all politicians, Salmond will fail to make good on any pledge to increase working class living standards. And if the unionists prevail, Westminster politicians will also want to continue reaping the rewards for increased exploitation of the Scottish working class, not because they are Scottish, but because they are working class.

Many foreign corporations would quite happy if Scotland became a low tax haven as planned for by the SNP but it would probably lead to an economic "race-to-the-bottom" between the different nations and regions of the UK, with the promotion of competitive tax-cutting to benefit the corporations and the rich.

The wannabe Scottish ruling class will cooperate with the British ruling class and big business to prevent a too radical break-up of the UK and ensure that as much as possible remains of the UK state machinery by upholding the Crown Powers and protecting the City of London's economic control by retention of sterling. It leaves the Scottish ruling class in control within Scotland, but also free to profit from the existing global corporate economic order.

There was no golden age, not for the Scottish working class. Freedom is not intended for the people of Scotland, but for big business. The only independence is for corporations to maximise profits

Friday, February 17, 2012

TWO TYPES OF JUSTICE

I was once fined £50 for breach of the peace. An offence that still uses the term "causes alarm to the Queen's lieges". "Merrill Lynch, broker has been fined £350,000 by the Financial Services Authority for engaging in "market abuse" ahead of a fundraising by Punch Taverns. Andrew Osborne, who was managing director of corporate broking at Merrill Lynch International and described by the FSA as a "trusted gatekeeper of inside information", disclosed information ahead of the £375m cash call by the pubs group in June 2009." (Guardian, 16 February) Obviously Mr Lynch's defence " I am a greedy bastard and will do anything to make a couple of bob", was more powerful than my apology. "Your honour I may have been a little pissed at the time and I should not have said to the arresting officer I deny everything - including the law of gravity". With more money you get better lawyers and in this case bigger fines. RD

AN OLD REALITY FOR THE ELDERLY

Workers are having to delay their retirement plans because they cannot afford to leave their jobs, a worrying report warns today. "One in ten of those who were planning to retire this year said they have ditched the plan, with the majority blaming the fact that they simply do not have the money. The report, from the insurance giant Prudential, urged Britons to accept that there is "a new retirement reality"." (Daily Mail,15 February) The insurance company might imagine that this is a "new reality", but for many workers being too skint to stop working is a very old reality indeed. RD

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Scottish Slavery

"It wisnae us"

At the beginning of the 18th century, Glasgow was a poor town and Scotland, an isolated country. The 1707 Act of Union opened up trading opportunities and entrepreneurs seized their opportunity. The economic boom in the 18th and 19th century was built on profits from the West Indies, "...ultimately, profits built from slavery." according to James Cant, a Scottish historian re-examining the emergence of Scotland as an economic powerhouse. "We look at the agrarian revolution in Scotland, the scientific development, and we look at entrepreneurial excellence in Scotland. We never looked at the other side of the ocean to where the raw material and the wealth were truly coming from."

Iain Whyte, author of Scotland and the Abolition of Slavery, insists we have at times ignored our guilty past. He said: "For many years Scotland's historians harboured the illusion that our nation had little to do with the slave trade or plantation slavery. We swept it under the carpet. This was remarkable in the light of Glasgow's wealth coming from tobacco, sugar and cotton, and Jamaica Streets being found in a number of Scottish towns and cities. For many years, the goods and profits from West Indian slavery were unloaded at Kingston docks in Glasgow."

One of Scotland's foremost philosophers of the Enlightenment, David Hume, declared:
"I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or in speculation. No ingenious manufacture among them, no arts, no sciences."

Slavery has been dubbed "the most profitable evil in the world". It is estimated that 20,000,000 African people were bought or captured in Africa and transported into New World slavery. 75% of all Africa's exports in 18th century were enslaved human beings. Only about half survived to work on the plantations, with a slave's life expectancy averaging a mere four years. Young Scotsmen rushed to the West Indies to make quick fortunes as slave masters and administrators. Many Scots overseers were considered among the most brutal. There are many examples of mistreatment and abuse of enslaved Africans by Scots. The conduct of these Scots was often shocking – but this should not be surprising because we know that "under certain conditions and social pressures, ordinary people can commit acts that would otherwise be unthinkable".

It did not become illegal to own a slave in Scotland until 1778. Until then it had been fashionable for wealthy families to have a young black boy or girl servant. Scottish newspapers, such as the Edinburgh Evening Courant and the Caledonian Mercury from the 1740s to the 1770s, carried adverts offering slaves for sale or rewards for the capture of escaped slaves.

