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Showing posts from February, 2010

Let's end charity

An article from the Socialist Standard 1981 What do you do when someone comes to your door and say,It's for the blind" or "I'm collecting for Cancer Research" or "we're asking people to give to Oxfam"? The easiest thing is to dip into your pocket, put a few coppers in their envelope and get back to whatever you were doing. That way you get rid of your unwanted caller and at the same time put at rest any conscience that may have been pricked. Harder by far is it to refuse those few coppers, and indeed few people do.But does the money you've given really serve a useful purpose? Well first of all, although you may wonder how much of it actually gets to the unfortunates in whose name it was collected, you're fairly sure that the benefit of your donation will be felt at least in some small way by a needy person somewhere. Secondly you're reassured that the world isn't such a bad place after all, that there are people doing s…

Language, class and nation

This article is from the Socialist Standard 1981 One of the most remarkable things about human beings is their possession and use of language. Within a few shorts years, every person acquires a knowledge of their native language, including a vocabulary of thousands of words, enabling them to express original ideas and communicate to others on all sorts of topics. Language is also one of the most specifically human attributes, for no other animal possesses a communication system anywhere near as flexible and useful as human language. Animals such as bees and sticklebacks can convey a united range of information to each other but cannot, for example, refer to events in the past or future. The languages of the world, with their rich structures and histories, are a fascinating subject of study. But in the class divided society of capitalism, language is a basis for hostility, prejudice and discrimination.Our impressions of other people are partly formed by the way they speak…

Does capitalism work?

An article from the Socialist Standard July 1972 "Professor Champions Capitalism" ran the gleeful headline in the Financial and Business supplement of The Scotsman (24 May). The story which followed told us that Professor H. B. Acton, who holds the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University, has written a paper for the Foundation of Business Responsibilities titled "The Ethics of Capitalism" in which he glorifies the capitalist system and its beneficiaries, the capitalist class.The Professor's paper contains a statement on the historical contribution of the early capitalists:The bourgeoisie, more scrupulous and pacific than the aristocracy and less deferential than the peasantry, so , improved the arts of production that the system of warrior lords and dependent serfs was replaced by one in which large " populations of free citizens enjoy a scope of living which goes beyond what the aristocracy formerly disposed of.Then follows a list …

The cuts - the real meaning of cutting back

Clare Simpson, project manager, Parenting Across Scotland , said: "The results of our survey show that the recession is having an adverse effect on families.Some people are losing their jobs, others have less money to spend because hours are being cut or overtime is no longer available while, for many, there is fear and worry about what the future might hold."

A survey carried out by PAS found that 55% of families reduced their spending on food and heating as a result of the recession. Parents were also less likely to spend money on their children, the survey found.One third of parents also claimed the recession had put a strain on their relationships.

PROFIT THE GREATER CONCERN

It's getting closer to election time; politicians claim their concern and understanding for the unemployed. Socialistremind workers that concern over profits take priority over concern for the unemployed, when the profit motive looks achievable, it becomes business as usual, for example,Recently TV channels have reminded us that the miners strike was 25 years ago, they point out that at the time of the strike, the industry employed 180, 000 miners, after the strike, the number eventually decreased to just over 6,000 being employed in the industry, new cheaper sources of energy were available and that was all that mattered to the capitalist class.Over recent times, energy supplies have become more uncertain for the capitalist class and the possible profit in coal production has lead to more investment in coal production.The owners of a UK coal mine have bought state-of-the-art machinery worth £37m - the biggest such UK order in over 20 years.The cutting and ancillar…

Friendly Fire?

For some reason, an apology is expected to make people who have nothing to gain from this war, forgive!KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan went on national television Tuesday to apologize for a deadly airstrike, an extraordinary attempt to regain Afghans' trust while a mass offensive continues against the Taliban in the south. Two U.S. Marine battalions, accompanied by Afghan troops, pushing from the north and south of the insurgent stronghold of Marjah finally linked up after more than a week, creating a direct route across the town that allows convoys to supply ammunition and reinforcements. In a video translated into the Afghan languages of Dari and Pashto and broadcast on Afghan television, a stern Gen. Stanley McChrystal apologized for the strike in central Uruzgan province that Afghan officials say killed at least 21 people. The video was also posted on a NATO Web site.

Increasing pessimism

Trading in your car and renewing other household items, can't stop the boom slump cycle of capitalism.NEW YORK - Americans' outlook on the economy went into relapse in February. Rising job worries sent a key barometer of confidence to its lowest point in 10 months, raising concerns about the U.S. economic recovery. The Conference Board said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index fell almost 11 points to 46 in February, down from a revised 56.5 in January. Analysts were expecting only a slight decrease to 55. It was the lowest level since the index recorded a 40.8 reading in April 2009. The increasing pessimism, which erased three months of improvement, is a big blow to hopes that consumer spending will power an economic recovery. Economists watch the confidence numbers closely because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

THE RECESSION IS OVER, FOR WHOM?

President Barack Obama speaks about creating new energy jobs, February 16 in
Maryland.


