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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.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/who-owns-scotland-1320933.html

Only 1 per cent of the 19 million acres of land in Scotland has passed into the control of local communities.
http://www.scotsman.com/news/so_who_owns_scotland_1_1153636

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
http://www.cairngormsmoorlands.co.uk/moorland_land_ownership.htm

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.
http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/07/24/the-inequality-rarely-mentioned-in-westminster-s…

LABOUR EXPOSED

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

BANGED UP AND HUNGRY

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

MILLION DOLLAR CONMEN

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

THE FAILURE OF CHARITY

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

THE BOTTOM LINE

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

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.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Reply: 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 impr…

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.

http://www.heralds…

OLD, COLD AND DEAD

"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-lands

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, p…

A DISABLED SOCIETY

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

AN EASY TARGET

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 th…

CAN'T BE BOTHERED?

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

HEY, LOOK AT ME

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

A BRIGHT FUTURE?

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 PARAPLEGICS PLIGHT

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 Soci…

HARD TIMES AND HARD ROCKS

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.

SOUND ADVICE?

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

THE BURDENS OF THE RICH

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

ONE IN SEVEN GO HUNGRY

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

BACKDOOR EUTHANASIA

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 …

LOOKING COOL - AT A PRICE

"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

POLITICAL IGNORANCE

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

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 wi…

CHINESE CONTRASTS

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

A CANCEROUS SYSTEM

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 bi…

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 upsh…

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, …

SKINT, BUT NOT POOR

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."

GLASGOW BRANCH PUBLIC MEETING

Wednesday 19 October 21, 8.30pm

Resistance, Reform or Revolution

Speaker: Brian Gardner

Community Central Halls, 304 Maryhill Road G29 7YEAs 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 organisa…

EMPTY PROMISES

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

CHINESE COLONIALISM

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…

THE PRICE OF PROGRESS

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…

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 splu…

FROM DREAM TO NIGHTMARE

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

IT'S NOT CRICKET

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

A WONDERFUL TOWN?

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 t…

INCREASING THE DEATH RATE

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

A DEPRESSING SOCIETY

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

COOL BUT AT A PRICE

"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 CLASS DIVIDE

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 Forbes.com show that Bill Gates is worth $59 billion and Warren Beattie $39 billion. RD

AN EXPENSIVE TIPPLE

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

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.…

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 in…

POLLUTION AND CAPITALISM

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

SURVIVING ON 33 PENCE A DAY

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 sta…

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.