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Showing posts from October, 2008

40 years of Shelter

Shelter , the campaign organisation which was formed to combat homelessness commemerates its 40th anniversary . 40 years on and still they concede that homelessness is a problem thats not been solved by reforms and legislation .

"I think it would be fair to say this: there was a housing crisis in 1966-1968 when Shelter Scotland was founded and we have today, sadly, a housing crisisof a different nature, but one which impacts on people's lives in really quite harmful ways...." Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland conceded .

As William Morris once wrote "The palliatives over which many worthy people are busying themselves now are useless because they are but unorganised partial revolts against a vast, wide-spreading, grasping organisation which will, with the unconscious instinct of a plant, meet every attempt at bettering the conditions of the people with an attack on a fresh side."

According to the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which said 11,054 homes…

Nothing like a wee job

ScotlandStatistics of occupational ill health, safety and enforcement
Rate of self-reported ill health prevalence per 100 000 people employed in the last 12 months, 2007/08 (LFS) - 4200Rate of reportable injury per 100 000 workers, 2006/07 (LFS, averaged) - 1000Number of fatal injuries to workers in 2007/08p (RIDDOR) - 32Number of major injuries to employees in 2007/08p (RIDDOR) – 2 721Offences prosecuted by HSE, 2007/08 - 140Offences prosecuted by local authorities, 2007/08 - 10


"Once it was the Greeks who commanded the best boats. Aristole Onasis's yacht, Christina O, hosted Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Eva Peron and Sir Winston Churchill who were all photographed on board. Then the Arabs became involved. Ten years ago, Diana, Princess of Wales, was photographed sunbathing on Mohamed Al Fayed's yacht the weekend before she died. But in the past five years the Russians have turned it into a different league. Your bog-standard super yacht now costs between £40 and £70 million depending on the interior specification. The running costs tend to be about £5 million a year for the bigger vessels." (Times, 23 October) RD


"It's the smell I remember. Shahnaz's face -- what was left of it -- reeked of a day old barbeque, left out in the rain. Her flesh was a mess of charred meat: her skin, the soft flesh of her cheeks, and the bones beneath had been burned away. Her nose was gone. Her lips hung down over her chin like melted wax. Her left eyelid couldn't close, so it watered all the time in an endless stream of tears. Shahnaz -- who was 21 years old -- had been punished by having acid thrown in her face. Her crime was to be a Muslim woman who wanted to be treated as equal to a man. Shahnaz loved education -- especially science, and poetry. But when she got married -- at the insistence of her family -- her husband ordered her to stop schooling and start breeding. "You are a woman, that is your only job," he said. But she refused. She wanted to work for herself, and enrich her mind. So she kept going to school, despite his beatings and ragings and threats. So one day her husband …


The world is on the brink of an avalanche in the spread of devastating weaponry, a new global non-proliferation group warned Tuesday, saying that a nuclear incident would dwarf the September 11 attacks. The Middle East, particularly Iran, is a potential tipping point, according to Gareth Evans, co-chair of the newly formed International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. Evans, a former Australia foreign minister, said the world had been "sleepwalking" on the issue of atomic weapons for a decade. "The devastation that could be wreaked by one major nuclear weapons incident alone puts 9/11 and almost everything else (in) to the category of the insignificant," he said, referring to the attacks inflicted on the United States in 2001. ...Evans told reporters there were between 13,000 and 16,000 nuclear warheads actively deployed around the world and that it was "really a bit of a miracle" that a nuclear catastrophe had not occurred during…


"The housing crisis still has a choke hold on America: In September, 81,312 homes were lost to foreclosure, according to a report released Thursday. RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties, said that 851,000 homes have been repossessed by lenders since August 2007. In September, 265,968 troubled borrowers received foreclosure filings - such as default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions. That's a decline of 12% from the record high number of filings in August, but 21% more than in September 2007." (, 23 October) RD


