Monday, October 31, 2011

Is this land your land?

Aristocrats and government bodies still dominate ownership of Scotland.

Half of Scotland is owned by just 500 people, few of whom are actually Scots.

Only 1 per cent of the 19 million acres of land in Scotland has passed into the control of local communities.

Currently, about half of Scotland is in the possession of 608 landowners and 10% of Scotland is owned by just eighteen of them. 6% of Scotland is currently owned overseas, primarily by private individuals. "Public" ownership of the land had reached a total of 16.8% of Scotland by 1998

At present, of the rural land (94% of the total) 83.1% of this is privately held. Here, just 969 people, in a country of 5.2 million people, control 60% of it.

UK Land Owners:
Forestry Commission 1,600,000 acres
Duke of Buccleuch 270,000
Scottish Executive - Rural Affairs 260,000
National Trust for Scotland 175,000
Alcan Highlands 135,000
Blair Charitable Trust (Private Trust) 130,000
Captain Alwyn Farquharson 125,000
Duchess of Westminster 120,000
Earl of Seafield 105,000
Crown Estate Commission (MOD) 100,000
Edmund Vestey 100,000
South Uist Estate Ltd.92,000
Sir Donald Cameron 90,000
Countess of Sutherland 90,000
RSPB (52 estates) 87,000
Paul van Vlissengenowner of Calor Gas and the Makro cash-and-carry empire) 9 87,000
Scottish Natural Heritage 84,000
Robin Fleming 80,000
Hon. Chas Pearson 77,000
Lord Margadale 73,000

Foreign Land Owners:
Person Unknown Malaysian 1,600,000 acres
Mohammed bin Raschid al Maktoum Arab 270,000
Kjeld Kirk-Christiansen Danish 260,000
Joseph & Lisbet Koerner Swedish 175,000
Stanton Avery American 135,000
Mohammed al Fayed Egyptian 130,000
Urs Schwarzenburg Swiss 125,000
Count Knuth Danish 120,000
Mahdi Mohammed al Tajir Arab 105,000
Prof. Ian Macneil American 100,000
Lucan Ardenberg Danish 100,000
Eric Delwart Norwegian 92,000

Sunday, October 30, 2011


The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always maintained that the Labour Party's support for capitalism gave the lie to their claim that they were a party of the working class. Labour supporters have always denied this but now one of their numbers has shown who they really support. "Ken McIntosh, the MSP for Eastwood, who yesterday launched his campaign for the leadership, said that he wanted to be the "business candidate", appealing to corporate Scotland for support." (Times, 29 October) RD


Capitalism's legislators are always looking for ways to save money, so it is not surprising that prison officials in Texas have stopped serving lunch at the weekends in an attempt to trim $2.8 million in food expenses from the State's Department of Justice budget. "Inmates now get "brunch" between 5am and 7am and dinner between 4pm and 6.30pm. Prisoner advocate groups say the move penalises the poorest prisoners the most because they can least afford to buy snacks. But John Whitmire, a Democrat and chairman of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee, told The New York Times, "If they don't like the menu, don't come here in the first place." (Times, 27 October) Whitmire's arrogant attempt at humour shows his contempt for workers too poor to afford a snack. RD

Saturday, October 29, 2011


The recent economic downturn has led to millions of workers worldwide becoming unemployed, but for some members of the capitalist class it has led to an obscene growth in their wealth. "The average salary in the U.S. was $33,000 in 2008- and though that is the most recent data, it does not even account for the brunt of the recession. That is basically nothing when compared to the $604.9million made by the top ten earners last year. The elite one per cent group includes anyone making over $380,000 per year, and the top ten CEOs make well above that. The top spot is held by John Hammergren, 52, the CEO of pharmaceutical company McKesson who earned a salary of $131.2million and a net total income, which includes bonuses and profits from stock earnings, of $1.billion." (Daily Mail, 15 October) To use the term "earn" in relation to this group of parasites is of course completely false. RD

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Every day we can read about people starving while food production is curtailed if it isn't profitable enough. The latest example is in Yemen. "The World Food Programme (WFP) said Wednesday it is scaling up efforts to feed 3.5 million people who are facing hunger in strife-torn Yemen. 'Rising food prices and political instability have left millions of people in Yemen hungry and vulnerable,' Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the Rome-based UN agency, said in a statement." (Deutsche Presse, 12 October)Despite the efforts of well-meaning charities world-hunger is still endemic to capitalism. RD


In medieval times it is said that an important function performed by flunkies at the royal court was to wipe the King's arse after he moved his bowels, but modern rulers have now a much more high-tech way of dealing with the problem. "Earlier this year, the latest salvo was fired by the venerable bath fixtures manufacturer Kohler. It produced a new toilet, "The Numi Web site." The Numi features a touch-screen remote control. The Numi washes and dries its user. The Numi costs $6,400, or 81 times the price of the basic throne at Home Depot." (New York Times, 12 October) RD

Monday, October 24, 2011

What determines whether you kid goes to university? Their postcode?

SCHOOL pupils can be nearly 18 times more likely to go to university than children educated just seven minutes away, a Sunday Herald investigation has found.

It can confidently be said that in recent years education has been more often and more widely discussed than at any time since the public education system began.There is the perennial question of the clamour for “equality of opportunity”; there are the recurrent alarms about illiteracy, delinquency and blackboard jungles. At the same time, springing up in every city were the great glass- walled hives which were the new schools of the nineteen-fifties, visible symbols of changes which have taken and are taking place.

The granting of education and facilities for learning to the working class, even though it is for someone else's reasons, is of immense value. Within the framework of elementary education there have been many improvements and additional benefits over the years.

These, however, have resulted from the increased complexity of capitalism that has demanded more knowledge and more economic participation from even the least skilled worker, and so necessitated a widening of this education.True education, the developing of each individual towards his own well-being and that of society, has not yet been attempted. What is necessary for it is the re-organization not of schools, but of society.

The aim of socialists (not 'left-wing' or Labour nonsense but genuine revolutionary free access socialism) is to bring into being a society in which not only will the problems and privations of the present-day world be absent, but every person will lead a free and satisfying life.

What is wrong with our society is its basic condition of ownership by a class; the answer, therefore, is to establish a new social system based on the ownership by everybody of all the means of production. Can a society like this be achieved? Indeed it can.

