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Showing posts from October, 2012

The Failure of Zionism

The Zionist needs anti-semitism like heroin addicts need their fix. Islamists thrives on hatred of Moslems.

Zionism misled many Jewish workers with its promise of a "homeland for Jews". Israel has failed as a state to protect Jews. The terrible experience of the Second World War convinced many European Jews to embrace the idea of a Zionist State. However, the establishment of Israel did not end anti-semitism. In fact, it has actually caused it to spread to where it had seldom existed before – to the Arab-speaking parts of the world. For centuries Jews had lived in peace and security, integrated and speaking Arabic, in these parts of the world. Now, as a direct result of the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine, they came to suffer the same persecution that the European Jews had. The result was that centuries of integration was undone in decades. Today there are virtually no Jews living in Arab countries: most Arab Jews are now in Israel where they form an underprivil…


The idea that we are all getting a little better off financially all the time is one that the media try to sell us but the facts say otherwise. "13 % is the fall in national income per person in the UK since the start of 2008, adjusted for inflation according to the Office for National Statistics. The decline was more rapid than after the 1978 oil crisis." (Sunday Times, 28 October) RD

health inequality

Statistics released by the Scottish Government show people from more deprived parts of Scotland are more likely to die from alcohol-related causes.

The largest rate of inequality was in alcohol-related deaths among those aged 45 – 74. The report says that while there have been improvements, death rates and levels of inequality were higher in 2010 than 1998.

Grin and bear it surveyed more than 3000 private dentists in the UK, including 50 in Glasgow and 30 in Edinburgh. Overall, it found that the average cost of a standard check-up in private dental practices has risen by 22 per cent in just one year.

Private dental patients in Edinburgh are paying almost double the cost of treatment in Glasgow, it has been claimed. The average cost of a standard consultation in the city has risen to £74 – the second highest rate in Britain – compared with just £27 in Scotland’s second city. There is also a wide disparity in the cost of more complex procedures, with a bridge costing £443 in Edinburgh compared with £293 in Glasgow, dentures set patients back £473 compared with £260 while a dental implant costs an average of £2273 in the Capital – more than £800 more than in the west.

Overall, private healthcare comparison company said that patients in the Capital were having to fork out an average of 42 per cent more for treatment compared with …

Religion – Thy name is superstition.

Religion divides the universe into spiritual and physical realms and all religions offer their adherents relief from their earthly problems through some sort of appeal to the spiritual. Religions locate the solution to society’s problems in the individual’s salvation. Socialists see the problems that wrack human society as material and political, and their solutions as likewise material and political, not supernatural. Socialists do not hold beliefs. They have an understanding of the world based on the best evidence available.

Ideas have no independant existence from human beings, and those ideas are determined by the material world in which we live. God only exists as an idea in society. Gods are products of the human imagination given powers to dominate the lives of those who create them.

Religion perform two essential functions. It buttresses the established order by sanctifying it and by suggesting that the political order is somehow ordained by divine authority. Its sanctification…

North Sea Spills its secrets

Oil companies operating in the North Sea have been fined for oil spills on just seven occasions since 2000, even though 4,123 separate spills were recorded over the same period, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) has confirmed. In total, 1,226 tonnes of oil were spilt into the North Sea between 2000 and 2011. (A tonne of crude oil is broadly equivalent to seven barrels, or, more precisely, 1,136 liters)

Total fines resulting from prosecutions between 2000 and 2011 came to just £74,000 and no single oil company had to pay more than £20,000. Two companies received fines of £20,000: BP, for causing 28 tones of diesel to spill into the sea in 2002 from the Forties Alpha platform, and, a year later, Total E&P, for causing six tones of diesel to enter the sea during a transfer between fuel tanks on the Alwyn North platform. The smallest fines over this period were those imposed on two companies, Venture North Sea Oil and Knutsen OAS Shipping, of £2,000 each, after 20 …

Hair again

The Guardian today reports on a story Socialist Courier posted about back in March - the business of selling human hair.

 Hair extensions sales are up to £60m a year and growing (pardon the pun).  Last year HM Revenue and Customs recorded more than £38m worth of hair (human, with some mixed human and animal) entering the country, making the UK the third biggest importer of human hair in the world.

