Wednesday, November 30, 2011


With the discovery of oil and gas in the North Sea many optimists predicted that gas for home heating would cost next to nothing. Another piece of optimistic predictions about the future that was once made was that with the great technological advances we would soon enjoy a much shorter working week and we would all be retiring a lot sooner. A glance at your last gas bill shows the hollowness of the first prediction, but even wider of the mark was the second one. "More than 6 million (28%) of today's over-50s expect to work past the state retirement age, according to the working late index compiled by LV. They expect to work an extra six years, the retirement specialists said." (Sunday Times, 27 November) The realities of capitalism often leave the optimists looking foolish.

Fight back or revolution

Education, hospitals, transport and the like are primarily a service for the smooth running of capitalism and were brought in as such. It is the essential nature of the services in these industries which has led to their being associated with state control. In other words, they are useful to the capitalist class and so it is in their interest to maintain them at a reasonably efficient level. On the other hand, the public sector costs money to run and this can only come in the end out of taxes, which ultimately fall on the capitalist's profits.

Cameron and other apologists for the status quo claim that the whole population will have to make “sacrifices” to keep paying for those public services. What these defenders of capitalism utterly and deliberately fail to tell us is that the overwhelming burden of the sacrifice will have to be made by the working class. The rich will, for the most part, as usual keep their privileges and luxurious lifestyles. Capitalism always works in the interests of the rich minority and against the interests of the majority of the population, no matter how many reforms are introduced. Work harder, pull together, make sacrifices today, they used to say, and in a few years you’ll reap the rewards. Of course tomorrow never came. They are no longer saying this now.

Most economists and political commentators are saying that the UK’s budget deficit and indebtedness will usher in a period of significant austerity. This problem is a global one, as the problems of Greece has well publicised. Instead of meekly accepting that it must pay the price for capitalism’s crisis, and waiting for the austerity measures to be handed on down, the Greek workers set about angrily resisting them. There has been general strikes in the country.

To-day over 300,000 Scottish public sector workers will stage a strike against the Government pension changes. Success through striking may well encourage other workers to stand up for their rights in the workplace more. A group of workers' strength, however, will continue to be determined by their position within the capitalist economy, and their victory a partial one within the market system. Only by looking to the political situation, the reality of class ownership and power within capitalism, and organising to make themselves a party to the political battle in the name of common ownership for their mutual needs, will a general gain come to workers, and an end wrought to the need for these battles. Otherwise, the ultimate result of the strikes will be the need to strike again in the future. There can be no real and lasting "victory" within the profit system.

In a world that has the potential to produce enough food, clothes, housing and the other amenities of life for all, factories are closing down, workers are being laid off, unemployment is growing, houses are being repossessed and people are having to tighten their belts. Capitalism in relative "good" times is bad enough, but capitalism in an economic crisis makes it plain for all to see that it is not a system geared to meeting people's needs. What can be done? Nothing within the profit system. It can’t be mended, so it must be ended.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Any pretence that Britain's intervention in Libya had anything to do with stopping military conflict is surely exploded by this piece of information. "As Libya struggles to rebuild, power effectively rests in the hands of the heavily armed militias who ousted the former dictator. But that hasn't stopped the British government from pushing ahead with plans to renew arms sales to the war-torn country. The Independent has learned that a defense industry trade delegation is planning to travel to Libya early next year in the hope the country's new pro-western National Transition Council will become lucrative customers." (Independent, 5 November) Britain's participation in Libya should be seen for it was - a lucrative business deal worth millions in oil and arms. RD


The media give great prominence to the death of a soldier in Afghanistan, but less prominence is paid to another tragedy. "180 pensioners died every day as a result of cold conditions during the 2010-11 winter months in England and Wales. The annual "Excess winter mortality" report found that an estimated 21,800 people over the age of 65 died as a result of adverse conditions, on top of the average mortality rate for the same period of time (4 months from December 2010 to March 2011). Over-65s accounted for 84% of the overall 25,700 deaths during the winter months. "The numbers of excess winter deaths are a disgrace",said Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK." (Yahoo News, 22 November) Needless to say the pensioners who die of the cold this winter will all be members of the working class who could not afford the rising cost of gas and electricity bills RD

Monday, November 28, 2011


Capitalism is a horrendous society with world hunger, poverty and war being obvious examples of its inhumanity, but here is a tale to chill the blood of the most unfeeling. "The youngest girl in the brothel had been trafficked from Vietnam a few months ago when she was in the seventh grade, meaning that she was born in 1999. That makes her about 12 years old. Her youth made her very popular in the brothel. There were sometimes lines of men waiting to have sex with her, and she could have 20 customers a night. Of course, she didn't get a penny of that income."(New York Times, 12 November) This example from a brothel in south Cambodia shows the horror of the profit system in action. Why do we let such things happen? RD


