Wednesday, October 31, 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 underprivileged group.  And those Arab Israelis who remained within the state of Israel suffered the same fate the Zionists sought to free Jews from: being a minority in someone else’s “nation-State”. Israel is an apartheid state which enforces policies of ethnic segregation.

As socialists we re-affirm that all peoples should seek their emancipation, not as members of nations or religions or ethnic groups, but as human beings, as members of the human race in a world without national frontiers and in which free movement is possible and where all people live together as equals. They should unite to abolish the division of the world into so-called nation-states and to establish a World Cooperative Commonwealth of which we will all be free and equal members – citizens of the world, not subjects of nation-states.

We sympathize with the suffering of our fellow workers, whatever their ethnic origin. It is always they who suffer the brunt of their masters’ wars. Peace is always better than war. Because wars are never fought in the interests of ordinary people. It is also because war provides an ideal opportunity and excuse to suppress democratic rights on both sides. Peace will create better conditions for democracy. No longer obsessed with ethnic conflict, “Jews” and “Palestinians” will be able to re-focus on the social, economic and ecological problems spawned by the “normal” peacetime functioning of capitalism. A space for socialist ideas will open up in this corner of our world. 


PROGRESSING BACKWARDS

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

WhatClinic.com 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 WhatClinic.com said that patients in the Capital were having to fork out an average of 42 per cent more for treatment compared with their Glasgow  counterparts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

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 of the existing social order makes it a counter-revolutionary force. Yet it consoles the oppressed exploited by offering them in heaven what they are denied upon earth. By holding before them a vision of what they are denied, religion plays at least partly a progressive role in that it gives the common people some idea of what a better order would be. But when it becomes possible to realize that better order upon earth in the form of communism, then religion becomes wholly reactionary, for it distracts men from establishing a now possible good society on earth by still turning their eyes towards heaven.

Our position on organised religion is that religion is debilitating to the mind of the worker and thus to the progress which we wish to make as workers in advancing our interests. New Age religion is merely the old age religion in a new, modern form. Rather than obeying a priest, they choose the form of their own mental domination in a flight from reality into a magical world.

Banish Gods from the Skies, and Capitalists from the Earth


“God” is relegated more and more to the background. The “God” of the modern capitalist is a different “God” than the feudal lord or slave owner of more ancient times. And the “role” that “God” plays in the explanation of the working of the material world has changed. The role of “God” has changed from that of belief in predestiny, to God as a “personal God”, from “God” as the first creator of the world and the “cause” to “God” as an afterthought (agnosticism) who has no control and the question of belief in him as irrelevant. Socialism, as the science of society is the application of that science to the relations between men, a branch of natural history, holds a monistic view of the universe, each part is in inseparable causal relation to the rest, can leave no nook or cranny for “God”.

It has been religion that has had to do all the hard work of accommodating more and more scientific progress, which is why religions tend to become ever vaguer and more metaphorical. Those modifications of religion have been the reflexes of changed conditions and interests.

 Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether. One in five Americans said they have no religious identity or did not answer the question, and more than one in four said they do not expect to have a religious funeral. In every single state there was a rise in the “nones”.

There is no need to use force to end of religion, when it is already dying a natural death. Socialists no longer looks to the heavens for a supernatural savior, nor seek a Moses to lead us out of bondage. It is about becoming conscious of the strength that resides within ourselves and in the knowledge that who would be free, must free the mind from chains.

Neither God Nor Master

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 tonnes of crude oil was spilt during a tanker transfer on the Kittiwake platform.

Vicky Wyatt, a Greenpeace campaigner, said: "A few grand is not even a slap on the wrist for companies who pocket millions of pounds every hour...It's both staggering and wrong that some of these companies are now also drilling in the fragile and pristine Arctic, where a similar oil leak would be catastrophic."