The conditions needed for its establishment are with us now: the development of the means and methods of production that could create abundance if the profit motive did not stand in the way. All that is lacking is people to bring it to being.

Thus, the concern of Socialists under capitalism is education of a different kind - showing the facts about capitalism, and the only answer to the problems which it causes. The beginning of this kind of education is the realization that capitalism's educational systems must, because of what they are, hide the facts and direct attention away from the answer.

Here, then, is the great need of today: people to make a different world. People, that is, who have looked at capitalism critically - as one aspect of it has been looked at critically here - and seen that it has long ceased to be useful to man, and that Socialism is wanted now.


making cancer victims suffer

New research by a leading charity reveals that hundreds of cancer patients are living close to the breadline due to their illness, with 73% experiencing a loss of income and increased costs such as hospital travel and higher utility bills. Cancer patients in Scotland are skipping meals and worrying about losing their homes because of a drop in income and higher living costs.

Around 30,000 people in Scotland are diagnosed with cancer each year, costing many of them thousands of pounds.

Elspeth Atkinson, director of Macmillan Scotland said: “Cancer is an expensive disease to live with, but this research shows just how close to the breadline many cancer patients really are."

Research has shown that more than half of all terminally ill cancer patients do not claim benefits they are entitled to. Complicated benefits forms, a lack of awareness of entitlements, embarrassment or simply feeling too ill or emotionally drained, prevents many people accessing welfare benefits.


"Two hundred people, most of them elderly, will die in Britain of cold-related diseases every day this winter, according to calculations by Britain's leading advocacy group for old people, Age UK. "The fact that these 'excess' deaths occur in winter makes it clear that they are due directly to cold," the organisation's research manager, Philip Rossall, said. "And the fact that other, colder countries have lower excess winter deaths means that there is no reason that they are not preventable." Age UK's special adviser for policy, Mervyn Kohler, asked: "Why is this not a national scandal?" There were 26,156 excess winter deaths during 2009-10, with figures for 2010-11 to be published next month." (Observer, 23 October) RD


Home is where the heart is; the place with overtones of permanence, belonging, security, comfort, childhood memories, bonds between people, familiarity with how things are done, habits and customs taken for granted, the familiar streets, smells, sounds, all the things that framed them and in doing so strengthen the impressions of who they are and what they stand for.

In a broader context home may be perceived as a wider geographical area, a country, a homeland standing for something more than a family’s local community. The "one-world" home, in common to all of the human species, has 200 or so artificially created entities called "nations"

What is it a nation offers its individual inhabitants and what is their offering to it? What do they require from their country and it from them? The country is a geographical, physical place; large, small, populous or sparse, barren or lush, mountainous, coastal, frozen, temperate, fertile or harsh, requiring nurture, husbandry, protection. Physically it can offer minerals and crops depending on its situation and in proportion to the care given it. The shared identity of the inhabitants of the nation will be as has developed over generations – history, customs, religion, community relations, occupations, way of thinking – something impossible to enforce as empire builders and nation creators have been reluctant to accept. A shared identity with universal, mutual respect and acceptance cannot be enforced. It is surely the shared identity, that elusive quality, love of one’s birthplace, hopes, dreams, aspirations, that people feel when they talk of "their country", the tangible and intangible connections.

Confusion of the country with its institutions brings the problems of nationalism and patriotism. Nationalism manifests itself like a sophisticated tribalism, with pride, tradition, attitudes of superiority, patriotism and flag-draped buildings. Ill-considered rhetoric needs to be confronted, contested at any and every opportunity. Self-replicating, regurgitated mantras built on lies, fears and hatred need overturning without hesitation. Chop up society into more and more pieces, more separate entities, create more divisions, more fears and suspicions and when the globe is totally criss-crossed with walls and border posts shall we allow ourselves to become so paranoid, afraid and suspicious of each other that we finally close the door to our minds? The challenge is to dismantle the barriers which deafen, blindfold, shackle and dehumanise us. One of the last things the world needs at the moment is more states, with their own armed forces and divisive nationalist ideologies.

To promote the notion that the area of our birth (‘our’ country) transcends or neutralises our class status or gives us a common cause with a class that socially deprives and demeans us, that imposes either mere want or grave poverty on our lives and the lives of our families, is to be cruelly deceived by the political machinations of capitalism. We are all part of one globalised exploited mass with more in common with each other than with our supposed fellow-countrymen bosses. Workers do not share a common interest with our masters.

The inexorable process of globalisation has increasingly made redundant the question of "national sovereignty". Yet many Scottish nationalists imagine they can buck the trend without even being against capitalism. The growth of multinational corporations, some with a turnover exceeding the GDP of most states, has dramatically transformed the role of government as the locus of economic decision-making. Many of the most important decisions are now made, not by politicians, but in the boardrooms of these multinationals. Likewise, the proliferation of trading links between different states has effectively blurred the lines of demarcation between nominally separate national economies. It would be more realistic now to speak of there being a single global economy. Even so, many locally-based businesses are indirectly tied into this economy as subcontractors to multinationals. Not only that, the ever-deepening nexus of international linkages means they cannot escape recessionary perturbations emanating from elsewhere when these impact upon the local economy. At the same time, the limited leeway of governments to ameliorate such localised effects has been correspondingly reduced.

Supporters of Scottish independence who talk about “democracy” always mean only political democracy since economic democracy - where people would democratically run the places where they work -is out of the question under capitalism, based as it is on these workplaces being owned and controlled by and for the benefit of a privileged minority. You can have the most democratic constitution imaginable but this won’t make any difference to the fact that profits have to come before meeting needs under capitalism. The people’s will to have their needs met properly is frustrated all the time by the operation of the economic laws of the capitalist system which no political structure, however democratic, can control.

