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Showing posts from January, 2012

class war in India

India factory workers in revolt and kill company president. Workers at the Regency Ceramics factory in India raided the home of their boss, and beat him senseless with lead pipes after a wage dispute turned ugly. The workers were enraged enough to kill Regency’s president K. C. Chandrashekhar after their union leader, M. Murali Mohan, was killed by baton-wielding riot police. Once news of Murali’s death spread, the factory workers destroyed 50 company cars, buses and trucks and lit them on fire. They ransacked the factory. The workers had been calling for higher pay and reinstatement of previously laid off workers since October. India’s factory workers are the lowest paid within the big four emerging markets. Per capita income in India is under $4,000 a year, making it the poorest country in the BRICs despite its relatively booming economy.http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2012/01/27/india-factory-workers-revolt-kill-company-president/


THE US CLASS DIVIDE

The recent electoral activities in the USA have enraged Mitt Romney because of the issue of economic justice. "Break the news gently to Mitt Romney, who seems apoplectic that the whole "rich get richer, poor get poorer" thing is being discussed out loud. In front of the children, for goodness sake. "You know I think it's fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms," he told the Today show's Matt Lauer last week. "But the president has made this part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It's a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach." (Washington Post, 16 January) Despite Komney's distaste the issue of the class divide in the USA won't go away RD

CHILD SLAVES OF CAPITALISM

Everyone loves chocolate. But for thousands of people, chocolate is the reason for their enslavement. The chocolate bar you snack on likely starts at a plant in a West African cocoa plantation, and often the people who harvest it are children. Many are slaves to a system that produces something almost all of us consume and enjoy. "The CNN Freedom Project sent correspondent David McKenzie into the heart of the Ivory Coast - the world's largest cocoa producer - to investigate what's happening to children working in the fields. His work has resulted in a shocking, eye-opening documentary showing that despite all the promises the global chocolate industry made a decade ago, much of the trade remains unchanged. There are still child slaves harvesting cocoa, even though some have never even tasted chocolate and some don't even know what the word "chocolate" means." (CNN, 12 January)RD

A CORRUPT SOCIETY

Capitalism is a corrupt society with contracts and sales often the subject of under the counter deals. The world of medical treatment is not exempt from this all-pervading practice. "To head off medical conflicts of interest, the Obama administration is poised to require drug companies to disclose the payments they make to doctors for research, consulting, speaking, travel and entertainment. Many researchers have found evidence that such payments can influence doctors' treatment decisions and contribute to higher costs by encouraging the use of more expensive drugs and medical devices. ..... Large numbers of doctors receive payments from drug and device companies every year, sometimes into the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars,in exchange for providing advice and giving lectures." (New York Times, 16 January) Workers in the USA who imagine their medical treatment is untouched by the taint of monetary consideration should think again.RD

Who owns th North Pole - part 44

China, Brazil and India want seats on the Arctic Council as global warming creates new opportunities for shipping and resource extraction in the vast Arctic region. Japan and South Korea have indicated they want observer status as well. Non- Arctic countries want to exert economic and political influence in the region. China already has a research station in Norway's high Arctic.

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=106455

workers shares - a share in losses

For Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland workers, the chance to buy discounted shares in their employer seemed a no-lose deal. Schemes such as the Sharekicker plan at HBOS, which allowed employees to buy the bank’s shares with their bonuses and get 50 per cent more free shares after three years.

In December 2007, the HBOS share price was 741.5p. A year later, after its takeover by Lloyds, it had plunged by more than 90 per cent to 69p, giving thousands of employees who had taken up the Sharekicker plan not only their jobs to worry about, but their savings.

Many staff were confident of prosperity-laden future of their employer and invested much of their cash back into the very company they worked for. The tragedy is that when things went pear-shaped, many lost both their jobs and their savings.

The Deputy Prime Minister talked of a democratic share ownership culture. A lot of bank workers can be forgiven for feeling cynical towards Nick Clegg’s proposal for employees to have a uni…

LAZY WORKERS

A popular piece of nonsense that the press are fond of spreading is that all Britain's economic woes arise out of the laziness of the working class. Recent research would seem to give the lie to that view. "Workers who spend long hours at the office are more than twice as likely to develop depression as those who do a standard day, according to a study. British researchers found those who spend more than 11 hours a day - or 55 hours a week - at their desk faced a higher risk." (Daily Mail, 26 January) An 11 hour day hardly seems like the ideal for the work-shy. RD

A SENSE OF VALUES?