Many of our industries, our schools and our churches were founded from the profits of African slavery. Scottish capitalists reaped the fruits of their labour in the colonies in the sugar, cotton and tobacco plantations. These industries saw Glasgow and much of the country flourish, were built on the backs of slaves. The profits slaves helped to create kick-started the industrial revolution in Scotland and brought it's merchants and traders great wealth. Familiar names such as Tate and Lyle was built on slavery. James Ewing of Glasgow who owned Caymanas sugar plantation in Jamaica built the Necropolis.

Scotland dominated the Virginian tobacco market. By 1720 Glasgow imported over half of all the American slave-grown tobacco. The "Tobacco Lords" made their fortunes in the colonies before returning to Scotland, many building large mansions. Tobacco made up over one third of Scotland’s imports and over half its exports. This trade was fantastically profitable and tobacco traders became some of the richest men in the world. Landowners had an interest in the tobacco trade and had the money to invest in ships. The noveau riche behaved outrageously with their new-found fortune. The Trongate in Glasgow’s Merchant City was their own private street. It was paved. They did not want to walk on muddy roads with the riff-raff as it would ruin their outfits. Poor people were beaten if they used the Trongate. Buchanan Street was named after a tobacco merchant called Andrew Buchanan.

The "Wee" Free Church was founded in 1843 . It raised some funds from slave-owning Presbyterian churches in the United States. Many people felt that the Free Church was therefore sympathetic to the slave-owners and opposed to the emancipation of the slaves. "Send back the money" became a popular rallying cry. The Church of Scotland did not petition Parliament to end the Slave Trade or Slavery.

Even schools have a dark history. Bathgate Academy was built from money willed by John Newland, a renowned slave master and Dollar and Inverness Academies had a similar foundation of being funded by West Indies profits.

A host of other buildings and institutions Glasgow The Gallery of Modern Art (Stirling Library) was originally built by tobacco merchant William Cunningham as his home. Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Harmony House, Inveresk Lodge, were either bought or built using money acquired from slavery.

In St Andrew Square in Edinburgh there is a monument toHenry Dundas, who prolonged British slavery in the Caribbean by stopping MPs voting for its abolition. He also tried to reverse the independence process in Haiti as he feared similar rebellions damaging the economics of British slavery. He selected governors for the slave islands and, as governor of the Bank of Scotland, loaned money to shore up the slave business of his friends. When Wilberforce tried to secure the abolition of the slave trade, Dundas frustrated the process and forced him to add two notorious words to his Bill "gradually abolished". These two words ensured that slavery lasted 31 more years. To achieve abolition,£20 million was also paid in compensation to slave plantation owners in the West Indies - over 40% of the national budget, the equivalent of around £1.12 billion.

Alexander Allerdyce of Aberdeenshire was a slave trader. He took more African slaves to Jamaica than the entire population of Aberdeen at the time.

John Glassford owned 25 ships in nine trading posts in Maryland and eleven in Virginia. By 1775, Glassford controlled more than half the Clyde. He helped finance the Forth and Clyde canal. He set up the Fowlis Academy, a school for art and design.

By 1800 there were 10,000 Scots in Jamaica. Scottish surnames such as Douglas, Robinson, Reid, Russell, Lewis, McFarlane, McKenzie, McDonald, Grant, Gordon, Graham, Stewart, Simpson, Scott, Ferguson, Frazer and Farquharson are common in Jamaica. Many of the slave plantations were given Scottish names such as Monymusk, Hermitage, Hampden, Glasgow, Argyle, Glen Islay, Dundee, Fort William, Montrose, Roxbro, Dumbarton, Old Monklands and Mount Stewart. In 1817 Scots owned almost a third of all the slaves in Jamaica.