Yet behind the profitis what hair historian Caroline Cox calls the "dark side" of the industry. Most hair comes from countries where long, natural hair remains a badge of beauty - but where the women are poor enough to consider selling a treasured asset. Much of the hair on sale comes from small agents who tour villages in India, China, and eastern Europe, offering poverty-stricken women small payments to part with their hair. As one importer, based in Ukraine, told the New York Times recently: "They are not doing it for fun. Usually only people who have temporary financial dif…

Big History - A History of All of Us

Socialist Courier found it interesting that three south Ayrshire schools – Ayr Academy, Kyle Academy and Marr College – have been working with schools in Canada Australia and America to promote a new approach to understanding world history. It is based on the idea that the academic study of the past can no longer be carried out from a nationalist perspective. It is argued that the discipline of history will progress only once it charts human activity with a global scope, looking at chains of cause and effect that do not respect national borders.

On a Big History course, the species Homo sapiens is not even mentioned until more than halfway through. It places geology and the climate at the centre of the subject, alongside other branches of science and technology. They believe it is essential to show that the course of human life has been altered by both natural and manmade factors. So Big History emphasises the significance of the fact that 4.6bn years ago an exploding star created a c…

Fife Anarchism

Socialist Courier continues its occasional account of Scotland's radical past. We do not lay claim to its working class history, or claim that it represented the views of the Socialist Party but feel that in many cases, our political history has been hidden away and needs to once again come into the open to spur debate and discussion.

Lawrence Storione
(1867–1922) was a Fife miner. He is best known for founding the Anarchist Communist League in Cowdenbeath.

Lawrence Storione was the son of the Italian stonemason, born in Italy in 1867. Storione later lived in Liege and participated in several miners' strikes in Belgium. It appears he was given pamphlets on anarchism in this period by the noted French anarchist Elisee Reclus, who was lecturing at the University of Brussels and Storione now began to identify as an anarchist. He ended up in Scotland in 1897 arriving in Muirhead, Ayrshire. He moved on to Hamilton in Lanarkshire where he was to marry Annie Cowan in 1900 and stayed u…

The Saltire or the Red Flag?

You Can’t Beat The Enemy While Raising Its Banner

Groups seeking to seize and hold power use words their own way in order to place their efforts in the best light. Take, for example, the term “nation.” The rulers of every government wish to present themselves not as a tiny clique which has taken power by force or by fraud, but as representatives a whole "nation"and authorised to speak for it. Historically, for a “nation” to arise there had to come first the development of private property, of social classes, rulers and ruled, masters and servants. First arose the state, the chief general system of control used by the ruling class against the subject classes, and the chief instrument of war and conquest. The state must have definite territorial boundaries. If there is no private property and war, there can be no state; if there is no state, there can be no “nation.” The state is not the product of the “nation,” the “nation” is the product of the state.

National states did n…

Scot Trots

When someone first encounters the Socialist Party of Great Britain, a common reaction is to consider us as just another left-wing organisation. But probe deeper and you will find that our political position is very different from that of the Scottish Socialist Party or Sheridan's Solidarity.We are not a part of this "Left".  The first difference is the kind of society we wish to see established. Our aim is quite clear and uncompromising - a society without wages, money, countries or governments.We are opposed to measures which tinker with and attempt to reform capitalism with palliatives. Because of this the Socialist Party is accused of "splitting the Left". It is a "Leftist" tactic to hypocritically ask workers to vote for a "workers'" party to get reforms which they know they cannot obtain, on the parliamentary road which they dont support, to aspire to a "socialism", which is not socialism. The Socialist Party is opposed …

When miners were chattel slaves and not wage slaves

A system of servitude once existed in Scotland, sanctioned by the practice of two centuries, by virtue of which colliers and their families were fixed to the soil almost as effectually as if they had been bought in the slave-market of New Orleans or born in the hut of a negro on some Virginian plantation. It was not a relic of the social system of the Middle Ages, but was the result of express enactment by the Scottish Parliament.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, coal miners in Scotland, and their families, were bound to the colliery in which they worked and the service of its owner.  This bondage was set into law by an Act of Parliament in 1606, which ordained that "no person should fee, hire or conduce and salters, colliers or coal bearers without a written authority from the master whom they had last served". The cruel edict reduced the Scottish collier to the position of a serf or a slave. By that Act, workmen in mines, whether miners, pickmen, winding-men, firemen, or in…

Keeping up with the Jones and suicide

It turns out trying to keep up with the Joneses can lead to your own death.

