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Showing posts from April, 2012

Capitalism's Cuts

P&O Cruises are to withhold passengers' tips unless crew hit performance targets. Some of the ship's crew on British cruise holidays who are paid a basic salary of as little as 75p an hour face having extra tips from passengers withheld unless they hit performance targets. Bonuses will be held back in part if customers' feedback ratings do not exceed targets, some of which stand at 96%. Cabin stewards whose attitude was ranked below 92% by customers will forfeit an entire bonus payment worth approximately 15% of their basic salary.
David Dingle, CEO of Carnival UK, in charge of P&O cruise lines, said "Yes, the minimum wage is more than we pay, but this is a global industry, Our businesses have to remain competitive... We have a manning office in Mumbai. There are queues out on to the street."
TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: "Holidaymakers will be horrified to learn that some of the seafarers on their cruise ships are paid so little. It&#…

The International sung by Alistair Hulett


Times are tough if you happen to be a member of the working class in Britain today. The owning class seem to be surviving OK though. "The UK's richest people have defied the double-dip recession to become even richer over the past year, according to the annual Sunday Times Rich List. The newspaper's research found the combined worth of the country's 1,000 wealthiest people is £414bn, up 4.7%. ..... Top spot for the eighth straight year is held by Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, 61, with £12.7bn. There are now 77 billionaires on the list, with individuals needing to have at least £72m to make the top 1,000." (BBC News, 29 April) A double dip recession means a 4.7% income increase to that lucky 1,000. RD

The failure is capitalism

Alex Salmond says that as devolution had failed to solve the problems facing people in Scotland and he expects people would be more prepared to listen to the SNP's view that an independent Scotland is the only framework within which these problems can be solved.

Of course, devolution has failed. But that's because people's problems in Scotland were never caused by a lack of devolution in the first place. They were, and still are, caused by capitalism as the system of class ownership and production for profit. This is why independence is no solution either. As capitalism would continue in an independent Scotland, so would the problems. These problems are not caused by the form of government, and any government of an independent Scotland would still be compelled by the economic laws of capitalism to put profits before people, just as UK governments have been.

The SSP and the assorted Tartan Trotoids will no doubt say "independence has failed because capitalism has been…

Hungry and Homeless in Scotland

According to the Office for National Statistics, food prices have risen by almost 5% in 12 months, but incomes have not kept pace. Anne Houston, chief executive of the charity Children 1st, warns that the number of people relying on handouts will rise as the economic situation worsens. She said: "One in five children in Scotland lives in poverty, which is unacceptable. As the cost of living rises, there is a real risk that more families could find themselves living in poverty."

The Trussell Trust, which runs the UK's only network of food banks, is helping to feed 6000 people in Scotland, and 129,000 people across the UK as a whole. Last year the Trussell Trust fed 2400 people in Dundee, 3362 in the Highlands and 375 people at its centre in Glasgow, which opened in December.

John Dickie, from the Children's Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: "This is an indictment of government policy and shouldn't be seen as an alternative to the kind of national action …

Scottish football's game of shame

It was a football match that every self-respecting Scottish fan should hold their head low in shame.

In 1973, After the military coup ousting Allende, Pinochet's soldiers used Chile's national football stadium as a temporary detention camp. The military imprisoned 40,000 in the stadium.  Among those killed were the U.S. citizens Charles Horman, and Frank Teruggi, events that inspired the Jack Lemmon film, Missing. Within its walls they beat, and tortured thousands of workers, students and political activists. Many were murdered.

 A few years later in 1977, on the road to the Argentina 1978 World Cup, Scotland played against Chile and played in that very same blood-soaked stadium. Former non-commissioned officer Roberto Saldias said he saw prisoners taken off for execution at the stadium. Saldias said prisoners at the stadium were organised in groups identified by yellow, black and red discs. "Whoever received a red disc had no chance [of surviving]," he said

Russia for…

Red or Pale Pink Clydeside?