Almost half of China's millionaires are considering moving abroad, according to a survey released recently by Hurun, best known for publishing a Chinese rich list, and the Bank of China. "The report found that 46% of the 980 people surveyed had thought about emigrating; 14% had done so already or applied to do so. .... Many sought immigrant investor status, which grants residence rights to those making large investments." (Guardian, 11 November) This gives the lie to the notion that Western governments are fundamentally opposed to China. If you have capital and want to invest it - you are welcome. It also shows as a sham the idea that China has anything to do with communism. Millionaire communists? RD


All their lives workers must endure hardships but for many of them the end of their working life proves even more unendurable. A report on the care given to retired workers at home illustrates this. "The Equality and Human Rights Commission said they found numerous examples of physical and financial abuse. Only half of the 1,254 people questioned by the EHRC said they were satisfied with their home care. Among the catalogue of failures they documented were theft and chronic disregard for older people's privacy and dignity." (Times, 23 November) Dignity is not too much to ask for ageing workers, but theft and violence from so called "carers" is just another awful indictment of capitalism. RD

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Reformist political parties spread the idea that wars are fought over such issues as principles, liberty or democracy. Only the SPGB points out that all capitalist wars are fought over markets, sources of raw material and spheres of political influence. "Australia is set to become home to hundreds of U.S. Marines - as America moves its servicemen to a military base on the northern tip of the country. In a bid to combat China's increase in global military and financial power, between 500 to 1,000 officers are to form a permanent U.S. military presence at a barracks outside Darwin. "(Daily Mail,14 November) The presence of US troops in far away Australia has nothing to do with principles, it is an awareness of the growing economic and military importance of the South China Sea. RD


Some supporters of capitalism claim that for all its shortcomings it is at least a progressive society, but this report would seem to contradict that notion. "A global plan to halve by 2015 the number of people without access to sanitation is failing so badly that some of the world's poorest countries will not have this basic necessity for another 200 years. Almost 900 million people worldwide live without access to clean water and more than two and a half billion people live without adequate sanitation - more than a third of the world's population. But, says the charity WaterAid in a report due out this week, aid given to solve this problem is not reaching the people who need it most." (Independent, 13 November) It is hardly a progressive society that condemns millions of people to live without clean water for another 200 years. RD

Friday, November 25, 2011


One of the illusions that supporters of capitalism love to expound is that "the young don't realise how lucky they are" or "things were a lot worse when I was a lad". The media depict young workers in a mocking fashion. In the past they have been "teddy boys" or "ne'er -do-wells", but now they have come up with a new one "neets". "The number of young people not in education, training or work has risen to a record level in England. Official figures for the third quarter of this year say there were 1,163,000 people aged from 16 to 24 not in education, employment or training (Neet).That is almost one in five of that age-group and an extra 137,000 compared with the same point last year." (BBC News, 24 November) The increase of Neets has nothing to do with a media "degeneration of youth" but a lot to do wither the slump of present day capitalism. RD

Return to the slums

More than 1.4 million homes have failed to meet a key housing standard, new figures have revealed. In 2010 61% of houses, 1,014,000 in the private sector and 393,000 in the socially-rented sector, failed to meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard.

One-fifth of the stock in Scotland is now more than 90 years old, a third of the housing stock is more than 60 years old and a fifth of homes have been built in the last 30 years.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

its getting worse

Families are £13 a week worse off than they were a year ago, as deteriorating employment conditions and high inflation continue to erode their spending power, according to a report.

UK families typically had £164 a week left of income in October after paying regular bills such as food, clothing and housing costs, 7.1% less than a year ago.

Charles Davis, managing economist of the Centre for Economics and Business Research compiles the report, said: "Worsening employment conditions, alongside the persistently elevated rate of inflation, are continuing to erode household real incomes and family spending power." He warned: "UK households will remain under pressure for some time."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


The media give great prominence to the death of a soldier in Afghanistan, but less prominence is paid to another tragedy. "180 pensioners died every day as a result of cold conditions during the 2010-11 winter months in England and Wales. The annual "Excess winter mortality" report found that an estimated 21,800 people over the age of 65 died as a result of adverse conditions, on top of the average mortality rate for the same period of time (4 months from December 2010 to March 2011). Over-65s accounted for 84% of the overall 25,700 deaths during the winter months. "The numbers of excess winter deaths are a disgrace",said Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK." (Yahoo News, 22 November) Needless to say the pensioners who die of the cold this winter will all be members of the working class who could not afford the rising cost of gas and electricity bills RD

Lazy Workers ?

New research shows that 49 per cent of working parents don't use up all of their holiday allowance, and that one in five of us simply can't take enough time off work to get away. We are becoming a nation where the notion of a fortnight away from it all is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Rebecca Taylor, web editor and mother of one said "The reason families don't spend enough holiday time together is because we are all desperately clinging to the jobs we do have in order to earn just enough to pay our huge childcare bills. Some mothers I know haven't managed a proper fortnight off since they gave birth."