The more money your neighbors make, the more likely you are to take your own life. These findings come from a new paper published at the San Francisco Federal Reserve titled “Relative Status and Well-Being: Evidence from U.S. Suicide Deaths.” According to the results, your risk of suicide increases by 4.5 percent if your own paycheck is less than 10 percent of your county’s average income.

When looking at income levels and increased risk of suicide, Fed researchers found that $34,000 is the tipping point for dramatic increases in rates of suicide. Those who earn less than $34,000 see an increased risk of suicide of about 43 to 50 percent. Meanwhile, those with incomes between $34,000 and $102,000 increase their risk of suicide by only 10 percent. It’s not surprising to hear that those who are unemployed or unable to work due to disability face higher rates of suicide. Those who are unemployed increase their ris…

One World

Salmond says that devolution has failed to solve the problems facing people in Scotland and that an independent Scotland is the only framework within which these problems can be solved. The SNP argues that the problems facing workers in Scotland are due to"Westminster rule". If only there was an independent Scotland, they say, separate from the rest of Britain, then there would be full employment, higher wages, job security, better state benefits, a healthy health service and all the other things politicians promise at election times.

 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, …

Fact of the Day

The abominable statistic that one in eight people, or 12.5 per cent of the world’s population, is chronically undernourished today according to the latest State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) report is made all the more damning because mass hunger is a man-made phenomenon. Hunger and starvation have been caused not by shortfalls in food production but rather by distortions in commodity markets, deficiencies in distribution and political inaction.

They've been trumped, too

The story of Donald Trump's golf course development in Scotland was shown on BBC2 on Sunday - You've Been Trumped. He had "tremendous support from environmental groups," said Trump. Local planning was denied by the council on the grounds that it interfered with a Site of Special Scientific Interest and was opposed by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, World Wildlife Fund and the RSPB. So much for Trump's truth.

Of America's 25 largest cities, New York is now the most unequal. The median income for the bottom 20% last year was less than $9,000, while the top one percent of New Yorkers has an average annual income of $2.2 million.  One in five residents of the Bronx is living in poverty, and the borough is New York City’s poorest. In a city where economic inequality rivals that of a third-world country New York City have just awarded Donald Trump -- yes, that Donald Trump of Aberdeen golf course fame -- the right to run a g…

A Bleak Picture

Some 24,000 families across Scotland are facing "severe disadvantage", according to research. Glasgow was the worst affected area, with one in ten families severely disadvantaged - three times the national average. Followed by South and North Lanarkshire (7% and 5% of families respectively) and Fife (5%) as having the highest proportions of severely disadvantaged families.

Louise Bazalgette, author of the report,  said it went beyond a "simplistic understanding of disadvantage" by recognising that hardship is about more than just low income. "It provides insight into the struggle thousands of families across Scotland go through on a daily basis coping with poverty, worklessness and poor health" 

Paul Moore, chief executive of the Quarriers charity, said: "This research paints a truly bleak picture of what life is like for thousands of families across Scotland who experience multi-disadvantage every day"

No one is forgotten and nothing is forgotten

A few hundred yards from where missionary David Livingstone was born, stood five pits run by William Dixon Ltd. Together they produced hundreds of thousands of tons of coal and made wealthy men of the mine owners. In 1871, the first two pits were sunk in High Blantyre and by 1876 there were 8 pits in production in the area. The demand for an increased labour force was high, and there was reluctance among the local mill and farm workers to work in the new mines. This labour force was found principally in Irish emigrants who were refugees from the suffering and deprivation caused by the potato famine in Ireland (and later many Lithuanians both of whom the coalmasters exploited to full advantage, particularly in times of industrial unrest).  Blantyre was at this time; "a district of pits, engine houses, smoke and grime" and led to the nickname "Dirty Auld Blantyre". The miners and their families carried out back-breaking work for little more than a pittance and were …

The “nonsense” of nationalism

"The nationality of the toilers is neither French nor English nor German; it is toil, free slavery, sale of the self. His government is neither French nor English nor German; it is Capital. His native air is neither French nor German nor English; it is the air of the factory. The land which belongs to him is neither French nor English nor German; it is a few feet under the ground."-- Karl Marx  Notes on Friedrich List