In the eyes of many, Glasgow during the First World War and its aftermath gained the reputation of being a centre of socialist ideas, a hotbed of revolution. The city acquired the nickname "Red Clydeside". There remains a debate on the Left, over whether the Red Clydeside movement constituted a genuine revolutionary opportunity for the working class, or that the revolutionary potential of the Clydeside working class has been exaggerated. Prior to the Red Clydeside, Glasgow was quite solidly Liberal at elections and did not have a significant history of workers’ militancy. The city shared the jingoistic wave which swept Britain at the outbreak of the First World War. Thousands of Glaswegians signed up for the armed forces of their own volition. The trade unions, supported by the overwhelming support of their members, agreed not to call any strikes and didn’t bat an eyelid at repressive pieces of legislation such as the Defence of the Realm Act. To undermine the war effort wa…

Local Issues or Class Issues

When Scotland goes to the polls next week in the 2012 local council elections, voters may be confused about whether they are deciding on local or national issues. In some cases the electorate is being asked to vote on manifesto promises that can’t in fact be delivered locally declares the Public Finance web-site. Each of the political party manifestos for the local elections contain a mix of local pledges (not unexpected in local elections) but also pledges that can, in fact, only be made by a national government.  The most extreme example of this is a pledge to cut VAT – clearly a reserved matter with no powers in Scotland at any government level to do so.

What is important to recognise is that those so-called “local” issues that are high on the agenda of many in the local elections (such as the NHS, local housing and transport) are pressing issues everywhere else. But these are not really local issues after all. Its just that many people (and all of our opponents) think the soluti…


Many newspapers like to portray the British working class as lazy and feckless and project an image of workers too lazy to go job hunting but recent events show this is not the case. "Jaguar Land Rover announced last month that it needed 1,000 more workers at its factory at Halewood, Merseyside, to cope with a surge in orders for its 'baby' Range Rover Evoque. It has since seen an unprecedented 35,000 applications for the jobs on offer." (Daily Mail, 24 April) Thirty five applicants for each vacancy shows the real desperation of many unemployed workers. RD

Child poverty according to their teachers

Growing numbers of children are turning up at school malnourished, dirty and struggling to concentrate because of soaring poverty levels in the recession, a study suggests.  Almost six-in-10 teachers reported encountering pupils who are left hungry through lack of food at least once a week, it was revealed. In some cases, "scavenger" children have been caught finishing scraps of food or using school as a place to warm up and eat a decent meal, according to the study by the Prince's Trust and the Times Educational Supplement.

The study – based on interviews with 515 secondary school teachers- found  39 per cent of teachers found hungry pupils every day, rising to 57 per cent who witnessed it on a weekly basis. 16 per cent of teachers had seen a pupil suffering from malnutrition or showing signs of not eating enough every day, with a further 13 per cent encountering this weekly. Nearly 66 per centcame across students who did not have clean clothe…

Cheap women in the labour market

A report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found that full-time working women are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to full-time working men. In median weekly earnings, women earn only $684 per week, compared with $832 per week for men.

 An analysis by the National Partnership for Women found women in the United States earn $10,784 less than their male counterparts. But the wage gape is even larger for African American and Latina women, who earn $19,575 and $23,873 less than men, respectively.

 “These gender wage gaps are not about women choosing to work less than men — the analysis is comparing apples to apples, men and women who all work full time — and we see that across these 40 common occupations, men nearly always earn more than women,” said Ariane Hegewisch, a Study Director at IWPR.

 Almost 15 million households in the United States are headed by women, and 8.5 million of those households include children under the age of 18. Nearly 30 perc…

The United Scotsmen Movement

In Socialist Courier's earlier post on the 1820 Insurrection mention is made of one of its participants, James Wilson, who had earlier been a member of the United Scotsmen. This is a brief history of that organisation. While the doomed uprising of the United Irishmen in 1798 is well known to the present day, much less known are the United Scotsmen and their abortive democratic republican movement in Scotland. In Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh  stands the Martyrs Monument remembering five men, three of them English, imprisoned for campaigning for parliamentary reform. The five were accused of sedition in a series of trials and transported to Australia in 1794 and 1795 and sentenced by Scotland’s hanging judge Lord Braxfield. who had made his views plain: "A government of every country should be just like a corporation, and in this country, it is made up of the landed interest, which alone has a right to be represented".  One of those exiled was Thomas Muir, a Glasgow lawyer,…