The interests of workers who live in Scotland are not opposed to the interests of those who live in England - or France or Germany or anywhere else in the world. Nationalists like the SNP who preach the opposite are spreading a divisive poison amongst people who socialists say should unite to establish a frontierless world community, based on the world’s resources becoming the common heritage of all humanity, as the only framework within which the social problems which workers wherever they live face today. This is why the Socialist Party and nationalists are implacably opposed to each other. We are working in opposite directions. Us to unite workers. Them to divide them. We don’t support the Union. We just put up with it. Socialists oppose both the separatist Scottish nationalism and the unionist British nationalism and support only working-class unity to establish a socialist world.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


The government is hoping to save £600m a year by cutting welfare payments by the year 2013. "Many disabled people risk losing essential payments under planned benefits changes, a charity has warned. Scope says the proposed test of claimants' need is flawed for focusing on the disability but ignoring relevant factors like housing and transport. Thousands could be left with little or no financial support, Scope warns." (BBC News, 21 October) Just another example of capitalism's priorities in action. RD


In the pursuit of making British capitalism more competitive cuts of government spending must be made. So the government of the day, whether it be Conservative, Liberal, Labour or any amalgamation of any of them look for easy targets. Here's one - they haven't even got a vote - children."The government shakeup of the tax and benefits system will result in a further 400,000 children falling into relative poverty during this parliament, leaving Britain on course to miss legally binding targets to reduce child poverty by 2020, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. In a bleak assessment of changes in the government's new social contract, the IFS said the number of children in absolute poverty in 2015 will rise by 500,000 to 3 million. Even worse, by 2020 3.3 million young people, almost one in four children, will find themselves in relative child poverty." (Guardian, 11 October) Doesn't capitalism make you sick? RD

Class in the class room

In 1999, just over 83% of pupils at independent schools went to university, while only 31% of children in the state sector made the same choice. Between 1999 and 2010, the number of state school pupils who attended university increased from 31% to 35.7%, an average rise of around 1% for every three years of devolution. But a new comparison of school-leaver destinations has revealed the goal of overhauling university access in the poorest areas has failed in many cases.

Only 5% of pupils from Govan High School went on to higher education in 1999. In 2010, the figure was 5.1%. At Drumchapel High 9% of school leavers attended university last year, up just 3% on 1999. A pupil leaving Drumchapel High is three times more likely to be unemployed than at university. By contrast, the university entrance rate for Jordanhill – a seven-minute car ride from Govan High – is 82.4%. Only 1% of pupils at Drumchapel High achieved five or more Highers in S5 in 2009, compared with 39% at Jordanhill. At the High School of Glasgow a private school is only a few minutes’ drive from Govan High 98% of its pupils end up in higher education.

In Edinburgh the Wester Hailes Education Centre, which serves one of the most deprived areas in the city, 8.4% of pupils left for university in 2010. This was up from a maximum of 5% 11 years preciously. At Firhill High in the adjacent catchment area, the figure is 49.5%. Only 8% of pupils entered higher education last year after attending Craigroyston Community High. But at the nearby Royal High, it was 46.8%. Edinburgh’s fee-paying Fettes College is just two miles from the state school at Craigroyston the figure for Fettes is 97%.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Arrogant plonkers like Gallagher can't explain the rise and fall of markets and employment by their "can't be bothered" classification. "Last week, the latest figures showed the jobless total had hit a 17-year high of 2.57m. City forecasters think it will climb to nearly 3m. Citigroup, the American bank, predicts "close to" 9% unemployment, or 3m out of work, by the end of next year." (Sunday Times, 16 October) It is strange, is it not that the "can't be bothered" segment of the population was higher in the 1930s than in the 1960s? RD


One of the aspects of capitalism that socialists detest is the arrogance of the owning class, but even more obnoxious is the attitude of members of the working class who have recently become members of the owning class. Unlike capitalists through inheritance, they have become capitalists by robbing a bank, exploiting workers, winning a lottery or, in the case of the next braggart, recording a couple of successful popular songs. "We were working class, and we were the lowest. There's a level underneath that now: the can't be bothered working class." (Sunday Times, 16 October) That comes from Noel Gallagher, formerly of Oasis, who has now adopted the dismissive capitalist class attitude that says the unemployed workers are unemployed because they can't be bothered. What a plonker! RD

Friday, October 21, 2011


One of the defenses of capitalism that we often hear is - "Ah, you are talking about the old days. Wake up, things are gradually getting better". This is a widely held illusion, but now even the official spokesmen of the owning class have to confess such a claim is nonsense. "The average income for middle-earning families will have fallen by 7% by the end of the next financial year compared with 2009-10. It will be the biggest drop for such families since the 1970s, said the Institute for Fiscal Studies. In ten years time one in four children will live below the poverty line." (Sunday Times, 16 October) The truth is that capitalism is not gradually getting better, in fact more and more workers are living in worse and worse poverty. RD


The UK government are facing an economic crisis, so they are looking for ways to cut government spending. Do away with the mammoth spending on the military? Cut down on cabinet ministers generous allowances? None of these - they have thought of a much better cash-saving dodge. "Four in 10 disabled young people in England are living in poverty, amounting to a "staggering" 320,000 children. And the figure will rise because of government cuts to welfare payments, according to a report by The Children's Society. The charity's analysis looks for the first time at the additional costs of caring for a child who might be paraplegic, infirm or seriously physically incapacitated, and concludes that the official poverty rates understate the number of disabled children in penury by a total of 32,000. Counting on the basis of a disabled child living in a household with a disabled adult, the figure for those existing in poverty rose to 49%. The Children's Society says that benefit changes in the controversial welfare reform bill, now being considered in the House of Lords, will cause the component of child tax-credit to drop from £54 to £27 a week." (Guardian, 7 October) RD


It is reassuring to know that even in these hard times some millionaire is prepared to buy his sweetheart a nice present."One of the world's largest diamonds, a pear-shaped 110.3-carat yellow rock, will go under the hammer in Geneva in November expecting to fetch about $15 million, an auction house said Thursday. The Sun-Drop diamond, discovered in South Africa last year, is billed by Sotheby's as the "world's largest known pear-shaped fancy vivid yellow diamond." (Calgary Herald, 7 October) $15 million is a large price tag especially when you know that millions of workers are trying to survive on $1.25 a day. RD

Who owns Scotland

The book "Scotland: Land and Power (The Agenda for Land Reform)" by Andy Wightman explains that 1252 landowners own two-thirds of the 16 million-plus acres of private rural land in Scotland.

It is a legacy of the universal process behind the rise of capitalism: the war on common ownership and the separation of people from land, by sword and by fraud (The Clearances).