Enslaved Scots

Startling as it may sound, the slavery of the native Scot continued longer than that of the black slave. In 1606, an Act was passed, which ordained that no person should fee, hire, or conduce any salters, colliers, or coal-bearers without a sufficient testimonial from the master whom they had last served, and that any one hiring them without such testimonial was bound, upon challenge within a year and a day by their late master, to deliver them up to him, under a penalty of £100 for each person and each act of contravention, the colliers, bearers, and salters so transgressing and receiving wages to be held as thieves and punished accordingly. The colliers and salters were unquestionably slaves. They were bound to continue their service during their lives, were fixed to their places of employment, and sold with the works to which they belonged. It had been the rule for the collier and his family to live and be cared for and die on the estate on which he was born. Up till the year 1661, colliers and salters were the only workers to whom the Act applied, but in that year an addition made embracing other colliery workers - named watermen, windsmen, and gatesmen. An Act passed in 1672, for the establishment of correction-houses for idle beggars and vagabonds, authorized "coal-masters, salt-masters, and others, who have manufactories in this kingdom, to seize upon any vagabonds or beggars wherever they can find them, and to put them to work in the coal-heughs or other manufactories, who are to have the same power of correcting them and the benefit of their work as the masters of the correction-houses.

So completely did the law of Scotland regard them as a distinct class, not entitled to the same liberties as their fellow-subjects, that they were excepted from the Scotch Habeas Corpus Act of 1701. In 1775 their condition attracted the notice of the legislature, and an act was passed for their relief . Its preamble stated that "many colliers and salters are in a state of slavery and bondage" and that their emancipation "would remove the reproach of allowing such a state of servitude to exist in a free country." But so deeply rooted was this hateful custom, that Parliament did not venture to condemn it as illegal. It was provided that colliers and salters commencing work after the 1st of July 1775, should not become slaves; and that those already in a state of slavery might obtain their freedom in seven years, if under twenty-one years of age; in ten years, if under thirty-five. The Act imposed so many conditions to be observed by those to be freed, such as they were obliged to obtain a decree of the Sheriff's Court that little advantage was taken of it. Moreover, many of the masters were not disposed to give up their old rights without a struggle, and they sought to retain their hold on the workers by advancing money which the poor colliers were too ready to accept and with the advances being kept up as debts against them the colliers were rarely in a condition to press their claims to freedom. Hence the act was practically inoperative. But eventually in 1799, their freedom was established by law


The White Slave Cargo

White servants came to the Colonies and the Caribbean before most of the African slaves. Large numbers of Scottish people were sent to the colonies largely against their will in the 17th and 18th centuries. Mainstream histories refer to these labourers as indentured or bonded servants, not slaves, because many agreed to work for a set period of time in exchange for land and rights. However, the term slavery applies to any person who is bought and sold, chained and abused, whether for a decade or a lifetime. Excerpts from wills show how white servants would be passed down along with livestock and furniture. During that indenture period the servants were not paid wages, but they were provided food, room, clothing. Indentures could not marry without the permission of their owner, were subject to physical punishment (like many young ordinary servants), and saw their obligation to labour enforced by the courts. To ensure uninterrupted work by the female servants, the law lengthened the term of their indenture if they became pregnant. One could buy and sell indentured servants' contracts, and the right to their labour would change hands.

Many early settlers died long before their indenture ended or found that no court would back them when their owners failed to deliver on promises. And many never achieved their freedom with many of the labourers dying before their 4 to 7 years were complete due to the harsh conditions and the often brutal treatment by the plantation owners. Those that survived often remained in the Caribbean and became managers and overseers.

Convicted criminals and political prisoners, including religious nonconformists, were also sent to the colonies as a workforce. In the late 17th century the religious turmoil in Scotland produced a regular supply of indentured labourers.Covenanters and Scottish royalists captured by Cromwell after battle were sold as indentured labourers to the West Indies. In 1666 the city fathers of Edinburgh shipped off "beggars, vagabonds and others not fitt to stay in the kingdome" to Virginia in the Phoenix of Leith under Captain James Gibson. The Scots Privy Council also saw indentured labour as an opportunity to get rid of undesirables and those guilty of certain crimes, and they regularly sent people to Virginia as a punishment rather than keep them in jail.

Ultimately indentured labour did not bring the profit desired. For example, the cost of indentured labor rose by nearly 60 percent throughout the 1680s in some colonial regions. A cheaper source of labour was sought and the plantation owners quickly realised the potential profit that could be made from buying and selling Africans, grasping the opportunity of using a malleable renewable labour force. When slaves arrived in greater numbers after 1700, white labourers became a privileged status and assigned to lighter work and more skilled tasks.

Wage Slavery

It was only when economists like Adam Smith suggested slavery hampered freedom of enterprise that the argument took hold that it was no longer financially viable. It was about economics. Now it was the turn of wage slavery to chain people.

