Monday, April 30, 2012

Capitalism's Cuts

P&O Cruises are to withhold passengers' tips unless crew hit performance targets. Some of the ship's crew on British cruise holidays who are paid a basic salary of as little as 75p an hour face having extra tips from passengers withheld unless they hit performance targets. Bonuses will be held back in part if customers' feedback ratings do not exceed targets, some of which stand at 96%. Cabin stewards whose attitude was ranked below 92% by customers will forfeit an entire bonus payment worth approximately 15% of their basic salary. 
David Dingle, CEO of Carnival UK, in charge of P&O cruise lines, said "Yes, the minimum wage is more than we pay, but this is a global industry, Our businesses have to remain competitive... We have a manning office in Mumbai. There are queues out on to the street."
TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: "Holidaymakers will be horrified to learn that some of the seafarers on their cruise ships are paid so little. It's high time the disgraceful practice of allowing the shipping industry to pay poverty wages to workers who don't live in the UK was stopped. Exploitative rates of pay for those working on British ships have no place in a modern society."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/apr/29/cruise-firm-performance-bonuses-tips

This week, about 70,000 seriously ill, disabled people will lose some or all of their £99-a-week allowance. From Monday, the government will limit receipt of employment and support allowance (ESA), the contributory allowance to just 365 days. By 2015 almost 300,000 people will lose out.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy calls this a "betrayal" and argues for a rethink. "About 300,000 people will be losing almost £100 a week even when they continue to be assessed as being too ill too work.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/29/sickness-benefit-cuts

The International sung by Alistair Hulett


Sunday, April 29, 2012

BRITISH BILLIONAIRES

Times are tough if you happen to be a member of the working class in Britain today. The owning class seem to be surviving OK though. "The UK's richest people have defied the double-dip recession to become even richer over the past year, according to the annual Sunday Times Rich List. The newspaper's research found the combined worth of the country's 1,000 wealthiest people is £414bn, up 4.7%. ..... Top spot for the eighth straight year is held by Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, 61, with £12.7bn. There are now 77 billionaires on the list, with individuals needing to have at least £72m to make the top 1,000." (BBC News, 29 April) A double dip recession means a 4.7% income increase to that lucky 1,000. RD

The failure is capitalism

Alex Salmond says that as devolution had failed to solve the problems facing people in Scotland and he expects people would be more prepared to listen to the SNP's view that an independent Scotland is the only framework within which these problems can be solved.

Of course, devolution has failed. But that's because people's problems in Scotland were never caused by a lack of devolution in the first place. They were, and still are, caused by capitalism as the system of class ownership and production for profit. This is why independence is no solution either. As capitalism would continue in an independent Scotland, so would the problems. These problems are not caused by the form of government, and any government of an independent Scotland would still be compelled by the economic laws of capitalism to put profits before people, just as UK governments have been.

The SSP and the assorted Tartan Trotoids will no doubt say "independence has failed because capitalism has been kept" and that what is needed an "independent socialist Scotland" and that then the problems will be solved. But they won't be, firstly, because socialism cannot be established in one country (we are living in an inter-dependent world and capitalism is a world system) and, secondly, because what the SSP mean by "socialism" isn't real socialism but only a national state-capitalism.

The only framework within which these problems can be solved -- which don't just exist in Scotland but are basically the same in all the countries of the world -- is a world community without frontiers based on natural and industrial resources of the world being the common heritage of all humanity so allowing production directly for use instead of for profit. In other words, world socialism not narrow nationalism. That will be the issue we will be  raising in the referendum when it eventually comes.

Hungry and Homeless in Scotland

According to the Office for National Statistics, food prices have risen by almost 5% in 12 months, but incomes have not kept pace. Anne Houston, chief executive of the charity Children 1st, warns that the number of people relying on handouts will rise as the economic situation worsens. She said: "One in five children in Scotland lives in poverty, which is unacceptable. As the cost of living rises, there is a real risk that more families could find themselves living in poverty."

The Trussell Trust, which runs the UK's only network of food banks, is helping to feed 6000 people in Scotland, and 129,000 people across the UK as a whole. Last year the Trussell Trust fed 2400 people in Dundee, 3362 in the Highlands and 375 people at its centre in Glasgow, which opened in December.

John Dickie, from the Children's Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: "This is an indictment of government policy and shouldn't be seen as an alternative to the kind of national action we need to prevent children and families living in poverty."
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/parenting-in-the-age-of-austerity-scots-families-are-counting-the-cost.17437224

Meanwhile

A decent home is the top priority for Scots, according to a recent poll. But with thousands of people making homeless applications and waiting on council lists for a permanent home, it is an ambition which is far out of reach for many. Demand for housing is predicted to increase over the next two decades, with a rising population and more people living alone or in small households. Changes to housing benefits being introduced by the UK Government could lead to increased arrears and evictions, as thousands of already struggling Scots are pushed deeper into poverty. The economic crisis has brought a tide of rising unemployment, government cutbacks and soaring costs of living, leaving many families struggling to hang on to their home. One recent survey found one in seven people in Scotland are now relying on credit cards and overdrafts to pay their mortgage or rent. An investigation by Shelter Scotland found 26 out of 30 letting agents charged upfront fees for reference checks, credit checks and "general administration", which ranged from £16.80 to £180. Graeme Brown, Shelter Scotland's director, said such issues were creating a "toxic brew" for the housing market.

There are 160,000 people on council waiting lists, over 40,000 people assessed as homeless, and about 10,000 households in temporary accommodation across Scotland just now. Since the onset of the financial crisis, around 26,000 jobs directly linked to the home-building industry in Scotland have been lost. The number of new homes built has fallen from around 26,000 in 2007 to just over 11,000 in 2010. 23,000 privately-owned unoccupied homes across Scotland which have been lying abandoned for six months or more.

"We do a lot of family support work and kids say they want somewhere safe and secure to live – not just in terms of a house but the neighbourhood," Shelter said. "They want somewhere permanent, somewhere they can call home. It is not a bad aspiration to have." 
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/the-housing-timebomb.17440079

Scottish football's game of shame


It was a football match that every self-respecting Scottish fan should hold their head low in shame.

In 1973, After the military coup ousting Allende, Pinochet's soldiers used Chile's national football stadium as a temporary detention camp. The military imprisoned 40,000 in the stadium.  Among those killed were the U.S. citizens Charles Horman, and Frank Teruggi, events that inspired the Jack Lemmon film, Missing. Within its walls they beat, and tortured thousands of workers, students and political activists. Many were murdered.

 A few years later in 1977, on the road to the Argentina 1978 World Cup, Scotland played against Chile and played in that very same blood-soaked stadium. Former non-commissioned officer Roberto Saldias said he saw prisoners taken off for execution at the stadium. Saldias said prisoners at the stadium were organised in groups identified by yellow, black and red discs. "Whoever received a red disc had no chance [of surviving]," he said

Russia forfeited their place in a qualifyer for the 1974 finals by refusing to take part in a play-off match against Chile yet the mandarins of the SFA, ably supported by football's 90-minute nationalists, insisted - no politics in sport. They went ahead with what was just a warm-up friendly game of little importance. Officials of the SFA refused to meet a delegation of three former prisoners of the Chilean military regime who called at their headquarters in Glasgow. Ernie Walker, then the SFA secretary, declared that he could see no point in meeting the delegation. About 70 per cent of Scottish professional footballers voted in favour of the national team playing Chile in June. Only ten per cent were opposed.  MPs Dennis Canavan and Donald Stewarrt raised the issue in parliament. Norman Buchan, the then MP for West Renfrewshire, said that the SFA didn't appear to comprehend what happened in the Santiago stadium where the game is to take place. It had been used as a concentration camp and was the scene of mass murder and torture.

