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Showing posts from February, 2011

LAZY WORKERS?

A defense of capitalism often heard by socialists is that socialism would be impossible because without the goad of the wages system workers would be too lazy to work, but recent statistics seem to contradict that argument. "A record 5.26 million people worked unpaid overtime last year, clocking up an average of more than seven hours a week without pay, according to a new study. The TUC said workers were missing out on almost £5,500 a year, worth £29bn to the economy. One in five employees regularly put in extra unpaid hours last year, with public-sector workers most likely to work unpaid overtime,said the TUC. The number of workers doing unpaid overtime was the highest since records began in 1992, the research found, with 5.26 million people clocking up an average of seven hours 12 minutes unpaid overtime every week." (Independent, 25 February) RD

THE HAPPIEST DAYS?

It is a beautiful picture - the idyllic notion of "schooldays are the happiest days of your life", but for many kids it is a cruel fallacy."Ministers should draw up an emergency plan to tackle extreme levels of poverty as new research showed that more than one in four live in penury in some major UK cities. The figures, compiled by Save the Children, show that 1.6 million youngsters live in severe poverty, which the charity condemned as a "national scandal". With unemployment rising and a radical shake up of the welfare system seeing £18bn wiped from benefits, the charity fears the number of children living without the basics will rise unless action is taken." (Guardian, 23 February) Well-meaning charities may talk about "emergency plans" and "national scandal", but the realities of capitalism dictate government policies not noble sentiments. RD

A WORLD OF INEQUALITY

There is a widespread illusion that we live in more equitable times than previous generations, but recent statistics from the World Bank give the lie to that notion. "A sharp rise in food prices since June has pushed 44 million people in developing countries into extreme poverty - having to live on less than $1.25 a day - according to a report by the World Bank. (New York Times, 15 February) RD

MERCHANTS OF WAR

Politicians like to portray themselves as peace-loving do-gooders who want a peaceful world, but when it comes to selling armaments such scruples are soon forgotten. "David Cameron insisted that selling arms to authoritarian regimes does not clash with his desire to assist the "building blocks of democracy" across the Middle East, as he landed in the Gulf with eight of Britain's most senior businessmen from the defense and aerospace industry. ... He faced questions however, over his decision to bring representatives of  BAE Systems, Thales UK, QinetiQ and Rolls Royce on the private aircraft from London on the next leg of the visit." (Times, 22 February) Mr. Cameron is a realist. Pacific words are all very well at election meetings but the arms trade is big business. He expects to clinch  deals for millions of pounds over the sale of RAF Euro fighters to the Gulf and make a deal with oil-rich Kuwait over the sale of civil nuclear power installations.…

the price of kids

The cost of raising a child in Scotland until their 21st birthday has risen to £203,000 – or £26.50 a day – a report has revealed. The study shows the cost of bringing up a child has risen by 50% since the firms’s first Cost of A Child Report in 2003. It has gone up by an inflation-busting 4.5%, from £194,337, in the last year alone.

Childcare and education – excluding private school fees – account for the biggest costs to parents. Childcare is estimated cost £67,430 over the course of a child’s upbringing. Other regular expenses that have risen in cost at a rate higher than inflation include clothing, which is up 11.7% compared to last year, holidays (up 6.4%), food (up 5.9%) and personal care items, such as toiletries, which have risen by 5.1%. Overall childcare costs are £84 for 25 hours a week – more than half the gross average part-time weekly earnings of £160. In addition, Government support to parents to fund childcare is going down – from 80% to 70%.

"Three-qua…

old and young suffer

Save the Children said its research revealed there are 90,000 children in Scotland - or one in 10 - living in what they term the most "severe poverty" and the charity said they feared that number would rise "dramatically" due to Scots having the lowest chance of finding work in the UK.

In January this year, Glasgow had Scotland's highest proportion of youngsters in severe poverty at 18%, followed by North Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire and Clackmannanshire at 14%, and Dundee at 12%.