Monday, October 29, 2012

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 difficulties in depressed regions sell their hair." More worryingly, back in 2006, the Observer reported that in India some husbands were forcing their wives into selling their hair, slum children were being tricked into having their heads shaved in exchange for toys, and in one case a gang stole a woman's hair, holding her down and cutting it off. Moscow Centre for Prison Reform admitted warders were forcibly shaving and selling the hair of prisoners.

In temples in south India devotees travel for hundreds of miles and queue for hours to have their hair tonsured, or ritually shaved. Some have prayed for a child, others for a sick relative or a good harvest, and when their prayers are answered they offer up their hair. According to one report, most are rural women whose hair has often never been dyed, blow-dried, or even cut and is worth around £200. The hair is then sorted and sold, often by online auction. Last year Tirumala temple, apparently made 2,000m rupees (more than £22m), from auctioning hair.

Cox points out that such exploitation has underpinned the industry since false fronts and hair pieces became popular in the UK in Edwardian times. "It's taking advantage of those who are disadvantaged," she says. "Working-class women's hair is used to bedeck the head of those who are more privileged. It's been going on for hundreds of years." According to Cox extensions, like long fake nails, are status symbols. "If you have long nails, there is a suggestion you have a lot of leisure time. If hair costs a lot to do, and to keep up, there is the same suggestion. It's almost as though you are living the life of a The Only Way is Essex girl or glamour model."  Cox explains that "The fashion for such a long time has been about the glorification of artificiality. Fake tans, fake teeth, fake boobs and fake nails – and you need fake hair to go with all that. The whole idea of beauty is [now] predicated on artificiality and getting rid of humanness – waxing every hair from your body but putting fake hair on your head."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

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 crust for the planet that contained 5% of iron. As a result, the metal has helped humanity to kill prey and forge weapons. All too often, students learn facts and skills but don't connect them all. Big history links different areas of knowledge into one unified story. It’s a framework for learning about anything and everything.

The historian David Christian explained "I believe human beings mark a threshold in the development of the planet, of course, but it is only part of the picture. What Big History can do is show us the nature of our complexity and fragility and the dangers that face us, but it can also show us our power, with collective learning."

Ben Goold, the British executive producer of a 12-hour documentary called Mankind, The Story of All of Us said "Today everybody acknowledges we live in a connected world because of the internet, but when you look back in time you see we have always been connected really."

■ 100,000 years ago, there were barely enough people on Earth to fill a football stadium.

■ Ancient Rome was eight times more densely populated than New York today.

■ When Columbus "discovered" the New World, there were already 90 million people in the Americas, a third of the world's population.

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 until 1906 when he travelled to Canada. He returned to Scotland in 1908, where he lived in Lumphinnans, Fife.

His coming to the pit village of Lumphinnans and his employment at No1 pit there introduced revolutionary ideas among the miners in that area. He soon set up an Anarchist Communist League which, according to Stuart MacIntyre in his" Little Moscows" preached a" heady mixture of De Leonist Marxism and the anarchist teachings of Kropotkin and Stirner, a libertarian communism which was fiercely critical of the union”. Among those who appeared to have joined the League were the miners Abe and Jim Moffat and Robert (Bob) Selkirk. All three were to join the Communist Party in 1922, Abe Moffat having an important position within it and Selkirk serving as a CP town councillor in Cowdenbeath for 24 years. In his anarchist years, Selkirk had been a member of a Scottish branch of the IWW, and publicly polemicised against Guy Aldred’s rejection of work-shop organisation, as well as denouncing Kropotkin for his pro- First World War position.

Storione’s children were given good revolutionary names: Armonie, Anarchie, Autonomie, Germinal and Libertie! The sole exception to this was his daughter Annie and she was a leading light in a Proletarian Sunday School in Cowdenbeath, which used the Industrial Workers of the World's Little Red Songbook, far more radical than the Sunday School set up in the area by the Independent Labour Party.