Nationalists love the soil which makes their graves. The working class has often been, for Marx, beguiled by nationalism, organised religion, and other distractions. These ideological devices help to keep people from realising that it is they who produce wealth. Socialism is a theory that stands for a stateless society. On the other hand, nationalism stands for a state or nation. Nationalism means the development of a particular nation. For nationalists, state or nation is the primary importance. However, for communist, the whole class around the whole world is…

Starvation - side by side plenty

Rising food prices during 2010-11 may have pushed three million Bangladeshis into poverty, and kept eight million Indians from getting out of poverty bracket, finds a UN report. In Asia and Pacific region, food inflation pushed nearly four million people into poverty.

 Increasing cost of fertilizers, competition for arable land, water resource and high oil prices are all responsible for the spike. Commodity market speculation has also been a growing factor behind high and volatile commodity prices. 65% of the household income of poor across the world is spent on food.  In Bangladesh and India, more than 40% children are undernourished.

 The report claims that at national level, "hungry population live side-by-side with people who have easy access to food." It explains that the root cause of hunger across the sub-region is not lack of food rather the socio-economic and social distribution is responsible for this.

Protesting is just the start

Socialist Courier is cheered that our class is once again on the move, marching to protect its interests and talking about its future. But optimism sometimes needs to give way to gloomy realism.

The world is dominated by profit, and that a relatively small number of people, the owners and employers, benefit in terms of wealth and power. As this economic crisis deepens at home and aboard, its human toll becomes even more evident. Recovery will only come when the rate of profit is restored. Which employers are actively seeking to bring about by imposing wage freezes, even wage cuts, watering down pension schemes, and anything else they can think of to reduce their labour costs. Thousands are facing job losses or being offered an enforced shorter working week as this malignant disease spreads. Workers have been warned to brace themselves for even worse to come. All those on  benefits' will be affected, as the aim is to force people on out-of-work benefits into low paid jobs or doing…

Capitalism drives us mental

Scots are suffering more mental health problems because of the economic downturn, according to the largest ever study on the subject. Living in the most deprived areas of Scotland places people at a higher risk of poor mental health, researchers concluded.

A report published by NHS Health Scotland today examines more than 50 indicators which help make up a picture of the nation's mental health, covering factors such as working life and community, chronic physical health problems and misuse of alcohol or drugs. 42 indicated a direct link between greater socio-economic disadvantage and a poorer state of mental health. Only two were more prevalent in better-off areas than poor areas – drinking outside the recommended limits and overwork. Alcohol intake is excessive across the classes, but it causes more health problems in deprived areas.

Andrew Fraser, director of Public Health Science said problems were likely to worsen in a context of austerity. He added: "We can reliably exp…

Oxfam warn about land grab

The global rush for international companies to grab lands for private sector investments in most Southeast Asian countries has put their poorest people at high risks of hunger in its latest report, Oxfam, warned. 

In developing countries in Asia, some 945 million are estimated to be living in absolute poverty.

The irony couldn’t be sharper and more painful in Asia where poor people who grow food for a living comprise the poorest segments of the economy and are scarcely able to eat.  In many countries, 80% of the population are farmers, as are 80% of the chronically hungry.

Norly Grace Mercado, Oxfam’s East Asia regional spokesperson said that “Global land grabs and, in particular, the upsurge of areas devoted to bio-fuel production have sent food prices in a tizzy, making it harder for poor people to buy affordable food,”

227 million hectares of land, including coastal land, in developing countries have been sold or leased since 2001, mostly to international investors.

Nobel Prize…

The Chinese rich get richer

According to a recent report from China's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, astronomical increases in salaries in several domestic industries, especially among high-level corporate executives, have widened the gap between the rich and the poor.

Ma Mingzhe, the general manager of Ping An Group, for example. In 2007, his annual income reached 66.16 million yuan ($10.58 million); 2,751 times higher than the average yearly salary of a white collar worker in China at that time and 4,553 times more than the average migrant worker.