Those who defended the slavery and indentured labour described how owners had to feed, clothe and shelter their enslaved workers and how this made them better off than labourers in the factories in Europe since the factory workers' very small wages hardly kept them in food and clothes and shelter. Capitalist factory-owners needed a flexible labour force and a reserve of workers they could draw on in times of expansion and who could be discarded in times of slump. They did not want to own their workers, precisely because they wanted, when business took a downturn, to be free of any obligation to maintain them as they would have had to with chattel slaves. They favoured “free” labour. They were only interested in buying their workers’ ability to work for a limited period. “Free” labour meant more than that the worker was just not a chattel slave. It meant that he or she was also not tied to the land either as a peasant or a serf. It means that the only productive resource they own is their ability to work, their labour-power, which they are “free” to sell to some capitalist employer or other. Socialists regard labour as free only where the labourers themselves individually or collectively own and control the means by which they labour (land, tools, machinery, etc.).

The legal, social and political status of wage-slaves is superior to that of chattel slaves. However, when we compare their position in the labour process itself, we see that here the difference between them is not a fundamental one. A wage or a salary is the price of the human commodity labour power, the capacity to work. Because workers are compelled to work for their employers for a duration of time, being exploited, the wages system is literally a form of slavery and the working class are wage slaves. We are all compelled to obey the orders of the “boss” who owns the instruments of production with which we work or who represents those who own them. In a small enterprise the boss may convey his orders directly, while in a large enterprise orders are passed down through a managerial hierarchy - overseers. But in all cases it is ultimately the boss who decides what to produce and how to produce it. The products of the labour of the (chattel or wage) slaves do not belong to us. Nor, indeed, does our own activity.

Another obvious difference between chattel slavery and wage slavery is that as a chattel slave you are enslaved – totally subjected to another’s will – at every moment from birth to death, in every aspect of your life. As a wage-slave, you are enslaved only at those times when your labour power is at the disposal of your employer. At other times, in other aspects of your life you enjoy a certain measure of freedom. The wage-slave has some scope for self-development and self-realisation that is denied the chattel slave. Limited to be sure, for the wage-slave must regularly return to the world of wage labour.

According to Engels: "The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly. The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master's interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence."

It is sometimes objected that wage workers are not slaves because they have the legal right to leave a particular employer, even if in practice they may be reluctant to use that right out of fear of not finding another job. All that this proves, however, is that the wage worker is not the slave of any particular employer. For Marxists, the owner of the wage-slave is not the individual capitalist but the capitalist class. Whether we choose the wages system or not, we are in reality bound to it. We are not by law bound to a single individual, but, in fact, to the capitalist class as a whole. You can leave one employer, but only in order to look for a new one. What you cannot do, lacking as you do access to the means of life, is escape from the thrall of employers as a class – that is, cease to be a wage-slave.

Frederick Douglass, a former slave, born on a Maryland plantation in 1817 makes it clear in his book My Bondage and My Freedom:
"In the country, this conflict is not so apparent; but, in cities, such as Baltimore, Richmond, New Orleans, Mobile etc; it is seen pretty clearly. The slave-holder with a craftiness peculiar to themselves, by encouraging the enmity of the poor, labouring white men against the blacks, succeeds in making the said white men almost as much a slave as the black slave himself. The difference between the white slave, and the black slave, is this: the latter belongs to ONE slave-holder, and the former belongs to ALL the slave-holders, collectively. The white slave has taken from his, by indirection, what the black slave had taken from him, directly, and without ceremony. Both are plundered, and by the same plunderers"

With slavery the workers themselves become commodities, they have no rights and are legally the property of the person who controls them. With the wage system the labour power of the worker becomes one of the main commodities in the marketplace. Capitalist social relations emerged with the expropriation of common land by the aristocracy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Enclosures destroyed the lives of thousands of peasant families, turning them into propertyless vagabonds. Deprived of their land, their homes, their traditional surroundings and the protection of the law, the expropriated peasantry were left to sell the one thing they possessed - their ability to work.

The Chartist, Ernest Jones, dismissed the demand for "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work", which was to ask for:
"...a golden slavery instead of an iron one. But that golden chain would soon be turned to iron again, for if you still allow the system of wages slavery to exist, labour must be still subject to capital, and if so, capital being its master, will possess the power and never lack the will to reduce the slave from his fat diet down to fast-day fare!"