 Bob Selkirk wrote that the League sold copies of Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid, Stirner’s The Ego and His Own, and De Leon’s Two Pages From Roman History. The main slogan of the League was, again according to Selkirk, “Trade Unions are bulwarks of capitalism and all Trade Union leaders are fakirs”.  On the League’s critique of the trade unions Selkirk remarks that: “We thus sowed defeatism and pessimism instead of strengthening the organisations of the workers. Actually most of the members of this Branch became successful businessmen, accountants, dance band leaders, insurance agents, etc. They had lost faith in the workers” (Bob Selkirk, The Life of a Worker, 1967).

Both Abe Moffat and Selkirk mention Storione as an inspiration. However as members of a Party that was virulently anti-anarchist they had to re-write history. So for Moffat, Storione, (remembered as Storian in his book) was no longer an anarchist but “an ardent Communist,” who had convinced he and his brother Jim to a militant anti-capitalist position (My Life With The Miners, 1967).

Stevenson in his biography of Davie Proudfoot, Communist and then Labour activist, says that he was influenced by the League, although carrying on the CP tradition conveniently drops the "Anarchist" from the League's title

The League set up a bookshop in nearby Cowdenbeath in 1916, as the result of the subscriptions of twelve workers subscribing £24 each. It sold Capital, Ancient Society and other Charles Kerr publications. “We sold anything considered progressive, even “The Strike of A sex”. We sold the anti-war literature of the time and became familiar with police warrants and police searching of our houses”

Lawrence Storione died in 1922 after a pit accident invalided him during 1917. At a compensation hearing that year the Sheriff gave a decision in Storione's favour. However, police were to challenge this, saying that he was fit to work. They said that, along with Jack Leckie and Willie Gallagher, he headed a demonstrations in Kelty when 5,000 workers struck during the Three Weeks Strike. He was eventually to lose his fight for compensation.

Mary Docherty - A Miner's Lass.

'They always talk about how red Clydeside was, but Fife was just as radical,' she says. 'It seemed revolution here was just round the corner. Middle-class people were terrified. You had to lie to your employer about attending marches and hope they did not see you. The London headquarters of the Communist Party even got in touch with Fife to say slow down. We were so far ahead.' Her father became a member of the Fife Communist Anarchist Group and later a founding member of the Communist Party in Britain. 'Before he became political, like many miners, he was searching for reasons for poverty. He became a member of the temperance movement, but soon realised drink was not the cause.'

Song of Sixpence:

'Sing a song of labour
Boys and girls do try
For the master's children
Have got all the pie . . .'

Saturday, October 27, 2012

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 not exist before or under feudalism, for feudal conditions were not conducive to the development of large national communities. The feudal states were united by virtue of who ruled them, regardless of “national” considerations. The power was vested in the king, not in the nation. For example, in the Hundred Years’ War, the French vassals of the King of England naturally fought against the King of France. The feudal States were run by a given clan or kindred of a tribe that had become differentiated into masters and serfs bound to the land owned by the ruling family. Feudal states, in their backward economic relations, were unable to be national states and could evolve so only when capitalism, with its markets, commerce, money and corresponding development of the circulation and production of commodities, could unify the country.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

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 to such trickery of workers and this cynical political opportunism. Simply, the "Left" are not socialists. Far from splitting the "Left", we oppose the "Left" for its political cowardice, (being unable or unwilling to describe socialism to workers and nail their true colours to the socialist mast), of opportunism, (interference in workers struggles and grass-roots movements to recruit and subvert them to their cause), and for its pretensions, (of assuming to know what socialism is, and presenting itself as a leadership towards it).

The Scottish "Socialist" Party despite its name, does not stand for socialism but is a left-wing nationalist - a Tartan Trotskyist - party. The SSP is lucky that there isn’t a political equivalent of the Trades Description Act or they could be prosecuted for fraudulently describing what they are trying to sell as “socialism”.