Government ministers have extremely arduous tasks and from time to time they must make harsh decisions. Thus the education minister has set about the task of cutting expenditure on education and introducing higher university fees. However a sense of priorities must be applied to government expenditure. "The Queen should be given a new royal yacht - likely to cost at least £60m as a way to help overturn Britain's mood of austerity, according to Cabinet minister Michael Gove. The Education Secretary suggested that greater efforts should be made to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year to stop it being overshadowed by the Olympic Games." (Independent, 16 January) Cutting expenditure on working class education is one thing but Her Majesty needs a nice new means of transport. How is my knighthood doing by the way? RD

A DETESTABLE SOCIETY

There are many reasons to detest capitalism. You may detest that millions of children will die from the lack of clean water or your special hatred may be reserved for the millions of preventable deaths caused by malaria, but surely this piece of madness deserves a place in that catalogue of detestations. "For most dogs, a kennel used to comprise a few planks of wood held together with rusty nails to form a rather rudimentary shelter from the wind and rain. But now besotted owners are lavishing up to £3,000 on designer homes for their pets - from a Bauhaus-inspired cube-shaped structure to a pink castle complete with turrets." (Daily Mail, 14 January) A couple of pence for a mosquito net could save a life? Let's spend £3,000 on Rover's kennel. Detestable! RD

a drop o' the hard stuff?

Scotch whisky is now outperforming traditional investments, including the stock market and gold.
Figures from investment firm Whisky Highland show that some portfolios’ value has risen by almost 300 per cent in the last year. Three-year figures reveal that an investment in the 100 best-performing whiskies in 2008 would have risen by 163 per cent in 2011, while gold – which has soared due to the recession – rose 146 per cent. Diamonds rose by just 10 per cent, while shares and crude oil stock values fell.Arthur Motley, buyer at Royal Mile Whiskies, said: “Collectors used to be interested in whisky as a drink and wanted a good bottle as part of their collection. Increasingly, people are buying as they see prices rising on eBay or at auctions. It is simply seen as an investment.”David Robertson, Dalmore’s rare whiskies director, said: “People see whisky as an asset and with stocks and shares being so tough and interest from bank accounts so low, investors have been starting to lo…

SCHOOLED FOR FAILURE

It is well known that the very rich take advantage of their wealth to ensure that their children obtain the best possible education. What is not as well known is how those from the poorest families are extremely handicapped by their lack of resources early on in their academic career. "The stark gap between the performance of disadvantaged pupils and their classmates from better off backgrounds is exposed in school league tables for the first time today. Figures show that only 33.9 per cent of disadvantaged pupils achieve the benchmark of five A* to C grade GCSE passes including maths and English compared to a national average of 58.2 per cent." (Independent, 26 January) Just another reason to get rid of the inequalities of capitalism. RD

NO LOG CABINS HERE

One of the illusions fostered by capitalism is that the poorest in the land can rise to a position of prominence by hard work. Thus we have the story of a USA President who came from humble beginnings in a log cabin. Recent figures published about Republican nominees for the highest office would seem to contradict that notion."Mitt Romney -Total net worth: $85 million to $264 million. Jon Huntsman - Total net worth: $16 million to $72 million. Newt Gingrich-Total net worth: $7 million to $31 million." (Yahoo Finance, 13 January) RD

A SLOW LEARNING PROCESS

One of the difficulties experienced by socialists when trying to convince their fellow workers about the importance of class and ownership is that the ideas of nationalism and racism are so prevalent. So it is heartening to see some evidence of social attitudes changing. "Conflict between rich and poor now eclipses racial strain and friction between immigrants and the native-born as the greatest source of tension in American society, according to a survey released Wednesday. About two-thirds of Americans now believe there are strong conflicts between rich and poor in the United States, a survey by the Pew Research Center found, a sign that the message of income inequality brandished by the Occupy Wall Street movement and pressed by Democrats may be seeping into the national consciousness. The share was the largest since 1992, and represented about a 50 percent increase from the 2009 survey, when immigration was seen as the greatest source of tension." (New York …

MORE ELECTION PROMISES

Politicians love nothing better than making promises and the nearer they get to election time the greater the promises. "US President Barack Obama has attacked income inequality as he set the tone for his re-election bid in his third State of the Union speech. Mr Obama emphasised the importance of an economy that works for everyone, in the nationally televised address to Congress. The speech saw a renewed call for higher taxes on the wealthy, something Republicans strongly oppose. The US economy is on the mend, but unemployment remains high at 8.5%." (BBC News, 25 January) After a couple of years of Obama in power we still have 400 Americans with an income equal to that of the total income of half the population, but that does not stop him from going on about "an economy that works for everyone". RD

BEHIND THE GLITZ

We are constantly being told by the mass media that we should admire the enterprise and inventiveness of the great American computer and electronic companies, but behind all that glamorous facade lurks the ugly realities of capitalism. "As American consumers ogle over shiny new gadgets at this week's Consumer Electronic's Show, the workers that make those products are threatening mass suicide for the horrid working conditions at Foxconn. 300 employees who worked making the Xbox 360 stood at the edge of the factory building, about to jump, after their boss reneged on promised compensation, reports English news site Want China Times. It's not like this is the first time working conditions at Foxconn have made news outside China. But iPhone and Xbox sales surely haven't lagged in the wake of those revelations and neither Apple nor Microsoft has done much of anything to fix things." (Yahoo News, 10 January) Instead of the raise they requested, these C…