Once enough people were denied the autonomy that access to land provided, a class of exploitable wage workers was produced and the rest, as they say, is history.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Some press reports just take away a socialist's breath with their sheer insanity. This one takes a bit of beating. "Sting's wife Trudie Styler owns seven homes (one in New York, one in Malibu, two in London, one in the Lake District, a Tuscan villa and a 60-acre pile in Wiltshire) and has a £180 million fortune. She is to guest edit The Big Issue and give advice to the homeless." (Daily Mail,7 October) Presumably her first piece of advice will be - marry a pop-star millionaire. RD


Socialists never seem to appreciate the burdens of the rich. If you are extremely rich you have to take immense precautions to keep your wealth intact. Apparently storing your gold in this particular hideaway can cost you as much as 1% per annum of your hoard."Deep in the Singapore FreePort - a collection of secure storage facilities in a duty-free zone covering 7.4 acres next to Changi Airport - sits the bullion vault of Swiss Precious Metals. The gold there is protected by seven-metric-ton steel doors built to withstand a plane crash or an earthquake." (Bloomberg Businessweek, 29 September) Outside Changi Airport some of the most impoverished people in the world live who have no worries about plane crashes or earthquakes destroying their wealth - they have none.RD

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


There are many reasons to be a socialist but it is difficult to think of a more powerful reason than the following. "Today is World Food Day. It might, if one heeds the words of Ban Ki-moon, be more suitably designated Global Lack of Nutrition Day. For, according to a statement by the Secretary- General of the United Nations this weekend, in a world that can produce enough food to feed everyone, nearly a billion people will go hungry today. And that is one in seven of us. A welter of little-noticed reports have been published on the subject in the past week, notably a study of worldwide food insecurity by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)." (Independent on Sunday, 16 October) Inside a socialist society food would be produced for the only sane reason - to feed people. Today it is produced to make a profit RD


Capitalism is always looking for new ways to cut costs. One of the drains on profit that capitalism detest is the high costs of running the NHS, so they have come up with a cost-saving plan. "Elderly patients are being condemned to an early death by hospitals making secret use of "do not resuscitate " orders, an investigation has found. The orders, which record an advance decision that a patient's life should not be saved if their heart stops, are routinely being applied without the knowledge of the patient or their relatives. ...The findings emerged in spot checks of 100 hospitals undertaken by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), an official watchdog, earlier this year. A charity for the elderly said the disclosures were evidence of "euthanasia by the backdoor," with potentially-lethal notices being placed on the files of patients simply because they were old and frail." (Daily Telegraph, 15 October) Needless to say this sort of heartless treatment only applies to those of us who cannot afford the lavish care enjoyed by the owning class. RD 

Monday, October 17, 2011


"Jeans with a distressed, already-worn look have been popular since the 1990s, but one way the effect is achieved is by blasting them with sand - and this can give factory workers an incurable lung disease. ..."I have difficulty breathing... When I return from work I feel so tired. My eyes are in pain from all the dust," says an 18-year-old worker at a garment factory in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is home to more than 4,000 clothes-making factories and many of the world's leading jeans companies use factories based there. The worker, who agreed to speak anonymously to the BBC World Service, says he works 11 hours a day in the choking atmosphere, to earn a salary of $70 a month." (BBC News, 1 October) RD


Socialists are often amazed at the political ignorance displayed by otherwise astute British workers, but it is difficult picturing any of them being naive as this group of Russian workers. "Haggard women hike up a hill near the Volga, saying they're following "the Law of Love." The law brings them to a three-story building made of white brick, with golden turrets and a battered gate. They call it the "Chapel of Russia's Resurrection." At the gate they exchange dusty boots for green plastic sandals before spreading out prayer rugs made of foam and pray to their patron saint: Vladimir Putin, Russia's prime minister and soon-to-be president (again). They believe he's a reincarnation of St. Paul." (Spiegel Online, 29 September) RD

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nasty Nats

The concept of the nation is very real force in the minds of people. The outlook of “us and them” is deep within the lives and the mind-set of many people. The idea that the world is naturally divided into nations is so widespread that it is often unquestioned. The world of nationalism is full of contradictions, odd ideas and illogical notions. The idea that a line of a map, a so-called “national border”, should actually mean something concrete to the workers is laughable. The idea of “we” as in the people who live in Scotland is the most profound falsehood. To say “this is our country” implies that we all own it collectively, when we most certainly do not. A country is a group of people living under the same laws; because they themselves or their ancestors have been brought willingly or by force - more often than not by force - to obey the same sovereign, the same government. Patriotism groups people according to their land of origin, as decided by the vicissitudes of history and within every country, thanks to the patriotic link, rich and poor unite against the foreigner. Socialism, however, groups people, poor against rich, class against class, without taking into account the differences of race and language, and over and above the frontiers traced by history. No one country's exploiters are so superior to the rest that the workers should sacrifice themselves in defending them.

Differences of language, food, music and the like will continue to exist in a socialist world. Indeed, we would no longer be subjected to the “McDonalds” globalisation we have today under capitalism. Different cultures can exist in the same geographical area and that individuals can partake of elements of different cultures. People living in the north of an island, off the north-west coast of the Eurasian land mass, can enjoy IrnBru and mutton pies, without being nationalists. But the World Socialist Movement does object to the exploitation of cultural differences for political ends, as for instance to set up or maintain a state or as the basis for a political party. Without the ideology of nationalism, capitalist states would be unstable since, being based on minority class rule, they need a minimum allegiance from those they rule over. Nationalism serves to achieve this by teaching the ruled to be loyal to "their" so-called "nation-state". Patriotism has run through politics like a malignant sore. That its workers should be patriotic is vital to each national ruling class and this, fertilised by official lies, is exploited by all governments. The very idea they all try to spread, alike – that a given country is owned by some inclusive “we”, based on common descent or culture which “we” all have an interest in defending; that “we” owe loyalty toward, and toward our “fellow-countrymen” over folks from other lands – is the very premise that the nationalists latch onto and tout as their glorious cause. The professional politicians do their craven best to pander to this supposed collective identity.