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 any other service of the mine, were prohibited from leaving that service either in hope of greater gain or of greater ease, or for any other reason, without the consent of the coal-owner, or of the Sheriff of the County; and any one receiving a runaway into his service and refusing to return him within twenty-four hours was to be fined one hundred pounds Scots. A collier lacking such written authority could be "reclaimed" by his former master "within a year and a day".  If the new master did not surrender the collier, he could be fined and the collier who deserted was considered to be a thief and punished accordingly.  The Act also gave the coal owners and masters the powers to  to apprehend "vagabonds and sturdy beggars" and put them to work in the mines.  A further Act of 1641 extended those enslaved to include other workers in the mines and forced the colliers to work six days a week. The Habeas Corpus Act of Scotland, in 1701, which declared that "the imprisonment of persons without expressing the reasons thereof, and delaying to put them to trial is contrary to law"; and that "no person shall hereafter be imprisoned for custody in order to take his trial for any crime or offence without a warrant or writ expressing the particular cause for which he is imprisoned" specifically stated "that this present Act is in no way to be extended to colliers and salters."

In the early centuries of our country's history, while yet the forests were extensive and wood abundant, there was little need for coal. The early coal-workings were of a superficial character, being chiefly of the nature of quarries; indeed, the primary meaning of the word heugh - the name given in past times to a coal-pit - is a steep bank or glen. The labourers on the coal-producing estates, assisted by the members of their families, performed the work when it suited their convenience. Such was the state of the coal-mining population in the sixteenth century, when the country was awakening to a sense of its commercial capabilities. There was a rise of an extensive trade with foreign countries, leading to the wider development of existing coal-works, and the opening up of new fields to meet the demand. The owners of new coal-works, having no trained colliers on their own estates, sought them at established collieries, and induced them by means of gifts and promises of higher wages to leave their employment. This was naturally resented by their masters, who had difficulty in getting sufficient workers for their own pits. The aggrieved coal-owners made application to Parliament to put a stop to the practice. Primarily designed to prevent desertions, the Act authorized a coal-owner to retain his colliers as long as he had work for them. From the fact that many collieries were then in constant operation, and that some have worked continuously to the present day, it is apparent that the colliers attached to works of a permanent character were bound for life, and from generation to generation. And even in the case of collieries where work was not continuous, the worker found that he could not oblige his master to give him a testimonial on leaving, and that he was liable to be recalled as soon as work was resumed. Indeed, it appears to have been the rule for masters to withhold a testimonial, in order that they might the more freely reclaim when need arose. James Gray of Dalmarnock gave up a coal-work and allowed his colliers to go where they pleased, but took the precaution to reclaim them every year in order to preserve his right to them if he should set up his colliery again.  It was customary also for the parents of a child to receive a gift from the master at the birth or baptism of the bairn in token of the child's being bound along with the parents.

For the first hundred years after the passing of the Act of 1606, it seems to have been the general belief of both masters and men that if a deserting collier succeeded in evading pursuit, by going over to England, or keeping in hiding elsewhere, for a year and a day, he was then at liberty to work where he chose. This was deemed a grievance by the coal-owners, and they sought to have an Act passed in the year 1700 making their title effectual and not subject to lapse if they, within a year and a day of desertion, cited the fugitive at the market cross of the chief burgh of the shire in which he had his residence. The Act was not passed, for what reason does not clearly appear, but decisions of the Court of Session in 1708 and later had the effect of giving the masters what they desired in this particular. The Lords of Session found that colliers could not be hired without a testimonial from their former master, and that Sir Thomas, having now a going coal-work, might well reclaim them; and, although away several years from him.