The charity said Glasgow had almost 18 people chasing every job vacancy, and that in West Dunbartonshire there are more than 36 people vying for every job.

Douglas Hamilton, Save the Children's head of Scotland, said: "Urgent action is required in Scotland's most deprived areas or we will end up with a lost generation. Some of these children will grow up living in households with no working adults - they have never seen a parent or grandparent work and this becomes the…

Commodity-talk

Millions of people have been trained to think about what they buy through advertising slogans. They go into the grocer for a packet of "exceedingly good cakes" and some "prolongs active life" for the dog; in the sweet shop they pick up a "helps you work, rest and play" bar and perhaps "just one Cornetto" - to the approved tune, of course; then on to the travel agent to book two weeks in Benidorm with "we'll take more care of you"; down to the garage to pick up the "Vorsprung durch Technik" and fill it with a few gallons of the petrol which" you can be sure of". It is hardly surprising that a buying and selling society has taught the consumers to go in for commodity-talk, Think of all the language we'll lose to a world of free access: no more mindless slogans and jolly tunes to persuade us to buy shoddy brand A rather than bargain brand B. In a moneyless society l suppose we will have to learn …

FIRCROFT COLLEGE

The Socialist Party Summer School

SUMMER SCHOOL DISCUSSIONS

A CLASS DIVIDED SOCIETY

When socialists describe capitalism as a class divided society some of capitalism's supporters dispute this claim, but here is one dyed-in-the wool supporter of capitalism who seems to be agreeing with us. "Britain is dividing into "two nations", Iain Duncan Smith warns today, as he indentifies a growing underclass for whom life is comparable to the Third World and who can expect to die in their fifties. ... Speaking just days after publishing his Welfare Reform Bill with radical measures to drive people into work, he said: "In Britain today there are pockets that are peculiarly Third Worldish in terms of life expectancy, general expectations, disconnection for a group that is growing in number." (Times, 19 February) Needless to say Smith's determination to "drive people into work" applies to the working class not the useless parasitical capitalists. RD

A WASTEFUL SOCIETY

We live in a very wasteful society but surely this example of its wastefulness takes a bit of beating. Sacha Hall a 21 year old worker was arrested for taking ham, pies and waffles dumped in a caged dumpster at the back of a Tesco Express in Essex. "Arrested at home, she was handcuffed and marched to the police station, charged with the rarely applied crime of "theft by taking", for which she could receive a prison sentence." (Times, 19 February) Sacha who is on a low wage at another supermarket, said she was feeding her extended family. Wasteful? Tesco made a profit of £3.4 billion last year and yet some useful member of society risks a prison sentence for taking something out of their rubbish bin. Wasteful? The police, the courtroom staff and maybe even the prison wardens are spending their time dealing with "a dangerous criminal" like Sacha. RD

heartless system

Deaths of people who were waiting for appeals to be heard against the loss of benefits has prompted calls for a fairer assessment system. The claimants from West Dunbartonshire, died from the conditions which caused them to claim Incapacity Benefit (IB) while waiting for appeals to be heard against cuts to their benefits.One was deemed fit for work during a work capability assessment, despite having a deteriorating chronic illness, and lost both incapacity benefit and disability living allowance. When his support worker appeared at the appeal tribunal she had to report her client could not be present because he was dead. The appeal was upheld and the backpayment will become part of his estate.The other had a congenital condition which caused difficulty in walking but was assessed capable of work and his incapacity benefit was withdrawn. He was waiting for a date for an appeal tribunal when he died.