CAPITALIST "PROGRESS"

For thousands of years tribes have lived in isolated parts of the Amazon jungle without contact with the so-called "civilised" world. Sometimes this contact turns out disastrously. "Loggers in Brazil captured an eight-year-old girl from one of the Amazon's last uncontacted tribes and burned her alive as part of a campaign to force the indigenous population from its land, reports claimed on Tuesday night. ... Luis Carlos Guajajaras, a local leader from a separate tribe, told a Brazilian news website that they tied to her a tree and set her alight as a warning to other natives, who live in a protected reserve in the north-eastern state of Maranhao . "She was from another tribe, they live deep in the jungle, and have no contact with the outside world. It would have been the first time she had ever seen white men. We heard that they laughed as they burned her to death," he said." (Daily Telegraph, 10 January) Capitalism, with its ceaseless dri…

The New Vietnam Class War

When around 100 police and local officials came to seize their land outside the northern port city of Haiphong, the family of farmer Doan Van Vuon was ready and waiting, with shotguns in hand and improvised explosive devices planted in the ground. Six security officers were injured in the ensuing shoot-out on January 5, the culmination of a long-running land dispute between Mr Vuon and the local government. Foreign diplomats say that the government is concerned about the potential for such disputes to spiral out of control, at a time when it is facing other threats to social stability such as the record number of labour strikes and soaring food prices.Jairo Acuña-Alfaro, a policy adviser on the United Nations Development Programme in Hanoi, says that disputes over land use rights were “perhaps the largest source of corruption nowadays in Vietnam”, with many Vietnamese complaining that local authorities often set compensation prices for land too low.Following the path lai…

THE RISE OF INEQUALITY

It is often difficult to get up-to-date figures about ownership and incomes inside modern capitalism, but the BBC recently came up with some interesting data. "US presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid 13.9% tax on his multi-million dollar income - promoting a debate about tax levels among the "super rich". Meanwhile, protesters in the Occupy Wall Street movement claim they speak for the "99%" of Americans who stand in opposition to the one per cent who control the majority of the country's wealth. But how accurate are these figures? While developed countries have grown richer over the past 30 years, not everyone's pay packets are getting bigger at the same rate. Income inequality is on the rise in most developed countries, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In the United States, the 400 richest individuals earn roughly the same as the bottom 50% of the population. About one third of the world&#…

DOWN-MARKET SHOPPING

Workers are being advised to tighten their belts because of the recent economic downturn, but even the capitalist class are feeling the pinch. "ROLLS ROYCE sold 3,538 cars in 2011 - a new record for the BMW-owned luxury marque. And with Volkswagen-owned Bentley reporting pre-recession levels of 7,003 cars sold last year, the luxury car market as a whole appears to be in rude health. .... According to BBC News, the increase in sales is in the main due to Rolls Royce's "smaller and less ostentatious" Ghost model, which costs a mere £165,000 compared to the £235,000 Phantom." (The Week, 9 January) The owning class are tightening their belts - the safety belts on their "mere £165,000" Ghost models. RD

Dance of the Apprentices

All pupils taking Higher English will have to learn at least one Scottish text under a new requirement by the Holyrood Government to ensure future generations of Scottish young people grow up with an understanding of their culture and literary heritage.

This blogger for Socialist Courier recommends that school students read "Dance of the Apprentices" - a socialist classic some say.

The novel gives a vivid account of the struggles of a Glasgow family from the first World War and into the Depression are at the end of the twenties. It is a story of Glasgow apprentices, their lives dignified with a desire for art and learning and with the ideal of reforming the world. The book follows the fortunes of one particular family - the Macdonnels. The mother dreams of success, struggling to raise her family and her ambitious husband out of slum life. A social critique of Glasgow.

Written by Edward Gaitens (1897 – 1966) who was born in the Gorbals of Glasgow. Leaving school at fourteen, …

Independence for Shetland !!!

In the 14th century Shetland was still a Norwegian province. The Norn language, a form of Old Norse, continued to be spoken until the 18th century when it was replaced by an insular dialect of Scots known as Shetlandic, which is in turn is now being replaced by Scottish English. Udal law is a Norse derived legal system, which is found in Shetland. Scottish Courts have intermittently acknowledged the supremacy of Udal law in property cases up to the present day. Major differences from Scots law include shore ownership rights, important for pipelines and cables. It declares that the Shetland community owns the Sea and Seabed. The Crown Estate has had to admit the supremacy of Udal Law (and unlike the rest of the UK, swans are not legally the British Queen's property in Shetland.)

In 1468 Shetland was pledged by Christian I, in his capacity as King of Norway, as security against the payment of the dowry of his daughter Margaret, betrothed to James III of Scotland. As the money was nev…

Your golden years - thats a laugh!

One in eight Scots will retire this year saddled with debts, research has claimed. The study found that 18% of those due to retire this year in the UK will be in debt. On average, those planning to retire this year with debts will face repayments of £260, around a fifth (19 per cent) of their expected £1290 a month income.