The system could not survive the industrial revolution that the country underwent consequent on the development of the use of steam.The process of emancipation began with an Act of Parliament of 1775 which freed the colliers in age-groups - those under 21 and between 35 and 44 were to be freed in 7 years, those between 21 and 34 were to be freed in 10 years and those over 45 were to be freed in 3 years.  The liberation of the father freed the family.  However, gaining freedom required a formal legal application before a Sheriff and a great many colliers continued to be bound until 1799 when an Act was passed that all colliers in Scotland were "to be free from their servitude".

http://www.scottishmining.co.uk/8.html

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

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 risk of suicide by 72 percent.

When considering the nation as a whole, low-income individuals tend to have a higher risk of suicide. This would lead you to believe that low-income counties have a higher risk of suicide, yet the Fed study shows the opposite. Since high-income counties tend to have larger disparities in income, wealthier counties—not poorer—often see an increased risk of suicide when factoring income of victims relative to their peers. Another way to think of it may be the more you compare your wealth to your neighbors, the harder it is to feel content with what you have.

Marx long ago wrote that "A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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, 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. An independent Scottish government would still have to operate within the constraints of the world capitalist system. It would still have to ensure that goods produced in Scotland were competitive on world markets and that capitalists investing in Scotland were allowed to make the same level of profits as they could in other countries. In other words, it would still be subject to the same economic pressures as the existing London-based government to promote profits and restrict wages and benefits. As if Ireland,which broke away from the United Kingdom in 1922 been any different. Since it is this class-divided, profit-motivated society that is the cause of the problems workers face in Scotland, as in England and in the rest of the world, so these problems will continue, regardless of whether Scotland separates from or remains part of the United Kingdom.

Independence would be a purely political constitutional change which would leave the basic economic structure of society unchanged. There would still be a privileged class owning and controlling the means of production with the rest having to work for them for a living. Just as now. Independence for Scotland therefore is a myth put about by the Scottish National Party, which further confuses the Scottish section of the working class and blinds them from the real struggle - the class struggle .

Neither London nor Edinburgh, but World Socialism!
Workers of the World unite for Socialism!

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.

Monday, October 22, 2012

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 golf course in the Bronx which taxpayers are spending at least $97 million to build in what seems to amounts to a public subsidy for a luxury golf course. Trump has signed a 20 year deal to run and operate the Ferry Point Park Golf Course smack in the middle of New York City. It is a former garbage dump.

Trump's firm will not be held responsible to pay anything to the city for the first four years of operation. Upon the fifth year, Trump will only have to provide the city a minimum of $300,000 or revenue equivalent to 7 percent of gross receipts. And by year 16, he pays just 10 percent, or $420,000, to the city. The 20-year deal requires Trump to finance a $10 million proposed clubhouse for the Ferry Points golf course, while city tax dollars pay up $97 million. Last year, Trump's net worth was reported to be $7 billion. As for it being a "public" golf course, the deal allows Trump to use the course privately for a full day, as long as the parks department okays it. Fees are also expected to be as much as $125, almost three times the price required by nearby golf courses. Many low-income residents living in housing projects northeast of the site say golf is too expensive a sport for them to take up and that they would be better off with a larger community park. However, homeowners who invested in gated riverfront communities southeast of the site, in anticipation of property values skyrocketing, desperately want the course completed. One in five residents of the Bronx is living in poverty, and the borough is New York City’s poorest

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 housed in cramped tied cottages. The High Blantyre pits were known locally as "The Fiery Mine" because of the heavy presence of a gas called firedamp, which consisted chiefly of methane.

The Blantyre mining disaster, on  22 October 1877, in Blantyre, Scotland, was and remains Scotland’s worst mining accident. Pits No. 2 and No. 3 of William Dixon's Blantyre Colliery were the site of an explosion which killed 207 miners, the youngest being a boy of 11. The accident left 92 widows and 250 fatherless children.