In a poll 81% of Chinese agree with the statement the “rich just get richer while the poor get poorer,”

26 richest people of all time’:

1. Mansa Musa I, (Ruler of Malian Empire, 1280-1331) $400 billion
2. Rothschild Family (banking dynasty, 1740- ) $350 billion
3. John D Rockefeller (industrialist, 1839-1937) $340 billion
4. Andrew Carnegie (industrialist, 1835-1919) $310 billion
5. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (last Emperor of Russia, 1868-1918) $300 billion
6. Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII (last ruler of Hyderabad, 1886-1967) $236 billion
7. William the Conqueror (King of England, 1028-1087) $229.5 billion
8. Muammar Gaddafi (former Libyan leader, 1942-2011) $200 billion
9. Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company founder, 1863-1947) $199 billion
10. Cornelius Vanderbilt (industrialist, 1794-1877) $185 billion
11. Alan Rufus (Fighting companion of William the Conqueror, 1040-1093) $178.65 billion
12. Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft, 1955- ) $136 billion
13. William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey (Norman nobleman, ??-1088) $146.13 billion
14. John Jacob Astor (businessman, 1864-1912) $121 billion
15. Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl …

Big Bad Pharma

Doctors generally want to do the best for their patients, but they can't know what that is if half of the data on clinical trials of drugs is missing and some of the rest is distorted.

New drugs are tested by the companies that make them, often in trials designed to make the drug look good, which are then written up and published in medical journals. Unless, that is, the company doesn't like the result of the trial (maybe it shows the drug not working or having severe side-effects), in which case this result might be hidden. The vital comparison may be made against a placebo or against unusually low or abnormally high doses of the drug – to ensure suitable conclusions as to efficacy and the severity of side-effects. It's no surprise that most published trials funded by drug companies show positive results.

 Companies pay doctors to extol the virtues of their drugs on the conference circuit (spelling out the sources of information they want doctors to use) and fund patient g…

Another fact of the day

72 million people around the world had been driven from their homes by conflict, natural disasters or big development projects at the end of last year. Nearly 16.4 million had fled abroad and were officially classified as refugees, while 41.4 million more were living in their own country as "internally displaced persons"


1700 lay-offs confirmed as Hall's of Broxburn is closed by the Dutch parent company, Vion.

Foreign investors in Scotland employ over 600,000 staff and have a turnover of over £145 billion.

In 2010, within manufacturing, foreign-owned companies accounted for 40.9% of Gross Value Added and 30.5% of employees. Within services, foreign-owned companies accounted for 17.8% of GVA and 13.3% of employees,(agriculture, the financial sector and some of the public sector. are not included in the statistics) The remainder being UK (excluding Scotland) owners

Fact of the Day

The World Health Organization predicts that by 2030, depression will become the leading cause of disability worldwide. This burden is greatest for poor countries, where 75 percent of patients with severe mental disorders don’t receive the treatment they need. Just one in ten people with depression is treated, despite considerable evidence that generic medications and psychotherapy treatments by non-specialists are effective and cost-effective.

the rich

The number of global millionaires will increase by about 18 million reaching 46 million by 2017, The US will remain on top of the wealth league with $89 trillion by 2017, with 16.9 million millionaires, and Europe with 15.4 million, according to Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report released on Wednesday. China may see its number doubling by 2017, raising the total to almost 2 million. India's millionaires to increase by 53% to 84,000 by 2017.  95% of individuals in India have less than $10,000, whereas this percentage is only 60% in China. Just 0.3% of Indians has a net worth over $100,000. However, due to India's large population, this translates into 2.3 million people. At present, India has 237,000 members of the top 1% of global wealth holders, which equates to a 0.5% share worldwide. There are 1,500 UHNW (ultra high net worth) individuals with wealth over $50 million, and 700 with more than $100 million worth of assets.

Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, with a pe…

Down and Out Down-under

It was the country many Scots and Europeans sought to make their new home in hope of a better life for themselves but today one in eight Australians lives below the poverty line. According to the international definition of poverty, which is having a disposable income less than half that of the median household, more than 2.2 million Australians live in poverty. In 2010 the poverty line for a single adult was a disposable income of less than $358 a week and $752 for a couple with two children. More than half a million children live below the poverty line, almost half in lone-parent families. If you're a single person that means you have just over $50 a day to cover everything. Single people with two children had $80 a day to pay for everything. New South Wales has the highest number of people in poverty (835,000), followed by Victoria (526,700), Queensland (430,900), Western Australia (211,300), South Australia (165,200) and Tasmania (56,000).