Inside that stadium Victor Jara,  a singer/song-writer of international repute was detained along with the many other thousands and taken to the Santiago stadium where an officer thought he recognised him and with a questioning look, motioning to him as if as strumming a guitar. Victor nodded confirming who he was. He was seized, taken to the center of the stadium and told to put his hands on a table. Rifle butts beat his hands to a bloody pulp. "All right, sing for us now, you **** " shouted the officer. Defiantly, Victor staggered to his feet, faced the stands. "Companeros, let's sing for el commandante." Waving his bloody stumps he sang part of "Venceremos" (We Will Win), a song supporting the Popular Unity coalition. The officer played Russian roulette with Jara, by placing a single round in his revolver, spinning the cylinder, placing the muzzle against Jara's head and pulling the trigger. The officer repeated this a couple of times, until a shot fired and Víctor fell to the ground. He was then machine-gunned in the body with 44 bullet shots.


Eternal shame on Scottish football!

Scotland's guilty side 
Alan  Rough         
Danny McGrain          
Willie Donachie          
Martin Buchan          
Tom Forsyth              
Bruce Rioch         
Don Masson          
Kenny Dalglish      
Lou Macari          
Asa Hartford          
Willie Johnston          

Subs:
Archie Gemmill                 
Jim Stewart          
Sandy Jardine      

Manager: Ally McLeod


A song by Adam McNaughtan, better known for his The Jeely Piece Song, makes sure some of us won't forget this heartless episode in Scottish footbal history.

Blood on the Grass

September the eleventh
In Nineteen seventy-three
Scores of people perished
In a vile machine-gun spree
Santiago stadium
Became a place to kill
But a Scottish football team
Will grace it with their skill
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Will you go there, Alan Rough
Will you play there, Tom Forsyth
Where so many folk met early
The Grim Reaper with his scythe
These people weren't terrorists
They weren't Party hacks
But some were maybe goalkeepers
And some were centre backs
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Victor Jara played guitar
As he was led into the ground
Then they broke all of his fingers
So his strings no more could sound
Still he kept on singing
Songs of freedom, songs of peace
And though they gunned him down
His message doesn't cease
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Will you go there, Archie Gemmill
Will you play there, Andy Gray
Will it trouble you to hear the voice
Of Victor Jara say
Somos cinquo mille -
We are five thousand in this place
And Scottish football helps to hide
The Junta's dark disgrace
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Do you stand upon the terracing
At Ibrox or Parkhead
Do you cheer the Saints in black and white
The Dons in flaming red
All those who died in Chile
Were people of your kind
Let's tell the football bosses
That it's time they changed their mind
Before there's blood upon their hands

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Red or Pale Pink Clydeside?

In the eyes of many, Glasgow during the First World War and its aftermath gained the reputation of being a centre of socialist ideas, a hotbed of revolution. The city acquired the nickname "Red Clydeside". There remains a debate on the Left, over whether the Red Clydeside movement constituted a genuine revolutionary opportunity for the working class, or that the revolutionary potential of the Clydeside working class has been exaggerated. Prior to the Red Clydeside, Glasgow was quite solidly Liberal at elections and did not have a significant history of workers’ militancy. The city shared the jingoistic wave which swept Britain at the outbreak of the First World War. Thousands of Glaswegians signed up for the armed forces of their own volition. The trade unions, supported by the overwhelming support of their members, agreed not to call any strikes and didn’t bat an eyelid at repressive pieces of legislation such as the Defence of the Realm Act. To undermine the war effort was to risk alienating the working class, which many labour leaders were unwilling to do.

Although, at Clydebank, there was a fore-taste of the militancy in 1911 when 1,000 workers at the largest factory of Singer sewing machines factory went on strike in March–April, ceasing to work in solidarity of 12 female colleagues protesting against work process reorganisation. Following the end of the strike, Singer fired 400 workers, including all strike leaders and purported members of the Industrial Workers of Great Britain , the Socialist Labour Party affilated offsping from the Industrial Workers of the World, among them Arthur McManus. Labour unrest, in particular by women and unskilled labour, greatly increased between 1910-1914 in Clydeside, with four times more days on strike than between 1900 and 1910. During these four years preceding World War I, membership of those affiliated to the Scottish Trades Union Congress rose from 129,000 in 1909 to 230,000 in 1914.

When war broke out excepting John Maclean, none of the labour leaders on the Clyde developed a class analysis of the war, nor did they seriously consider threatening the power and authority of the state. Some of the labour leaders, including Maclean opposed the war; others, including David Kirkwood, who later became manager of an ammunitions factory, did not. It was the behaviour of those conducting the war, not the war itself that really provoked opposition within the labour movement. As the war dragged on, a disenchantment with politicians, who had claimed the war would be over by Christmas, grew as those in power were exposed as liars.

The Clyde Workers' Committee (CWC) was formed, with Willie Gallacher as its head and David Kirkwood its treasurer. The CWC led the campaign against the Liberal government of David Lloyd George and their Munitions Act, which forbade engineers from leaving the company they were employed in. While another core issue was the skilled workers' protest against "dilution", which meant bringing in unskilled men and women to do parts of skilled trade jobs. Dilution was a calculated move by the state and employers to free up engineers, to fight and die in the fields of France and Belgium. This movement has received a great impetus from the introduction by the Government of a measure for extending the power of Conscription by the military authorities, usually referred to under the misleading but catchy title of the “Man Power Bill.”   It was seen that trusted and prominent men, both parliamentarians and trade union officials, were associated with every piece of legislation that fettered the workers more. The growth of the “Shop Stewards” movement up and down the country helped to undermine the influence of the “official” cliques in the trade unions, as shown by the numerous “unauthorised” strikes. It would be a big mistake to suppose that these strikes and threats to strike indicate an acceptance of the principles of socialism, or even a general awakening to the fact that they are slaves to the master class, on the part of those engaged in this movement, nevertheless,  the oppression became so unbearable, the injustice so apparent, that little scrappy revolts and outbreaks ensued.

The Socialist Standard wrote at the time:
"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. 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.Engineers! At an early date you will be confronted with other trouble. We want your demands to be more exacting, and more deep the principles you struggle for. Fight with your brothers of other industries for these bigger and nobler things as earnestly and solidly as you recently fought. Fight politically as well as industrially, then, with the principle of the class struggle to guide your fighting."

In Germany and Austria strikes began on the dire problem of securing of food, but nearly always accompanying this demand, and in some cases forming the sole object, was the call upon the governments to declare an armistice and enter into negotiations for peace. In this country a similar movement spread. A resolution moved at Glasgow at a meeting resolved: “That having heard the case of the Government, as stated by Sir Auckland Geddes [the manpower Director of Recruiting], 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.” Better late than never the Clyde workers realised that they have nothing to gain but a good deal to lose by the continuance of the war.