Nicola Chappell, who has worked in TV for the past 20 years, says in that time, she has witnessed an almost complete transformation of attitudes. "I always make sure I take every single day of holiday that's owed to me but I've noticed that younger people in the office don't seem to take any. It's freelance culture – they're far too scared of losing their jobs to go away."

Dr Martina Klett-Davies, a family sociologist thinks our increasing reluctance to take proper holidays is directly related to the state of the economy. "We are living in an age of austerity. It becomes more prevalent to hold on to your job for love nor money and if that means forgoing holiday to do so, so be it."

"Having worked in HR for many years it is amazing how many people are willing to lose holidays or would rather be paid than take time off," says Tanya Milson. "This year in particular I have noticed a lot more unused holiday. It seems we are living in a world where none of us simply ever have enough time to get all our work done."

Monday, November 21, 2011


One of the sillier notions abroad at the moment is that we live in a revolutionary era - we don't. We live in a society that makes profit making it's major priority and this leads to major discontent but not to revolution. When a member of the working class, whether a shipyard labourer or a brain surgeon realises that the whole world and everything in and on it is owned by less than 10 per cent of the world's population we get a revolutionary era. We can not forecast the future but we do know that men and women who want a new society based on common ownership and production for use want a better world. No war, no world hunger or poverty. That will do us. RD

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Greece is forced by European leaders to abandon a referendum to allow the people the chance to vote on its latest bailout conditions. The conditions of the next 130bn euros rescue package will be severe but ignores the extent to which the German and French military industries rely on Greece. "The small, crisis-hit nation, whose prime minister, George Papandreou, narrowly survived a vote of confidence on Friday, buys more German weapons than any other country. Some Greeks want to know why it is that France and Germany are demanding cuts in pensions, salaries and public services, but the buying of arms is allowed to continue unabated." (Independent, 7 September) French and German capitalists, like all capitalists world-wide, are more interested in profits than the plight of Greek pensioners. RD


Governments always claim in times of economic downturn that "we are all in this together", but it is significant that it is the poor and needy who always suffer most. "Millions of benefit claimants are about to lose £1 billion of increases planned for next year after the Government decided to break the historic link between inflation and welfare payments. The Times has learnt that key ministers, including Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pension Secretary, have agreed that 5.7 million people claiming benefit for the unemployed will each lose hundreds of pounds a year." (Times, 18 November) The report then goes on to claim that the government hope to save £10 billion a year with changes in the benefit system. RD

Saturday, November 19, 2011


The owning class are always seeking ways of increasing their profit margins and one way of doing that is by decreasing their expenditure on welfare and health. "People should be signed off for long-term sickness by an independent assessment service not GPs, a government-backed review says. The review also suggests tax breaks for firms which employ people who suffer from long-term conditions. It is estimated the changes would send 20% of those off sick back to work." (BBC News, 19 November) In sickness and health the working class must be kept toiling to keep those profits rolling in. RD


In a desperate move to ease their financial difficulties European politicians have been looking to the Chinese capitalist class for some assistance, but so far have been rebuffed. "The head of the Chinese state's overseas investment arm said he would only help Europe if it reformed its outdated labour laws and welfare systems. Jin Liqun, chairman of the board of supervisors of China Investment Corporation, said Europeans should stop "languishing on the beach" and work harder it they want to drag the eurozone out of its downward spiral." (Daily Mail, 13 November) The Chinese model of ruthless exploitation, long hours and starvation wages may be the ideal for the European capitalists but their workers may prove less accommodating than the Chinese wage slaves. RD

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Every reformist political party claims that it can deal with the problems of capitalism. They all have a "Cunning Plan" to deal with poverty, war and unemployment. The British working class at various times have tried different brands of political tricksters to deal with the problems. They have most recently even tried a coalition government - with what results? "UK unemployment rose by 129,000 in the three months to September to 2.62 million, as youth unemployment rose above a million. The jobless total for 16 to 24-year-olds hit a record of 1.02 million in the quarter and female unemployment was at its highest for 23 years. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the jobless rate hit 8.3%." (BBC News, 16 November) The sad fact is that capitalism by its very nature must have slumps and booms, and unemployment is one of the inevitable outcomes. RD

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


In the present economic situation it is often difficult for newly-weds to find affordable accommodation, so it is nice to see that one couple have solved the problem."The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are to make Kensington Palace their family home after the Queen personally intervened to enable them to live in Princess Margaret's former apartment. About £1million will now be spent renovating the lavish four-storey, 20-room Apartment 1A - which comes complete with its own private walled garden - to make it fit for William and Kate." (Daily Mail, 6 November) There is no problem about housing for the owning class and all their hangers-on. That is only a problem for the working class. RD