The only way to define such national identity is to define it in terms of what (who) it is not, i.e. negatively. Thus nationalism sets itself as being against other countries, striving to define a uniqueness of national culture so as to once and for all set its country apart from others, to know itself by what is un-like it. At one extreme this can include myths about race and blood, trying to attach the national abstraction to some trait of genetics or similar such nonsense. Since people have a strong desire to retain their own perceived identity, and to have a good opinion of themselves, often the creeds based on such identities function in a highly irrational, and ultimately, defensive way. In the early 1700s Jonathan Swift said “the first principle of patriotism is to resent foreigners.” This setting of one section of population against another has been successful all around the world. Great numbers of people can now rouse themselves against the newest threat, the most recent immigrants, anyone who looks or sounds like they may be from a group other than their own. And those who dare question the status quo become unpatriotic subversives.

People are not machines, they feel lost in this vast meaningless world of capital, just another cog in the machine. So naturally they seek meaning since little meaning for life can be gained from the system of alienated labour. Often they find that meaning in the idea of the nation and often tying nationality to sport to sustain this nationalist mindset. People can be the "Auld Enemy" simply because they compete with them on the football pitch and sense of identity that comes with it, becomes their lives, and they defend it accordingly from within the ranks of the "Tartan Army". Indeed "football nationalism" is of tremendous value to the capitalist class as it makes supporting "your country" socially acceptable. It not only diverts workers minds away from the problems that surround them, it allows politicians to reap the rewards of any "feel good" factor that springs forth from a good set of results. Many socialists play and watch football but it's a shame that nationalism has to taint what should be a wonderful event. As far as socialists are concerned, these attempts to try and make an appearance of a common interest with our exploiters is just like a thief playing on their support for the same football team as their victim. It does not change the relationship one iota.

Nations have taken a great deal of building. There is almost no nation-state that has not had its boundaries drawn in blood, its foundations built upon human flesh and bones. Nations are manufactured, not born. People who have a common history or speak the same language do not have a common interest; they are divided into classes, and a worker who speaks a particular language has a common interest with workers speaking other languages but not with a capitalist who speaks the same one. We see the harm that is done by national boundaries, that prevent workers from moving to be with whom they want to be with; prevent them from sharing their skills and their knowledge as they see fit; prevent them from seeing their common cause.

It is clear, then, that socialists must oppose nationalism in all its forms: not just refusing to espouse their creed, but defying the rituals, the singing of "Flower of Scotland" anthem , flag-waving of the Saltire or Lion Rampant and other expressions of loyalty to the nation-state, that help enforce the idea of nation in our minds. There is no national interest for workers. Self-determination for "nations" just equates with self-determination for a ruling class. It must be opposed in favour of self determination for people. It must be opposed with socialism. Enormous damage has been done, throughout the world, by the notion that one country and its people are superior to the others. Socialism recognises the essential unity of the human race and the urgent need to celebrate it by building society on that basis. In a socialist society the traditional knowledge and expertise held by small communities will be respected, especially where this relates to local ecology and sustainable systems of land use, and hence priority given to local decision-making over whatever has to be delegated to wider regional or global democratic control.


The Chinese capitalist class and their government officials are drunk with power and think nothing of lavish spending. "Amid poverty, Chinese officials splurge on lavish vanity projects. China is rife with extravagant building projects in backwater towns often grappling with poverty. Reporting from Wangjiang, China - There are no highways running through this impoverished rural county. Children study in dilapidated schoolhouses. On many streets, you're just as likely to run into a chicken as you are a pedestrian. Yet the Wangjiang local government is constructing a headquarters on a slab of land the size of the Pentagon building - a sprawling edifice of granite and glass with a $10-million price tag in a county where the average resident earns $639 a year." (Los Angeles Times, 1 October) The so-called Communist Party splashes out on these grandiose schemes but the working class scrape by on a pittance of an income. RD


For years industrial manufacturers denied that the use of asbestos caused incurable cancers, but eventually they had to bow to the accumulation of more and more scientific evidence. Recent research has shown that tobacco companies have been guilty of the same deceit. "Tobacco companies knew that cigarettes contained a radioactive substance called polonium-210, but hid that knowledge from the public for over four decades, a new study of historical documents revealed. Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, reviewed 27 previously unanalyzed documents and found that tobacco companies knew about the radioactive content of cigarettes as early as 1959. The companies studied the polonium throughout the 1960s, knew that it caused "cancerous growths" in the lungs of smokers, and even calculated how much radiation a regular smoker would ingest over 20 years. Then, they kept that data secret." (abc. News, 29 September) When it comes to making bigger and bigger profits capitalism cares little for human health.RD

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Food for thought

Five hundred people rallied in the Duferin Grove Park neighbourhood to
protest mayor Ford's cuts to services. Still on the chopping block are
cuts to libraries, the arts, parks, fire, and police. A teacher said
that half of his students rely on the library for internet access and
stated, "These cuts are going to have a detrimental effect on the black
and brown people in wards 1 and 2." Racism is alive and well in covert
ways in Toronto, although the wealth/poverty aspect is strong in the
mix. A black man with a good job will be able to afford internet access
just as well as a white person of the same income level. In other words,
it's mainly economic.

There is money available to society of course to be able to do whatever
society wants. Proof is the ever- increasing wealth of the rich. One
example is that of ex-Yahoo executive, Carol Bartz, who, when fired over
the phone (nice guys) announced that the board f---ed me over" to
Fortune magazine. The upshot is that she may lose a $10 million payout
because she has a non-disparagement clause in her employment contract.
To bandy such money about and then close things like libraries is a sick
symptom of a profit society. Work to get rid of it
Another example of the stupidity of cuts in the face of massive wealth
are the planned cuts by the provincial government to the program that
guarantees visits and calls by nurses to new mothers, specifically
targeting those with feeding problems. I remember in the forties and
fifties that new mothers were able to take their babies to a free clinic
to have its health, checked, discuss problems with a nurse, and receive
free bottles of concentrated orange juice, cod liver oil, and malt with
vitamins. The wealthier we get, the more the workers get shafted!

How about this one -- there are calls for providing proper housing with
sewers and access to clean water, and end to poverty, overcrowding, and
work, especially for youth. Is this in the Third World (never to be
promoted to Second or First?)? No, it's right here in Canada, on the
First Nation's reservations. The nineteenth century herded them off
valuable land, and since then they have been forgotten, by-passed by an
increase in wealth of the nation. The measures, by the way, are to
combat the growing number of teen suicides.