As these outbreaks were only spasmodic they were easily over-ridden by the ruling class. Of course, the Government soon arranged for a counterblast. Government propaganda denounced the strikers for their self-interest. "Even now your protest is not on behalf of the working class, but a claim that a small section – the members of the ASE. – should not be placed in the Army until the ‘dilutees’ have been taken. Surely if you did not complain when we smashed agreements and pledges given to the whole working class it is illogical to complain now when a section of that class is being similarly treated.” This latter fact is the fatally weak point in the ASE. case, and was being used effectively by the capitalist press and spokesmen against them, keeping alive the jealousies and divisions that are so useful to them in their fights with the workers.  A. G. Gardiner, of the Daily News was easily the cleverest of their agents at the game of misleading the workers by using a style of seeming honesty and openness to cover up a substance of slimy deceit. A good example of this was his ‘Open Letter to the Clyde Workers’. His articles, while appearing to condemn the government, were strenuous attempts to defend the existence and maintenance of capitalism. Their purpose was to persuade the workers to still leave in the hands of the bosses  the manipulation and direction of affairs. And there was a great danger that the workers, so long used to following this course, so long in the habit of following “leaders”, would succumb to this influence. Some of them not daring to trust themselves to manage their own affairs, believe it better to leave the management to their "betters" ” If only half of the blunders and appalling crimes of this war had been brought into the light of day, these timid workers would  have had a rude shock concerning the ability of those “experts.” The biggest danger that confronts them – the biggest mistake they can 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.

The Rent Strikes

Class struggle activity also took place outside the workplace and on the streets in general. Many working class women were outraged that while their husbands were off fighting and dying for King and country they and their children lived in worse conditions and with less money. Was the war really worth it? Was it really being fought in the interests of all sections of British society? The drastic rent increases of 1915 proved massively unpopular. With their men fighting at the front, the women left behind were seen as vulnerable by landlords, and massive rent increases became the norm. With the city becoming a major centre of arms manuafacture during the war, it was necessary to bring in workers from outside the city, which only added to the overcrowding problem and pushed up rent. Existing tenants who could no longer afford the rent were evicted, causing widespread alarm among the now mainly female populace. By October of that year, some 30,000 tenants were withholding rent and huge demonstrations were called whenever bailiffs dared to attempt an eviction. When three engineers were arrested for non-payment of rent, some 10,000 workers in Govan downed tools and marched to the court to demonstrate. The initial failure of the government to restrict the raising of rents revealed that the interests of working people in Glasgow were not the real priority of the government. In Govan, an area of Glasgow where shipbuilding was the main occupation, the women organised an effective opposition to the rent increases. The main figure in the movement was Mary Barbour, later to be elected a Labour Party city councillor, and the protesters soon became known as "Mrs. Barbour's Army".The usual method of preventing eviction was to block the entrance to the tenement. Photographs of the time show hundreds of people participating. If the sheriff officers managed to get as far as the entrance, another tactic was to humiliate them - pulling down their trousers was a commonly used method. The mood of the placards carried by the protesters was that the landlords were unpatriotic. A common message was that while the men were fighting on the front line the landlords were in league with the enemy e.g. "While my father is a prisoner in Germany the landlord is attacking us at home".

Bloody Friday - The Battle of George Square

After the war a campaign for a 40-hour week and improved conditions for the workers took hold of organised labour. 40,000 Glasgow workers came out on strike on Monday 27 January and 70,000 on the following day. On January 31, 1919, a massive rally organised by the trade unions took place on George Square in the centre of Glasgow. It has been estimated that as many as 90,000 were present, and the red flag was raised in the centre of the crowd. The riot which ensued on between the police and protesters is widely believed to have been started by a police baton charge against what was, up until that point, a peaceful demonstration. Some sources indicate that trams running through the strike may have started the riot. City magistrates had been forewarned of the dangers of keeping trams on the streets at a time when thousands of strikers were marching to occupy George Square. But the warning was ignored, and the riot started after a tram tried to make its way through the square. The peaceful protest having been provoked changed the scene and the mood almost immediately and the rally transformed  into what is generally considered to now have been a police riot, with the Riot Act being read.  The police were now confronted by an angry crowd of workers who met baton charges with fists and bottles. As they exited the City Chambers, Davie Kirkwood and Emmanuel Shinwell to try and quell the riot and before they could reach the crowds outside Kirkwood was beaten to the ground by police and both himself and Shinwell arrested.

 The police had anticipated that their baton charge would drive the crowd out of the square - not so. Not only did the strikers and their supporters stand their ground but drove the police back. Eventually there was a re-grouping and the workers began to move off from George Square to march towards Glasgow Green. When they reached the Green the police were waiting, ready to charge again. Undaunted the strikers, including many ex-servicemen, pulled up the park railings and chased off their attackers. For the rest of the day and into the night, further fighting took place throughout the city.

Troops based in the city's Maryhill barracks were locked inside their post, with troops and tanks from elsewhere in the country sent into the city to control unrest and extinguish any revolution that should break out. No Glaswegian troops were deployed, and few veterans, with the government fearing that fellow Glaswegians might sympathise with the strikers if a revolutionary situation developed in Glasgow. Young, mostly untried, troops were transported from camps and barracks around the country and stationed on the streets of Glasgow specifically to combat this possible scenario. Howitzers were positioned in the City Chambers, the cattle market was transformed into a tank depot, machine guns were posted on the top of hotels and, remembering Easter 1916, the main post office, and armed troops stood sentry outside power stations and patrolled the streets. New regulations were also introduced by the government to legalise whatever violence the troops might need to use to break the strike. If the troops were used to suppress any fighting involving the strikers the Riot Act must first be read - but only "if circumstances permit". Similarly, the commanding officer had to consult with the magistrates before opening fire - but again only "if time permits". Most revealing of all was regulation 965: "It is undesirable that firing should take place over the heads of rioters or that blank cartridges should be used."

Willie Gallacher, as well as Harry Hopkins, secretary of the ASE and George Edbury, national organiser of the BSP were also arrested. Shinwell and Gallacher were found guilty and sentenced to 5 months imprisonment.

"It is a misnomer to call the situation in Glasgow a strike - this is a Bolshevist uprising." 
were the words of hysteria from the Secretary of State for Scotland to describe what was happening in Glasgow at the beginning of 1919

William Gallacher, who would later become a Communist MP claimed that whilst the leaders of the rally were not seeking revolution, in hindsight they should have been. He claimed that they should have marched to the Maryhill barracks and tried to persuade the troops stationed there to come out on the protesters' side. "We had forgotten we were revolutionary leaders of the working class. Revolt was seething everywhere, especially in the army. We had within our hands the possibility of giving actual expression and leadership to it, but it never entered our heads to do so. We were carrying on a strike when we ought to have been making a revolution."
Plainly, that would have been a recipe for a disaster and a massacre, in light of the government's determination tosuppress sedition through use its military might.

At the 1922 General Election,  10  Red Clydesiders were elected to serve in the House of Commons. They included Maxton, Wheatley, Shinwell, Kirkwood, Neil Maclean and George Buchanan. Before leaving together from St Enoch Station to take their seats at Westminster, they had a send-off where the audience sang "The Red Flag" and Psalm 124, the Covenanters' "Old 124th", described as "Scotland's psalm of deliverance". Red Clydeside nurtured some people who later became prominent in the Labour Party or the Independent Labour Party or went on to be founders of the Communist Party.

The story of Red Clydeside is one of disappointment in that the "revolutionary" movement was not truly revoltuonay and was ultimately unsuccessful. Red Clydeside was far more pragmatic, from a trade union perspective, and not to mention more patriotic, than the Left's rhetoric asserts. But it does offer us a message of hope and a glimpse of what we can achieve. In 1919, Lloyd George in a memorandum remarked “there is a deep sense not only of discontent, but of anger and revolt amongst the workmen… existing order in its political, social and economic aspects is questioned… by the population from one end of Europe to another”. That statement is as relevant today as ever when we witness the protests of the Occupy Movement and the Arab Spring. 