A third person, again from West Dunbartonshire, died recently after winni…

GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY

In pre-capitalists societies the elderly were often respected and even revered but this is capitalism and the poor elderly are looked upon as a burden today. A recent report by the health service ombudsman has accused the NHS of "failing to meet even the most basic standards of care". "Ann Abraham writes in the report: "It is incomprehensible how staff are still neglecting fundamental aspects of care for older people, including food, water and cleanliness." ... Despite a series of scandals over the neglect of elderly patients in several NHS trusts, the report, to be presented to Parliament today, catalogues a "harrowing" array of failings in hospitals and GPs surgeries." (Times, 15 February) It should be noted that it is only those people who are forced to use the NHS because of their poverty that suffer such indignities. The useless, rich, parasitical owning class enjoy the same comfort and ease in old age as they wallowed in their …

Scottish poverty levels 'not improving'

A BBC report out today argues, "Scotland is facing its "most difficult" challenges in tackling poverty in years, campaigners have warned.The Assembly for Tackling Poverty, which is due to meet in Glasgow, said levels of poverty in Scotland have "not been improving for a number of years".It said about 250,000 Scottish children were living in low income households.The assembly will hear from community and voluntary organisers, faith groups, trade unions, academics and policy makers." ( Faith in reforms is a huge part of resistance to the solution: Added MC)
The assembly is part of a four-year project supported by the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland.(Capitalism is a lottery right enough but it is stacked from the beginning in favour of those already winners:.Added MC)
It aims to support community and voluntary organisations to become more involved in developing anti-poverty policy.A spokesman…

NEW CASUALTIES OF WAR

It does not take a genius to figure out that being a soldier is a very dangerous job, but we usually associate the dangers from enemy fire not from mental stress. Recent figures show that the stress of hostilities can be a ruthless killer. "By some estimates, well over 300,000 troops have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan with P.T.S.D., depression, traumatic brain injury or some combination of those. ...As a result, psychiatric drugs have been used more widely across the military than in any previous war. But those medications, along with narcotic painkillers, are being increasingly linked to a rising tide of other problems, among them drug dependency, suicide and fatal accidents - sometimes from the interaction of the drugs themselves. An Army report on suicide released last year documented the problem, saying one-third of the force was on at least one prescription medication. Prescription drug use is on the rise the report said, noting that medications were involved…

BANKERS AND BAMPOTS

When we were young we were taught at school to respect "our betters". Amongst that learned group we were taught were business men, religious leaders and statesmen. The German Thilo Sarrazin, a former executive member of the Bundesbank would certainly qualify for that august body that is due our respect, but some of his opinions might cause even our old school teacher a moment of doubt. "A German banker who has said "all Jews share a certain gene" and described Muslims as "dunces" will speak tonight at the London School of Economics amid a row over free speech." (Independent, 14 February) Since our schooldays we have learned to doubt whether religious leaders and statesmen are indeed "our betters". We can now add business men to that doubtful list.b RD

PROGRESSING BACKWARDS

One of the illusions peddled by politicians is that we  making progress and we are all better off than we were in the past, but according to the Consumer Price Index prices have risen by 4 per cent against a 2 per cent rise in wages. "Households face a deepening "income recession" as the cost of living rises far more  quickly than wages, analysts warn today. Official figures released tomorrow are expected to show that inflation is rising at approximately twice the pace of salaries, leading to punishing deterioration in living standards." (Times, 14 February) Progress for the working class is a delusion that should fool no one. RD

HE WHO PAYS THE PIPER

Shortly before the last general election David Cameron gave a speech at East London University about political funding. "The Cameron pitch on political reform included a call to limit donations to political parties to a maximum of £50,000, from an individual, a business or a trade union. That way, the impression that money could buy influence would wane in the new world of transparency. Almost exactly a year on, such talk sat uneasily with news that since he became Conservative leader in 2005 funding for the Tories from the City's richest had risen fourfold to £11.4m a year. Just 10 City individuals, it transpired, had given £13.2m over the past five years - 13% of total funding. Rather than practising what he had been preaching Cameron had let an elite group of the very richest tip their millions into party accounts to help it win power." (Observer, 13 February) Despite the pre-election promises it is still business as usual at Tory HQ. RD

