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Showing posts from December, 2006

From the Archives - Debate with the I.S.

This is a report of a debate between the SPGB and the International Socialists ( now the Socialist Workers Party ) that took place in Edinburgh in 1970 to an audience of 70 . Whereas , the principles of the Socialist Party has remained steadfast , we can see that the opportunism of the SWP has also remained consistent . Whereas , we still await the rise of socialist consciousness within the working class , the SWP are still waiting for that mythical revolutionary situation to arise . They seek it here , they seek it there , they seek it everywhere .
In contrast , the Socialist Party of Great Britain , as a party of socialists , as a party for socialism , will continue with the distinct unrelenting task of education , agitation and organisation for socialism and nothing but socialism .

Speakers for the SPGB were Jim Fleming and Vic Vanni from Glasgow branch . For the IS the speakers were S. Jeffries and B. Lavery . There was no objections raised by the IS to the report .

Comrade Fleming

Climate Change

Climate Change (this is the text of a leaflet distributed recently.)
The Market System Must Go

"Climate change presents a unique challenge to economics: it is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen".

So confirms government adviser, Sir Nicholas Stern, in his report on the Economics of Climate Change published earlier this week. Only instead of concluding that the market system must go he wants to give it a second chance through "green taxes" and especially "carbon trading" (trading in permits to emit carbon dioxide).

But "green taxes" and "carbon trading" are not the solution. These are just tinkering with the market system whereas if carbon emissions are to be stabilised and the consequences of global warming tackled effectively it is the whole market system of competitive production for profit that must go. It has to be replaced by a world without frontiers where the Earth’s natural and industrial resources have bec…

That's Rich

Continuing our seemingly never-ending posts on those of the capitalist class who have never had it so good , The Herald reports that 15 chief executives earned a basic salary and benefits package of £1million or more in the latest financial year .
Top of the list for the third year running is private Aberdeen housebuilder Stewart Milne. £200,000-a-week package, half of which comprised pension contributions . Then there is
Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, on £3.9million a year .
I won't depress you with the full list .

The TUC reports , the total remuneration for directors of FTSE top 100 companies has gone up by 105 per cent more than the cost of living and has increased 17 times faster than average pay .
In addition , directors of the UK's top 100 companies have amassed pensions worth nearly £1 billion between them . On average they can retire at 60 on a final salary pension worth nearly £3 million. The largest directors' pension in each comp…


When the Scottish Parliament was formed, enthusiasts looked forward to a bright future. History has proven how hollow these aspirations were. Scotland since the advent of the Hollyrood Parliament has still all the same social problems, indeed some of them have grown worse. "The use of cocaine and crack cocaine in Scotland has almost trebled in the past five years, according to new figures. Scottish Executive statistics showed that of the drug users seeking help for their problem last year, 1,250 were using cocaine, up from 982 a year earlier and more than double the number (549) in 2001-02. Those using crack cocaine rose sharply from 190 people five years ago to 484 in 2005-06." (Times, 20 December) RD

Don't go down in the woods today!

I have watched some cooking programs where the Italian cook demonstrates the variety of mushrooms that are available in the woodlands around Britain. He claims it is common practice at certain times of the year to collect them and serve them in his restaurant. Jars of stored mushrooms are shown. The flavours and methods of cooking are discussed.
Some would think this a harmless pursuit, mushroom collection.
Not if a caretaker of the landlord’s estate reports you.
Keen jam-maker and OAP, Ian Blayney, was accused of theft after a wild fruit-picking trip during September.
I felt like a serious criminal, he said, according to the Sunday Mail 24th December 25.
In a private property society it doesn’t take much to criminalize a citizen. The government say the jails are crowded. The court cases piling up. The police under funded.
Fining, Tagging, imprisonment will always be with us in a private property society.A common ownership society will see the end of jails and courts, you ask, who i…

The Alternative Queen's Speech

I'm speaking to you today from Sandringham - or is it Balmoral? No matter, it's one of the big houses or palaces I own and every Christmas Day I intrude on what enjoyment you might be having to foist a boring speech on you which is supposed to strike a thoughtful, humane note among the celebrations. I'm sitting in a sort of study and behind me is a window which opens onto the lush estate where my house stands.