Local Issues or Class Issues

 When Scotland goes to the polls next week in the 2012 local council elections, voters may be confused about whether they are deciding on local or national issues. In some cases the electorate is being asked to vote on manifesto promises that can’t in fact be delivered locally declares the Public Finance web-site. Each of the political party manifestos for the local elections contain a mix of local pledges (not unexpected in local elections) but also pledges that can, in fact, only be made by a national government.  The most extreme example of this is a pledge to cut VAT – clearly a reserved matter with no powers in Scotland at any government level to do so.

What is important to recognise is that those so-called “local” issues that are high on the agenda of many in the local elections (such as the NHS, local housing and transport) are pressing issues everywhere else. But these are not really local issues after all. Its just that many people (and all of our opponents) think the solution is usually a local one, so there is no point looking elsewhere for the answer. In fact the problem under-pinning most of the supposed “local” issues is usually much broader.

 Its not just specific local problems (like poor quality consultation documents, or ill thought through proposals). The whole issue of provision of essential services such as health care and fire emergency cover is dictated by the level of resources allocated . And whether it is Linlithgow or Largs, the same picture emerges: social services are stretched. Public sector workers are under pressure to work harder, for less money. The capitalist class don’t want to pay any more than they have to; they don’t want public services that will be able to do anything more than the bare minimum. The reason? Ultimately,  these costs come off the profits of UK Capitalism PLC. Let’s be in no doubt, despite the politicians platitudes, the reality is that profit does come before public health and and peoples' general welfare. Somewhere in the local authority, there is an accountant doing a cost-benefit analysis. They are working out how small a public sector department can be maintained, and at what point the cost savings from this are outweighed by the costs of the human suffering, which will surely follow.

In reality, the councils, and at a national level, governments, are in control of the economy the same way a duck bobbing around on the ocean is in control of the tides. You don’t need to be told not to place too much faith in whichever politician gets elected  - history has shown that promises made before the election are quickly discarded when the pressure of trying to run the profit system in the interests of humanity proves too difficult.

Friday, April 27, 2012

LIFE ON THE DOLE

Many newspapers like to portray the British working class as lazy and feckless and project an image of workers too lazy to go job hunting but recent events show this is not the case. "Jaguar Land Rover announced last month that it needed 1,000 more workers at its factory at Halewood, Merseyside, to cope with a surge in orders for its 'baby' Range Rover Evoque. It has since seen an unprecedented 35,000 applications for the jobs on offer." (Daily Mail, 24 April) Thirty five applicants for each vacancy shows the real desperation of many unemployed workers. RD

Child poverty according to their teachers

Growing numbers of children are turning up at school malnourished, dirty and struggling to concentrate because of soaring poverty levels in the recession, a study suggests. 

Almost six-in-10 teachers reported encountering pupils who are left hungry through lack of food at least once a week, it was revealed. In some cases, "scavenger" children have been caught finishing scraps of food or using school as a place to warm up and eat a decent meal, according to the study by the Prince's Trust and the Times Educational Supplement.

The study – based on interviews with 515 secondary school teachers- found  39 per cent of teachers found hungry pupils every day, rising to 57 per cent who witnessed it on a weekly basis. 16 per cent of teachers had seen a pupil suffering from malnutrition or showing signs of not eating enough every day, with a further 13 per cent encountering this weekly. Nearly 66 per centcame across students who did not have clean clothes on a weekly basis, with 40 per cent saying they witnessed this every day.

 Earlier this month the Association of Teachers and Lecturers warned that many children are going hungry in school. Research by the union also found that many teachers have seen a rise in the number of children on free meals at their school.

 Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: "Too few politicians really understand what it is about poverty that affects children's learning. Forget about executive stress, try spending the week knowing that the food will run out before any more money comes in. Under that kind of pressure, no wonder relationships get strained, youngsters are deprived of sleep, often suffer emotional damage and cannot concentrate in school or remember what they have learnt."

 

 

Cheap women in the labour market

A report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found that full-time working women are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to full-time working men. In median weekly earnings, women earn only $684 per week, compared with $832 per week for men.

 An analysis by the National Partnership for Women found women in the United States earn $10,784 less than their male counterparts. But the wage gape is even larger for African American and Latina women, who earn $19,575 and $23,873 less than men, respectively.

 “These gender wage gaps are not about women choosing to work less than men — the analysis is comparing apples to apples, men and women who all work full time — and we see that across these 40 common occupations, men nearly always earn more than women,” said Ariane Hegewisch, a Study Director at IWPR.

 Almost 15 million households in the United States are headed by women, and 8.5 million of those households include children under the age of 18. Nearly 30 percent of households headed by women live below the poverty level.

In the UK, women face a national average pay gap with men of almost 15% for full-time work— in London,  it is 23% and the research suggests that women are more likely to live in poverty in London – with the rate as high as 4 in 10 women from black or other ethnic minority groups.

And this after decades of anti-descrimination legislation in both nations! Reforms don't reform capitalism.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The United Scotsmen Movement

In Socialist Courier's earlier post on the 1820 Insurrection mention is made of one of its participants, James Wilson, who had earlier been a member of the United Scotsmen. This is a brief history of that organisation. While the doomed uprising of the United Irishmen in 1798 is well known to the present day, much less known are the United Scotsmen and their abortive democratic republican movement in Scotland. In Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh  stands the Martyrs Monument remembering five men, three of them English, imprisoned for campaigning for parliamentary reform. The five were accused of sedition in a series of trials and transported to Australia in 1794 and 1795 and sentenced by Scotland’s hanging judge Lord Braxfield. who had made his views plain: "A government of every country should be just like a corporation, and in this country, it is made up of the landed interest, which alone has a right to be represented".  One of those exiled was Thomas Muir, a Glasgow lawyer, who was Scotland's president-in-waiting if the United Scotsmen movement had prevailed.

The Society of the United Scotsmen was an organisation formed in Scotland in the late 18th century and sought political reform. It grew out of previous radical movements such as the Friends of the People Society and Friends of Liberty, pro-democratic organisations that were springing up, inspired by the events of the French and American revolutions. Its aims were largely the same as those of the United Irishmen and it was only upon a delegation of United Irishmen arriving in Scotland to muster support for their cause did the United Scotsmen become more organised and more overtly revolutionary. Corresponding societies, groups in favour of peaceful but radical constitutional reform, had spread in the Scottish lowland cities but the societies were brutally suppressed.  The weakness of the corresponding societies was their openness and transparency; easily penetrated by government spies, which meant their compromise had been inevitable. Owing to its aims and activities, the United Scotsmen had to remain a secret society, and organised themselves into cells of no more than 16 people. When any branch reached 16 members a new branch was formed in order to prevent extensive penetration by government spies. When more than 3 branches in any district were formed they elected delegates to a Parochial Committee, which in turn elected delegates to County and Provincial Committees and then to the National Committee, which met in Glasgow every six or seven weeks. Within the National Committee was a secret seven-man executive that governed the movement. The expenses of the delegates were funded from a sixpence joining fee and subscriptions of threepence per month thereafter. Only the delegates and the branch secretary would know who the delegates were. Delegates to the National Committee were told the name of a contact called the ‘Intermediary’ who would call for them and conduct them to the secret meeting place.which would send delegates to larger bodies on occasion. The United Scotsmen were particularly adept at gaining support from the working classes of Scotland who stood to gain by becoming politically enfranchised as the society sought. Those joining the United Scotsmen pledged: "that I will preserve in my endeavours to obtain an equal, full, and adequate Representation of All the people in Great Britain."