If anyone doubts the influence of the US government on ours, the
Toronto Star article (Sept 3, 2011) should dispel them. It writes,
"Secret US government cables show a stunning willingness by senior
Canadian officials to appease American demands for a US-style copyright
law here." Apparently the American government is virtually writing the
law for us! This Harper government is particularly susceptible to this
kind of arrangement as shown by our security forces handing over
information and even bodies to the US to be sent for torture. John Ayers

Friday, October 14, 2011

Food for thought

David Olive (Star Toronto, Sept 10, 2011) asks, "Should We Raise Taxes
on the Rich". He quotes billionaire Warren Buffet, " While the poor and
the middle-class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans
struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our tax
breaks." Indeed, Buffet paid just seventeen per cent income tax while
his workers at Berkshire Hathaway Inc paid thirty-six per cent. This
should bring home to the workers that what is given can be easily taken
away. Reforms are not the answer, getting rid of the system entirely is.

The New York Times reports (18 Sept 2011) how India is tackling its
poverty. The world's largest biometric identity database will collect
information on 1.2 billion individuals and enable them to access welfare
benefits, open a bank account, or get a cell phone in remote villages.
This all could help of course, but The Times should be reminded that
welfare does not eliminate poverty. In addition, the paper tells us, the
crippling and corrupt bureaucracy, a legacy of India's socialist past (!
News to me, too) will be circumvented and will wither away.

The indigenous population in Honduras could use some help, too. There,
Miskito Indians dive into the sea to a depth of as much as 30 to 37
metres, 12 to 16 times a day to harvest the spiny lobster. No more than
two dives of that depth a day are recommended, but poverty forces the
divers to dive more to find the means of subsistence in this profit-dominated world,
"Here the problem is strictly about money, where money is given more value than human life."
Says the doctor who treats them for decompression sickness in a hyperbaric chamber.
Welcome to capitalism. John Ayers

Thursday, October 13, 2011


For centuries politicians, philanthropists and social observers have tried to solve the problem of the poor, but poverty has remained despite their best efforts. Now however a so-called "think-tank", has ridden to the rescue. "One of Britain's foremost think-tanks wants to ban the phrases "poor people" and "the poor" to describe those in poverty, claiming they amount to discrimination akin to racism and sexism. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) says politicians and members of the public are guilty of "povertyism", an unacknowledged form of prejudice which stigmatises deprived people." (Sunday Times, 9 October) The findings of this think-tank must be a great consolation to those workers who find themselves unemployed, homeless and desperate. They may be skint but they are not poor - thanks very much JRF! RD

A full circle

Scotland's poorest people are facing food shortages akin to Second World War rationing, a charity has claimed. Pensioners and those on the lowest incomes are struggling to feed themselves in the face of rising food prices, Oxfam Scotland said.

Food prices have been rising at over twice the rate of the national minimum wage and at nearly twice the rate of jobseeker's allowance over the past five years.

Danny McCafferty, from Clydebank Independent Resource Centre, which helps unemployed people and those on low incomes, said "In some ways they've gone full circle. Those who are in their 70s and 80s experienced rationing and shortages after the Second World War and now they're going through it all again."

Judith Robertson, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: "It is a gross injustice that poor people in Scotland are finding it increasingly difficult to feed themselves and their families."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Wednesday 19 October 21, 8.30pm

Resistance, Reform or Revolution

Speaker: Brian Gardner

Community Central Halls, 304 Maryhill Road G29 7YE


As capitalism grapples with (what is now being referred to as) its "greatest ever crisis" (Mervyn King), workers in many parts of the world are facing an increased onslaught on their livelihoods and quality of life. Whilst world socialists have never placed much faith in the idea that workers have actually enjoyed the recent economic boom, it appears that we are entering a different era now, where the expectation of ever-increasing living standards is starting to be reversed, and may continue for years or even decades, as the extent of the market correction commenced in 2008 emerges.


How are workers taking this? By voting Tory and then rioting? It is a confusing picture certainly, but one worth examining.


Since the last major economic downturn in the 1970s, the working class has lost much of its power, confidence and organisational strength. Unions are desperately weak. But workers have also lost confidence in the traditional ways of doing things: the labour/social-democratic parties of the western countries have deserted their traditional support in an effort to gain power to run capitalism. And now their traditional support (working-class) is deserting them. Similarly the Leninist left that once so effectively controlled and neutered worker anger, is now a complete irrelevance.


More generally, politicians have haemorrhaged support in recent years, along with other former figures of authority: bankers, police and journalists. In tandem with this, increasing numbers of workers appear to be starting to use social media and internet in a participative, unmediated and political fashion, free from top-down control.


As the main party conference season passes workers by, there are possible signs of new forms of organised worker political activity in the UK and beyond. Is there a link between the African Spring and the UK summer riots? Tent cities sprout around the city centres of the world, from Wall St to the City of London. But is this just the same old stuff (lets reform capitalism) being discussed in a different way? Certainly a quick look at the media provides plenty of evidence of the legitimacy of capitalism being up for much more debate than ever before.


What views do world socialists take on these events? What bits are positive, and which have downsides? And anyway, should we be interested in what the working class is thinking and doing? Is our audience the same as in 1904? For that matter, is our objective the same as then?