Britain's leading food bank network, the Trussell Trust, says every single day it is handing out emergency food parcels to parents who are going without meals in order to feed their children, or even considering stealing food to put on the table, as the government's austerity measures start to bite. "The number of people to whom it had issued emergency food parcels had doubled in the last 12 months and was set to increase further as rising living costs, shrinking incomes and welfare cuts take their toll, the trust said, as it published its annual report, which is fast becoming a barometer of social deprivation. ....It fed 128,000 people last year, distributing 1,225 tonnes of food donated by the public, schools and businesses, and estimates that half a million individuals a year will be in receipt of a food parcel by 2016." (Guardian, 26 April) This is Mr. Cameron's "Big Society" - big disaster is more like it. RD

Women in Prison

A report recommends that Scotland's only all-female jail should be demolished to make way for specialist units. Last week, the Commission on Women Offenders, chaired by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini, published the findings of an eight-month review on women in the country's criminal justice system. It said Cornton Vale prison, near Stirling, should be replaced with a smaller specialist prison for long-term and high-risk prisoners, as well as regional units to hold short-term and remand prisoners. Her comments were echoed by Brigadier Hugh Monro, Chief Inspector of Prisons in Scotland, who carried out his third inspection of the jail in two-and-a-half years. He said inmates suffering from complex mental health issues should be moved into specialist care facilities. Women have been held in "silent cells" without natural light or ventilation where the bed is just a mattress on concrete.

Brigadier Monro said: "We need some signposts nationally about where…

Women in Poverty

Divorce and desertion are pushing Scottish women into poverty and debt spirals much faster than their male counterparts according to research. Women account for over 90% of lone parents in Scotland and 60% of unpaid carers. There are some lone parent families struggling by on less than half of the UK's median income, which is considered to be about GBP7,000 a year. Working tax credits have been reduced.  Lone parents with a child aged seven or over now cannot get income support either and childcare contributions have been cut by 10%.

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Women's charity Engender Niki Kandirikirira, Executive Director, said, "We know how many children, pensioners and households are in poverty but it's the statistics themselves that reveal why the numbers are proving so hard to bring down. At no point do we recognise the gendered nature of poverty. Measures to tackle poverty will fail to deliver until we recognise …

who owns the North Pole - part 47

2000 scientists from 67 countries, including 1,328 from Arctic coastal countries, have called for an international agreement to close the Arctic high seas to commercial fishing until research reveals more about the freshly exposed waters. Although industrial fishing hasn’t yet occurred in the northernmost part of the Arctic, the lack of regulation may make it an appealing target for international commercial-fishing vessels.

 Recent Arctic sea-ice retreat during the summer months has opened up some of the waters that fall outside of the exclusive economic zones of the nations that circle the polar ocean. In all, more than 2.8 million square kilometres make up these international waters, which some scientists say could be ice free during summer months within 10–15 years.

 “The science community currently does not have sufficient biological information to understand the presence, abundance, structure, movements, and health of fish stocks and the role they play in the broader …

Food for thought

UNICEF's recent report, "State of the World's Children 2012" reveals that poverty affects children everywhere. According to Davis Morley, CEO of UNICEF Canada, "We often think of poverty-stricken rural areas in Africa, Latin America, Asia, but you can be in cities almost like middle-class Toronto, and hidden in valleys there are people living in shacks made of tin. We recognize this is where economic and population growth is going to happen and how do you make sure that children don't get squeezed out in the process? It is often thought that opportunity abounds in cities. Families may be closer to schools or health services, but that doesn't mean that all have the same access. The wealth divide between rich and poor is massive. Many can't afford the cost of uniforms and books or pay the fees for schools."Well said Mr. Morley but why waste your talent dealing with effects when it could be better used tackling the cause.
Grey Power surprise -- The…


To the world’s military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the Arctic, anticipating that rising temperatures there will open up a treasure trove of resources, long-dreamed-of sea lanes and a slew of potential conflicts. The region is already buzzing with military activity, and experts believe that will increase significantly in the years ahead. As the number of workers and ships increases in the High North to exploit oil and gas reserves, so will the need for policing, border patrols and — if push comes to shove — military muscle to enforce rival claims.