"The growing financial crisis is a double whammy for police in many U.S. cities: They face budget cuts as they brace for an expected surge in burglaries, thefts and robberies. "Police departments are going to have do more with less," said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, a national law enforcement association based in Washington. "I expect police budgets for the foreseeable future to be flat or decline. That will mean less ability to put officers on extended tours and overtime during peak crime hours; it might mean deferring hiring officers for the future," he said. Although there has long been debate over the connection between crime and the economy, most of the criminologists, sociologists and police chiefs interviewed by Reuters forecast a rise in crimes in certain categories in the coming months as the United States heads deeper into recession territory. Crime has increased during every recession since the late 1950s, said Richard Rosen…


"The ranks of low-wage working families increased by 350,000 between 2002 and 2006, raising their numbers to nearly 9.6 million, or more than one in four of the nation's working families with children. The report by the Working Poor Families Project, an advocacy group that analyzed census data, defined low-wage families as those earning less than double the poverty rate. For a family of four, that would have been an annual income of $41,228 or less in 2006. The report's author, Brandon G. Roberts, attributed the increase to the growth in low-paying jobs, from health-care aides to cashiers, that form an increasing share of the nation's service-based economy. Many of those families struggle to pay for basics, such as health care, food and housing, a battle that Roberts said has grown more acute in the past two years as the economy has stagnated. "The stark reality is that too many American families have been in economic crisis long before this year," said Robe…


"For as long as man has worshipped a god, there have been forgers, crafty hucksters who seize on a believer's desire to possess material proof of the divine. In Jerusalem, it is a bountiful trade. The old adage is that if all the splinters of the True Cross were gathered from across Christendom, it would yield a wooden crucifix the size of a Manhattan skyscraper. Even back in the Middle Ages, pilgrims visiting Jerusalem told of hawkers who sold counterfeit bones and relics of saints. But indisputable historical evidence that Jesus Christ, or any of the other Biblical prophets, truly existed is something that eludes religious scholars. There was therefore much excitement in 2001 when a reclusive Tel Aviv collector, Oded Golan, announced that a stone reliquary had come into his possession inscribed with the words "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." The discovery of the ossuary was hailed in some quarters as a spectacular archaeological find — solidly circumstant…


France's former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua arrives at a Paris courthouse
for the opening of a trial over a vast France-Angola arms scandal that involves
the son of late French President François Mitterrand and dozens of businessmen,
politicians and public figures

A recent issue of the magazine TIME (14 October) highlighted the immense profits to be made in capitalism even in a trade recession. " Need to start a war? No problem. While stock markets grate and financial institutions (and even whole countries, like Iceland) teeter on bankruptcy, one global industry is still drawing plenty of high-end trades and profits: weapons."
The article reported the case in a Paris courtroom where 42 officials went on trial for taking millions in kickbacks and organising huge arms commissions from the Angolan government during the mid-1990s. This group, which included a former French Interior minister and the son of the late French President Mitterand, were charged with having supplied…


"Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Thursday that God blessed the nation with oil and gas resources and other forms of energy that should be tapped to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign suppliers. The Alaska governor told supporters at Elon University that she and GOP presidential nominee John McCain will develop new energy sources. "God has so richly blessed this land, not just with the oil and the gas, but with wind and the hydro, the geothermal and the biomass," Palin said. "We'll tap into those." Palin said some of the countries the U.S. relies on for energy use their resources "as a weapon." And she said the billions spent each year on oil imports should be circulated within the country "for the sake of the nation's security." "We need to drill here and drill now," Palin said as the crowd chanted "drill baby, drill." (Washington Times, 16 October) RD


"The number of British military personnel discharged from the armed forces following a “nervous breakdown” has risen by 30 per cent since the start of the Afghan war. More than 1, 3000 have been medically discharged since 2001 when operation first began against the Taliban, new figures revealed. Of these, 770 belong to the army, which has borne the brunt of overseas operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...The rising numbers of service personnel leaving for psychological reasons will fuel concerns that thousands of soldiers face being traumatised by their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Health charities claim that as many as one in 10 soldiers will develop a mental health problem from the horrors of combat." (Observer, 19 October) RD


A judge has thrown out a Nebraska legislator's lawsuit against God, saying the Almighty wasn't properly served due to his unlisted home address. State Sen. Ernie Chambers filed the lawsuit last year seeking a permanent injunction against God. He said God has made terroristic threats against the senator and his constituents in Omaha, inspired fear and caused "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants." Chambers has said he filed the lawsuit to make the point that everyone should have access to the courts regardless of whether they are rich or poor. On Tuesday, however, Douglas County District Court Judge Marlon Polk ruled that under state law a plaintiff must have access to the defendant for a lawsuit to move forward."
(Associated Press, 15 October) Charles Dickens had Mr Bumble declare "the law is an ass - a idiot". If he was alive today perhaps Dickens would have declared US senators and ju…