The aim of the society was universal suffrage and annually elected parliaments, with a strong streak of republicanism running through it as well. By the mid 1790s the society had around 3,000 members, which  was then actually more than the entire electorate of Scotland with a population of 1.4 million! The membership continued to grow. Precise membership figures are not possible, since the organisation kept no records at all, in the interests of security. Some estimates of as many as 22,000 have been made by modern historians. The two Fife villages of Strathmiglo and Auchtermuchty alone has over 2,000 members. The membership was comprised overwhelmingly of working men; handloom weavers, artisans, small shopkeepers, and the like.

In June 1797, Parliament, in fear of a French invasion passed the Militia Act as part of the attempt to strengthen its home defence forces. It provided for the forcible conscription of 6,000 men, to be deployed within Scotland, to defend against any French incursion. This was the first time conscription had ever been used in Scotland, and hostility to the Militia Act was  widespread and spurred the numbers joining the United Scotsmen during that summer. Workers proclaimed that "we are not going to risk our lives for [the gentry] and their property" , that they "disapproved of the War". Resistance first broke out on August 17 at Eccles in Berwickshire, where a crowd armed with sticks and stones prevented the Authorities from carrying out the Act.  In the Battle of Tranent,  August 28th 1797 a large crowd of mine workers and their womenfolk gathered in Tranent, East Lothian, shouting "No militia" and marching behind a drum. A large detachment of both Cinque Port and Pembrokeshire Cavalry were despatched to restore order, and met with fierce opposition from the protesters. Fighting broke out, and in the following massacre at least 12 civilians, including women and children, were killed. The Lord Advocate, Robert Dundas, refused to indict the troops for murdering unarmed civilians and justified their actions in the face of  “such a dangerous mob as deserved more properly the name of an insurrection.”

The Tranent Massacre provoked an open rebellion in Strathtay under the leadership of Angus Cameron, a wright from Weem, who issued a call to turn local protests into an open uprising. Cameron and a James Menzies had been conducting nocturnal drilling throughout the summer and inducting new members into the United Scotsmen by means of the now illegal secret oath. Cameron, who was said to be a great orator, spread the rebel message addressing crowds in both Gaelic and English. 16,000 are believed to have rose at his call and captured Menzies Castle. They swept the area forcing the local gentry to sign bonds against the Militia and compelled the Duke of Atholl to swear not to implement the Act "until the general feelings of the country were made known". Rebels were despatched to Taymouth Castle near Kenmore, residence of the Earls of Breadalbane, to clean out the armoury. But before the people could be armed extra government roops had been sent to the area. Cameron ordered his supporters to melt back into the countryside. Cameron and Menzies were arrested in midnight raids on September 14th.

The United Scotsmen had also hoped to get support from the Dutch and there were plans for 50,000 Dutch troops to land in Scotland and to take over the Scottish central belt. However the Royal Navy intercepted the Dutch fleet and defeated them at the Battle of Camperdown in October 1797.

 The United Scotsmens aims in the rebellion were to establish a new Provisional Government with Thomas Muir as President. Various leaders of the United Scotsmen were arrested and tried. For example, George Mealmaker, Dundee hand-loom weaver and pamphleteer, was sentenced to 14 years transportation. Other leaders such as Robert Jaffrey, David Black, James Paterson and William Maxwell were all found guilty of seditious activity. The last record of a United Scotsmen member having been tried before the courts was the trial in 1802 of  Thomas Wilson, a Strathmiglo weaver, who was banished from Scotland for two years for spreading sedition amongst farm labourers.

The United Scotsmen had "united the lower against the higher ranks. They swear they will rather die to a man than be pressed as soldiers…. to defend the property of the rich." (Alexander Dixon letter to H. Dundas, 28 Aug 1797)

HUNGER IN BRITAIN

Britain's leading food bank network, the Trussell Trust, says every single day it is handing out emergency food parcels to parents who are going without meals in order to feed their children, or even considering stealing food to put on the table, as the government's austerity measures start to bite. "The number of people to whom it had issued emergency food parcels had doubled in the last 12 months and was set to increase further as rising living costs, shrinking incomes and welfare cuts take their toll, the trust said, as it published its annual report, which is fast becoming a barometer of social deprivation. ....It fed 128,000 people last year, distributing 1,225 tonnes of food donated by the public, schools and businesses, and estimates that half a million individuals a year will be in receipt of a food parcel by 2016." (Guardian, 26 April) This is Mr. Cameron's "Big Society" - big disaster is more like it. RD

Women in Prison

A report recommends that Scotland's only all-female jail should be demolished to make way for specialist units. Last week, the Commission on Women Offenders, chaired by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini, published the findings of an eight-month review on women in the country's criminal justice system. It said Cornton Vale prison, near Stirling, should be replaced with a smaller specialist prison for long-term and high-risk prisoners, as well as regional units to hold short-term and remand prisoners. Her comments were echoed by Brigadier Hugh Monro, Chief Inspector of Prisons in Scotland, who carried out his third inspection of the jail in two-and-a-half years. He said inmates suffering from complex mental health issues should be moved into specialist care facilities. Women have been held in "silent cells" without natural light or ventilation where the bed is just a mattress on concrete.

Brigadier Monro said: "We need some signposts nationally about where such people should be held. Either we up our game for male and female prisoners when dealing with mental health issues or we need to look at alternative facilities not within the prison system."

Juliet Lyon
, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:"It is intolerable that some of most vulnerable women in Scotland should be held in one of its bleakest, most outdated and under-staffed institution."

The number of women in prison has more than doubled over the last decade, although 75% of custodial sentences imposed on females are for six months or less.

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/2012/04/25/cornton-vale-inmates-with-mental-health-problems-should-be-moved-report-says-86908-23837447/

Women in Poverty

Divorce and desertion are pushing Scottish women into poverty and debt spirals much faster than their male counterparts according to research. Women account for over 90% of lone parents in Scotland and 60% of unpaid carers. There are some lone parent families struggling by on less than half of the UK's median income, which is considered to be about GBP7,000 a year. Working tax credits have been reduced.  Lone parents with a child aged seven or over now cannot get income support either and childcare contributions have been cut by 10%.

Women's charity Engender Niki Kandirikirira, Executive Director, said, "We know how many children, pensioners and households are in poverty but it's the statistics themselves that reveal why the numbers are proving so hard to bring down. At no point do we recognise the gendered nature of poverty. Measures to tackle poverty will fail to deliver until we recognise that gender inequality is in itself a root cause."

Socialist Courier would say that this is not the root cause but an exacerbating major contributing factor ino the cause of poverty. It is being a member of the working class regardless of gender that leads to poverty. 
 Save the Children issued warnings recently that the numbers of children living in severe poverty in Scotland will rise rapidly due to a lack of jobs. In Glasgow 18 people chase every vacancy compared to an average of 6 in England. However, even children with working parents are at high risk of poverty - the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported in 2010 that half of children living in poverty belong to working families.

"There's only so long cash-strapped families can hold out with these sorts of figures to live on,"
said the spokesperson. "This is how chronic debt begins and increasing costs of living ends up driving desperate families into the arms of credit card lenders, pay day loan companies and loan sharks."

who owns the North Pole - part 47

2000 scientists from 67 countries, including 1,328 from Arctic coastal countries, have called for an international agreement to close the Arctic high seas to commercial fishing until research reveals more about the freshly exposed waters. Although industrial fishing hasn’t yet occurred in the northernmost part of the Arctic, the lack of regulation may make it an appealing target for international commercial-fishing vessels.