Repeated complaints about the working conditions at High Blantyre had been ignored. In fact, a year before, Blantyre miners had been so fearful for their safety in the mines that, when Dixon's refused them a wage rise to compensate, they went on strike and were immediately sacked. They and their families were evicted from their homes, with police officers using clubs on hand if necessary. Just two months before in Dixon's number 2 pit,  Joe McInulty had died of severe burns after an explosion of "firedamp" which had also injured his two younger brothers Robert and Andrew, leaving them also badly burnt. Despite this tragic occurrence and the concerns of the miners themselves, Dixon's pits were not considered by the management to be particularly dangerous, all the pits in this area were subject to "firedamp" and it was accepted as being part of everyday mining life. The mine was known to be very gassy but complaints by miners a few days before the disaster were fobbed off by the foreman, Joseph Gilmour. He told the miners 'There'll not be a man fall in this pit, I'll guarantee that'.

Six months after the accident, Dixon's raised summonses against 34 widows whose husbands had been killed and who had not left the tied cottages which they and their husbands had rented from the mining company. The Sheriff stated that it was out of kindness that the company had allowed them to remain in their houses for so long. One widow claimed that they had a cruel way of showing their kindness. They were evicted two weeks later, on 28 May 1878. No-one knows what became of these unfortunate widows and their children. In all probability they had to seek accommodation in the Poor House. The ejection of the Blantyre widows was a disgraceful end to the tragic story of the Blantyre explosion.

On 5th March 1878 at Dixon's No. 3 pit six men were killed in a cage accident.

On 2 July 1879, there was a second explosion at Dixon's Pit No. 1, with the loss of 28 lives.

 THE BLANTYRE EXPLOSION

By Clyde's bonny banks where I sadly did wander
Among the pit heaps as evening drew nigh,
I spied a young woman all dressed in deep mourning,
A-weeping and wailing with many a sigh.

I stepped up beside her and thus I addressed her:
"Pray tell me the cause of your trouble and pain." Weeping and sighing, at last she made answer;
"Johnny Murphy, kind sir, was my true lover's name.

"Twenty-one years of age, full of youth and good looking, To work down the mines of High Blantyre he came,
The wedding was fixed, all the guests were invited
That calm summer evening young Johnny was slain.

The explosion was heard, all the women and children With pale anxious faces they haste to the mine.
When the truth was made known, the hills rang with their mourning,
Two-hundred-and-ten young miners were slain.

Now husbands and wives and sweethearts and brothers, That Blantyre explosion they'll never forget;
And all you young miners that hear my sad story,
Shed a tear for the victims who're laid to their rest. 




The list of victims

Sunday, October 21, 2012

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 a single entity. It is the community that prevails over others in communism whereas in nationalism, it is the national spirit that prevails over other thoughts. In nationalism, there is a belief that one nation is superior to other nations. Moreover, the citizens of a country are more valued than the citizens of other countries. This belief does not hold in communism. For the communists, community stands above all. Unlike the nationalists, the communists think globally. Workers' real interests and loyalties lie in supporting the efforts of workers worldwide in the class struggle; in supporting all workers' efforts to resist their exploiters and defeat their exploiters through the establishment of socialism. It means rejecting nationalism and the efforts of ruling-class nation-states to pit workers against each other in economic competition or set them at each others' throats in war. It means holding up international working-class solidarity in opposition to ruling-class nationalism.

Those who create wealth are the working class and in socialism workers will collectively manage society for the benefit of society as a whole on a planned basis for human need and not for profit. Without the profit motive and without the capitalist class, there is no need for wages, racism, sexism and war. There is more than enough to provide everyone with a decent life, to restore the environment which is currently being destroyed by capitalism and use all the modern means of production to reduce the burden of labouring for surplus labour value for the benefit of the ruling class. Nationalism is a fraud whereby would-be rulers ‘self-determine’ to impose their vision of nationhood on an entire community. Nationalism is an ideology of separation, of hatred for the ‘other.’ It is a creed of violence and war and oppression. And it has absolutely nothing to offer the world’s oppressed. What is necessary is to develop human solidarity and mutual aid. Nationalism is today one of the most dangerous hindrances to social liberation.