Last month, Norway wrapped up one of the largest Arctic maneuvers ever — Exercise Cold Response — with 16,300 troops from 14 countries training on the ice for everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats. The U.S., Canada and Denmark held major exercises two months ago, and the military chiefs of the eight main Arctic powers — Canada, the U.S., Russia, Ice…

Getting back the land

Around 60% of Glaswegians live within 500m of derelict land, according to a new survey – the highest percentage of any local authority in Scotland.

That can be bad for their health, according to Professor Juliana Maantay, Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, as many derelict areas – she calls them dismissed lands – are contaminated post-industrial sites. "Very often the levels of vacant and derelict land coincide with the worst health. For example, in the poorest areas, one fifth of babies are of low birth weight, and that correlates with vacant land." she explained, although adding "That is not to say that the vacant land is causing the bad health, but there is no doubt that contaminated land is not good to live near."

Her survey identified 1,300 hectares of "dismissed" lands in the city which are contaminated or need some kind of remediation, on 925 sites.

Empty land can provide other ecological services, she adds, inclu…


Everyone knows the Eurovision Song Contest: improbable artists and cheesy folklore. But in 2012, the musical competition, watched by an average 125 million people, will also have an unprecedented political dimension. "Repression, evictions, demolition: three words you don't normally associate with the Eurovision Song Contest. Azerbaijan has bulldozed its capital's centre to make way for the glitzy palace that will house the contest, evicting people and demolishing homes without notice." (Le Monde, 12 April) But behind the glitz lies a darker reality. Azerbaijan is ruled with an iron fist by President Ilham Aliyev, who took over after his father Heydar's death in October 2003. Capitalism has had several forms, royalty, dictatorship and democracy. They all stink! We have nothing to sing about on that night. RD


We are made aware everyday by the various charities like World Hunger of the perilous conditions of children in Asian and African countries. What is less well known is that children in Britain are going hungry too. One journalist has expressed his horror on learning of the plight of many London kids when it comes to getting enough to eat. "Yet that description - the "S" word, starving - conjures up all sorts of images of IDPs and refugees and aid workers with bags of grain. London?? So they took me to a centre about 3km from Westminster where they feed the kids. In school time they might get lunch; it's the Easter holidays, and without this they'll have NO MEAL AT ALL. The parents are either destitute or dispossessed, or addicts, or some other sort of horror which means the kids often make their own way to the centre (aged three upwards) or if not they root through bins for food. (This I can attest to - I live in Peckham and have seen people at the b…

Food for thought

Not even 'the lord's work' is free from lay-offs. The Billy Graham organization, that only brought in $91.6 million in 2011, announced job cuts owing to a need to emphasize its 'airline ministry and other priorities'. Fifty-five were let go in February but the company said that the move, " now way reflects the financial health of the organization...and the Lord will protect."
Russell Hancock, who's Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Group produces an annual State of the Valley report said, "Something has changed here, something fundamental, because the technology we've invented here in Silicon Valley has rendered a whole class of jobs obsolete." In other words, technology can't solve poverty and unemployment.
On March 14, Greg Smith quit his job as a director of Goldwyn-Sachs (GS). He said, "It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off." GS was rescued as part of the $700 billion bailo…


The owning class are very fond of lecturing the working class on morals and law- abiding behaviour, but in practice they will do whatever is necessary to protect their wealth. The history of Russia's aluminium wars – a violent contest to control the lucrative business – is due to be replayed in the High Court in London this summer. Mr Deripaska, who is one of the world's richest men,is facing a £1.6 billion legal action from Michael Cherney, an Uzbek-born billionaire living in exile in Israel. "In a candid interview, Mr Deripaska said he paid protection money to criminal gangs. He also built up his own security unit of former KGB agents and Red Army soldiers, as well as paying the local police for protection." (Sunday Telegraph, 22 April) Mr Cherney claims he was a partner in Mr Deripaska's aluminium company, Rusal, but was not paid for his stake. Lawyers acting for Mr Deripaska, who refused to discuss the case in his interview, will paint Mr Cherney …