Mr Brown blames the unregulated stock dealers, Mr Cameron blames Mr Brown and socialists blame the slump/boom cycle of capitalism, but here is someone with yet another explanation.
"From his base in India's financial capital Mumbai, Raj Kumar Sharma has been tracking the turbulence in the world stock markets and has come to one firm conclusion -- it was written in the stars. As an astro-finance specialist, he has made a career on predicting whether the Bombay Stock Exchange, Nasdaq, Dow Jones or FTSE-100 will go up or down by studying favourable or unfavourable planetary alignments. Where many blame banks overstretching themselves or inadequate financial controls and policy, Sharma sees a clash between fiery Saturn and its arch enemy Leo as a key factor in the recent financial turmoil. "Leo is the sign of the sun and the sun is the father in Indian astrology," he told AFP. "But the son (Saturn) and his father (the sun) don't get along, so whenever they are s…


"The economic crisis could help the military recruit and retain troops, Pentagon officials said Friday, potentially ending years of extraordinary bonuses and waivers that have become necessary to keep enough troops to fight two wars. "We do benefit when things look less positive in civil society," said David S.C. Chu , undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness." (Yahoo News, 10 October) RD


"Presciently, the high-end Japanese bathroom-fixtures manufacturer Toto chose a time when the economy is circling the drain to launch its newest product - a $5,000 commode with a super-efficient flush. The Neorest 550 seems at first a senseless money tank, but at a swellegant downtown New York City launch party last week, the press and interested parties were almost persuaded that this fixture is more than a very dear john - if used right, it's good for the environment and it could even save you money. How? Consider the following. You'll save on toilet paper. Go ahead, toss the tissue. You're not getting your hands anywhere near your netherlands. The Neorest does it all for you: It offers a squirt of water in the rear, a squirt of water in the front, a squirt of water that pulses or a gentler stream for tough days. You can adjust pressure and direction from the comfort of your seat. Then there's a down under blow drier. No wonder the manufacturers prefer the term …


"In These Grim Economic Times, Here's A Gamble That's Tough To Resist. Cartier's Handsome Poker Case, Made Of Sycamore Wood And Decorated With Red And Black Marquetry, Comes With 360 Chips In Five Different Colours, Five Dice And Two Decks Of Cartier Cards. Place Your Bets; There's Already A Waiting List, Despite The $10,100 Price Tag."
(Newsweek, 13 October) RD


"Robert Tchenguiz, the property entrepreneur, lost £1bn in just 24 hours after being forced to offload his stakes in J Sainsbury and Mitchell & Butlers as the fallout of the Icelandic banking crisis hit corporate UK. Mr Tchenguiz lost up to £600m on the sale of a 10 per cent holding in Britain’s third-biggest supermarket chain and about another £400m on his exit from the pub company, making the entrepreneur one of the biggest individual casualties of the credit crunch in the UK. He was said to be taking a philosophical approach to his losses." ( Financial Times, 8 October)
When I was a kid my mother read me the riot act about foolishly spending two shillings (20p) on the Grand National horse race. My mother and I were less than philosophical, but then unlike Mr Tchengiiz we were members of the working class. Lost £1 billion ? I shudder to think what my old lady would have said. RD


Outside in the streets of New York you may be asked by some homeless worker for change, but not everybody in that city is finding capitalism a harsh society. "One of the quietest, most private rooms around is the discreetly deluxe Ty Warner Suite, which literally looks down on Manhattan from the 52nd story of the 52-story Four Seasons Hotel at 57 East 57th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues. With its travertine floors, grand piano, health spa and remote-controlled bidet, it is uncontested as the city’s most expensive temporary rental, clocking in at a Bolshevik Revolution-producing price of $30,000 a night."
(New York Times, 6 October) RD


"The Russian government will start buying stocks next week, spending billions to help prop up stricken markets, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Friday as parliament approved anti-crisis measures designed to get cash moving quickly into the troubled banking sector. Russia's stock markets remained closed after heavy sell offs."
(Associated Press, 10 October) RD


"Pentagon officials have prepared a new estimate for defense spending that is $450 billion more over the next five years than previously announced figures. The new estimate, which the Pentagon plans to release shortly before President Bush leaves office, would serve as a marker for the new president and is meant to place pressure on him to either drastically increase the size of the defense budget or defend any reluctance to do so, according to several former senior budget officials who are close to the discussions." (CQ Today, 9 October) RD

Who cares about the poor ?