Penny Wilson, Victorian Council of S…


During the current economic recession it is commonplace to hear of workers being unable to sell their houses because of tumbling prices and difficulties in obtaining mortgages but one part of the housing market is unaffected by economic difficulties. "An estate agent to the rich and famous is celebrating after selling £3billion worth of property - on the same London street. Trevor Abrahmsohn has cornered the market on one of the world's wealthiest roads, The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead Garden Suburb, north London - known as 'Billionaires' Row'. Over the last 35 years he has handled 150 house sales on the street at an average value of £20million at today's prices." (Daily Mail, 12 October) To those members of the owning class who think nothing of spending £20million on a house their is no economic crisis. RD


In its unending drive for more and more profit the capitalist system ruins lives but it also ruins the world's environment and biodiversity. "Reducing the risk of extinction for threatened species and establishing protected areas for nature will cost the world over $76bn dollars annually. Researchers say it is needed to meet globally agreed conservation targets by 2020. The scientists say the daunting number is just a fifth of what the world spends on soft drinks annually. And it amounts to just 1% of the value of ecosystems being lost every year, they report in the journal Science. Back in 2002, governments around the world agreed that they would achieve a significant reduction in biodiversity loss by 2010. But the deadline came and went and the rate of loss increased." (BBC News, 12 October) Governments can make sympathetic noises and even pass pious resolutions but profit making comes before biodiversity so more and more species of flora and …

For World Socialism

There is a system called capitalism, and it is simple – increase capital from constant reinvestment of capital, invest profits to regenerate more profits.  The Socialist Party  is  against all forms of capitalism: private, state and self-managed.  It makes no difference whether the capital is domestic or foreign, who personifies it, how big and small it is. Capitalist exploitation occurs despite all of them.

 We are for communism, which is a classless society in which all goods are distributed according to need. We are opposed to all ideologies which divide the working class, such as religion, sexism and racism. And we are against nationalism and patriotism. Cultural freedom and diversity should not be confused with nationalism. That specific peoples should be free to fully develop their own cultural capacities is not merely a right but a requirement. The world would be a drab place without its magnificent mosaic of different cultures.

Nationalists argue that people long to have the…

A cold winter

During winter 2010-11 over 25,000 more people died in the UK compared with non-winter periods. Many of these deaths can be directly attributed to fuel poverty. Around four million households in the UK currently suffer from fuel poverty.

£8m profit every day but Scottish Gas bills are due to rise again. Millions of Scots face a winter of rising fuel bills, as the UK’s largest energy supplier is today expected to announce an inflation-busting increase for gas and electricity charges. A 9 per cent increase by Scottish and Southern Energy will come into effect on Monday next week, and other major suppliers have refused to rule out a similar rise.

Citizens Advice Scotland said it was growing increasingly concerned about low-income families this winter. Margaret Lynch, chief executive, said: “We know that at least one-third of Scots are already living in fuel poverty."

Robina Qureshi, of the charity Positive Action in Housing, said: “More and more people are just keeping their houses co…


Every day in the newspapers socialists can read all the bad news that capitalism throws up. Millions starve, while food is destroyed: children dying for lack of clean water and lately a 14 year old girl shot in the head by some Pakistan religious zealot because she dared to attend a school. So what is the good news? "The number of people with no religious affiliations is growing at an unprecedented rate, according to research. A third of adults under 30 in the US now say they have no faith. .... The US study was undertaken by the Pew Research Centre, a Washington based think tank. According to the latest British Social Attitude Survey, published last month, religious affiliation among Britons has fallen from 68 per cent in 1983 to 53 per cent in 2011." (Times, 10 October) RD


Having worked all their lives many workers hope that having made it to retirement age they will be able to enjoy some leisure and contentment in their remaining years. Alas for many workers that is not to be. "A former matron and five nurses who worked for a care home have been arrested over "serious allegations" of mistreatment and neglect of "very vulnerable" elderly residents. The arrests follow a five-month police investigation into a number of reported incidents at Hillcroft nursing home in Slyne-with-Hest, near Lancaster. The mistreatment is said to have taken place within the home's challenging behaviour unit which cares for vulnerable adults with advanced Alzheimer's, police said." (Daily Telegraph, 10 October) Needless to say the victims of this harsh treatment are all members of the working class. Members of the owning class can afford the best that money can buy. RD

Fact of the Day

Following on from this fact

More efficient food production and the reduction of food losses would feed an additional billion people and dramatically help maintaining the planet's natural resources and improve people's lives. Researchers in Aalto University, Finland, have proved a valid estimation, for the first time, for how many people could be fed with reducing food losses. The world's population is an estimated seven billion people. An additional one billion can be fed from our current resources, if the food losses could be halved.