Politicians vie with each other in claiming that they can solve capitalism's boom and burst cycle of trade. Beyond their empty boasts there is a reality that they dare not recognise in their bombastic promises. It is that booms and bursts are the way capitalism operates and politicians are powerless to do anything about it. A recent survey by the IFS shows what the future is likely to be. "Falling incomes will mean the biggest drop for middle-income families since the 1970s, says a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The IFS forecasts two years "dominated by a large decline" in incomes, pushing 600,000 more children into poverty, By 2013 there will be 3.1 million children in poverty in the UK, according to the IFS projections." (BBC News, 11 October) All the politicians can do is make empty promises while we suffer empty pockets. RD

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


In the 19th and 20th Century European powers such as Britain, France and Holland engaged in a ruthless colonial expansionism throughout the globe, but times change and we now have capitalist China engaging in the same pattern of colonial exploitation. In poverty stricken Zambia the pattern is repeated. "Chinese investment in Africa's leading copper producer topped $1 billion last year and came with the promise of 15,000 jobs as well as an additional $5 billion investment over the next few years. Almost all of the money is ploughed back into Zambia's copper-mining industry, with only 10% invested in construction, agriculture, retail and manufacturing. It is perhaps understandable that in a southern African country the size of Texas, where almost two-thirds of the 13 million citizens live under the poverty line of $1.25 a day, economic growth is the government's priority - even if that growth comes at a cost." (Time Magazine, 19 September) The so-called communist Chinese government once railed against the evils of colonial exploitation but now it enthusiastically engages in it.RD

Monday, October 10, 2011


One of the defenses of capitalism that socialists often encounter is that for all its failings it is at least a progressive society. Well try telling that to the poor Uganda farmers who have recently experienced some of capitalism's progress. "According to a report released by the aid group Oxfam on Wednesday, more than 20,000 people say they were evicted from their homes here in recent years to make way for a tree plantation run by a British forestry company, emblematic of a global scramble for arable land. "Too many investments have resulted in dispossession, deception, violation of human rights and destruction of livelihoods",Oxfam said in the report. "This interest in land is not something that will pass. As population and urbanization soar, it added, whatever land there is will surely be prized." Across Africa, some of the world's poorest people have been thrown off land to make way for foreign investors, often uprooting local farmers so that food can be grown on a commercial scale and shipped to richer countries overseas." (New York Times, 21 September) RD

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Food for thought

In the Futility of Reform Department, I take you to Detroit where the new 900 employees of Chrysler Corp. are called the cornerstone of its comeback. Why? Because they are willing and happy to have a job at $14 per hour, less than half what they would have received before. They turn out a Jeep Grand Cherokee every 48 seconds. (Toronto Star, Sept 18, 2011) "What was once seen as a desperate move to prop up the struggling auto industry is now considered an integral part of its future." The union could do nothing but acquiesce to the auto- makers' demands and now hope to begin the wage increase process all over again.
In the same issue, David Herle writes, " The Canadian middle class dream is disappearing. There is more income inequality than ever before, and fewer people find themselves with the trappings traditionally associated with middle- class life -- security in retirement, a little bit of savings to help your kids through school, the ability to splurge on a vacation from time to time." We would substitute workers who have won a few extra crumbs for the 'middle-class' epithet. Nevertheless, things are getting tougher for the workers and nothing can be taken for granted. We will have to fight for every little thing we get, unless we get rid of the whole damned system! John Ayers


As they near retirement age many workers console themselves with the notion that they will at last be free from money worries, but recent research may lead them to reconsider their dreams of rocking chair contentment. "Research published today suggests that many people with private pensions will be as much as 30 per cent worse off compared with those with similar savings who finished work in 2008, because of a combination of tumbling stock markets and interest rates at a record low. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accountants, said those facing retirement this year would be left "between a rock and a hard place", forced to consider putting off claiming a pension until market conditions improve." (Daily Telegraph, 8 October) Even after a lifetime of work and money anxiety capitalism still holds no respite for many workers. RD

Friday, October 07, 2011


As school kids many of us were fascinated by the exploits of our sporting heroes and would delight in tales in the Hotspur and Rover comic books about batsmen "hitting sizzling sixes over the tuck shop roof". That of course was in our naive youth before finding out about how capitalism really operates. "A further three Pakistan cricketers have been named in court as being allegedly involved in a betting scam. The prosecution claim that the agent Mazher Majeed, 36, told an undercover reporter he had players he could control in relation to fixing. ....The case at Southwark Crown Court centres around a Test match against England at Lord's in 2010 however evidence is being heard relating to an Oval Test which took place on an earlier date." (BBC News, 6 October) Capitalism corrupts everything it touches and the sporting arena is no exception. RD


We have all seem romantic films about what a fascinating city New York is. We have all heard Frank Sinatra sing New York, New York It's A Wonderful Town, but the reality is somewhat different. "Poverty grew nationwide last year, but the increase was even greater in New York City, the Census Bureau will report on Thursday, suggesting that New York was being particularly hard hit by the aftermath of the recession. From 2009 to 2010, 75,000 city residents were pushed into poverty, increasing the poor population to more than 1.6 million and raising the percentage of New Yorkers living below the official federal poverty line to 20.1 percent, the highest level since 2000. The 1.4-percentage-point annual increase in the poverty rate appeared to be the largest jump in nearly two decades. ... Manhattan continued to have the biggest income gap of any county in the country, with the top fifth of earners (with an average income of $371,754) making nearly 38 times as much as the bottom fifth ($9,845)." (New York Times, 22 September) RD

Thursday, October 06, 2011


Capitalism in Britain in the midst of one of its many economic slumps is looking desperately for new ways to increase its profits. The latest is motorway speed limits."The speed limit on motorways will rise to 80mph, it will be announced tomorrow. Under the new plans more roads in built-up areas will be reduced to a 20mph limit. The plans will be presented as part of the Coalition's attempts to boost the economy, with ministers arguing that shorter journeys on major roads will help businesses. However, the increase to 80mph for motorways will be criticised by environmental groups, who say that higher speeds mean much higher greenhouse gas emissions." (Daily Telegraph, 29 September) Ecological groups may be concerned by increased emissions but socialists are concerned about the increased death rates amongst workers who have to use the motorways in order to earn a living. Inside capitalism profit is much more important than human life. RD


This is nothing more boring than hearing fervent nationalists making empty boasts about the superiority of "their" country to all others. "The number of anti-depressants being prescribed to people in Scotland is continuing to increase, according to the latest figures. Statistics from the Scottish government suggest that more than one in 10 of the population are on the drugs. In the last financial year a total of 4.6 million anti-depressants were prescribed in Scotland, up more than 350,000 on the previous year. It is estimated 11.3% of Scots, aged over 15, take the drugs daily." (BBC News, 27 September) So it is probably worth reminding yourself the next time you hear a Scottish worker of your acquaintance waxing eloquent about "his" mountains, glens and bonnie blooming heather he is probably high on Prozac instead of his usual whisky. It is marginally cheaper after all. RD