Our hearts bleed for them ...i think not . More than £100 billion will be wiped off the personal fortunes of Britain's wealthiest industrialists and entrepreneurs in the coming months as tumbling stock markets and sliding property prices take their toll according to The Times . What will the effect be on those super-rich , i wonder . One less house in their tropical paradises , one less luxury limosine ...

Certainly it will not the same as the consequences the Credit Crunch will have on the working class .

The number of people seeking advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau about how to manage their debts has surged by a third in the past year according to this BBC report. 77,000 new callers in England and Wales with mortgage and loan arrears.

"These figures show how the current economic situation is hitting vulnerable and low-income households the hardest."

Mortgage lenders, on average, started repossession action when people were four months into their arrears. No gover…


We live in a society where millions try to survive on a $1.25 a day, where children die for the lack of clean water and yet this society spends billions of dollars trying to find more efficient ways to kill people. The priorities of socialism would be to feed, clothe and shelter its citizens but capitalism has other priorities. "Top U.S. Army officials on Monday said a $160 billion Future Combat Systems modernization program managed by Boeing Co and SAIC Inc was "on budget, on track," but could see changes over time. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said the Army was going through a detailed review of 14 separate weapon systems included in the program to ensure that the technologies involved were on schedule. "We're committed to Future Combat Systems. It's just a question of adjusting as the world changes, and as the need changes," Army Secretary Pete Geren told reporters at the annual Association of the U.S. Army meeting. ...The Army's FCS pr…


Last year when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown outlined his annual budget speech with these words - "Britain's growth will continue into its 60th and 61st quarter and beyond ...Inflation has fallen from 3% to 2.8%, and will fall further this year to 2% ...Looking ahead to 2008 and 2009 inflation will also be on target. And we will never return to the old boom and burst." (quoted in Time, 13 October)
He was warmly applauded by the Labour benches and praised by the press for his sagacity and prudence. What a difference a year makes. Inflation stands at about 4.7%, mortgage lender Bradford and Bingley has been nationalised and a deep economic recession looks likely. Capitalism is an anarchic, uncontrollable system. Boom and burst are the very foundation of capitalism. No doubt a future Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer will in turn pretend that he can control this mad profit system. RD


Robert Reich, former US secretary of labour, commenting on the recent economic crisis showed that he understood that China was a capitalist country when he said "There are still only two kinds of capitalism. There's authoritarian capitalism as in China and Singapore, and there's democratic capitalism as in US and Europe. If there's anyone out there who has a better idea, I'm sure the world would love to hear it." (Newsweek, 13 October)

If someone can get us Mr Reich's address we will send him a subscription to the Socialist Standard so he learn about the socialist alternative. RD


The end of Apartheid and the election of the ANC to power was supposed to see the grinding poverty of the townships ended, but the ANC have turned out to be powerless to run capitalism in a way that would end exploitation and poverty. Despite 14 years of power the ANC are just another political party dedicated to running capitalism. "A dusty maze of concrete, sheet metal and scrap wood, Diepsloot is like so many of the enormous settlements around Johannesburg, mile after mile of feebly assembled shacks, the impromptu patchwork of the poor, the extremely poor and the hopelessly poor. Monica Xangathi, 40, lives here in a shanty she shares with her brother’s family. “This is not the way I thought my life would turn out,” she said. Her disappointment is not only with herself; she is heartsick about her country. Fourteen years after the end of apartheid, South Africa — the global pariah that became a global inspiration — has lapsed into gloom and anxiety about its future, surely not …


