Monday, October 31, 2011
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
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
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.
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.
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
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
Friday, October 21, 2011
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
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
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.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
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
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
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?
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Sunday, October 09, 2011
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
Friday, October 07, 2011
Thursday, October 06, 2011
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
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.
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
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..."
Sunday, October 02, 2011
Saturday, October 01, 2011
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.