 Recent Arctic sea-ice retreat during the summer months has opened up some of the waters that fall outside of the exclusive economic zones of the nations that circle the polar ocean. In all, more than 2.8 million square kilometres make up these international waters, which some scientists say could be ice free during summer months within 10–15 years.

 “The science community currently does not have sufficient biological information to understand the presence, abundance, structure, movements, and health of fish stocks and the role they play in the broader ecosystem of the central Arctic Ocean,” says the letter. It calls for the Arctic countries to put a moratorium on commercial fishing in the region until the impacts of fisheries on the central Arctic ecosystem, including seals, whales and polar bears, and those who live in the Arctic, can be evaluated.

 “Our knowledge of Canadian marine biodiversity is next to nil. We know nothing about trends over time for a single marine fish in the Arctic,” says Jeffrey Hutchings, a biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

 In 2009, the United States adopted a precautionary approach by banning commercial fishing in the waters north of the Bering Strait, including the Chukchi and the Beaufort Seas closing nearly 400,000 square kilometres to commercial fishing. Canada is drafting its own fisheries policy for the adjacent Beaufort Sea. In 2011, a memorandum of understanding between the Canadian federal government and the Inuvialuit people of the western Arctic prohibited the issuing of new commercial fishing licences in the area until a management plan was created and put into practice.

 http://blogs.nature.com/news/2012/04/scientists-call-for-no-fishin-zone-in-arctic-waters.html

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Food for thought

UNICEF's recent report, "State of the World's Children 2012" reveals that poverty affects children everywhere. According to Davis Morley, CEO of UNICEF Canada, "We often think of poverty-stricken rural areas in Africa, Latin America, Asia, but you can be in cities almost like middle-class Toronto, and hidden in valleys there are people living in shacks made of tin. We recognize this is where economic and population growth is going to happen and how do you make sure that children don't get squeezed out in the process? It is often thought that opportunity abounds in cities. Families may be closer to schools or health services, but that doesn't mean that all have the same access. The wealth divide between rich and poor is massive. Many can't afford the cost of uniforms and books or pay the fees for schools."Well said Mr. Morley but why waste your talent dealing with effects when it could be better used tackling the cause.
Grey Power surprise -- The Toronto Star reported on the economic resurgence of 2009. Nobody could figure out who was getting all these new jobs, not unions, not the unemployed. Now we know -- seniors. Since July 2009, Canadians over 60 have accounted for 30% of the country's job gains although they make up just 8% of the labour force. Most gains were in the low paid retail sector. Three cheers for Walmart!
In Zimbabwe, the Independent Lawyers for Human Rights said an unidentified man was arrested in a bar on Feb 22 while watching the 88th birthday celebration for President Mugabe. The lawyer group claimed he has been charged under laws making it an offence to insult the president. He is accused of asking whether or not Mugabe had the strength to blow up any balloons at his party. The accused is to appear in court, March 12, and if found guilty will be fined. Well-meaning people have fought for civil rights for two hundred years and the struggle continues. Why not remove the cause? John Ayers

WHO OWNS THE NORTH POLE- part 46

To the world’s military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the Arctic, anticipating that rising temperatures there will open up a treasure trove of resources, long-dreamed-of sea lanes and a slew of potential conflicts. The region is already buzzing with military activity, and experts believe that will increase significantly in the years ahead. As the number of workers and ships increases in the High North to exploit oil and gas reserves, so will the need for policing, border patrols and — if push comes to shove — military muscle to enforce rival claims.

Last month, Norway wrapped up one of the largest Arctic maneuvers ever — Exercise Cold Response — with 16,300 troops from 14 countries training on the ice for everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats. The U.S., Canada and Denmark held major exercises two months ago, and the military chiefs of the eight main Arctic powers — Canada, the U.S., Russia, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland — gathered at a Canadian military base last week to specifically discuss regional security issues.

Russia — one-third of which lies within the Arctic Circle — has been the most aggressive in establishing itself as the emerging region’s superpower. Rob Huebert, an associate political science professor at the University of Calgary in Canada, said Russia has recovered enough from its economic troubles of the 1990s to significantly rebuild its Arctic military capabilities, which were a key to the overall Cold War strategy of the Soviet Union, and has increased its bomber patrols and submarine activity. He said that has in turn led other Arctic countries — Norway, Denmark and Canada — to resume regional military exercises that they had abandoned or cut back on after the Soviet collapse. Even non-Arctic nations such as France have expressed interest in deploying their militaries to the Arctic. Huebert said. “There are numerous factors now coming together that are mutually reinforcing themselves, causing a buildup of military capabilities in the region. This is only going to increase as time goes on.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/the-new-cold-war-as-climate-change-melts-polar-ice-cap-militaries-vie-for-arctic-advantage/2012/04/16/gIQAZsklKT_story.html

Getting back the land

Around 60% of Glaswegians live within 500m of derelict land, according to a new survey – the highest percentage of any local authority in Scotland.

That can be bad for their health, according to Professor Juliana Maantay, Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, as many derelict areas – she calls them dismissed lands – are contaminated post-industrial sites. "Very often the levels of vacant and derelict land coincide with the worst health. For example, in the poorest areas, one fifth of babies are of low birth weight, and that correlates with vacant land." she explained, although adding "That is not to say that the vacant land is causing the bad health, but there is no doubt that contaminated land is not good to live near."

Her survey identified 1,300 hectares of "dismissed" lands in the city which are contaminated or need some kind of remediation, on 925 sites.

Empty land can provide other ecological services, she adds, including  urban agriculture projects and community gardens, natural areas and recreational space for surrounding communities. "Contaminated sites need to be cleaned up but they can have real potential."

"Giving local communities a say is anathema to some planners. But the way you get community to buy into something is if you allow them to have an input. People in these communities have lived with this terrible land for long enough. They should get some of the benefit too,"
she says.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

BEHIND THE FINE SONGS

Everyone knows the Eurovision Song Contest: improbable artists and cheesy folklore. But in 2012, the musical competition, watched by an average 125 million people, will also have an unprecedented political dimension. "Repression, evictions, demolition: three words you don't normally associate with the Eurovision Song Contest. Azerbaijan has bulldozed its capital's centre to make way for the glitzy palace that will house the contest, evicting people and demolishing homes without notice." (Le Monde, 12 April) But behind the glitz lies a darker reality. Azerbaijan is ruled with an iron fist by President Ilham Aliyev, who took over after his father Heydar's death in October 2003. Capitalism has had several forms, royalty, dictatorship and democracy. They all stink! We have nothing to sing about on that night. RD

THE TRASH CAN SOCIETY

We are made aware everyday by the various charities like World Hunger of the perilous conditions of children in Asian and African countries. What is less well known is that children in Britain are going hungry too. One journalist has expressed his horror on learning of the plight of many London kids when it comes to getting enough to eat. "Yet that description - the "S" word, starving - conjures up all sorts of images of IDPs and refugees and aid workers with bags of grain. London?? So they took me to a centre about 3km from Westminster where they feed the kids. In school time they might get lunch; it's the Easter holidays, and without this they'll have NO MEAL AT ALL. The parents are either destitute or dispossessed, or addicts, or some other sort of horror which means the kids often make their own way to the centre (aged three upwards) or if not they root through bins for food. (This I can attest to - I live in Peckham and have seen people at the back of the Iceland supermarket, next to the train station, doing just that)." (Al Jazeera, 13 April) These kids realised that the supermarkets throw away vast amounts of perfectly good food. The UK's supermarkets throw away three million tonnes of food every year. Just because it's past its sell-by date or is a bit bashed up. RD