"Two Turkish immigrants who were reduced to begging on the streets after being released from prison are pleading with authorities to send them back to jail, judicial sources said Wednesday. Sahin Eren and Erden Vardar were arrested in July, 2006 in southern Spain in possession of 11 kilogrammes (24 pounds) of heroin. But confusion over their date of arrest forced a judge to release them in July as the two-year legal period of preventive detention had passed. Since then, the two men have begged on the streets of Madrid, where they sleep in a Red Cross hostel. They have pleaded with the judge to send them back to prison, a request he denied as they have not been convicted and sentenced." (Yahoo News, 1 October) RD

The Crunch of the Matter

From one of our comrade fellow bloggers

Quoth Alistair Darling:
"The Financial Services Authority has announced a further increase from tomorrow to the compensation limit for retail bank deposits to £50,000 per depositor, which means £100,000 for joint accounts. That measure will ensure that 98 per cent. of accounts are fully covered."

Now, quoth Iain Duncan Smith:
"At the Dispatch Box, the Chancellor mentioned, quite rightly, that our protection covers about 98 per cent. of all depositors, but he will also recognise that we have significantly more money on deposit than Germany does. The reality is that that 2 per cent. represents a very significant amount of money. What concerns me right now is that, given the febrile nature of the markets—watching little things and then panicking—if they see any flight of capital, even that 2 per cent., towards Germany, it could cause another stampede and another crisis. I recognise the Chancellor's problem about indicating what he m…

DON'T recycle Capitalism - Bin it.

Socialist Standard October 2008

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October 2008 click for full page
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Published since 1904


"In Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where the rule of law sometimes takes a back seat to the rule of God, zealots are on a campaign to stamp out behavior they consider unchaste. They hurl stones at women for such "sins" as wearing a red blouse, and attack stores selling devices that can access the Internet. In recent weeks, self-styled "modesty patrols" have been accused of breaking into the apartment of a Jerusalem woman and beating her for allegedly consorting with men. They have torched a store that sells MP4 players, fearing devout Jews would use them to download pornography."
(Yahoo News, 4 October) RD


"A Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia has called on women to wear a full veil, or niqab, that reveals only one eye. Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan said showing both eyes encouraged women to use eye make-up to look seductive. The question of how much of her face a woman should cover is a controversial topic in many Muslim societies. The niqab is more common in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, but women in much of the Muslim Middle East wear a headscarf which covers only their hair. Sheikh Habadan, an ultra-conservative cleric who is said to have wide influence among religious Saudis, was answering questions on the Muslim satellite channel al-Majd."
(BBC News, 3 October) RD

old and in debt

After a lifetine of labour and drudgery what do we hve to look forward in thetwilight of our years - more debt .A study of over 60s who sought help from CAS found debt levels had risen to £17,767 since 2004, but more than a quarter had a debt of over £25,000. The report, Growing Old Together: Older CAB Clients and Debt, claimed that average debt levels for this group were 29 times their monthly income. The research found that household bills, such as council tax and utility bills, created the most anxiety for older people and that they were using credit to pay them

City scandals


We can see today how easily stock mar­kets can tremble when investors get the jit­ters over, say, the mere rumour of a small increase in interest rates or some other trivial matter. Imagine what those jitters will be like when the socialist movement begins to grow.V. V.

A Glasgow comrade gives an insight to share dealings of yesteryear.( or “Is it this year?” )

Did you get your British Gas shares ok? What's that, you didn't bother? Well, neither did most other workers who had the chance, and no one knows how many of those who did buy the shares will hold on to them. It was estimated that on the day after the sale, around one tenth of the shares had already changed hands as small-time buyers sold out to the big institutions like insurance com­panies and pension funds. This is what hap­pened with British Telecom shares. When they were first sold in 1984 the number of individual shareholders was 2.3 million. By May 1986 the number was down to 1.6 mill­ion, a drop…

Reading Notes

- More definitions from the Devil’s Dictionary:-

- Infidel – In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian religion. In Constantinople, one who does.

- Idiot – A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling.

- History – An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.

- Heathen – A benighted creature who has the folly to worship something that he can see and feel.