The advance of capitalism is lauded by its supporters as a civilising influence on previously backward societies, but try telling that to the tribal peoples of the Amazon region. The Awá – with only 355 surviving members, more than 100 of whom have had no contact with the outside world – are teetering on the edge of extinction because of the actions of the logging companies in the region. "But it is not just the loss of the trees that has created a situation so serious that it led a Brazilian judge, José Carlos do Vale Madeira, to describe it as "a real genocide". People are pouring on to the Awá's land, building illegal settlements, running cattle ranches. Hired gunmen – known as pistoleros – are reported to be hunting Awá who have stood in the way of land-grabbers. Members of the tribe describe seeing their families wiped out." (Observer, 22 April) This is civilisation as far as the profit motive system is concerned. RD

Going for a song

Repression, evictions, demolition: three words you don't normally associate with the Eurovision Song Contest. Azerbaijan has bulldozed its capital's center to make way for the glitzy palace that will house the contest, evicting people and demolishing homes without notice.

The song contest, watched by an average 125 million people, has a political dimension. The spotlight will be on Azerbaijan, giving the country a chance to show how modern it has become. Among other things, a magnificent crystal palace that will welcome the contestants and 25,000 spectators was built in record time in the heart of the capital. In order to carry out Baku’s extravagant facelift, national and municipal authorities have neglected the rights of small home-owners. The demolition program began in 2009, but is accelerating as Eurovision approaches. For people who live in the city center, this contest is a tragedy, which will yield nearly 60,000 victims.

Azerbaijan is ruled with an iron fist by Presiden…

What makes a Scot?

52 per cent, believe that to be Scottish, people need Scottish parents, while 73 per cent think Scots need to be born in Scotland. 83 per cent believe that people do not need to be white to be Scottish.

The number of Scots feeling “Scottish not British” is at 31 per cent, and those feeling British but not Scottish is 5 per cent. The poll shows that those feeling equally Scottish and British is 37 per cent.

Only 41 per cent of Scots surveyed said the Queen made them feel proud to be Scottish. 55 per cent of Scots said the Queen did not make them feel proud to be Scottish. More Scots, 58 per cent, took a sense of national pride from Billy Connolly.

84 per cent took pride in the Edinburgh Festival and the same proportion said Robbie Burns made them proud to be Scottish.

The Highlands instilled a sense of pride in being Scottish in 96 per cent of respondents, and Ben Nevis also scored highly at 75 per cent.…

the Plight of the Native Americans

The UN is to conduct an investigation into the plight of US Native Americans, led by James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples.

Many of the country's estimated 2.7 million Native Americans live in federally recognised tribal areas which are plagued with unemployment, alcoholism, high suicide rates, and other social problems. Apart from social issues, US Native Americans are involved in near continuous disputes over sovereignty and land rights. Although they were given power over large areas, most of it in the west, their rights are repeatedly challenged by state governments. Most Americans have little contact with those living in the 500-plus tribal areas, except as tourists.

Anaya, a University of Arizona professor of human rights, is originally from New Mexico and is well versed in Native American issues.


Newspapers like to portray themselves as probing into the dark recesses of society and coming up with little known facts, but this news item is hardly one of their "Shock, Horror" revelations. Dr Stephen, a former chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents schools such as Eton and Harrow, writing in the Times Educational Supplement, said "Most fee-paying schools had "put themselves in a very dangerous position". "They are pricing themselves out of the reach of most normal people in the UK," he said. "Even on a salary of more than £50,000, it would be exceptionally hard to afford a place at a boarding school, and even many day schools. The result is that the independent sector is becoming socially exclusive in a way not seen since Victorian times." (Daily Telegraph, 21 April) So rich people who can afford the best of food, clothing and shelter can also afford the best of educ…