Washington. - Job creation in the U.S. is stuck in an uphill treadmill.
So many jobs have been lost that the U.S. must run hard just to keep from losing more ground. Despite the election -year emphasis on job creation by both parties, the short term outlook is bleak. While many economists believe the recession is technically over, nearly 15 million Americans remain unemployed. Six million of them have been out of work for more than half a year. Hear in Britain the economists have yet to make up their minds about the recession being over, however, I'm sure increased unemployment will be around even when they decide that it is over.

Insiders and Others

With all this talk of buying bank share in today's papers, what happens to most of the shares over the years? This article from the Socialist Standard gives you an
insight of past share dealings Another article from the Socialist Standard archives exploring the world of capitalist financial institutions.

Did you get your British Gas shares ? 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 of over 30%, and this figure is cer­tain to fall still furthe…

ALL RIGHT FOR SOME

"Last year, investment bankers and their spouses kept their wallets shut during bonus season, first, out of panic, and later, fearing mobs with torches would descend upon their gated estates.
Now, after a year of self-imposed austerity and in what is shaping up as a spectacular bonus season, the Wall Street crowd is shaking off what one luxury retailer called its "frugal fatigue." Unlike earlier spending sprees, however, the consumption will be a lot less conspicuous. On Wednesday, Morgan Stanley said it was setting aside $14.4 billion for salary and bonuses, or $235,000 per employee. A day later Goldman Sachs said it would pay an average of $498,000, with top producers at each of the two banks earning in the millions. More than in past years, this year's bonus numbers are stirring deep resentment in a nation staggering under 10 percent unemployment." (New York Times, 22 January) RD

MOTHER OF THE FREE

At the last night of the Proms exploited members of the working class like nothing better than to bawl out the words of Land of Hope and Glory. Poor, deluded workers image that there is something superior about being born on a piece of dirt thrown up on the Atlantic Ocean. They never realise that it is an accident where you happen to be born, and indeed that it was probably an accident that they were born at all. This misguided nationalism is fostered by governments and the media. Britain is superior to Johnny Foreigner with his deceitful regimes. No underhanded politics in dear old Britain says the patriot critical of foreign powers, but what is the reality? "MI5 faced an unprecedented and damaging crisis last night after one of the country's most senior judges found that the Security Service failed to respect human rights, deliberately misled parliament, and had a "culture of suspicion" that undermined government assurances about its conduct. The conde…

CLASS DIVISION

Socialists are often pilloried because we look at the world from a class perspective. We are accused of being outdated, old fashioned and living in the 19th Century. All that Marxists stuff about class division has been outdated by the new dynamic capitalism of the 21st Century we are told by our critics. A recent government sponsored health review seems to give the lie to that notion. " Healthy living is cut short by 17 years for poorest in Britain. The poor not only die sooner, they also spend more of their lives with a disability, an "avoidable difference which is unacceptable and unfair", a government-ordered review into Britain's widening health inequalities said yesterday. ... Not only is life expectancy linked to social standing, but so is the time spent in good health: the average difference in "disability-free life expectancy" is now 17 years between those at the top and those at the bottom of the economic ladder, the report says."…

A GREATFUL NATION

Capitalist nations are continually in conflict with their rivals and inside capitalism economic rivalry leads to military action. During these actions the press praise " Our Boys" in uniform and regale us with tales of heroism. Nothing is to good for "Our Boys" they claim, but the reality is far different. "Britain's military veterans are too often descending into alcoholism, criminality or suicide because of a lack of support from the Government according to the Mental Healtlh Foundation. Veterans under 24 are two to three times more likely to kill themselves than civilians of the same age. An estimated one in five veterans and Service personnel is said to have a drinking problem. The charity said:"More needs to be done to help veterans stay well."
(Times, 28 January) Having risked life and limb in pursuing the interests of their masters in these hellish conflicts the heroes of yesterday are thrown on the social scrapheap. RD

Food for Thought

The economy seems to be improving but that may be an illusion. Stocks and shares are up mainly because interest rates are so low that capital has flowed there. The real numbers show a different perspective - Ontario lost 17,000 jobs in December and the managed unemployment rate is at 9.3%. Meanwhile, in the US, food stamps are needed by one adult in eight and one child in four to keep food on the table. Real wages there, adjusted for inflation, are lower than they were a decade ago.
How capitalism works on the East coast - no jobs, put your life in hock to buy a boat and catch lobsters, sell them to the US market and make ends meet, wait for the recession that drops the lobster prices to $3/lb when the break even point is $5, what to do? "That ( boat is ) my retirement package. If I sell it to pay my bills, then I'm finished" says a fisherman
( Toronto Star, 26/Dec/2009 )
It's a great competition - a few win, most lose. John Ayers

Summer School 2010

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The Socialist Party's Summer School is being held at Fircroft College, Selly Oak, Birmingham, over the long weekend 23rd - 25th July.

The theme is 'Future Visions' - This year's weekend of talks and discussion looks to the future. But what kind of future? For centuries, people have imagined utopias where advances in technology and attitudes create freedom for all. Or, they have described dystopias, where society turns into a nightmare. Back in the real world, how will capitalism survive and adapt to ongoing economic and environmental concerns? And what kind of socialist society can we aim for as an antidote to this?