There are some on the Left who believe that whatever the nature of the SNP a vote for ‘independence’ will somehow weaken the British state. This misunderstands the nature of power and where it lies. There is no reason to believe that in an independent Scotland striving for a socialist society will be any easier or that will see a resurgence in the class struggle. Would an independent Scotland be any different for workers who would still be economically and socially powerless?

James Connolly before he subordinated working class independence to Irish independence asked what would be the difference in practice if the unemployed were rounded up for the "to the tune of 'St. Patrick's Day'" and the bailiffs wore wear "green uniforms and the Harp without the Crown, and the warrant turning you out on the road will be stamped with the arms of the Irish Republic...Whoop it up for liberty! "?  ("Socialism Made Easy,")

Saturday, October 20, 2012

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  community work", previously only undertaken by people ordered so by courts for criminal convictions. Incapacity claimants face harrowing questioning and ever more frequent tests from someone other than their own GP. The government have dressed up the proposals as part of an austerity programme. We are talking about death by a thousand cuts.

The short-term well-being of workers is determined by the degree to which they submit and co-operate in the intensification of their own working conditions. Labour power is a marketable commodity that causes workers to globally compete for jobs; this carries the tacit acceptance that if greater profit can be made elsewhere then production will be switched to an alternative location. This inevitably sets worker against worker in a downward scramble to offer the most ‘attractive’ conditions conducive to investment and future profitability. In these circumstances the working class should not be surprised when they become the ‘collateral damage’, the unfortunate but necessary casualties of a ‘war’ in pursuit of profit. The sectional interests of the owners and shareholders must always take precedence over the interests of workers. We are facing the cold reality of the simple fact that our class enemies hold state power, and will use it, ruthlessly to protect their interests. Which is why the Socialist Party argues for the prime importance of taking state power out of their hands. For socialists the rule of government can never be democratic. Governments implement policies for which no one voted, or would vote for. No one voted to cut care services for the old and the disabled. No one voted to close hospital departments. People getting what they didn’t vote for shows that capitalism is incompatible with democracy as an expression of “the people’s will”. Governments work for a privileged section of society. They make the laws which protect the property rights of a minority who own and control natural resources, industry, manufacture and transport. These are the means of life on which we all depend but most of us have no say in how they are used.

 Workers should fight back. The unions today may appear weak yet they still remain an important social movement. The activities of trade unions are important to defend the interests of workers against the bosses but they should also be encouraging the spread of ideas that would end the capitalist economic system. If you accept the logic of capitalism, you play by its rules.  Ask yourself this: Why should we have to fight the same battles over and over again? The crisis has shifted the balance of forces in favour of employers. Even under the best of circumstances unions have to work hard to get wages to go up but with the recession unions can only try to put a brake on the downward slide and try to stop things getting worse. Is this the only future? Yes, within the context of the capitalist system, it is. But capitalism is not the only possible way of organising the production and distribution of the things we need. Without a decent anti-capitalist argument, and an idea of what we are fighting for, we¹ve lost before we’ve begun.

Socialists argue that our current economic system is fundamentally undemocratic because those that produce all of the wealth have no say in how it is put to use, and those that control most of the wealth had nothing to do with creating it. Workers have little control over their future and must decide whether life under capitalism is really the future they want. Workers can and should organise to end capitalism which forces them to work for wages to live. We need to get rid of the master, take the means of making a living under our collective ownership and control, and organise our own lives, democratically. We should organise a system based on producing the things we need simply because we need them and not to make a profit. Production for use, not production for profit. We need socialism, the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.

Friday, October 19, 2012

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 expect these indicators to worsen if deprivation and inequality widen."

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 winner professor Amartya Sen was instrumental in pointing out that food security was not just about producing more food, but ensuring the needy had access to it. There can be plenty of food in shops, as was true of the famines in Ireland in the 19th century and West Bengal in the 1940s, but if poor people cannot afford to buy that food, they will go hungry.