THE NATIONAL ILL-HEALTH SERVICE

One of the fallacies much beloved of British politicians is that the NHS is a no-expense spared service that provides patients with unbeatable treatment, but the evidence of Aseem Malhotra seems to contradict that claim.  "The healthcare that clinicians offer is usually exemplary. Why, then, are the ill served such disgraceful meals? I mend hearts. Then I see my patients served junk food by our hospitals. Fry-ups, burger and chips, fizzy drinks and ice cream for pudding. You would expect to see these delights on the menu at a McDonald's or Burger King. But, sadly, this is the sort of food that is also likely to be served at your local hospital. I work as a cardiologist at one of Britain's leading cardiac centres. ... Coronary artery disease is the biggest killer in the western world and a significant part of my job involves performing a lifesaving procedure, angioplasty, to restore the blood supply to the heart muscle. Coronary atheroma (fatty deposit within t…

THE CLASS STRUGGLE

An article, by Kate Devlin, UK Political Correspondent for (The Herald, February 12.)headed, "60,000 Scots cheats to lose sickness benefits" Discloses, "People claiming sickness benefit will now have to apply for unemployment benefit, potentially losing over one thousand pounds"Evidence from a socialist's point of view that Trade Unions (TU) should re-examine this idea, that continuous battling with the employers, will be rewarded by a continuous improvement in the wellbeing of the workers. "ABOUT 60,000 Scots claiming sickness benefits face being told that they are fit for work, according to the results of two pilot projects, including one in Aberdeen.
The move is part of Coalition plans to save £11 billion from the welfare bill. Every person claiming incapacity benefit (IB) across the country will be reassessed between now and 2013.
Under the process, claimants are asked to fill in a medical questionnaire and then invited for interview&…

Hullawrerr- Parliamo Glesga

Glaswegians have the most attractive accent for Japanese speakers of English, a new study has revealed.

"The gemmes a-bogey" - we are in a recession
"Ahve loast mah joab so ahm gaun doon tae sign oan the broo." - unemployment is on the rise

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/japanese-prefer-glaswegian-accent-says-study-2208514.html

A BANDIT MAKES HIS GETAWAY

Amidst the recent turbulent political and social events in Egypt it is sometimes forgotten just how much loot the former leader has stashed away out of the exploitation of the Egyptian working class. "Hosni Mubarak's family fortune could be as much as $70bn (£43.5bn) according to analysis by Middle East experts, with much of his wealth in British and Swiss banks or tied up in real estate in London, New York, Los Angeles and along expensive tracts of the Red Sea coast. After 30 years as president and many more as a senior military official, Mubarak has had access to investment deals that have generated hundreds of millions of pounds in profits. Most of those gains have been taken offshore and deposited in secret bank accounts or invested in upmarket homes and hotels. According to a report last year in the Arabic newspaper Al Khabar, Mubarak has properties in Manhattan and exclusive Beverly Hills addresses on Rodeo Drive." (Guardian, 4 February) The Egyptian pr…

RUSSIAN CONMEN IN ACTION

The development of capitalism in Europe usually took the form of the emergence of the capitalist class ousting the previous feudalic ruling class by political and military means. It led to a dominant capitalist class being served by a military and political group subservient to the capitalists. In Africa and Asia it sometimes occurred that the military group became all powerful. It would seem that in Russia the political group have become the powerful group. "Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev share between them at least two dozen palaces, villas and mansions, according to a respected Russian magazine, in a report that is likely to reignite a debate about privileges enjoyed by the ruling duo. The Russian liberal media and blogosphere have been alive with discussion about possible secret residences belonging to the two since a businessman in December accused Mr Putin, the Prime Minister, of building a £600m palace on the shores of the Black Sea for his own personal use…

SHARING THE PAIN?