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The Hollywood stereotype of war veterans returning to a hero's welcome from their home town population amidst cheering crowds and flag-waving adulation is just that - a Hollywood invention. "One U.S. veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan attempts suicide every 80 minutes, according to new study. In a staggering indictment on the lack of mental health programmes in the U.S. military, the report reveals 1,868 veterans made suicide attempts in 2009 alone. Many veterans face dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, high unemployment and a loss of military camaraderie after returning from tours." (Daily Mail, 3 November) We can't expect Hollywood to reflect this grim reality - it's not good box office material. RD


Vladimir Putin hopes to return to the Russian presidency for a third time, and like all politicians is peddling the usual patriotic electioneering nonsense. "Repeating his usual criticism of the West for meddling in the affairs of other countries such as Libya, the former KGB spy hinted that his third stint in the Kremlin would not be all that different from his first two. "Putin does not split in two. He is one person," he quipped. "There are basic things that are not subject to change, that will not change -- a love for the Motherland, the push for results... to increase people's wealth, and to improve internal and external security." (Daily Telegraph, 12 November) During Putin's tenure of office he certainly assisted in increasing the wealth of some people - the Russian capitalist class. RD


In a desperate attempt to cut costs in the NHS the government awarded Circle Health the management of Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridge. The company is run by a former Goldman Sachs banker, and the move was hailed by government ministers as "a good deal for patients and staff". "The first private company to take over an hospital has admitted in a document seen by the Observer that patient care could suffer under its plans to expand its empire and seek profit from the health service. Circle Health is already feeling a strain on resources due to its aggressive business strategy, the document reveals, and the firm's ambition to further expand into the NHS "could affect its ability to provide a consistent level of service to its patients", it says." (Observer, 13 November) In view of the company's own appraisal it would appear the government's forecast of "a good deal for patients and staff" could prove to be well wide of the mark. RD

Tartan Trots

Further to this earlier post Socialist Courier finds vindication.

Tommy Sheridan’s former press chief Hugh Kerr has resigned from Solidarity to join the SNP, claiming he wants to fight for an “independent Socialist Scotland” within Alex Salmond’s nationalists and also said he would be “delighted” to stand for the SNP as a Holyrood candidate or in the 2012 council’s elections.

Kerr said that the far left had become a “sideshow” as he resigned from Solidarity and claimed that the only way he and other Sheridan supporters could have “any influence” would be to join the SNP. He said: “The split with the SSP and other factors has meant that the far left is doomed to be a sideshow for a decade and if I’m to have any influence the truth is that this has to be in the SNP, which has the support of the majority of Scots."

Former Labour MEP Kerr told The Scotsman he had held talks with Sheridan during a prison visit to his former boss, whom he insisted was “very sympathetic” to his decision to join the SNP. He also said that there “could well be” other members of Solidarity planning to defect to the SNP, a move which could see left wingers entering Mr Salmond’s party in a similar tactic used in the 1980s and 1990s to influence Labour by far left groups such as the Militant Tendency.

Monday, November 14, 2011


On 11th November every year all over Britain they commemorate the millions killed in war. Veterans parade in city squares, military bands play rousing music, reverend gentlemen mouth platitudes and of course politicians make promises. "David Cameron said ministers would "strain every sinew" to do more for service personnel and their families.The Remembrance weekend initiative aims to end the scandal of veterans being left too poor to buy a home and unable to get on a social housing list." (Daily Mail, 12 November) In 1918 politicians told us it was a war to end all wars. It turned out to be an empty piece of rhetoric - just like Mr. Cameron's latest piece of political bombast. RD


The USA is the most developed capitalist nation in the world and it has some of the richest people in the world. It also has some people desperately poor. "Nearly 15% of the U.S. population relied on food stamps in August, as the number of recipients hit 45.8 million. Food stamp rolls have risen 8.1% in the past year, the Department of Agriculture reported, though the pace of growth has slowed from the depths of the recession. .... Mississippi reported the largest share of its population relying on food stamps, more than 21%. One in five residents in New Mexico, Tennessee, Oregon and Louisiana also were food stamp recipients. (Wall Street Journal, 1 November) This gap between rich and poor is not unique to the USA. It is a worldwide feature of capitalism. RD

The Scots Left Behind

When someone comes across the Socialist Party for the first time, a common reaction is to consider us as just another left-wing political organisation. But digging a little deeper will show that our political position is very different from that of the Scottish Socialist Party or Sheridan's Solidarity. The first difference is that of our aims, the kind of society we wish to see established. Socialists are quite clear and uncompromising on this — our aim is a society without wages, money, countries or governments.

The Scottish "Socialist" Party despite its name, does not stand for socialism but is a left-wing nationalist - a Tartan Trotskyist - party. The SSP is a direct descendant of Militant and campaigns to get elected with non-socialist votes on a programme of attractive-sounding reforms to capitalism. It is a ploy to attract a following. But it's a bad tactic that can only encourage illusions about what can be achieved under capitalism. It glosses over the fact that capitalism is not a system that can be humanised or reformed or transformed into something better. What those who want a better society should be doing – should have done – is to campaign to change people's minds, to get them to realise that they are living in an exploitative, class-divided society and that the only way out is to end capitalism and replace it by a new and different system. The SSP, for instance, advocates the break-up of the British state and the creation of a free Scottish socialist republic. But a single Socialist country in a hostile capitalist world is just impossible, and the SSP aim is Scottish state capitalism.