I own these places because I’m a very rich woman – I’m worth about £250 million(1). Although I was born into this wealth and have never known what it is like to be poor, I shall be talking to you as if I’m the sort of ordinary, everyday grandmother you're likely to have a chat with in the bus queue or the doctor's waiting room or at the supermarket check-out. Except that I am the mother of the nation (for my recent ancestors it was of the Empire) unless Sharon Osborne manages to take that bit over as well. So for this broadcast I compose my face into this mate…

Single Mums - Capitalist Style

The Daily Telegraph today tells us of a paternity settlement .

A businessman whose girlfriend gave birth to their son after a relationship five years ago has been ordered by the High Court to spend £2 million on buying a house for the boy and his mother in Bayswater, central London.
The father, said to have been worth £100 million in 2002, had argued that £800,000 would have been enough to buy a property in a cheaper part of the capital. But District Judge Million, whose ruling this month has just been released, stressed that "the area within London W2 should avoid properties where social problems may make the location less attractive

The judge refused to approve the mother's claim for £48,000 , the cost of her BMW 4x4 but thought that £30,000 "would have given a wide enough choice of good-quality cars suitable for the mother and child and, if necessary, any au-pair or nanny".

Certain single mums just don't end up in the council housing schemes or living on benefit …

Old and Forgotten - and Starving

The Scotsman reports more than 750,000 pensioners risk being left to starve in British hospitals because they are not properly fed . Age Concern said elderly patients were often abandoned with nothing to eat or given the wrong kind of food. It claimed some patients were too weak to feed themselves and in other cases food was out of their reach .

Gordon Lishman, Age Concern director-general, said: "The reality for many older patients is that they are at risk of malnutrition while they are in hospital...The prevalence of malnutrition in older patients is a disgrace. Being denied basic care should not be something which is overlooked on any ward. It puts health at risk and means longer stays in hospital."

Pauline Ford at the Royal College of Nursing said: "It's unacceptable if elderly patients are not getting the help they need to eat and drink."

The Scotsman previously reported death rates from malnutrition in Scotland continue to rise, with 105 death certificates…

"Its a wonderful world" - for some

The Independent On Sunday today carries a report about the wealthy in the UK .

According to Tulip Financial Research, Britain has some 135,000 "high-net-worth" individuals, with liquid assets averaging £6.4millions . They are described as HNWs. People with tens of millions are UHNWs: ultra-high-net-worths.

Forbes magazine declared London to be the official billionaire's playground of the Western world, with 23 dollar billionaires .

The chef's table at Claridges, run by Gordon Ramsay, is the holy grail of the expense-account blowout - and it's booked up well into next year.
"It seats up to six, and the minimum spend is £550," says a spokesman. "Most bills are nudging £1,000 because they go for pretty decent wines. It's flying, though, as the place for City boys to celebrate or entertain clients. Things have never been better."

Stratstones of Mayfair, an Aston Martin dealership, report a six-month waiting list. "For some customers, it's…

Pawnshops and Banks are they helping you?

East Kilbride’s Prince’s Mall has a pawnshop; very plush, clean and lined with trays of jewellery, brightly lit, not like the pawnshops I remember as a boy, where mum would scold you if you tried to look around the barriers to see who was in the next cubicle.
The rates are not cheap in Prince’s Mall and shops are opening and closing all the time. So what was business like. A notice at the entrance informed me that if I could demonstrate I was a victim of the Farepak scam, I could be assisted by an exclusive 80-day offer, which could amount to £1000.
The conditions were that I deposit any valuables, jewellery preferably, they would lend me money on this and provided I paid back the money before the 80 days were up, the loan would be interest free and the goods would be returned.
I leave you to work out the pitfalls of this scheme and make the point that workers were saving, I believe, to avoid getting into debt. Is this not what they are asked to do? Save for your old age! Could this be b…

Corruption inquiry into £6bn Saudi arms deal dropped

This was in the Scotsman today and Wee Matt's comments below was posted up.
Yes well, the Scotsman,as scummilly establishment, as all the other newspapers, doesn't have this on the front page either.Its water everywhere,Diana Parasite Doolittle's inquest,who gives a toss,and a nice wee Xmas story,funny how the poor are rediscovered at Xmas.The UK is one of the biggest arms dealers in the world after the US.They are as perfidious and shabby as any arms dealers.If you are going to have capitalism you will have arms being produced for sale with a view of making a profit.'twas ever thus.It is not a cop-out to say we won't work for fighter aircraft producers,any more than it is a cop-out to refuse to take part in the army or other services', slaughter of fellow/sister workers under any circumstances.Workers of all countries.and none, have nothing in common with employers of any country, including their own.Their interest lies in making common cause with workers all o…

Liar , Liar ...Pants on Fire

When a senior civil servant , a member of the Senior Management Structure of the Foreign Office and First Secretary in the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York from December 1997 until June 2002 disputes all that the Prime Minister claimed for justifications for the Iraq War people should listen . In fact , people should know , yet this evidence until now was kept secret . The Independent carries his statement which has now been published by the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs .

Carne Ross, one of Britain's key negotiators at the UN , alleges it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq :

That any potential military threat from Saddam Hussein's had been "effectively contained". Iraq's ability to launch a WMD or any form of attack was very limited. There were approx 12 or so at the time unaccounted-for Scud missiles; Iraq's airforce was depleted to the point of total ineffectiveness; its army was but a pale shadow …

Being Taken to the Cleaners

Goldman Sachs is to pay its staff more than £8bn in salaries, benefits and Christmas bonuses this year. The handout follows another bumper year of profits for the US investment bank. Staff worldwide could expect to receive an average of £320,000 this year . Not bad at all for some .

But for the others - It's not too good .

Some 120 cleaners - who clean the Goldman Sachs London offices - campaign for Justice for Cleaners , to give every cleaner in the City of London a decent wage , sick pay, a pension, 20 days' holiday and bank holidays, as well as collective bargaining through the union.

The 120 cleaners employed by Mitie , a contractor, say their numbers have been cut but their workload has not. They are asking for a rise to a London living wage of £7.05 an hour from the presnt wage-rate of about £5.35 .

WAITING FOR SANITY(Or, "There isn't ant Sanity Clause.")

The following was written in 1935 by the noted humorist for The New Yorker S.J. Perelman (who, you may remember, also wrote scripts for the Marx Brothers, like "Horse Feathers" and "Monkey Business") -- and I thought sending you this forgotten
gem of Perelman's an appropriate way to mark the annual celebrations by the goyim of the birth of the foot-fetishist from Nazareth. And a merry Bah! Humbug! to you all, with best wishes for the new year.


A CHRISTMAS PLAYLET (With a Bow to Mr. Clifford Odets)

SCENE: The sweatshop of S. Claus, a manufacturer of children's toys,
on North Pole Street. Time: The night before Christmas. At rise, seven gnomes, Rankin, Panken, Rivkin, Riskin, Ruskin,Briskin, and Praskin, are discovered working furiously to fill orders piling up at stage right. The whir of lathes, the hum of motors,and the hiss of drying lacquer are so deafening that at times the dialogue cannot beheard, which is very vexing if you vex easily.


Prison Blues

In a recent Scotsman article it is estimated that the Scottish prison population will reach American-type proportions . Prof Coyle, head of prison studies at Kings College in London, said Britain was "ten to 15 years behind the US", which he said was already using prisons as a quasi-welfare state. America has a prisoner rate of 738 per 100,000 head of population, nearly six times more than Scotland's rate of 139 per 100,000.
Presently standing at around 7,200 people prison service estimates that the number could hit 10,000 within the next decade but Professor Andrew Coyle, a former governor of Peterhead and Shotts prisons, yesterday said that if courts keep sending mentally ill people, along with offenders whose crimes arise from drug and alcohol addictions, to prison, Scotland could end up with a prison population as high as 35,000.

He notes that seven out of ten prisoners in Scotland have mental health problems, with seven per cent displaying "psychotic elements&qu…


Off the ball
Monday 4th December the football show hosted by Tam Cowan had for one of his guests George Galloway; the week previous he had Tommy Sheridan as a guest, George confessed he was a very good friend of Tommy.

The hilarity of the situations, both George and Tommy provided for Tam Cowan ensured a great night for the audience. Galloway was asked what was the one thing over and above everything else he would like done in the very unlikely scenario of him getting power.

This would be free meals in school for every child: a proposition well applauded by the audience. This indicated to me George knew this was a vote catcher.

Are socialists against children having a free meal?