One of the illusions used by supporters of the Second World War was that it was a war to abolish anti-semitism. This was nonsense as it was a war fought over markets and sources of raw materials, but if it was a war against racism then it has failed badly. "Tee shirts with anti-Semitic slogans are being sold outside the Polish football club, Widzew Lodz, Polskie Radio reported on Thursday. The items have been on sale in a pavilion next to the club's official shop. "This is Widzew terrain, entry to Jews is forbidden," reads the slogan on one Tee shirt. "Curl hunters," referring to the side curls of Chassidic Jews, is written on the other, adopting the age-old anti-Semitic slur. A woman working in the shop told Gazeta Wyborcza daily that such items sell well and make a decent profit, noted Polskie Radio." (Israel National News, 12 April) RD

The Radical's Road in 1820

The Salisbury Crags path at Arthur's Seat is known as the Radical Road but few have little inkling about its origins. The suggestion of putting unemployed weavers, many from the west of Scotland to building the track came from Walter Scott in the aftermath of the abortive 1820 Rising, also called the Radical War.

"Glasgow" at this time, was various small villages and hamlets; places like Bridgeton, Calton and Anderston. In all of these communities the main occupation was weaving, handloom and mill both. The weavers - or at least the handloom weavers - enjoyed traditionally a semi professional status, dictated by the nature of their work. They worked to commission. They could decide upon their own hours of work and could decide upon periods of leisure if they were willing to forego some proportion of their earnings in the short term. In these aspects they had something in common with smiths and wrights and shoemakers, all of whom had similar advantages over wage earners. …


Mumbai property Some recent figures showing the gap between the working class and the owning class were revealed in chart form. They show that the average Indian worker would need to work for three centuries to pay for a luxury home in Mumbai, making that city the least affordable in the world for locals, according to an analysis of real estate and wages. "The CHART OF THE DAY shows a 100-square-meter luxury residence in Mumbai costs about $1.14 million, or 308 times the average annual income in India, based on calculations from a housing index compiled using 63 markets by Knight Frank LLP and income estimates of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency for purchasing-power parity in 2011. Shanghai buyers would need 233 times the per-capita income in China and Moscow inhabitants 144 times Russian earnings. Singapore and New York homebuyers would need 43 years and 48 years, respectively, for equivalent residences using national income averages, the data show." (Bloomberg, 10 April…


The Washington Post writer Brian Fung has recently come up with some interesting statistics about work in the USA."Welcome to the future of work: a world where everything moves faster, the hours are longer and steady jobs are harder to find. Work has always been central to our lives -- in the United States, the 40-hour workweek stretches back at least a century -- but now, technology and the pressure of competing in a global economy is threatening to turn back the clock, making our toil an all-consuming affair once again. Studies show that we're more productive than ever. American output has tripled since 1947, according to the U.S. Census Bureau." (The Atlantic, 11 April) Workers in the USA are three times more productive than they were sixty five years ago but now find they have to work harder and longer with less security of tenure. No wonder the owning class of America is getting richer and richer. RD


It is coming near to that time of the year when many workers are planning a get-away-from-it- all holiday. Socialist ever helpful to our fellow wage slaves have dug up this little suggestion for you. How about a week in the Caribbean this year? According to the Daily Telegraph Travel site (20 May) you can book Sir Richard Branson's Petit St. Vincent house for a mere £263,000 per week. Tempted? RD

who owns the North Pole - Part 45

China continues its interest in staking its claim to the Arctic's natural resources.

China's premier Wen Jiabao landed in Iceland on Friday to begin a tour of northern Europe that will focus on Chinese investment in a continent eager for funds from the fast-growing Asian power.

But by starting with a full-scale visit to Iceland, he has fueled European concern that China might be trying to exploit the country's economic troubles to gain a strategic foothold in the North Atlantic and Arctic region. The area has big reserves of oil, gas, gold, diamonds, zinc and iron. And with global warming melting polar ice, it may offer world powers new shipping routes - and naval interests - for the trade between Asia, Europe and America's east coast.

"When it comes to the Arctic, we always have China on our mind," said one European diplomat from the Nordic region, who spoke to Reuters this week on condition of anonymity.

"Given China's investment pattern around the …


Glasgow Branch of the Socialist Party GB