The law grants us personal liberties, and we therefore have the right to make our own decisions: where to live; who to work for; or whether to work at all. But underlying this veil of freedom are the real, material, physical facts, and they run as such: you can only live where you can afford to live; you can only work for someone who will willingly employ you; and while you are under no legal obligation to work for anyone at all, you will find it a struggle to live while not doing so.

Noam Chomsky has explained that “the effort to overcome ‘wage-slavery’ has been going on since the beginnings of the industrial revolution, and we haven’t advanced an inch. In fact, we’re worse off than we were a hundred years ago in terms of understanding the issues.”

The Socialist Party appears to be the only political organisation in this country to take this task at all seriously. The Socialist Party do not just want to win a better deal for wage-slaves. We want to abolish slavery. We are the wage-slavery abolitionists! The influence of the capitalist system has ensured that many do not yet understand the necessity for the working class to free itself from slavery. It is a slavery not only of the body but of the mind too and that must be the worst enslavement of all.

AN OLD REALITY FOR THE ELDERLY

Workers are having to delay their retirement plans because they cannot afford to leave their jobs, a worrying report warns today. "One in ten of those who were planning to retire this year said they have ditched the plan, with the majority blaming the fact that they simply do not have the money. The report, from the insurance giant Prudential, urged Britons to accept that there is "a new retirement reality"." (Daily Mail,15 February) The insurance company might imagine that this is a "new reality", but for many workers being too skint to stop working is a very old reality indeed. RD

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

GLASGOW BRANCH ACTIVITY TONIGHT

Glasgow Branch of the Socialist Party GB

Don't recycle Capitalism, BIN IT

Newsletter and Agenda
February 2012

Time: 20:00

Date: 15/02/12

Maryhill community central halls

304 Maryhill Road Glasgow G20 7YE

Can Vic crack it?

Come along and fine out

Branch business up to about 8.30 then the remainder of the evening for questions and discussion

Future events

Orwell on Nationalism

You can accuse us, socialists, of being unpatriotic if you so wish. We are proud to be anti-patriotic.

Socialist Courier previously posted an extract on patriotism by Tolstoy. We think it s also fitting to also offer extracts from a George Orwell essay on nationalism:-

"A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist — that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating — but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakeably certain of being in the right...

... As nearly as possible, no nationalist ever thinks, talks, or writes about anything except the superiority of his own power unit. It is difficult if not impossible for any nationalist to conceal his allegiance. The smallest slur upon his own unit, or any implied praise of a rival organization, fills him with uneasiness which he can relieve only by making some sharp retort. If the chosen unit is an actual country, such as Ireland or India, he will generally claim superiority for it not only in military power and political virtue, but in art, literature, sport, structure of the language, the physical beauty of the inhabitants, and perhaps even in climate, scenery and cooking. He will show great sensitiveness about such things as the correct display of flags, relative size of headlines and the order in which different countries are named... All nationalists consider it a duty to spread their own language to the detriment of rival languages, and among English-speakers this struggle reappears in subtler forms as a struggle between dialects... Scottish nationalists insist on the superiority of Lowland Scots...

...Celtic Nationalism. Welsh, Irish and Scottish nationalism have points of difference but are alike in their anti-English orientation...But Celtic nationalism is not the same thing as anglophobia. Its motive force is a belief in the past and future greatness of the Celtic peoples, and it has a strong tinge of racialism. The Celt is supposed to be spiritually superior to the Saxon — simpler, more creative, less vulgar, less snobbish, etc. — but the usual power hunger is there under the surface ...."

George Orwell

1945

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

iEXPLOIT

The technology of such appliances as iPad and iPhone have gained the admiration of many of it's users but the policy of Apple and similar companies should earn the hatred of most human beings. "Apple's problems with Taiwanese company Foxconn, which manufactures almost all of its devices, date back as far as 2010 when a string of workers committed suicide at a plant in Longhua, which employed between 300,000 and 400,000 workers. However the troubles have continued and last month 150 Foxconn employees threatened to leap from the top of a three-floor plant in Wuhan amid allegations they were paid piecemeal and were expected to work in a pressured environment without any training." (Daily Telegraph, 13 February) In its competition to cheapen production costs there are are no limits to the depths to which capitalism will descend. RD