The average amount owed by those wrapping up their working life is around £38,200, with mortgages and credit cards making up the bulk of the debt. The figure is £5000 higher than the year before. The study found half of those with debts still owed money on their home loan and more than half (51%) were struggling with their credit card bills.

Citizens Advice Scotland said older Scots were saddled with "staggering amounts of debt". Its own research, published last year, found that the average unsecured debt, excluding mortgages, was £17,767. Susan McPhee of CAS said: "That's a staggering amount of debt to service, and still keep warm and put …

the more you have, the more you can have.

An article worth reading and quoting from by the author Arundhati Roy

"In a nation of 1.2bn, India’s 100 richest people own assets equivalent to a quarter of gross domestic product...In India, the 300m of us who belong to the new, post-“reforms” middle class – the market – live side by side with the ghosts of 250,000 debt-ridden farmers who have killed themselves, and of the 800m who have been impoverished and dispossessed to make way for us. And who survive on less than 50 cents a day."

"Antilla belongs to India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. I’d read about this, the most expensive dwelling ever built, the 27 floors, three helipads, nine lifts, hanging gardens, ballrooms, weather rooms, gymnasiums, six floors of parking, and the 600 servants. Nothing had prepared me for the vertical lawn – a soaring wall of grass attached to a vast metal grid...Ambani is personally worth more than $20bn. He has a controlling majority stake in Reliance Industries Limited (RIL),…

The Socialist Standard and Red Clyde

The First World War saw Clydeside gain its Red reputation, and the Socialist Standard at the time supported them but cautioned that their actions were not sufficent. It should be noted that "patriotic" printers refused to re-produce an article about Lloyd George and the Clyde.

The Socialist Standard challenged the engineer union workers' faith in their leaders writing it was those " trusted and prominent men, both parliamentarians and trade union officials, [who] were associated with every piece of legislation that fettered the workers more... too slowly, the workers are finding out their true friends and true principles, their cunning enemies and their delusive ways...Instead of abandoning the political machine to ambitious wiseacres and unscrupulous plotters, and letting them, in the secrecy of Cabinet conclaves, everlastingly scheme to set the social changes on you, see to it that those who are now proven the enemies of your class are no longer sent to represent…

Fact of the day

British companies paid out record dividends in 2011, despite difficult economic conditions and recent evidence that more firms were struggling. Dividends hit a record £67.8 billion.
Total gross dividends rose 19.4 per cent for the full year, even though Britain’s main share index lost ground during 2011. And payments soared 26 per cent in the fourth quarter alone, compared with the same period in 2010.Capita chief executive Charles Cryer said: “Record dividends are providing a real bright spot for investors ...We are optimistic dividends will make further progress in 2012..." Something to remember when your wages are frozen.http://www.scotsman.com/business/economics/dividend_payouts_hit_record_level_of_67_8bn_1_2072152



ANOTHER EMPTY PROMISE

One of the ideas pedaled by the Liberal Party when they formed a coalition government with the Conservative Party was that their commitment to Liberal Party policies of fairness would temper the worst excesses of Conservative government cuts. Unfortunately capitalism has nothing to do with fairness."Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said planned reforms of the NHS in England must go ahead, despite fresh criticism from MPs over the changes. The Commons health select committee is expected to say that plans to scrap primary care trusts and other changes are hampering efforts to save billions." (BBC News, 22 January) When capitalist governments can save billions of pounds by cutting expenditure principles such as fairness haven't a chance. RD

CRAZY PRIORITIES

In an effort to cut state expenditure and increase profit margins the government has an underfunded NHS. "A recruitment crisis has forced hospitals to call in Army medical staff to run their accident and emergency departments. The national shortage of mid-grade doctors posts between junior doctors and consultants means some hospitals have 30 per cent fewer staff than they need, figures show. This has led to NHS trusts being forced to close units overnight." (Daily Mail, 21 January) It says a lot for the priorities of capitalism that the NHS comes a poor second when compared to military expenditure.RD

The Socialist A.B.C. by Alex Glasgow

We may not accept it as 100% politically correct but it brings a smile

When that I was a little tiny boy Me daddy said to me
'The time has come, me bonny, bonny bairn To learn your ABC'
Now daddy was a Lodge Chairman In the coalfields of the Tyne And that ABC was different
From the Enid Blyton kind

He sang A is for Alienation that made me the man that I am and B's for the Boss who's a bastard, a bourgeois who don't give a damn C is for Capitalism, the boss's reactionary creed and D's for Dictatorship, laddie, but the best proletarian breed E is for Exploitation, that the workers have suffered so long and F is for old Ludwig Feuerbach, the first one to see it was
wrong G is for all Gerrymanderers, like Lord Muck and Sir Whatsisname
and H is the Hell that they'll go to, when the workers have
kindled the flame
I is for Imperialism, and America's kind is the worst
and J is for sweet Jingoism, that the Tories all think of first
K is for good o…