Food-free days or a free food new day?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome, global wheat production is expected to fall 5.2% in 2012 and yields from many other crops grown to feed animals could be 10% down on last year. Prices for wheat have already risen 25% in 2012, maize 13% and dairy prices rose 7% just last month. Food reserves, [held to provide a buffer against rising prices] are at a critical low level.The 2012 global grain harvest in total is expected to be 2,236m tonnes, compared with 2,309m tonnes in 2011, a drop of about three per cent, but this is about four per cent in per capita terms, as 80m people per year are being added to the world population. As a result, corn prices hit eight dollars a bushel in August, the highest level ever recorded.

The US government is expected to announce that drought and heat damage to crops this year has reduced its wheat, maize and soy harvests by more than 10%. Because the US is by far the world's biggest grower and exporter of grains, this is…

Middle class?

The debate on what constitutes "middle class" turns “philosophical” at times. Some definitions include concepts such as professional status, education, and the variety of cultural and consumption habits

 In Brasil a study says 35 million people rose from the lower to the middle class in the last 10 years, and that the middle class grew from 38 percent of the population in 2002 to 53 percent this year, in this country of 192 million people. The problem is the criteria used to classify who is middle class: a per capita income of between 145 and 510 dollars a month. The definition covers people with very different income levels, living conditions and consumption habits, which should also be taken into account.

 The minimum monthly wage in Brazil is 311 dollars, higher than the threshold set by the government to classify people as middle class! Isn’t someone who earns the minimum salary poor?

Marxism defines class based on who owns or does not own the means of production.


Economic "experts" are forever telling us that capitalism is a wonderful society and are always quick to inform us of the latest "trends" in the market. In fact they haven't a clue. "Risks to global financial stability have increased in the past six months despite efforts by policymakers to make the financial system safer, according to the International Monetary Fund. It said little progress had been made in making the system more transparent and less complex, and that confidence in it had become "very fragile". .... On Monday, the IMF downgraded its forecast for global growth. It estimated growth in 2013 to be 3.6%, down from 3.9% in its previous forecast in July." (BBC News, 9 October) Capitalism by its very nature is an unpredictable society based on economic slumps and booms. Rather than listen to the "experts" workers should abolish the whole outmoded system. RD

Fact of the day

Scotland wastes an astonishing £1 billion a year throwing away perfectly good food. As much as one-fifth of the food and drink people buy ends up being dumped in the bin, costing the average Scottish household £430 a year – yet most of it could be consumed.

much the same there

Scotland recently had Martha Payne, who drew attention to the sad state of school dinners in her blog which the shamed local authority tried to ban .

In eastern Germany more than 11,000 schoolchildren were recently affected by gastrointestinal sickness -- most likely because of what they ate at school. Experts now believe that frozen strawberries from China are behind the massive outbreak of the norovirus

Germany has 11 million children attending 45,000 schools, and the number of them being fed at these schools is rising (a third of all 11- to 15-year-olds already go to school without having had breakfast). As a result, the school catering business is becoming highly competitive and growing at an annual rate of 5 percent. Already today, the five largest school catering companies generate combined revenues of some €160 million ($208 million) in the country. By far the largest of these is the French company Sodexo. The self-described specialist in "quality of life services" of…

much the same here

InIn America real wages for the bottom 80 percent of households have remained relatively stagnant since the late 1970s. People survived these stagnant wages by working more hours, bringing more family members into the paid labor force, and borrowing more, thanks to easy access to credit. This put enormous stresses on many working families as they got caught on a work-consume-borrow treadmill. But for many, this was the only way to attain or maintain a relative decent standard of living. Overwork and debt masked the reality of falling and stagnant wages.