LOSING THE HEAD

It is very difficult for socialists to argue a scientific case against bigots but in some parts of the world it is even more difficult. A defiant declaration of atheism by an Indonesian civil servant has inflamed passions in the world's most populous Muslim nation, pitting non-believers and believers against each other. The trouble began when civil servant Alexander Aan posted a message on the Facebook page of Atheist Minang, a group of Indonesians with godless beliefs. "It read: "God doesn't exist". The post so enraged residents in Aan's hometown of Pulau Punjung in West Sumatra province that an angry mob of dozens stormed his office and beat up the 30-year-old. To add insult to injury police then arrested him and now want to press blasphemy charges that could see him locked up for five years. Muslim extremists have called for Aan to be beheaded but fellow atheists have rallied round, and urged him to stand by his convictions despite the pressure. " (Al Arabiya News, 2 February) And we thought we had a difficult time in arguing the case for world socialism - but at least so far no one has called for us to be beheaded. RD

Businesses as usual

Rangers has filed legal papers at the Court of Session to appoint administrators. Rangers awaits a tax tribunal decision over a disputed bill, plus penalties, totalling £49m which the club would be unable to pay.

Celtic has announced a big fall in pre-tax profits for the second half of 2011, profits of only £180,000 compared to a £7m profit at the end of the previous year. Cash from player sales also fell from £13.2m to £3.1m. Bank debt is £7m.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-17009960

And in the east, Hearts still struggle off-field as much as they do on-field. Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov told RIA Novosti on Wednesday that all wage arrears with the debt-stricken Scottish club have been settled (Hearts players have suffered late wages since October), but admitted to an outstanding tax bill that threatens their future. British tax authorities lodged a petition with a Scottish court earlier this week saying Hearts had eight days to settle the bill, reported to be around £150,000 , or face liquidation. Romanov put Hearts up for sale in November along with Belarus' Partizan Minsk and Lithuanian side FK Kaunas, saying he wanted to leave the football business. Authorities in Belarus expelled Partizan Minsk from the Top League due to Romanov's refusal to keep bankrolling the team. Romanov's decision to withdraw cash backing to FBK Kaunas saw the Lithuanian FA demote the ten-times champions to the second tier.

http://en.ria.ru/sports/20120208/171218453.html

Stop supporting capitalism!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bar-L Museum

Derek McGill, governor of Scotland's most infamous prison, Barlinnie, , the Bar-L, said: "I would be sad to see Barlinnie completely demolished. There's a huge amount of history here. You could imagine them running tours. This could be the Alcatraz of Glasgow." showing how prisoners were treated from Victorian times to the present.
Barlinnie was criticised for its cramped accommodation. It was found to be more than 50% over capacity, with about 500 inmates more than it was designed for. Prison chiefs hope that the 130-year-old establishment will be replaced by a new building around 2020.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/barlinnie-could-be-alcatraz-attraction.16736161


If only the rest of capitalism's structures can be turned into a museum exhibits

Sunday, February 12, 2012

MORE IMPROVEMENTS

Capitalism is a very progressive society and is always striving to make improvements. Pentagon war planners have concluded that their largest conventional bomb isn't yet capable of destroying Iran's most heavily fortified underground facilities, and are stepping up efforts to make it more powerful, according to U.S. officials briefed on the plan. "The 30,000-pound "bunker-buster" bomb, known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, was specifically designed to take out the hardened fortifications built by Iran and North Korea to cloak their nuclear programs. But initial tests indicated that the bomb, as currently configured, wouldn't be capable of destroying some of Iran's facilities, either because of their depth or because Tehran has added new fortifications to protect them." (Wall Street Journal, 28 January) A 30,000 pound bomb isn't good enough for a progressive society like capitalism! RD

The Food Stamp Nation

“I’ve got two children,” she says. “I’ve got to have food.”

So do 46 million other Americans. In fact, if the Americans using food stamps constituted a country, they would be the 27th largest nation in the world.

In the first minutes of each month, food stamp purchases at 24-hour Wal-Marts across the country surge as those relying upon food stamps drives through the dark to purchase sorely needed food.

“Our sales for those first few hours on the first day of the month are substantially and significantly higher,” Wal-Mart CEO William S. Simon told a Goldman Sachs conference 18 months ago. “If you really think about it, the only reason somebody goes out in the middle of the night and buys baby formula is that they need it — and they’ve been waiting for it.” Studies show that food stamps typically last only 17.5 days

Launched under Kennedy , first as a pilot project and later permanently by Johnson as part of his “War on Poverty,” food stamps (technically known as the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) has been supported by the American agricultural sector keen to have more markets for its produce, as well as liberals and conservatives. These days, program is now under attack. The federal program currently costs taxpayers about $75 billion annually — a point of mounting criticism among conservatives who contend that their tax dollars are being parceled out to people who, they believe, are not contributing to America.