HARSH REALITIES

Politicians are fond of waxing eloquent about ethics, morals and other high-flown sentiments. "David Cameron will outline his ideas about "moral capitalism" in a speech on the economy later. ....The leaders of the three biggest Westminster parties have been talking about the need to bring about "responsible capitalism" in recent weeks." (BBC News, 19 January) Behind all this flowery rhetoric the harsh realities of capitalism persist. The majority work for wages and salaries and produce a surplus value that is enjoyed by the privileged minority. Insecurity, poverty and the threat of unemployment is the norm for the working class. RD

Tartan Trots 2

The position of some groups in Scotland on this can be found here including a pro-yes call by the SWP break-away in Scotland which in view of this has the cheek to call itself the "International Socialist Group"

Apparently they think that an independent Scotland could avoid the austerity that all other capitalist governments are being forced to impose. Or perhaps, as good Trotskyists, they are only pretending to believe this to attract support in the hope that when it doesn't work the workers of Scotland will turn to them for leadership. None of which ought to surprise us. The Left, historically, will stand for anything if their leaders tell them to stand for it!

These people are incapable of taking a principled stand on anything. If they really were international socialists they'd come out and say that an independent and inevitably capitalist Scotland would make no difference whatsoever to workers in that part of the world and, like us, urge people there would want…

The Black Triangle Badge

It was a badge used by the SS guards to mark prisoners as “workshy” in Nazi concentration camps. Now the “black triangle” symbol has been adopted by a group of campaigners fighting the so-called “fit-to-work” assessments implemented by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in a bid to stamp out benefit fraud.

Set up Edinburgh campaigners 18 months ago, the Black Triangle Campaign was launched in memory of Edinburgh writer Paul Reekie, who took his own life – allegedly after having his benefits cut during a bout of serious depression. Reekie did not leave a suicide note, but he laid out two letters on his table, found after his death. One was notifying him that his housing benefit had been stopped. The other was informing him that his incapacity benefit had been stopped.

Leith GP Dr Stephen Carty stands up for his patients when he discovered many were being told they were fit for work after passing a number of tests that did not involve consulting medical experts.

“I have grave concer…

PRIMITIVE PORNOGRAPHY

"The Jarawa tribe is 403-strong. Its members are trusting, innocent and hugely vulnerable to exploitation, living in a jungle reserve on South Andaman. The islands are a spectacular magnet for tourists, set in the Bay of Bengal and belonging to India. But on this occasion the officer had accepted a £200 bribe to get the girls to perform. "I gave you food," he reminded them at the start of the video." (Guardian, 7 January) Who gives the policeman £200? Tourists who want to film pre-puberty children dancing naked. Doesn't it make you sick? "Denis Giles is the campaigning editor of the islands' Andaman Chronicle newspaper. He told the Observer it was principally the young who had come out of the jungle, fascinated by outsiders and what they have to offer. As they grow older, they lose interest, realising that the outside world is not for them." Good thinking Jarawa people. We don't fancy it much either.RD

SHORT TERM GAMBLERS

One of the illusions that is prevalent in financial circles is that the wheelers and dealers are studious investors who weigh up all the prospects for the long term. "Michael Hudson, a former Wall Street economist at Chase Manhattan Bank who also helped establish the world's first sovereign debt fund recently said: "Take any stock in the United States. The average time in which you hold a stock is -it's gone up from 20 seconds to 22 seconds in the last year. "Most trades are computerised. Most trades are short-term. The average foreign currency investment lasts - it's up now to 30 seconds, up from 28 seconds last month. The financial sector is short term, yet they talk as if they're long term." (Daily Telegraph, 18 January) The reality is that capitalism is a mad struggle that makes crazy gamblers look clever by comparison. RD

The Tartan Army

Alex Salmond has set out his vision for an independent Scottish defence force, saying it would consist of the same number of army, RAF and navy personnel as under plans being drawn up by UK ministers. The First Minister said the coalition government’s defence review plan of one naval base, one air base and one mobile armed brigade was “exactly the configuration” required for Scotland. The defence review set out by the coalition government last year proposed about 6,500 troops being stationed in Scotland, with a further 6,500 employed at the Trident submarine base in Faslane and 2,400 personnel at RAF Kinloss. The three Scottish regiments – the Scots Guards, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards – would make up the core of any Scottish army, the SNP added.

Such a set-up would total about 15,400 troops, an armed force of an equivalent size to that of Kuwait.