We don't care if Tommy Sheridan, the leader of Solidarity Scotland’s "Socialist" Movement, told lies or not about his sex life. It’s only the political aspect interests us, and he has certainly told lies about socialism. Sheridan was a Trotskyist, originally of the Militant Tendency and Trotskyists, being Leninists, hold that workers are incapable of evolving beyond a “trade union consciousness” . So, according to them, putting the straight socialist case for common ownership, democratic control and production for use not profit to workers is to cast pearls before swine. Instead, according to Trotskyists, what must be put before workers are demands that the government introduce this or that reform within capitalism. Getting workers to support such “transitional demands” is the only way they calculate they can get the mass support which, when the government fails to respond, can be used to catapult their vanguard party to power. But this requires people on the ground who are capable of winning a personal following. Normally, the Trotskyist gurus ( McCombes co-author with Sheridan of Imagine) who direct their organisation from the shadows, are not up to this. They require front men - Tommy Sheridan. The trouble, from the point of view of the Trotskyist gurus in the background, is that such front men have, because of their following, a degree of independence and can prove difficult to control. Which is what happened in Sheridan’s case.

Both parties have done so much to discredit the idea of socialism by associating it with a state-run economy. In spite of all their revolutionary posturing both parties devote their time to chasing reforms of capitalism. Scotland is only a small part of an economic system which embraces the whole world. It could never enjoy any real autonomy or self-sufficiency in the face of the world market. From day one it will be buffeted by hostile economic forces entirely beyond its control. In no time at all, Scotland will be faced with two choices—either total ruin, or the complete restoration of capitalist economics. The SSP's and Sheridan's independent socialist Scotland would be neither independent nor socialist.

Members of the Socialist Party understand well the urge to do something now, to make a change. That makes us all the more determined, however, to get the message across, to gather our fellows to clear away the barrier of the wages system, so that we can begin to build a truly human society.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Muted Mockery Of Poppy Day

The ribbons arrayed the honours displayed
The medals jingling on parade
Echo of battles long ago
But they’re picking sides for another go.

The martial air, the vacant stare
The oft-repeated pointless prayer
“Peace oh’ Lord on earth below”
Yet they’re picking sides for another go.

The clasped hands, the pious stance
The hackneyed phrase “Somewhere in France”
The eyes downcast as bugles blow
Still they’re picking sides for another go.

Symbol of death the cross-shaped wreath
The sword is restless in the sheath
As children pluck where poppies grow
They’re picking sides for another go.

Have not the slain but died in vain?
The hoardings point, “Prepare again”
The former friend a future foe?
They’re picking sides for another go.

I hear Mars laugh at the cenotaph
Says he, as statesmen blow the gaff
“Let the Unknown Warriors flame still glow”
For they’re picking sides for another go.

A socialist plan the world would span
Then man would live in peace with man
Then wealth to all would freely flow
And want and war we would never know.

J. Boyle, 1971

Food for thought

Last month I reported on how India was addressing poverty(a database to find all those who need assistance). This month, we learn that in India, a sweeper earning $1.50 a day (a grandmother raising her two grandsons) is not poor enough to collect benefits as the government lowers the threshold. (Toronto Star, Oct 9,2011). The World Bank estimates that 455 million Indian citizens, or 40% of its population, live on less than $1.25 a day, the bank's poverty line. If they keep on moving the line, maybe they will be able to eliminate the data base and write the names of those eligible for assistance on the back of an envelope!
How different it is for the rich and famous. Chelsea Clinton has been appointed to the board of a large corporation at age thirty- something with no experience and a salary of $300 000 per year.
Canada's Tory government lost the Supreme Court case to close the safe injection site in Vancouver. It could have probably opened safe sites in every major city with the money spent on lawyers. Our 'tough on crime' government would rather lock them up and count them as criminals. Many, of course, have mental health issues but there won't be any money going there any time soon. John Ayers

Friday, November 11, 2011


One of the tenets of Christianity that men of the cloth delight in expounding is its rejection of worldly wealth and riches. "Blessed are the poor", "Seek not the material things of life" and the old favourite about a rich man entering heaven was as unlikely as a camel passing through the eye of a needle. These are all great stuff on a Sunday morning sermonising from a pulpit, but the practice is somewhat different. "The Roman Catholic Church has lost the first round of a court battle to escape liability for paying damages to victims of sexual abuse." (Times, 9 November) This case reported the RC Church's attempt to escape paying compensation to children who were raped by the clergy in the Portsmouth area. They are more concerned about holding on to their wealth than practicing what they preach. RD