Monday, April 23, 2012

Food for thought

Not even 'the lord's work' is free from lay-offs. The Billy Graham organization, that only brought in $91.6 million in 2011, announced job cuts owing to a need to emphasize its 'airline ministry and other priorities'. Fifty-five were let go in February but the company said that the move, "...in now way reflects the financial health of the organization...and the Lord will protect."
Russell Hancock, who's Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Group produces an annual State of the Valley report said, "Something has changed here, something fundamental, because the technology we've invented here in Silicon Valley has rendered a whole class of jobs obsolete." In other words, technology can't solve poverty and unemployment.
On March 14, Greg Smith quit his job as a director of Goldwyn-Sachs (GS). He said, "It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off." GS was rescued as part of the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street in 2008-9. If the executives at GS and their partners in crime won't change, there's no hope for the financial system and every reason to believe the experts who say it will crash again soon. There is every reason to work for its abolition.
Recently the New Democratic Party elected a new leader, a former Liberal. That means that while the NDP is led by a former Liberal, the Liberal Party is led by a former NDP provincial premier. Can you spot the difference? John Ayers

BEHIND THE FINE WORDS

The owning class are very fond of lecturing the working class on morals and law- abiding behaviour, but in practice they will do whatever is necessary to protect their wealth. The history of Russia's aluminium wars – a violent contest to control the lucrative business – is due to be replayed in the High Court in London this summer. Mr Deripaska, who is one of the world's richest men,is facing a £1.6 billion legal action from Michael Cherney, an Uzbek-born billionaire living in exile in Israel. "In a candid interview, Mr Deripaska said he paid protection money to criminal gangs. He also built up his own security unit of former KGB agents and Red Army soldiers, as well as paying the local police for protection." (Sunday Telegraph, 22 April) Mr Cherney claims he was a partner in Mr Deripaska's aluminium company, Rusal, but was not paid for his stake. Lawyers acting for Mr Deripaska, who refused to discuss the case in his interview, will paint Mr Cherney as the leader of a crime ring extorting money from him. This is how the owning class behave despite the fine words. RD

GENOCIDE IN THE AMAZON

The advance of capitalism is lauded by its supporters as a civilising influence on previously backward societies, but try telling that to the tribal peoples of the Amazon region. The Awá – with only 355 surviving members, more than 100 of whom have had no contact with the outside world – are teetering on the edge of extinction because of the actions of the logging companies in the region. "But it is not just the loss of the trees that has created a situation so serious that it led a Brazilian judge, José Carlos do Vale Madeira, to describe it as "a real genocide". People are pouring on to the Awá's land, building illegal settlements, running cattle ranches. Hired gunmen – known as pistoleros – are reported to be hunting Awá who have stood in the way of land-grabbers. Members of the tribe describe seeing their families wiped out." (Observer, 22 April) This is civilisation as far as the profit motive system is concerned. RD

Going for a song

Repression, evictions, demolition: three words you don't normally associate with the Eurovision Song Contest. Azerbaijan has bulldozed its capital's center to make way for the glitzy palace that will house the contest, evicting people and demolishing homes without notice.

The song contest, watched by an average 125 million people, has a political dimension. The spotlight will be on Azerbaijan, giving the country a chance to show how modern it has become. Among other things, a magnificent crystal palace that will welcome the contestants and 25,000 spectators was built in record time in the heart of the capital. In order to carry out Baku’s extravagant facelift, national and municipal authorities have neglected the rights of small home-owners. The demolition program began in 2009, but is accelerating as Eurovision approaches. For people who live in the city center, this contest is a tragedy, which will yield nearly 60,000 victims.

Azerbaijan is ruled with an iron fist by President Ilham Aliyev, who took over after his father Heydar’s death in October 2003. Since then, hopes of liberalization have been dashed. Human rights organizations want to make the most of Eurovision to attract international attention to the degradation of individual liberties in the country. In recent months, Amnesty International has taken numerous initiatives to bring attention to the situation –although it did not ask for a boycott of the Eurovision Contest.

The revolutions of the Arab Spring have made the authorities nervous.
"The situation is much worse than it was three or five years ago," says Leila Yunus, President of the Institute for Peace and Democracy. "We are confronted with Soviet and mafia-like attitudes."
On April 8, thousands of protesters answered the call of the opposition and took to the streets in Baku.


http://worldcrunch.com/eurovision-song-contest-not-so-fun-if-you-are-azerbaijani/5066

What makes a Scot?

52 per cent, believe that to be Scottish, people need Scottish parents, while 73 per cent think Scots need to be born in Scotland. 83 per cent believe that people do not need to be white to be Scottish.

The number of Scots feeling “Scottish not British” is at 31 per cent, and those feeling British but not Scottish is 5 per cent. The poll shows that those feeling equally Scottish and British is 37 per cent.

Only 41 per cent of Scots surveyed said the Queen made them feel proud to be Scottish. 55 per cent of Scots said the Queen did not make them feel proud to be Scottish. More Scots, 58 per cent, took a sense of national pride from Billy Connolly.

84 per cent took pride in the Edinburgh Festival and the same proportion said Robbie Burns made them proud to be Scottish.

The Highlands instilled a sense of pride in being Scottish in 96 per cent of respondents, and Ben Nevis also scored highly at 75 per cent.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scots-take-more-pride-in-billy-connolly-than-the-queen-says-survey-1-2250061

the Plight of the Native Americans

The UN is to conduct an investigation into the plight of US Native Americans, led by James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples.

Many of the country's estimated 2.7 million Native Americans live in federally recognised tribal areas which are plagued with unemployment, alcoholism, high suicide rates, and other social problems. Apart from social issues, US Native Americans are involved in near continuous disputes over sovereignty and land rights. Although they were given power over large areas, most of it in the west, their rights are repeatedly challenged by state governments. Most Americans have little contact with those living in the 500-plus tribal areas, except as tourists.

Anaya, a University of Arizona professor of human rights, is originally from New Mexico and is well versed in Native American issues.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/22/un-investigate-us-native-americans

Sunday, April 22, 2012

CLASS IN THE CLASSROOM

Newspapers like to portray themselves as probing into the dark recesses of society and coming up with little known facts, but this news item is hardly one of their "Shock, Horror" revelations. Dr Stephen, a former chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents schools such as Eton and Harrow, writing in the Times Educational Supplement, said "Most fee-paying schools had "put themselves in a very dangerous position". "They are pricing themselves out of the reach of most normal people in the UK," he said. "Even on a salary of more than £50,000, it would be exceptionally hard to afford a place at a boarding school, and even many day schools. The result is that the independent sector is becoming socially exclusive in a way not seen since Victorian times." (Daily Telegraph, 21 April) So rich people who can afford the best of food, clothing and shelter can also afford the best of education! Shock, horror indeed. RD

PREJUDICE AND PROFITS

One of the illusions used by supporters of the Second World War was that it was a war to abolish anti-semitism. This was nonsense as it was a war fought over markets and sources of raw materials, but if it was a war against racism then it has failed badly. "Tee shirts with anti-Semitic slogans are being sold outside the Polish football club, Widzew Lodz, Polskie Radio reported on Thursday. The items have been on sale in a pavilion next to the club's official shop. "This is Widzew terrain, entry to Jews is forbidden," reads the slogan on one Tee shirt. "Curl hunters," referring to the side curls of Chassidic Jews, is written on the other, adopting the age-old anti-Semitic slur. A woman working in the shop told Gazeta Wyborcza daily that such items sell well and make a decent profit, noted Polskie Radio." (Israel National News, 12 April) RD

The Radical's Road in 1820

The Salisbury Crags path at Arthur's Seat is known as the Radical Road but few have little inkling about its origins. The suggestion of putting unemployed weavers, many from the west of Scotland to building the track came from Walter Scott in the aftermath of the abortive 1820 Rising, also called the Radical War.