One consequence of the SNP being responsible for running capitalism is keeping its armed forces up to …

A MAD, MAD WORLD

The insanities of capitalism are many but it is doubtful if you could find a nuttier example than this one. "A one-cent copper coin minted in 1793, the first year that the United States produced its own, has fetched $1 million at a Florida auction. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the final bid by an unknown buyer for the coin was one of the largest sales at the Florida United Numismatics coin show and annual convention." (Associated Press, 7 January) This is happening in the same society wherein millions are trying to survive from day to day on less than $1.25 a day. RD

A GRIM FUTURE

Having worked all their adult life many workers fondly imagine that after retirement they will be able to live out the rest of their life in comparative security, but capitalism doesn't work that way. "Millions more pensioners could be forced to sell their houses to pay for nursing homes in old age amid plans to almost double the cost of care The elderly may be required to pay up to £60,000 - £25,000 more than the current Government cap on fees - for a place, ministers said." (Daily Mail, 17 January)RD

poor education

15 year-old children at the bottom of the class are so far behind they are performing “as if they were 10 years old”, a report handed to MSPs has claimed. The paper, written by local government experts, concluded that Scotland has the highest gap between top and bottom in schools of anywhere in western Europe.

It confirms previous studies by international bodies which have also claimed that low achievers from poor families are “slipping through the net” in the classroom.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/education/brightest_pupils_5_years_ahead_of_poorest_1_2064261

Another union ready to fight

Doctors are threatening their first wave of industrial action in nearly 40 years, after they overwhelmingly rejected proposed changes to their pension plans. Under the final offer proposed by the UK government, some doctors will see their pension contributions rise from 8.5 per cent to 14.5 per cent of their salary. They will also have to work longer before they can retire. Existing methods of pension accrual will be replaced by a career average revalued earnings scheme for all doctors and there will be no automatic lump sum, currently enjoyed by some doctors upon retirement. According to the BMA, the proposed changes would see doctors working until 68, an age beyond which many feel “competent and safe”.

A UK-wide survey by the organisation of 130,000 doctors and medical students – including 6,638 in Scotland – found an overwhelming majority opposed to the pension reforms, with almost two-thirds prepared to take some form of industrial action. More than a third (36 per cen…

TELLING PORKIES

Politician are renowned for their fondness of "scientific inexactitudes", but the Republican candidate for office Newt Ginrich takes a bit of beating. "When Gingrich was campaigning in Laconia on Wednesday, a fellow came up to the former House speaker and asked, "Won't you buy a home in the Lakes Region if elected president?" This was a reference to Mitt Romney's house in New Hampshire. Gingrich replied, "No, I can't afford things like that. I'm not rich." (Mother Jones, 6 January) Gingrich had to file the financial-disclosure form required of presidential candidates. It revealed that he has a net worth of at least $6.7 million and that his income was at least $2.6 million in 2010. That's about 65 times the income of the average family of four in the United States.RD

THE FAILURE OF ANC

When the ANC triumphed over apartheid the celebrations were world wide, but what was the outcome? "The venerated party once banned for decades under apartheid has won every national election since racist white rule ended in 1994, and President Jacob Zuma vows the party "will rule until Jesus comes." Yet as the African National Congress marks its 100th anniversary this weekend with fanfare and dozens of visiting presidents, critics say the ANC has failed to unchain an impoverished majority still shackled by a white-dominated economy. Unemployment hovers around 36 percent and soars to 70 percent among young people. Half the country's population lives on just 8 percent of the national income, according to the Congress of South African Trade Unions." (Associated Press, 5 January) The sad truth is that an apartheid version of capitalism has been replaced by an ANC version, but it is still capitalism. RD

the cream

The founding family which owns 35 per cent of the shares of Scottish milk giant Robert Wiseman Dairies is set to pocket nearly £100 million after agreeing to sell the firm to German yoghurt maker Müller.

Wiseman produces about a third of the fresh milk consumed in the UK

THE SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE

It is difficult to imagine someone disputing Professor Hawking's views on cosmology or theorical physics but we certainly dispute his ideas on sociology and politics. "It is possible that the human race could become extinct but it is not inevitable. I think it is almost certain that a disaster, such as nuclear war or global warming, will befall the earth within a thousands years," Professor Hawking, the Cambridge University cosmologist and theoretical physicist said. "It is essential that we colonise space." (Daily Telegraph, 6 January) Rather than follow Hawking's fanciful notion of space colonisation we think a more realistic view is to change the basis of society from one of production for profit to one of production solely for use. RD

EMPTY HEADED NONSENSE

We live in a society wherein the majority of people work and produce wealth while a minority live in wealth and luxury without working. This is bad enough but when the useless parasite class that produce nothing also claim how wonderful they are it is hard to bear. "Make no mistake - Paris Hilton is more than a pretty face. The 30-year-old heiress has boasted about her entrepreneurial skills - while posing topless - in an new interview with FHM, claiming her empire has generated more than a billion dollars in six years." (Daily Mail, 4 January) Ms Hilton has produced nothing in her life. her immense wealth was inherited from her parasitical parents. Speed the day that we can rid the world of such boastful nonsense. RD

The national nonsense of we...we

Nation is the name given by their rulers or would-be rulers to a collection of people with a distinct culture usually but not always based on a common language. The geo-political entity of the state and its machinery of government are not necessarily the same as the nation; and this forms the ideological basis for nationalism - the belief that a nation should become a state. Nationalism emphasises the distinctiveness of a nation and usually points to its statehood. Nationalist movements arose with the development of capitalism and the state. In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx supported some nationalist movements because they were historically progressive in that they served the class interests of the rising bourgeoisie in its struggle against the traditional aristocracy. In the twentieth century, nationalism was, and still is, associated with movements for ‘self-determination’. Nationalism, whilst a powerful tool of oppression, was created in part as a defence against imperialism an…

ARE COPS RACIST?