Thursday, November 10, 2011


The guns in Libya have barely quieted, but a new invasion force is already plotting its own landing on the shores of Tripoli. "Western security, construction and infrastructure companies that see profit-making opportunities receding in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned their sights on Libya, now free of four decades of dictatorship. Entrepreneurs are abuzz about the business potential of a country with huge needs and the oil to pay for them, plus the competitive advantage of Libyan gratitude toward the United States and its NATO partners. A week before Colonel Gaddafi's death on Oct. 20, a delegation from 80 French companies arrived in Tripoli to meet officials of the Transitional National Council, the interim government. Last week, the new British defense minister, Philip Hammond, urged British companies to "pack their suitcases"and head to Tripoli." (New York Times, 28 October) It is always good to see the fall of a dictator but obviously the capitalist class are more interested in profit than democracy. RD

Food for thought

No wonder the latest beating of the workers is gaining ground with little opposition. I refer to the practice of work auctioning. In Canada so far, it is limited to determining what shifts you will work, according to desire and seniority. In the US, the price you are willing to work for has already been introduced. Up to now, it's used for nurses to work extra shifts who bid for them with the wage they want to earn. Right now bidding begins at regular wage rates and saves the hospital money by replacing hiring from temp firms that charge much more. Will it be long before the floor drops below the normal wage, or is applied to all work? Capitalism gets uglier by the day and spawns the occupy movements, hopefully, digging its own grave. John Ayers

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


The madness of capitalism can be observed worldwide but surely nowhere is the insanity more obvious than in the case of the poverty stricken masses of Africa and this grotesque parasite. "The U.S. government may soon own one of Michael Jackson's white gloves, a $530,000 Ferrari and a $30 million Malibu estate if it succeeds in seizing them from the son of a corrupt African dictator. In a case kept hidden from public view until last week, the U.S. Department of Justice says it's pursuing more than $32 million in assets from Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, whose father Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has ruled over oil-rich Equatorial Guinea for 32 years -- and has been accused by authorities around the world of illicitly siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars for himself and his family." (Yahoo News, 26 October) RD

Food for thought

The Toronto City council is trying to ban the sale and use of shark fins. With a large Chinese population, it is facing some tough opposition. Culture is often cited for keeping the fin, but we are in capitalism and money triumphs over all. The price of a bowl of shark fin soup at top Hong Kong restaurants will set you back $200. Shark fins sell for $1 600 per kilogram on the specialty markets. Do you think that if they sold for $10 per kilo there would be the outcry against banning the practice?
Speaking of sharks (the human kind), Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler CEO has weighed in with a call for cutting costs of auto manufacture. The union gave up the right to strike as part of Chrysler's bankruptcy restructuring in 2009 so he expects an easy time with the contracts. He wants worker compensation to reflect how well (or not) the company is doing. He also came out with this gem, "As a producer, you cannot be small and cute and compete. You're going to get killed." There goes the myth of the small entrepreneur being the driving force of the economy. Welcome to capitalism. He wants to end the present two-tier wage system, saying it makes for an unhappy work force. He would like everybody to be on the lower rate, of course! John Ayers

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Food for thought

The bank bailouts continue, although there is little else that can be done if capitalism is to be saved. The Toronto Star reports (Oct 23 2011) that the Eurozone is close to settling on a plan worth one hundred billion euros (C$414 billion) to recapitalize European banks, while The New York Times reports (Oct 11 2011) that "China's Gains Benefit Banks, Not People". Well that's a surprise.

While the Arab Spring has proven to be enduring, widespread, and a popular movement, it is not a done deal. Apart from the lack of socialist understanding, gains won are hard to hold. The Toronto Star reports (Oct 1, 2011) that actor Sean Penn turned out with thousands of others on the Egyptian streets to urge military rulers to end emergency laws that date back to Mubarak. That's the problem of waiting for the next great leader and hoping he/she will be a good one. Democratic councils would have been a major step forward and would have done the job once and for all.

After Gadhafi, who's next? There are lots of top candidates, the Al Khalifa family in Bahrain, Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, and the top prize, Bashar Assad in Syria. Whatever the outcome, you have to give top marks for people who face guns every time they protest. John Ayers


Inside slavery no slave was allowed to speak about slavery. Inside feudalism no serf was allowed to complain about the lords of the manor. Inside capitalism wage slaves are allowed to complain about poverty, unemployment and war as long as they don't do anything about it. In state capitalist China they are even trying to stop workers complaining. "No government in the world pours more resources into patrolling the Web than China's, tracking down unwanted content and supposed miscreants among the online population of 500 million with an army of more than 50,000 censors and vast networks of advanced filtering software. Yet despite these restrictions - or precisely because of them - the Internet is flourishing as the wittiest space in China. "Censorship warps us in many ways, but it is also the mother of creativity," says Hu Yong, an Internet expert and associate professor at Peking University. "It forces people to invent indirect ways to get their meaning across, and humor works as a natural form of encryption." (New York Times, 26 October) In China, America and indeed all over the world the capitalist class with their control of the mass media suppress opposition to the profit system, but their days are numbered. No matter how much they try to stop us the workers will win. We are many - they are few. RD

Fact for the Day

Three-quarters of prisoners in Scotland cannot functionally read, write or count, according to a study.