New York City (and the state of Arizona) insist on finger-imaging technology, the digital equivalent to fingerprinting, to verify food recipients. Some recipients feel that process treats them like criminals.New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg contends that for “people who are receiving things, rather than dedicating their lives to make it better, this is hardly something that’s a great imposition or that anyone should feel stigmatized about.”

“If you ask a liberal, all of these people on food stamps are oppressed — people who got screwed by the elite,” says Syracuse University political scientist Jeffrey Stonecash. “If you ask a conservative, these are simply people who made choices, like deciding not to continue their education.” How Americans view food stamps now, “is entirely a function of one’s ideology,” he says. Seeking political advantage, Gingrich is making a direct appeal to that part of American society that is now angry, explains Stonecash, people who have lost their homes, their retirement accounts, who have worked hard and now think, “there’s this vast welfare state out there that is consuming huge amounts of money.”

At the beginning of last year Texas had the most citizens enrolled in the program with more than 3.5 million people; California was number two at 3.3 million and New York state ranked third with 2.8 million. To be eligible, an individual must not make more than $14,088 per year. A person with a family of four can’t have a household income exceeding $28,668. The average payout isn’t handsome: individuals get $133 per month while families average $290.

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/uselection/article/1129304--america-s-food-stamp-nation-continues-to-grow?bn=1




Saturday, February 11, 2012

ROLLING IN IT

At a time when unemployment is rising and many companies are feeling the economic pinch it is not all doom and gloom for investors. "Another year another bumper set of figures for investors in Rolls Royce. ... Analysts have penciled in £1.2 billion of profits on £11.4 billion of sales, increases of 16% and 5%, respectively." (Sunday Times, 5 February) It is reassuring no doubt for the unemployed that the owning class can still lord it over us in their splendid new Rollers. RD

ANOTHER PROBLEM SOLVER

In December 2010 the Prime Minister was concerned about 120,000 households that were out of work so he appointed Emma Harrison as a sort of families champion to improve the situation. "The woman appointed by David Cameron to get problem families back into work pocketed £8.6million last year - most of it from the taxpayer. Emma Harrison - who lives in a 20-bedroom 'posh commune' with 11 close friends and their families - paid herself the huge dividend from her firm A4e, which makes all its UK income from state contracts." (Daily Mail, 10 February) Needless to say the households concerned are still "problem families" but the Harrisons should get by OK. RD

Thursday, February 09, 2012

A STRANGE SORT OF ADVANCE

Some years ago with the advent of advanced technology many workers were promised that the working week would be cut drastically, but capitalism just doesn't work that way. "Workers in the digital era can feel at times as if they are playing a video game, battling the barrage of e-mails and instant messages, juggling documents, Web sites and online calendars. To cope, people have become swift with the mouse, toggling among dozens of overlapping windows on a single monitor. But there is a growing new tactic for countering the data assault: the addition of a second computer screen. Or a third. This proliferation of displays is the latest workplace upgrade, and it is responsible for the new look at companies and home offices - they are starting to resemble mission control."  (New York Times), 7 February) For many office workers the advance of technology has meant more arduous working conditions, not easier ones. RD

THE REALITY OF CAPITALISM

The media love to portray a Britain of prosperous, contented workers happily going about their day to day activities, but a recent banking report blows that foolish concept away. "The average British worker is worrying that they are broke just 17 days after payday, a report from the banking giant Halifax will warn today. The report highlights the nightmare facing cash-strapped workers who are struggling to pay soaring household bills while many are being hit by a pay freeze or pay cut by their boss. For the worst-hit victims, the money worries begin even sooner. The research reveals one in 10 people admitted that things get tight within a week of receiving their monthly salary." (Daily Mail, 8 February) Too many days in the month and not enough money seems to be the usual fate of most workers. RD

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A BIG EARNER

One of the great claims made by supporters of American capitalism, is that unlike decadent Europe or corrupt Asia they have a truly democratic political system. Truly democratic if you happen to be a millionaire that is. "After facing growing criticism by his Republican competitors, and taking a drubbing in the South Carolina primary, the Republican candidate finally released his 2010 and 2011 taxes. Voters were again reminded of the great divide between wealth and regular working stiffs: Romney earned about $21.6 million in 2010 and estimates about the same for 2011." (Yahoo Finance, 25 January) The word "earned" seems a little strange, does it not? RD