The total amount of credit card debt exploded, thanks in part to aggressive “debt pushing.” In 2006, there were 6 billion credit card solicitations sent out.The majority of home financing was for second mortgages, not new home acquisitions. Access to easy credit was the drug that enabled millions to live beyond their means.  The consumption engine driving the economic boom between 2000 and 2008 was based on borrowing, not real wage inc…

food for thought

New data from the United Nations reveals that there has been progress in reducing the number of hungry people worldwide. But an estimate that nearly 870 million people, one in eight, suffered from chronic undernourishment over the last two years. The vast majority of these people, 852 million, live in developing countries, which means that 15 percent of the developing world suffers from hunger, while 16 million people are undernourished in developed countries.

The FAO estimates that childhood malnutrition causes the deaths of more than 2.5 million children every year.

The situation is particularly bad in Africa, where the number of hungry has grown in the last twenty years from 175 to 239 million.

Food is transported all across the world. Even though according to researchers we currently produce food for 11 billion people there exists food shortages and millions starve.  Yet 1.3bn are obese, condemned to artificially cheap, calorie-rich, nutrient-poor processed food. Today's hung…


One of the illusions that is presented by the media about the working class is that they are lazy, work-shy and always ready to take a day off work if they think they can get away with it, but the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's recent report seems to prove that this is a media illusion. "Millions of workers are 'too frightened' about losing their job to take time off work when they are sick, even if they are very ill, a report reveals today. The authoritative report says a culture of 'presenteeism' is sweeping Britain as workers decide to come into the office, rather than stay home in bed. A third of bosses have seen an increase in the number of workers 'who struggle into work when unwell' over the last year, according to the report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development." (Daily Mail, 9 October) RD

There's gold in them thar hills...

Scotgold has predicted that jewellery buyers will pay a premium for gold from the firm’s Cononish mine near Tyndrum, where production is set to begin in early 2014. 15 to 20 major Scottish jewellers had shown an interest in the mine, which will be capable of producing around 5,000 ounces of gold a year.

Chairman John Bentley urged Scottish institutional investors to “put their hands in their pockets” and support the project, which will be Scotland’s first commercial gold minehe firm has other prospects in Argyll and Bute, including the River Vein area and Sron Garbh, where it has encountered some “very interesting” signs of platinum, although chief executive Chris Sangster stressed this work was at a very early stage He said: “The level of geological data in Scotland, and probably the rest of the UK, is worse than Burkina Faso, Ghana or Mali. Geophysics for the UK was done in 1955, and we suffer from a lack of fundamental data.”


“God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell...There’s a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I believe that the Earth is about 9,000 years old. I believe that it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”espoused Congressman Paul Broun, a medical doctor,  from Georgia, who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology responsible for crafting US government policy.

A recent Gallup Poll suggests that 46 percent of Americans think God made humans within the past 10,000 years, while only half the nation believes in evolution.


Being rich has lots of problems. For instance what do you spend all that loot on? A couple of American fat cats have thought of a couple of ways. "Bob R. Simpson is the co-chairman of the Texas Rangers. He also just spent one million dollars on a penny from the forties. Sounds crazy to us, but what do we know about pennies? Oh yeah! We know that they are usually only worth a penny, which usually equals one cent. So what's the deal, Bob? Also, in an unrelated story, some 15-year-old girl in Texas drove a $300,000 Lamborghini to school. Rich kids will do the darnedest things." (Yahoo News, 21 September) Starving kids? Who cares? Let the kid drive the old banger to school. RD


The owning class like to outdo each other in the conspicious consumption of luxuries and to satisfy their needs Electrolux has launched what must be the world's most expensive domestic kitchen. "An arsenal of blast-chillers, sous-vide vacuum packers and ovens powered by computer hard drives, all apparently designed for super-rich MasterChef obsessives, has gone on sale with a lettuce-wilting price tag of £76,000, rising to more than £200,000 if you want the very best ovens. Cupboards, drawers and work surfaces are your own business, adding upwards of £100,000 for the best finishes, say designers. Welcome to the quarter of a million pound kitchen. ... "I am sure some people will buy it only because they believe it's the pinnacle of what is on the market," said Henrik Otto, the designer. "But on the other hand they probably have a private chef who will use it for them. [The market] is people who holiday in the Caribbean, fly there on t…