George seeks power to administer capitalism and reforms like a free meal are among the many he supports. Reformism, within the Market System is what George is propagating as a solution to working class problems; he is off the ball because, Reformism doesn’t work. There have been many reforms to the capitalist syste…

Workers of the World Unite

The BBC reports that textile workers in Bangladesh get paid as little as five pence an hour and the mainly female workers regularly spend 80 hours per week in "potential death trap" factories, according to anti-poverty group War On Want to make cheap clothes for UK companies Tesco, Asda and Primark.
Starting wages at the factories were as little as £8 a month, barely one third of the living wage in Bangladesh. War On Want added that wages rose to £16 per month for better-paid sewing machine operators, but that some workers spent up to 96 hours per week in the factories without even a day a week off.

"Bargain retailers such as Primark, Asda and Tesco are only able to sell at rock bottom prices in the UK because women workers in Bangladesh are being exploited," said War on Want chief executive Louise Richards. "The companies are not even living up to their own commitments towards their overseas suppliers."

But the working class don't take exploitation lyi…

Pension Theft

A previous blog mentioned how the Clydesdale bank got a boost to their profits by cutting their employees pension entitlements . The Herald today reports that other companies have now gotten the same idea .

Standard Life recently commenced a 90-day consultation period with staff . The company's pensions working group has recommended to the board, led by chairman Sir Brian Stewart and chief executive Sandy Crombie, that it also adopt a career-average salary rather than its more beneficial pension scheme of "final-salary".
Stewart is reported in 2003 to be on a salary of £906,753 , and what it is now , who knows .
It is also nice to learn that Crombie earned £1.36m last year, including a bonus of £686,000 and that his pension jack-pot is worth £8.3m.
It's clear to say that neither in their old age will be scrimping and saving to pay their council tax and heating bills .

Meanwhile , another institution to have moved staff from final salary to career average pensions is the C…

Good News for a change ?

Good News for a change ?

If you were to Google search for "migrant workers" or "East Europeans", on the Scotsman or BBC websites you will find a lot of disgusting racist emphasis on incoming workers to the U.K.

Scare stories abound about "our jobs" being under threat from fellow workers .The newspapers and media are full of loaded information telling us about this problem.
In the workplace derogatory comments about the incomers being "white Pakis",are not uncommon,indicators of prejudice,and antipathy which seems to know no bounds.

There is no question that the capitalist class will use every trick in their sordid book of tricks to drive down labour costs,but trade unionists, never mind socialists, should be alive to this and alert to the solution,in the short term,the class struggle, which is to make common cause with their fellow workers, taking on the employers and confounding their tricks.

Instead of spinelessly castigating their fellow work…

A nice little nest-egg for some

Are the press stories never ending about capitalists feather-bedding themselves ?

Yet again , The Herald reports and further to our earlier post , the Stagecoach owners , Brian Souter and Ann Gloag are preparing for a £104m pay day after the company disclosed plans to hand at least £400m of surplus cash back to investors. Souter, the chief executive who owns 15% of the company, will get £60m and Gloag, who has 11%, £44m. The windfall is their second in two years. In 2004 they divided £65m through the issue of a special class of shares which saw £250m returned to investors.

And for Stagecoach workers ??

Stagecoach shut its final salary pension scheme to all new staff members because of a funding shortfall in the scheme that stood at £103m at October 31 . Existing staff remaining in the scheme will be paying higher company pension contributions out of their wages .

And while we are talking about pension funds .

The Herald , also carries the story that by cutting staff pension benefits enable…

Legal Eagles ( Vultures )

Continuing our series of "some have it cushy" , the Herald reports that partners at Scottish law firm McGrigors pocketed an average £40,000 pay rise last year, taking the typical annual package to almost £300,000.
Benefits for the firm's 650 other staff, including 350 non-partner lawyers, were more modest, with 14% of overall profit set aside for staff bonuses. That was equivalent to an average bonus of about £3000.
The firm acted in the Highland schools PFI programme. The £130m joint venture between Morrison Construction and Noble/3i was one of the largest education sector projects to close in the year.It also won a tender to provide legal advice to the North Solihull regeneration project, one of the largest in the UK, worth £1.8bn over the next 15 years. And the firm acted for Scotland-based oil company, Cairn Energy in negotiating its $1bn revolving finance facility with a syndicate of international commercial banks led by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Capitalism proves ri…

Stoned in Iran

It's reported that currently, in Iran there are nine women sentenced to death by stoning on charges of adultery, compared to two men for the same offence . Most women sentenced to stoning are those found guilty of being accomplices in the murders of their husbands. In a few cases married women have been found guilty of prostitution . Women , if not married and found guilty of illicit sex, are sentenced to lashes the first three times. A fourth occasion can lead to the death penalty as happened to Atefeh Sahaleh, a 16-year-old girl from Neka in Northern Iran who was hanged in August 2004.