The crack-down

Under the new rules, claimants face a tougher medical test, existing claimants are being re-tested, there are new requirements to engage in work-related activity, and the entitlement to non-means tested benefit is time-limited.

115,000 Scots will lose their incapacity benefit. 65,000 people in Scotland will be pushed out of the benefits system altogether, forcing a big increase in reliance on other family members and will add 35,000 to the number of those seeking Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Glasgow will be hit hardest. The report estimates that more than 22,000 people are likely to lose their incapacity benefits and more than 12,000 will be denied benefits entirely. Other hard-hit areas have been identified as Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire and Clackmannanshire.

Professor Steve Fothergill, who co-wrote the report, said: the reduction in the numbers did not mean there is currently widespread fraud or that the health problems and disabilities were “anything less than real”.

Independent - Nae Chance

Those who think that an independent Scotland would necessarily make things any better there is sorry news. The conflict between the national and international fractions of the capitalist class would remain and it is perfectly plain that the rich who run the current devolved Scotland would be the same as the rich who would run independent "free" Scotland. The Scottish capitalist class run the country with the connivance of the Executive and they would continue to do so with the connivance of an independent parliament.

Since the creation of the Scottish Executive, business representatives have had access as secondees to the Executive and civil servants have been seconded outwards to the private sector. Companies involved include, Inward, Scottish Power, Scottish and Newcastle, Stagecoach, Ernst and Young, PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Outward: Lloyds TSB Foundation, Scottish Power, McGrigor Donald (law firm and lobbyist), Scottish and Newcastle and business lobby groups Business in the Community and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce. The Executive also run a scheme to second staff from road building and consulting firms to their Road Network Management and Maintenance Division. The biggest firms in the area such as Babtie, Scott Wilson and Fairhurst bid to be included in the scheme in which they supervise road building projects and even assist with the procurement process for such projects. As Minister Andy Kerr noted inward secondments “foster and promote links, co-operation and a mutual understanding”. Not to mention the financial benefits of helping to decide which consultants get which road contracts. In Scotland the allegedly environmentally conscious members of the Business Council for Sustainable Development include road building consultancy Scott Wilson, two of the biggest users of natural (Water) resources Scottish Power and the brewers Scottish and Newcastle and the oil giant Shell. In such circumstances the distinction between civil servant, public official, elected representative and business operative begins to break down.

"Scotland is governed not simply via the institutions of formal governance (meaning the political institutions of Scotland), and not simply via the traditionally understood “Scottish elite”, meaning either the various elite groups in the Scottish village or the Scottish capitalist class. Scotland is also run by political and economic decision-makers only some of whom are based in Scotland. Other centres of decision making are obviously London and Brussels, the Headquarters of the WTO/IMF/World Bank and the board rooms of the transnational corporations, including those which have no interest or base in Scotland."

The Scots should turn a deaf ear to the siren song of Scottish independence where any prosperity would as always only be for the elite ruling class and not for the working class.

"The working man has no country" declared Marx

Sunday, November 06, 2011


There is an old song that states "The rich get rich and the poor get children", but it is not just a line in a comic song - it is true. "Here's another stat that the Occupy Wall Streeters can hoist on their placards: The world's millionaires and billionaires now control 38.5% of the world's wealth. According to the latest Global Wealth Report from Credit Suisse, the 29.7 million people in the world with household net worths of $1 million (representing less than 1% of the world's population) control about $89 trillion of the world's wealth. That's up from a share of 35.6% in 2010, and their wealth increased by about $20 trillion, according Credit Suisse." (Wall Street Journal, 19 October) Despite the claims of its supporters capitalism is not improving. The gap between the rich and poor keeps widening. RD

Friday, November 04, 2011

The United States has spent roughly $1 trillion on new weapons since the 9/11 attack.

One hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2" thick and contains $10,000.
$1 million dollars (100 packets of $10,000) can be stuffed a grocery bag.
$100 million would require a standard pallet.
$1 billion ten pallets.

But one trillion, that's a million million. It's a thousand billion.
It's a one followed by 12 zeros - 1,000,000,000,000. See the little man? This is what he would look like to stand next to a trillion dollars on pallets.

If you laid one dollar bills end to end, you could make a chain that stretches from earth to the moon and back again 200 times before you ran out of dollar bills! One trillion dollars would stretch nearly from the earth to the sun. It would take a military jet flying at the speed of sound, reeling out a roll of dollar bills behind it, 14 years before it reeled out one trillion dollar bills. A trillion dollars is a stack of 20 dollar bills 3,000 miles high!