There is this beautiful illusion, prompted no doubt by TV detective series, that policemen are wonderful people who are extremely clever and admirable human beings. "London School of Economics (LSE) and the Open Society Justice Initiative shows during the past 12 months a black person was 29.7 times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person. .... Mounting disquiet over the policy's damaging effect on black communities prompted Scotland Yard last week to announce a scaling back of its use of section 60, which has become a central element of the Yard's anti-knife crime strategy. A separate analysis, based on Home Office data, reveals that less than 0.5% of section 60 searches led to an arrest for possession of a dangerous weapon, five times fewer than a decade ago." (Observer, 14 January) Sorry to spoil your illusions, but some policemen are religious, racist and sexist bigots. Let's face it they are just badly miss-informed workers. RD

False Hope

Will “independence” make the Scottish workers better off and happier? Is it “London rule” that is responsible for the problems faced by workers in Scotland, or is it capitalism?

Independence solves none of the problems resulting from exploitation. Poverty in the midst of a potential for plenty remains, and massive disparities of wealth continue to exist. It can be seen in retrospect that independence for the vast majority of the people has simply meant the exchange of one set of exploiters for another. The realisation of " political independence " by a country leaves the workers' conditions untouched (or actually worsens them in some cases). As socialists, we don't take sides in this inter-capitalist argument. We don't support one section of the capitalist class or the other, and we don't have any illusions about the "sovereign power" of Parliaments to pass reformist legislation that can make capitalism work in the interest of the exploited class o…

JET AGE SHOPPING

Every day you can read of shops in the High Street closing down as the economic recession worsens, but it is not all doom and gloom in the retail business. "Finally, the shop we've all been waiting for. I'm talking about the first showroom for private jets, of course. The Jet Business is billing itself as the "one-stop shop for the private jet shopper" and will open in Grovenor Place, Belgravia - just a runway's length from Harrods - this week." (Sunday Times, 8 January) instead of having to shop around the various manufacturers or go through a broker you just pop in and tell them your requirements. In case you were thinking of paying a visit to this glitzy showroom with its full size cabin mock-up of an Airbus corporate jet it should be noted that visits are by appointment only. That should keep out you Ryanair customers. RD

Capitalism as usual

1. On Friday, December 2, Angela Merkel said,
" The German government has made it clear that the European crisis will not be solved in one fell swoop. It's a process and this process will take years." In other words, years of unemployment, under employment, poverty and misery for the workers. 2. Canadian blackberry producer, Research In Motion (RIM) is faced with the usual dilemma -- deliver a new family of highly-anticipated smart-phones on time, but with flaws, or invite the ire of the markets by delaying the release to get the product right. It's a no- brainer in capitalism -- get the crappy stuff out fast!

Strangely, The Toronto Star published an article with the title "Wage Hike the Key to Cutting Poverty" and then goes on to tell how supervision is needed to get employers to pay immigrants the minimum wage. Many pay cash only and at rates below the legal minimum.

The same newspaper reported on the slowness on Employment insurance claims. One…

CAPITALISM IN ACTION

Supporters of capitalism are fond of depicting the development of the profit system as a humanising, liberating advance over pre-capitalist society. Yet for thousands of years so-called primitive people have lived in the Amazon area without the benefits of production for profit until they were hit by the advance of capitalism. "Loggers in Brazil captured an eight-year-old girl from one of the Amazon's last uncontacted tribes and burned her alive as part of a campaign to force the indigenous population from its land, reports claimed on Tuesday night." (Daily Telegraph, 10 January) In its ruthless quest for profits capitalism is far from humanising or liberating. RD

The right to life

In the words of Nobel laureate and Dr Amartya Sen:
"Famines are very easy to publicise, people dying of hunger is one thing. But people being underweight, stunted, their lifestyle, their probability of survival being diminished, all that is not so visible..."

A survey conducted by the Naandi Foundation in India found that 42% of children under five are underweight and 59 per cent have stunted growth.

When asked why they did not give their children more non-cereal foods, 93.7 per cent mothers said they did not do so because non-cereal foods were expensive. Fifty per cent of Indian women are anaemic.