Iran made a verbal pledge to the European Union to stop stoning more than a decade ago and there was a moratorium by the Chief Justice, in December 2002, on execution by stoning. But there are reports by eye witnesses of the secret stoning of Zahra Gholami in Tehran's Evin prison in 1999. News of the stoning of a man, Abbas, and a woman, Mahboubeh, in the north-eastern city of Mashad, in May, h…

They are even richer than I thought.

The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of all household wealth, according to a new study by a United Nations research institute.

But what is new about this report, the authors say, is its coverage.
It deals with all countries in the world - either actual data or estimates based on statistical analysis - and it deals with wealth, where most previous research has looked at income. What they mean by wealth in this study is what people own, less what they owe - their debts. The assets include land, buildings, animals and financial assets.

Building Profits

The Herald reports a company boss has paid himself an £18m dividend while he takes a year out from business. An employee at Front Line said Mr Ward had "semi-retired" and was taking a year out. He was expected to return next April to serve another six months before "finishing up".
John Ward , now one of Scotland's richest men with the pay-out, which came as he prepared to hand over the reins at Front Line Construction , owns 99% of the shares in Front Line, which was formed in June 1979. He will have received the vast bulk of the special dividend of £17,988,950 which the accounts show was paid to shareholders on April 6, the first day of the current tax year. A further £396,535 was paid later in the month, mostly in non-cash assets.

The Herald also mentions in the same article as an aside that Stewart Milne became the highest-paid director in Scotland last year when he drew a £5m salary from his Aberdeen-based building firm.

Nice to know that when Shelter reports …

Not too taxing for the rich

The Sunday Times commissioned Grant Thornton, the accountancy firm, to calculate the scale of legal tax avoidance by the country’s wealthiest people.

UK billionaires paid income tax totalling just £14.7million on their £126 BILLION combined fortunes, and only a handful paid any capital gains tax. - and the bulk was paid by just one man , £9m of the £14.7m from James Dyson, the inventor , worth £1,050m

Out of the 54 billionaires in The Sunday Times Rich List , 32 of the individual billionaires or family groupings are calculated not to have paid any personal taxes on their fortunes .

Of the 22 billionaires who paid tax, this was mostly on share dividends paid by their companies. The wealthy usually choose to pay themselves in dividends rather than with a conventional salary — as the tax on dividends is at an effective rate of 25% rather than the 40% higher rate of income tax.

42 of the 54 billionaires make use of havens such as the Channel Islands, Switzerland and the Caribbean . Sir Rich…

The Keir Hardie Myth

I note from the BBC that a memorial to one of the the founders of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie, has been unveiled in his former constituency . And the unveiler of the bronze bust was no other than that pro-Iraqi War- propagandist Ann Clywd MP .
One shouldn't be so surprised because the real facts of Keir Hardie's supposed principled stand against the slaughter of World War One is not all that what one has been led to believe as this article in the Socialist Standard from 1961 reveals .

The Keir Hardie myth

The myth about Keir Hardie's attitude to war is very persistent. At an anti-Polaris rally in Glasgow last December, the Co-operative Movement representative had only to refer to him, ". . . if we could get Keir Hardie here. . ." to have his words drowned by applause. Whatever the sentiments of the audience may have been, it was certainly in error about Hardie's attitude to war.

In 1914, with the Great War drawing near, the Second International called for "…

The Last Conflict

Now for some shameless plugging of a comrade's book .

The Last Conflict by Pieter Lawrence, Booksurge, 2006

One of the more pleasing aspects of the last couple of decades of socialist activity has been the proliferation of books written by socialists, previously quite a rare phenomenon. Almost all of these books have been non-fiction, either putting the case for socialism directly or else discussing the socialist movement itself. This book, by long-standing Socialist Party member Pieter Lawrence, is somewhat different. It is a work of fiction – and an interesting one too, in that while it is a gripping political novel set in Britain it doesn’t mention any political parties, and introduces the idea of socialism without ever explicitly identifying it as such.

Without giving too much away to future readers, it is about how a British government beset by economic difficulties and strikes handles a political crisis of a different sort – emerging news of a large comet that is heading towar…