BEHIND THE DIPLOMACY

The Philippines is in talks with the Obama administration about expanding the American military presence in the island nation. An arrangement would follow other recent agreements to base thousands of U.S. Marines in northern Australia and to station Navy warships in Singapore. Under each scenario, U.S. forces would effectively be guests at existing foreign bases. "The sudden rush by many in the Asia-Pacific region to embrace Washington is a direct reaction to China's rise as a military power and its assertiveness in staking claims to disputed territories, such as the energy-rich South China Sea." (Washington Post, 7 February) Behind the niceties of diplomacy lies the naked economic drive of modern capitalism. RD

The Poison of Patriotism

"The time is fast approaching when to call a man a patriot will be the deepest insult you can offer him. Patriotism now means advocating plunder in the interests of the privileged classes of the particular State system into which we have happened to be born." - E. BELFORT BAX.

"...it is clear that if each people and each State considers itself the best of peoples and States, they all live in a gross and harmful delusion...One would expect the harmfulness and irrationality of patriotism to be evident to everybody. But the surprising fact is that cultured and learned men not only do not themselves notice the harm and stupidity of patriotism, but they resist every exposure of it with the greatest obstinacy and ardour (though without any rational grounds), and continue to belaud it as beneficent and. elevating... with reference to the patriotic idea, on which all arbitrary power is based. People to whom it is profitable to do so, maintain that idea by artificial means, though it now lacks both sense and utility. And as these people possess the most powerful means of influencing others, they are able to achieve their object.
Patriotism, as a feeling of exclusive love for one's own people, and as a doctrine of tile virtue of sacrificing one's tranquillity, one's property, and ever, one's life, in defence of one's own people from slaughter and outrage by their enemies, was the highest idea of the period when each nation considered it feasible and just, for its own advantage, to subject to slaughter and outrage the people of other nations...

... Thanks to improved means of communication, and to the unity of industry, of trade, of the arts, and of science, men are to-day so bound one to another that the danger of conquest, massacre, or outrage by a neighbouring people, has quite disappeared, and all peoples (the peoples, but not the Governments) live together in peaceful one, mutually advantageous, and friendly commercial, industrial, artistic, and scientific relations, which they have no need and no desire to disturb. One would think, therefore that the antiquated feeling of patriotism being superfluous and incompatible with the consciousness we have reached of the existence of brotherhood among men of different nationalities-should dwindle more and more until it completely disappears. Yet the very opposite of this occurs: this harmful and antiquated feeling not only continues to exist, but burns more and more fiercely...

... The small oppressed nationalities...resenting the patriotism of their conquerors, which is the cause of their oppression, catch from them the infection of this feeling of patriotism--which has ceased to be necessary, and is now obsolete, unmeaningful, and harmful--and to catch it to such a degree that all their activity is concentrated upon it, and they, themselves suffering from the patriotism of the stronger nations, are ready, for the sake of patriotism, to perpetrate on other peoples the very same deeds that their oppressors have perpetrated and are perpetrating on them.

This occurs because the ruling classes (including not only the actual rulers with their officials, but all the classes who enjoy an exceptionally advantageous position: the capitalists, journalists, and most of the artists and scientists) can retain their position--exceptionally advantageous in comparison with that of the labouring masses--thanks only to Government organization, which rests on patriotism. They have in their hands all the most powerful means of influencing the people, and always sedulously support patriotic feelings in themselves and others, more especially as those feelings which uphold the Government's power are those that are always best rewarded by that power. Every official prospers the more in his career, the more patriotic he is...

...The ruling classes have in their hands the army, money, the schools, the churches, and the press. In the schools, they kindle patriotism in the children by means of histories describing their own people as the best of all peoples and always in the right. Among adults they kindle it by spectacles, jubilees, monuments, and by a lying patriotic press. Above all, they inflame patriotism in this way: perpetrating every kind of harshness and injustice against other nations, they provoke in them enmity towards their own people, and then in turn exploit that enmity to embitter their people against the foreigner.

Extracts from Tolstoy, Patriotism and Government

Summer School

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2017  21st – 23rd July Fircroft College, Birmingham   These days, con...