Instead of spending on the military and weaponry it could be spent on basic education for the 2.2 billion children in the world, a mere $6 billion, water and satitation for the whole world's population , at a trifling $9 billion, or basic health and nutrition for all at $13 billion or the world's women's reproductive health at $12 billion


When socialists point out that capitalism despite the promises of politicians isn't improving the conditions of the working class we are accused of distortion of the facts, but even the capitalist class agree with us. "Americans' incomes have dropped since 2000 and they aren't expected to make up the lost ground before 2021, according to economists in the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey. From 2000 to 2010, median income in the U.S. declined 7% after adjusting for inflation, according to Census data. That marks the worst 10-year performance in records going back to 1967. On average, the economists expect inflation-adjusted incomes to rise over the next decade, but the 5% projected gain isn't enough to reach prerecession levels." (Wall Street Journal, 14 October) The Wall Street Journal is the spokesman for capitalism but even it agrees with us. RD

Gone Fishin'

A mile long stretch of river with an average catch is 135 fish a year, plus one wooden hut, and a £1 million pound price.

"...It is great owning your own stretch of water and being able to bring your family and friends for a day’s fishing.” - William Jackson, the agent

Fact for Today

Every day in Scotland 60 children become homeless – that is nearly 22,000 a year.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Food for thought

The Occupy movement continues to be a thorn in the sides of government and Big Business, and even capitalism is often singled out as the main culprit. Although socialist understanding is often lacking in the comments by participants, it is exciting to see a spontaneous movement against the establishment materialize out of nothing. Of course, there are severe circumstances for many. In Spain, for example, The New York Times (23/10/2011) writes that unemployment for youth is around 40% and 20% overall. Young people are being asked to work for a pittance with little chance of getting hired permanently with benefits. This temporary work, "...creates an enduring second-class job tier similar to the phenomenon of 'permatemps' in the United States in the 1990s".
Comments from Wall Street as reported by New York Times -- "Most people view it as a ragtag group looking for sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll."
"Who do you think pays the taxes/" "It's not a middle-class uprising. It's fringe groups. It's people who have the time to do this." (maybe because they are unemployed?). The newspaper asks, "Do the bankers get it? (Obviously not!)

On CBC radio, the one percent was invited to comment. One was 'don't forget it's the one percent that provides the entrepreneurs and the driving force for the economy'. The old myth that we depend on them and we would be lost and staggering around starving without them.
The good thing is the speed with which it spread around the world - as we always say, ideas respect no boundaries and socialism would do
the same. Also, capitalism is becoming the target more and more. John Ayers

Beware of Greeks bearing votes

Beware of Greeks bearing votes
Greece gave us democracy, Europe and economics, in both concept and language.

While referendum is from a Latin route, Greeks also gave us chaos and catastrophe.

Also from Greek, Fathom Consulting's Yiannis Koutelidakis has today taught me a word that's going to weigh heavily on the Hellenic people - euthinophobia, meaning the fear of responsibility and duty.

All this is playing out in a global drama (another gift from the Greeks), with markets taking a deep dip on the news that the people could be about to have their say on the state of their nation's finances.


It is an delusion that 'we' can control or regulate a capitalist economy to do anything other than create the conditions of the next crisis.Capitalism comes with uncertainty, war,crisis as inbuilt inevitable concomitants of it.  It is a global system and can only be replaced by a revolutionary alternative.A free access society of common ownership and democratic control without markets.In other words, socialism.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


The journalist Rageh Omaar investigating the enslavement and trafficking of women from Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, to wealthier European countries, in particular to the red light district of Amsterdam, one of Europe's most profitable sex markets and a major international tourist attraction, came to this conclusion."There are an estimated 1.4 million sex slaves in the world today; most of them are women, although there are some men and many thousands of children. These women do not voluntarily enter prostitution, but have been forced under the threat of violence to have sex with men who pay their 'owners'. Sex slavery is present in every country of the world. In some cases, categorised as 'domestic', women are sold into brothels within their own country. But international sex trafficking of women and children is on the rise." (Al Aljazera TV, 13 October) The exploitation of the poor is the basis of capitalism and this is its indefensible outcome. RD


The recent economic downturn that has left many workers jobless and in some cases homeless has not affected everyone quite as harshly. "Egyptian pays £37m for a sliver of Knightsbridge. An Egyptian billionaire has splashed out £37 million on a London flat as the overseas goldrush for metropolitan property continues. ....Many foreign buyers have focused on flats at One Hyde Park, where prices of more than £7,500 per sq ft have been reached. More than £1.4 billion of flats have been sold at the estate since it opened last year" (Times, 29 October) So while you can be stopped in the streets of London by some poor desperate, homeless person asking "any change?", somewhere not far away some billionaire is luxuriating in a splendid flat. RD

Socialist Standard Vol.107 No. 1287 November 2011