The residential cost (including accommodation and all meals) is £130.
The concessionary rate (for students, unemployed people, pensioners etc.) is £80.
The non-residential cost (including meals) is £50.
If you're interested in attending, e-mail Mike Foster at spgbschool@yahoo.co.uk
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Food for Thought

On crime, it's illuminating to read James Morton's article in the Star ( 3/Jan/2010 ). Although the government and the media fuel the fear of crime, Canada is reasonably safe. Violent crime has been dropping for years and was lower in 2007 than in the last decades and property crime is 40% below 1991 levels. Poverty, he says is what drives crime, destabilizing families and areas leading to drug, alcohol, sexual and family abuse. Our abominable prisons tend to be filled with drug addicts, mental patients, poor people, and, as I can attest as a prison volunteer tutor, learning disabled people. As we are aware, poverty is a natural outcome of capitalislm. That wasn't stated , of course. John Ayers

PEACE PRIZE?

"President Obama is planning to increase spending on America's nuclear weapons stockpile just days after pledging to try to rid the world of them. In his budget to be announced on Monday, Mr Obama has allocated £4.3 billion to maintain the U.S. arsenal - £370 million more than George Bush spent on his final years on nuclear security. The announcement comes despite the American President declaring nuclear weapons were the 'greatest danger' to U.S. people during during in his State of the Union address on Wednesday. And it flies in the face of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to him in October for 'his extraordinary efforts to strenghthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peaples'"
( Daily Mail, 29 January ) RD

Food for Thought

The only safe injection site for drug users in Canada is sucessfully operating in Vancouver. Other North American cities have noted its sucess and want to have their own. The federal government has tried for years to shut it down. It's much better to throw these people in jail, boost the crime statistics, bring out 'tough on crime' legislation, and look popular. Recently the Supreme Court ruled that it could not be shut down, not because it's sucessful, but because the Fed's don't have any jurisdiction over provincial health. Capitalism is not common sense!
John Ayers

"CARING" CAPITALISM

"CARING" CAPITALISM

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has compared giving people government assistance to "feeding stray animals." Bauer, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor ( of South Carolina), made his remarks during a town hall meeting in Fountain Inn that included state lawmakers and about 115 residents. "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food suply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behaviour. They don't know any better," Bauer said."
( Greenville News, 23 January) RD

ANOTHER LABOUR FAILURE

"The divide between rich and poor is greater after 13 years of Labour rule than at any time since the Second World War, according to the Government's own report into inequality. It concludes that Britain remains a nation riven by class " from cradle to grave", despite programmes costing billions of pounds in the past decade designed to narrow the gap." ( Times, 27 January ) RD

Socialist Standard February 2010 Vol.106 Issue,No.1266

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Features

Haiti - an un-natural disaster
The reality with earthquakes is they kill so many only if we let them.
They are inevitable, but the death toll is not...Read more >

Christmas bombers
The son of a Nigerian banker wasn’t the only one on a bombing
mission at Christmas...Read more >
Who bailed out the bankers?
They tell us that we “the taxpayers” did? But it’s not as simple as that...Read more >
Beyond capitalism
Attempts to reform capitalism, whether through parliament or dictatorship,
have failed. This leaves conscious majority revolution as the only way
forward...Read more >
The market versus cooperation
Difficulties with cooperation arise when the restrictions of the market
start to operate...Read more >
Car boot capers
Shopping, it’s said, is the new religion, the new opiate of the people...Read more >

Regulars

Editorial

Contact Details
Meetings

Cooking the Books 1
Dreams and nightmares

Cooking the Books 2The yellow brick road


Cartoons

The Irate Itinerant
Free Lunch


Pathf…

Reading Notes

In "Fast Food Nation", Eric Schlosser comments on the line speed of slaughter houses in the meat packing business: "I could always tell the line speed," a former Montfort nurse told me, "by the number of people with lacerations coming into my office." "A faster pace means higher profits. Market pressures now exert a perverse influence on the management of beef plants: the same factors that make these slaughter houses relatively inefficient (lack of mechanization, the reliance on human labour) encourage companies to make them even more
dangerous (by speeding up the pace)" "The line speeds and labour costs at IBP's non-union plants now set the standard for the rest of the industry. Every other company must try to produce beef as quickly and cheaply as IBP does: slowing the pace to protect workers can lead to a competitive disadvantage." " From a purely economic point of view, injured workers are a drag on profits. Th…

THE GAP WIDENS

"The richest 10% of the UK population are now more than 100 times as wealthy as the poorest 10%, according to the Anatomy of Economic Inequality. The study shows that by 2008 Britain had reached the highest level of income inequality since soon after the second world war. Household wealth (including cars and other possessions) of the top 10% amounts to £853,000 or more, while the poorest 10% amass £8,800 or less."  (Observer, 31 January) RD

ALL RIGHT FOR SOME

"Bob Diamond, president of Barclays, sold £5m of shares in the bank, days after the 21,000 investment bankers at Barclays Capital - overseen by Diamond - were awarded hefty pay rises. Diamond still has 8.3 shares, worth £20m, so don't worry about him being short of a few bob." (Observer, 31 January) RD