-for socialism John Ayers


"God squared up to Mammon last week as the two most senior figures in the Church of England rode into battle against City traders. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, condemned as "bank robbers and asset strippers" the dealers who made millions by betting that shares in HBOS would fall in price. ... In The Spectator, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Cantebury and a self-confessed "hairy lefty", praised Marx for his attacks on capitalism and said more regulation was essential. Was all this criticism a little hypocritical, though? Ekklesia, the liberal Christian think tank, pointed out that the Anglican church used speculative methods for its own investments when it set up a currency hedging programme in 2006, in effect short-selling sterling....This year the church, with billions invested in stocks and shares, returned a record profit of 9.4%." (Sunday Times, 28 September) RD


"The number of households in fuel poverty in the UK rose to 3.5 million in 2006, government figures show. The figures from the Department for Environment and the Department for Business show this is an increase of one million on 2005 levels. Fuel poverty is defined as households who spend more than 10% of their income on fuel. The Unite union said thousands more people are likely to suffer from fuel poverty this winter. The figures include around 2.75 million homes classed as "vulnerable" -containing a child, elderly person or someone with a long-term illness. The number of homes in fuel poverty in England rose from 1.5 million in 2005 to 2.4 million in 2006, including an extra 700,000 vulnerable households."
(BBC News, 2 October) RD

Food for Thought

- The current market meltdown is no mystery to socialists, just the normal operation of the capitalist mode of production. Booms and busts are created by the anarchy of production and will continue as long as capitalism lasts. Still, it’s amazing to see the wild market gyrations,and even more to witness the attempted bailouts. During the week of September 15-19, The Toronto stock exchange lost 515 points on Monday, lost 27 points on Tuesday, lost 349 points on Wednesday, gained 186 points on Thursday, and gained 848 points on Friday, after $180 billion had been pumped into the global financial system by the world’s central banks.Unfortunately, by September 29th., the markets lost $1 trillion, making $4.2 trillion in losses for the year and the American government is considering a $700 billion bailout, and that’s on top of several rescue attempts for large financial institutions.(AIG Insurance CO. got $85billion). Of course, that’s all in the casino economy, not the real one, but the w…


As a follow up on Williams' words, I recommend this article from the Socialist Standard on Competition, a view from a Glasgow member.

Some comedian once asked "If it's true that all the world loves a lover, why are there so many policemen in Hyde Park?" A good question but a better one for workers to ask themselves is "If competition is such a wonderful and desirable thing, why does every­body try so hard to avoid it?". For example, when solicitors lose their monopoly in house conveyancing, opticians lose theirs in selling spectacles, or shopkeepers hear that a super­market is to be built nearby, do they say "Good! Just what we need: the icy blast of competition"? They do not, instead they pro­test bitterly and do everything they can to preserve the status quo.
This dislike of competition is shared by all business, big and small. In 1980 the world's largest corporation, American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT and T…

William’s Words

William Morris on competition in the capitalist mode of production.

“And first, please to understand that our present system of society is based on a state of perpetual war. Do any of you think that this is as it should be? I know that you have often been told that the competition, which is at present the rule of all production, is a good thing, and stimulates the progress of the race; but the people that tell you this should call competition by its shorter name of war if they wish to be honest, and you would then be free to consider whether or no war stimulates progress, otherwise than as a mad bull chasing you over your own garden may do. War, or competition, whichever you please to call it, means at the best pursuing your own advantage at the cost of someone else’s loss, and in the process of it you must not be sparing of destruction even of your own possessions, or you will certainly come by the worse in the struggle. You understand that perfectly as to the kind of war in which peo…


"In Norway the anti-immigrant Progress Party is now the largest in the land. Like other right-wing parties in Scandinavia, it has enjoyed surging support since the Islamic cartoon affair two years ago. In Switzerland, Christoph Blocher's Swiss People's Party won the general election last year after a campaign condemned as racist by UN monitors. In Poland the League of Polish Families, a member of the coalition government until a year ago, campaigns for the elimination of Jewish influence in business and the professions. The Vlaams Belang in Belgium is strongly anti-immigrant. Even in ultra-liberal Denmark, the nationalist and anti-immigrant Danish People's Party is now the third largest party. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi's Party of Freedom is sandwiched in the ruling coalition by the anti-immigrant Northern League and the post-Fascist National Alliance." (Independent, 26 September) RD