836 million people live under less than Rs20 (38 US cents) a day.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by all United Nations member states in 1948, lists the right to food among a state's obligations. Article 21 of the Indian constitution, which provides a fundamental right to life and personal liberty, has been repeatedly interpreted by the Indian Supr…

BEHIND THE RHETORIC

Western governments are fond of posing as lovers of freedom and democracy and as enemies of dictatorship, but behind the laudable rhetoric lurks a sordid reality. "The Obama administration is moving ahead with the sale of nearly $11 billion worth of arms and training for the Iraqi military despite concerns that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is seeking to consolidate authority, create a one-party Shiite-dominated state and abandon the American-backed power-sharing government. The military aid, including advanced fighter jets and battle tanks, is meant to help the Iraqi government protect its borders and rebuild a military that before the 1991 Persian Gulf war was one of the largest in the world; it was disbanded in 2003 after the United States invasion." (New York Times, 29 December) Why is the US government taking this action? Well $11 billion arms sales are not to be ignored but the menace of neighbouring Iran's threat to US oil supplies in the area is…

AN INHUMAN SOCIETY

Capitalism is a society that constantly attempts to cheapen production so that it can boost profits. This drive is not confined to the factory it also applies to the hospital. "Hospitals have been accused by ministers of treating patients like parts on a production line after official figures suggested that hundreds of thousands of people every year are being sent home before they are well enough. More than 660,000 people were brought back to hospital last year within 28 days of leaving, statistics show, sparking allegations that patients are being hurried through the system so the NHS can meet waiting-list targets." (Daily Telegraph, 29 December) Needless to say that this heartless treatment only applies to members of the working class. The owning class enjoy the best possible medical treatment just as they enjoy the best of everything that society can provide. RD

Food for thought

The Toronto Star of December 10 published the latest Corruption List by Transparency International. New Zealand leads the 'clean' list with 9.5 out of ten, Canada ranks tenth (8.7) and at the bottom are Somalia and North Korea ranking at 182 tied (1 out of 10). Not surprisingly, the Arab Spring countries rank below 5 with Egypt in 112^th spot at 2.9 out of 10. Obviously, transparency isn't high on the priority list in capitalism. It didn't say where China ranked but this may be an indication. In Wukan Village, farm workers have been protesting over the selling of the land to developers without their permission. In fact, they were offered rice and cooking oil to sign a blank paper. The police responded to the protests by blockading the village. The standoff continues. Does anyone need further proof that China is a capitalist country?
Chinese-Canadian and world champion figure skater, Patrick Chan complained recently how his parents had to sacrifice so much …

scottish child poverty

Children in one in five Scottish families live in poverty, campaigners have warned, with fears that number is set to rise. The highest levels of child poverty are in Glasgow, where in some parts every other child lives in a family struggling to put food on the table or pay heating bills.

John Dickie, spokesman for Scottish members of the Campaign to End Child Poverty said “It is shameful that in almost every part of our country there are children who are missing out and seeing their future life chances seriously harmed. An increasing number of children, particularly in Scotland, are living in families without paid work and we are deeply concerned about the effect that rising unemployment is having on child poverty."

Justice for all?

Legal experts have raised concerns about a lack of justice over health and safety failures.

Only 3% of complaints ever lead to a prosecution or enforcement notice in Scotland. The number of cases recommended for prosecution has fallen by nearly 50% in two years.

One in three deaths at work is not scrutinised by a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) , despite being mandatory by law. The cases that do result in an FAI, they take an average of 30 months to set up. In one-third of instances, it took three to four years for an FAI to be held. None took under a year.

Patrick McGuire, of the major personal injury specialists, Thompsons Solicitors Scotland, said: "Breaching health and safety legislation is a crime but is not treated with the seriousness it deserves. For as long as the perception remains that this is not a 'proper crime' that devastates lives, the effectiveness of health and safety legislation will not be maximised. Disregarding people's safety at work or anywhere…

HARD TIMES

We are told every day by the mass media that we are living through an economic downturn, but some seem to be surving it rather well. "Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has reported record sales for 2011, having sold 3,538 cars. Sales at the BMW-owned luxury marque grew by 31% from the previous year, although the growth rate was weaker than in 2010 when sales jumped by 150%. Rolls-Royce's £165,000 Ghost model, which is smaller and less ostentatious than the £235,000 Phantom models, has been the main driving force for sales." (BBC News, 9 January) So while members of the working class are told to tighten their belts the owning class are still buying their Rollers in increasing numbers. RD

The Referendum - Where We Stand

The Herald reports on the independence referendum and when it is most likely to come.

Independence for Scotland?

Our rulers have decided to ask us our opinion on the matter. We should be flattered, but don’t be fooled. Constitutional reform is of no benefit or relevance to us. It leaves our lives and the problems the profit system causes completely unchanged. Exploitation through the wages system continues. Unemployment continues. A polluted environment, and the general breakdown of society all continue. As far as solving these problems is concerned, independence is just a useless irrelevancy.

Independence would be an extension of democracy, bringing power nearer to the people, so how can socialists not be in favour of this? Yet supporters of capitalism who talk about “democracy” always mean only political democracy since economic democracy - where people would democratically run the places where they work - is out of the question under capitalism, based as it is on these workplaces be…