"Glasgow" at this time, was various small villages and hamlets; places like Bridgeton, Calton and Anderston. In all of these communities the main occupation was weaving, handloom and mill both. The weavers - or at least the handloom weavers - enjoyed traditionally a semi professional status, dictated by the nature of their work. They worked to commission. They could decide upon their own hours of work and could decide upon periods of leisure if they were willing to forego some proportion of their earnings in the short term. In these aspects they had something in common with smiths and wrights and shoemakers, all of whom had similar advantages over wage earners. These groups in a sense formed an aristocracy of labour because such options were open to them. Given that these workers had opportunities for leisure a high proportion were able to read and wanted to debate about what they had read. By the early 1800s they would be discussing the American and French revolutions.

The Insurrection of April 1820, was a week of strikes and unrest. An economic downturn after the Napoleonic Wars ended brought resulted in  workers, particularly weavers in Scotland, seeking action for reform from an uncaring government and from a gentry fearing revolutionary horrors. It was a culmination of earlier protests.The government had persecuted Scottish reformers and agitators such as Thomas Muir, Mealmaker, and Palmer in the 1790's with transportation to the colonies. An underground organisation called the United Scotsmen was formed to campaign for universal male suffrage vote by secret ballot, payment of MPs and annual general elections.  In 1816 some 40,000 people attended a meeting on Glasgow Green to demand more representative government and an end to the Corn laws which kept food prices high. The Peterloo massacre of August 1819 sparked protest demonstrations across Britain including Scotland where a rally in Paisley on 11 September led to a week of rioting and cavalry were used to control around 5,000 "Radicals". Protest meetings were held in Stirling, Airdrie, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire and Fife, mainly in weaving areas.

The event in itself hardly constitutes a major rising, but other isolated disturbances were taking place across West and Central Scotland. However, the government seemed always to be one step ahead of the radicals, with inside knowledge at every step; also, the core organisers had been in jail since March 21st, without public knowledge, and some very suspicious men were acting on their behalf. The theory that the whole event was a plot hatched by agent provocateurs in order to draw the radicals into open battle is difficult to resist.

A Committee of Organisation for Forming a Provisional Government put up placards around the streets of Glasgow on Saturday 1 April, calling for an immediate national strike.Some believe that it was actually issued by the Government agent provocateurs as a means of bringing the radicals out into the open as the leaders of the Committee were already in custody. On Monday 3 April work stopped in a wide area of central Scotland and a small group marched towards the Carron Company ironworks to seize weapons, but while stopped at Bonnymuir they were attacked by Hussars. Another small group from Strathaven marched to meet a rumoured larger force, but were warned of an ambush and dispersed. Militia taking prisoners to Greenock jail were attacked by local people and the prisoners released. James Wilson of Strathaven was singled out as a leader of the march there, and at Glasgow was executed by hanging, then decapitated. Of those seized by the British army at Bonnymuir, John Baird and Andrew Hardie were similarly executed at Stirling after making short defiant speeches. Twenty other Radicals were sentenced to penal transportation.

To some, the whole episode may appear minor and of little historical importance. The rising had been doomed from the outset. However, the rising must seen in the context of reformist, radical and revolutionary traditions. Ordinary people from all over an increasingly industrial Scotland had been inspired to rise and overthrow the state in order to secure their rights and better working conditions. The 1820 Rising must be seen as a prototype of the mass movements that would gather under the Chartist or socialist banners later in the century

Saturday, April 21, 2012

THE GAP WIDEN


Mumbai property
Some recent figures showing the gap between the working class and the owning class were revealed in chart form. They show that the average Indian worker would need to work for three centuries to pay for a luxury home in Mumbai, making that city the least affordable in the world for locals, according to an analysis of real estate and wages. "The CHART OF THE DAY shows a 100-square-meter luxury residence in Mumbai costs about $1.14 million, or 308 times the average annual income in India, based on calculations from a housing index compiled using 63 markets by Knight Frank LLP and income estimates of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency for purchasing-power parity in 2011. Shanghai buyers would need 233 times the per-capita income in China and Moscow inhabitants 144 times Russian earnings. Singapore and New York homebuyers would need 43 years and 48 years, respectively, for equivalent residences using national income averages, the data show." (Bloomberg, 10 April) During the 48 years the New York worker would have to toil to purchase a luxury home he would have to spend nothing on food or clothing. In London he would have to work for 136 years! RD

WAGE SLAVERY IN THE USA


The Washington Post writer Brian Fung has recently come up with some interesting statistics about work in the USA."Welcome to the future of work: a world where everything moves faster, the hours are longer and steady jobs are harder to find. Work has always been central to our lives -- in the United States, the 40-hour workweek stretches back at least a century -- but now, technology and the pressure of competing in a global economy is threatening to turn back the clock, making our toil an all-consuming affair once again. Studies show that we're more productive than ever. American output has tripled since 1947, according to the U.S. Census Bureau." (The Atlantic, 11 April) Workers in the USA are three times more productive than they were sixty five years ago but now find they have to work harder and longer with less security of tenure. No wonder the owning class of America is getting richer and richer. RD

A HOLIDAY SUGGESTION

It is coming near to that time of the year when many workers are planning a get-away-from-it- all holiday. Socialist ever helpful to our fellow wage slaves have dug up this little suggestion for you. How about a week in the Caribbean this year? According to the Daily Telegraph Travel site (20 May) you can book Sir Richard Branson's Petit St. Vincent house for a mere £263,000 per week. Tempted? RD

Friday, April 20, 2012

who owns the North Pole - Part 45

China continues its interest in staking its claim to the Arctic's natural resources.

China's premier Wen Jiabao landed in Iceland on Friday to begin a tour of northern Europe that will focus on Chinese investment in a continent eager for funds from the fast-growing Asian power.

But by starting with a full-scale visit to Iceland, he has fueled European concern that China might be trying to exploit the country's economic troubles to gain a strategic foothold in the North Atlantic and Arctic region. The area has big reserves of oil, gas, gold, diamonds, zinc and iron. And with global warming melting polar ice, it may offer world powers new shipping routes - and naval interests - for the trade between Asia, Europe and America's east coast.

"When it comes to the Arctic, we always have China on our mind," said one European diplomat from the Nordic region, who spoke to Reuters this week on condition of anonymity.

"Given China's investment pattern around the globe, people have asked questions. Why are doing this? Is there some ulterior motive?" said Embla Eir Oddsdottir at the Stefansson Arctic Institute. "For next decade they are going to be battling some sort of suspicion as to their motive, because people have a tendency to link them to some type of regime."

Many expect China to raise the issue of gaining observer status in the Arctic Council, which comprises Canada, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United States and Denmark, all of them nations with territory inside the Arctic Circle. With ice receding faster than many had expected, some estimates suggest the polar ice cap might disappear completely during the summer season as soon as 2040, perhaps much earlier. That could slash the journey time from Europe and the east coast of North America to Chinese and Japanese ports by well over a week, possibly taking traffic from the southern Suez Canal route.

"These are pretty big stakes," Oddsdottir of the Stefansson Institute in Iceland said. "I wonder if under the surface the race is already there, to gain a foothold in the Arctic."

http://news.yahoo.com/chinas-wen-visits-iceland-eyes-arctic-riches-113845730.html

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