In the recent downturn in world stock markets it was common for politicians and economic "experts" to express the view that during this recession everyone would have  to share  the pain, we would all have to make economic sacrifices in order to speed a return to so-called prosperity. It would seem though that the "sharing" was to say the least a little uneven. "Carlos Slim's Mexican holdings from mining to communications helped him beat Bill Gates and Warren Buffett on the stock market for the second straight year, and gains in 2011 may widen his lead atop the global wealth list. Slim's publicly disclosed holdings surged about 37 per cent to $70 billion in 2010, with wireless carrier America Movil SAB representing $48.9 billion of that wealth, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The 22 per cent jump in shares wasn't enough for Buffett to catch up, and Gates's fell, hurting his returns even as he spread his investments to other …

RELIGION AND MATERIALISM

Religious organisations are fond of lecturing about the evils of materialism and stressing the importance of spiritual values as opposed to mere physical gratification. It is a view expressed by amongst other religious outfits the Church of Scientology, but its leader David Misgavige is known to like the odd physical comfort. "The New Yorker reported claims from former members that Mr Misgavige lived a luxury lifestyle, flying chartered jets and having two chefs, five stewards, a fleet of cars and six motorcycles." (Times, 8 February) Such lavish compensations would be illegal for the leader of a tax-exempt body, but a spokesman for the organisation claimed that such perks were gifts from members to express their "love and affection" for Mr Misgavige. We seriously doubt if such "love and affection" as chartered jet travel and fleets of cars is spread to other members of Mr Misgavige's flock. RD

DEBT LADEN IN BIRMINGHAM

Any student of the Industrial Revolution will tell you of the important part played in its development by the city of Birmingham. It was one of the foremost cities in the new industrial society and a leading light in the  creation of undreamt wealth for the capitalist class. The picture for the working class is very different as depicted by a newspaper today in its description of a tower block in that city and its residents. "Residents of Tower House report that: 36% per cent are in debt - 47% of whom have cut back on basics such as food and heating; 15% have turned to pawnbrokers; 8% have borrowed from moneylenders." (Observer, 6 October) The immense wealth created by the working class has certainly not been enjoyed by the working class of that tower block in Birmingham nor its equivalent throughout capitalism worldwide. RD

THE WIDENING GAP

In an article describing the life of the extremely wealthy and the rest of us The Times recently laid out a list of some of these super-wealthy individuals living at present in London. The Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal worth $6.4 billion, the Russian Alisher Usmanov worth $7.2 billion and the Ukrainian Viktor Pinchuk a mere $3.1 billion. "The extravagance of the super-rich at a time when the vast majority of people are feeling the financial squeeze seems incongruous at best. But the reality is that the gap between the UHNWIs (ultra-high net worth individuals) and the rest is widening. Alan Greenspan, the former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, said recently that high-income individuals, banks and corporations had rebounded from the global downturn, while pretty well everyone else struggled. ... The world's wealthiest 10 per cent now control 83 per cent of all assets." (Times, 5 February) When even the ultra-conservative Times can report on the widening c…

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

A lesson learned? Just a week after the shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six people, thousands of shoppers browsed for guns at a trade show there. Assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols, including the Glock 9mm model used in the shooting, were on sale and no background checks are needed. Stall holder, Randall Record, explained, "People see it as either guns are going to get banned, or I'm going to get shot. Either way it drives sales."
Socialist know that unions are good for fighting a rearguard action against the worst of capitalism but that they are not revolutionary and will never bring socialism. We also recognize that they are increasingly drawn into the system itself, but it was a surprise to see right wing columnist, Angelo Persichilli (Toronto Star, Jan 16, 2011) praising Canadian autoworkers president Ken Lewenza for his part in the auto revival from the depths of two years ago. According to Persichilli, Lewensa had the courage to…

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

According to Jennifer Bain, (Toronto Star, Jan 15, 2011) food is so plentiful in Canada that our garbage cans are full of it. Apparently, we toss away 40 per cent of our edibles a year, valued at $27 billion.
Perhaps someone would care to explain why we have ever-growing line ups at the food banks. The quote, "when I fed the hungry I was called a hero, when I asked why there were starving people, I was called a communist" may apply quite well here.
Recently in Toronto, an unfortunate incident occurred. A man in bare feet and with obvious mental problems stole an unattended snow-plough and proceeded to run amok on the city streets. The police, unable to stop him, finally fired three shots into him but in the process, one constable was run down and killed. The officer was given a state funeral where 12 000 uniformed officers marched through city streets for hours and all major Toronto television stations interrupted normal programming for the entire day to bring wal…

feeding the poor

Mary's Meals, a Scots-based and Argyll-based charity, provides school meals in 16 of the world's poorest countries is now feeding half a million children.