"Wow, what do you think sweetheart, don't I look fabulous in this" some workers may say, but behind their delight lurks the awful exploitation of other workers. "More than two dozen global clothing brands on Tuesday pledged to investigate a spate of mass faintings among Cambodian garment workers, the UN's labour agency said. The retailers said they would provide resources and international expertise to find out why hundreds of their suppliers' employees have collapsed recently, the International Labour Organisation said after a meeting in Phnom Penh. Among the retailers who supported the initiative were Gap, H&M, Walmart and Target, a source who attended the gathering but wished to remain anonymous told AFP." (Yahoo News, 6 September) Who cares about fainting Cambodians, don't I look cool. That is capitalism for you. RD


The severe economic slump in the USA has led to mounting unemployment and mortgage re-possessions but the billionaires are still doing very nicely. "Despite the stalled economy, the nation's wealthiest are worth a combined $1.53 trillion, nearly equivalent to the GDP of our neighbor Canada. Their total wealth is up 12% in the year through August 26, when we took a snapshot of everyone's net worth, meaning these affluent folks did slightly better than the markets; the S&P 500, for instance, was up 10% in that time." (Yahoo Finance, 21 September) The figures compiled by show that Bill Gates is worth $59 billion and Warren Beattie $39 billion. RD


The press are fond of depicting large sections of the working class who go out on a Saturday night to have a drink as useless; work-shy lay bouts who drink to excess and behave in an anti-social fashion. It is unlikely that even the most debauched worker would consider spending this amount of money on a night out though. "The world's oldest yet still drinkable champagne has been sold at auction for 30,000 euros. The bottle of Veuve Cliquot, believed to be 170 years old, was discovered by divers uncovering a shipwreck in the Baltic sea in 2010. It was one of only 145 discovered, however only two will be sold as most wines which are that old have turned to vinegar. ....A 10-year wedding anniversary present, the recipient said: "My husband doesn't believe in keeping wines, he wants to open them and enjoy them with his friends." (Huffington Post, 23 September) RD

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Food for thought

The staggering proportion of Africa's health and poverty problem never fails to horrify us. The New York Times reported (Sept. 25, 2011) that 750 000 Somalis are likely to starve to death without massive intervention. This, the newspaper reports is 1990s all over again. Like economic crises, it will continue to reoccur as long as the profit system is in place -- no profit, no effective demand, no production. (The Times didn't say that of course!)

The Toronto Star reported (Sept 24, 2011) that one million people die of malaria annually in sub-Saharan Africa, one child every 30 seconds. An Omani doctor whose sister succumbed to the disease, started a campaign to change this situation. Bill and Melinda Gates contributed to the campaign funding 44 research teams finding ways to wipe malaria out. Good effort, but the $450 million invested is a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of money Big Pharma puts out to 'cure' acne' or spider veins on the legs. They could produce a cheap vaccine in no time for everyone as long as they could make the big profits they garner from fake medicine.

The same article tells us that 350 000 women died with pregnancy problems and 7.2 million children die annually before the age of five,  mainly in the developing world (anyone know when it will be developED?).
They claim we are likely to see a vaccine for HIV within ten years and a malaria vaccine is available and it will be commercialized by 2016. Too bad for those who need it in the next five to ten years. John Ayers

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Highland lows

In a new report, the health board covering the Highlands and Argyll and Bute said poverty was the biggest issue in its fight to tackle inequality. About 53,000 people were in poverty in the health board area last year. Merkinch in Inverness and Dunoon were among the most deprived areas, according to the NHS Highland report. Alness, the south side of Wick and Campbeltown were also listed among the most deprived places in the health board's area.

NHS Highland's report said the average life expectancy of a man living in Merkinch was 66 years - about 14 years less than a man living in Lochardil.

Its authors said: "Poverty is the biggest issue facing the NHS Highland area in the fight against inequality. With impending welfare reform, rising fuel prices, public sector cuts and a fragile economy, the number of people affected by poverty and financial hardship is set to rise."

Dr Margaret Somerville, director of public health, said: "It is important to note that inequalities in health have worsened over the last 10 years...The worst off in society are likely to suffer most from the economic climate and consequent changes in public sector services..."


In their mad demand for profit the capitalist class are polluting our world more and more. "Ozone loss over the Arctic this year was so severe that for the first time it could be called an "ozone hole" like the Antarctic one, scientists report. ...Ozone-destroying chemicals originate in substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that came into use late last century in appliances including refrigerators and fire extinguishers. ..... The ozone layer blocks ultraviolet-B rays from the Sun, which can cause skin cancer and other medical conditions. (BBC News, 3 October) On the face of it a scientific report on the BBC may not appear to mean that much to you, until your child develops skin cancer or some other awful medical condition. It will mean a lot then. RD

Sunday, October 02, 2011


Under the heading of "33p a day is poverty line - and at least 308 million live below it" the Times newspaper outlined the perilous condition of many Indian workers. The Planning Commission of the Indian government recommended that this should be the poverty line and anyone above it would be denied subsidised rice, wheat, healthcare and housing. "But the claim that 35 rupees (33p) per day in rural areas and 32 rupees in cities such as Mumbai and Delhi was sufficient to provide "adequate private expenditure on food, education and health" has provoked outrage in India, where inflation of close to 10 per cent per year and widespread corruption is fuelling resentment against the ruling elite." (Times, 1 October) It is worth noting that India has emerged as one of the countries with more and more millionaires and a recent study by the UN found of the 645 million classed as poor 420 million of these were to be found in eight northern and eastern states of India. RD

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Stalin bad, Lenin good???

A terrific article by Richard Montague in this month's Socialist Standard states:
"Josef Stalin, who by an ironic inversion of the ‘Great Man’ theory of history subsequently became the Lucifer of the Left and the architect of evil in the Russian empire, wrote a pamphlet called Socialism or Anarchism in 1905 in which he correctly summed up the Marxian view of socialism:".....and further."Many contemporary exponents of Leninism ascribe the awful saga of totalitarian rule that emerged from this sort of thinking to Stalin. Yes, Stalin did head the list of political gangsters that terrorised Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution, but it was the elitist nonsense promoted by Lenin, as evidenced above, and the undemocratic political structures established by the Bolshevik Party that created the pathway to the massive evils of Stalinism."

You can read it for yourselves on the new website being developed.