Founder, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, said"There are still one billion children living in poverty, so our work is not done yet."

Sad to say that the work will never be done.

The necessity and prevalence of charity in a world capable of producing a sufficiency of food, clothing and shelter to easily satisfy the needs of all, is an obvious indication that something, somehow, somewhere, is rotten to the core. The socialist claims that it is capitalism. Capitalism automatically produces poverty which in its turn perpetuates charity. Eliminate the cause, and you eradicate the disease. Rather than deal simply and directly by providing ready access to storehouses of goods, as would occur in a sensible world, there are those who prefer instead to deliver the great mass of wealth to the privileged minority and present tear…

IT BEGGARS BELIEF

"Beggars are to be cleared from the streets in Bangladesh during the cricket World Cup, which starts next month. The poorest are to be compensated for loss of earnings but most will be put into "welfare camps" until the event is over. ... According to some estimates there are 700,000 beggars in Bangladesh." (Times, 1 February) RD

ROLLING IN THE STUFF

"By Forbes' count, 69 billionaires from 20 countries are expected to attend the annual World Economic Forum confab, which starts tomorrow in the Swiss Alps town of Davos. The helicopters whirring above this afternoon suggest that some may have already arrived.  It may well be the greatest concentration of wealth in any one place. Their total net worth, as tracked by Forbes: $427 billion, greater than the combined gross domestic product of Israel and Egypt. The U.S. has at least 20 billionaires expected to make the trip, more than any other country. (Forbes, 25 January) RD

Wealth gap widens between super rich and rest of us.

Alan Greenspan - the legendary chairman of the United States' Federal Reserve - is the high priest of free market capitalism. As a young man he was even a devotee and acolyte of arch libertarian writer, Ayn Rand. Keep that pedigree in mind when you consider the striking observation he made in a television interview last summer: "Our problem basically is that we have a very distorted economy, in the sense that there has been a significant recovery in our limited area of the economy amongst high-income individuals...Read link
This ,of course, is no surprise to socialists who have been pointing it out as an inevitable concomitant of capitalist economics.If you are born poor you will most likely die poor.Whether this is in actual real terms ,or in relative terms, in relation to the amount of wealth produced, is neither here nor there.
What is crazy is the notion that capitalism can be reformed or tamed,o…

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

As abominable and useless as locking people up in a cell is, the Canadian government is out to make it worse. Recently prison farms were shut down, including the one at Kingston that had a dairy herd ranking among the best in Ontario, an abattoir that served three hundred local farmers and supplied local shops with $3 million worth of farm produce, to say nothing of the accompanying rehabilitation value and skill development.
Prison building hit a new high (seven stories) or a new low as the latest jail in Ontario goes ahead with prefab modular building blocks that look like something out of a sci-fi picture. It's to cost $600 million in a time when crime is going down.
Finally, some sense coming from the phony war on drugs. The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy basically came to the conclusion that the war on drugs is lost and its time to move away from the punitive aspect and focus on policies based on public health, human rights and common sense. (Toro…

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

In the review of a book dealing with the mysteries of price, the Toronto Star (Jan 1, 2011) revealed that the amount the US government offered in compensation for lives lost on 9/11 ranged from $6.4 million for the families of the wealthiest victims to $250 000 for the families of the poorest people who died that day.
In the same review we are told that installing seat belts on US school buses would cost the equivalent of $40 million for each child's life likely to be saved (which probably explains why it has not been done). As we say, capitalists know the price of everything and the value of nothing. John Ayers