Quote of the Day

"There’s no place for nationalism in the world of capitalism. Money has no flag, no boundaries and no musical anthem."

Bangkok Post

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,”

Thursday, October 18, 2012

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 of Arundel (English nobleman, 1306-1376) £118.6 billion
16. John of Gaunt (son of Edward III, 1330-1399) £110 billion
17. Stephen Girard (shipping and banking mogul, 1750-1831) $105 billion
18. Alexander Turney Stewart (entrepreneur, 1803-1876) $90 billion
19. Henry, 1st Duke of Lancaster (English noble, 1310-1361) $85.1 billion
20. Friedrich Weyerhaeuser (timber mogul, 1834-1914) $80 billion
21. Jay Gould (railroad tycoon, 1836-1892) $71 billion
22. Carlos Slim (business magnate, 1940- ) $68 billion
23. Stephen Van Rensselaer (land owner, 1764- 1839) $68 billion
24. Marshall Field (Marshall Field & Company founder, 1834-1906) $66 billion
25. Sam Walton (Walmart founder, 1918-1992) $65billion
26. Warren Buffett (investor, 1930- ) $64billion

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 groups to lobby regulators to approve new drugs. Academic journals (I work for one, the BMJ) are sent research papers and comment pieces that may not always be written by the academics listed as the authors. If a journal does decide to publish a paper showing the benefits of a drug, it can be rewarded by the company which made it, who might buy up hundreds of thousands worth of reprints (glossy versions of the published paper) to distribute to doctors to encourage them to prescribe the drug.

Pharmaceutical companies are not charities. They exist to make and sell drugs and to make a profit for their shareholders.  Some companies spend much more on marketing than they do on research and development. In America 24.4% of the sales dollar is spent on promotion versus 13.4% on research and development. They inflate the cost of developing new drugs – Ben Goldacre cites companies claiming that it costs £550m to bring a new drug to the market but says others put it at a quarter of that cost.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/oct/17/bad-pharma-ben-goldacre-review

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

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"

http://news.yahoo.com/72-million-living-refugees-around-globe-2011-red-110248401.html

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Independence?

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

A recent report by the humanitarian aid and research organisation DARA, found that 400,000 deaths each year today are attributable to climate change, with air pollution causing another 1.4 million fatalities annually

Monday, October 15, 2012

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 personal fortune of $19.3 billion, is the richest Indian, China-based research firm Hurun said followed by Arcelor-Mittal chief LN Mittal, whose wealth is pegged at $16.9 billion. In terms of personal fortune, Ambani and Mittal are followed by Azim Premji of Wipro ($12.3 billion), Dilip Shanghvi of Sun Pharmaceuticals ($8.5 billion), Pallonji Mistry of Shapoorji Pallonji & Co, the largest shareholder in Tata Group ($7.9 billion), Shashi and Ravi Ruia of Essar Energy ($7.2 billion) and Adi Godrej of Godrej Group ($6.9 billion). Four others who make it to the list of top 10 billionaires are Kushal Pal Singh of DLF ($6.3 billion), Kumara Mangalam Birla of Grasim Industries ($5.8 billion), Shiv Nadar of HCL Technology ($5.7 billion) and Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel ($5.7 billion). Savitri Jindal, non-executive chairperson of O.P. Jindal Group, is the richest Indian woman with personal fortune of $5.6 billion, For determining India's 100 wealthiest persons, the report says the minimum cut-off mark for finding a place in the list was $330 million. While the manufacturing sector produced 17 wealthiest Indians, pharmaceutical sector came second with 12, followed by real estate segment that contributed 10 .

In terms of single countries, the US leads by a huge margin with 37,950 UHNW individuals, equivalent to 45% of the group. The recent fortunes created in China have propelled it into second place with 4,700 representatives (5.6% of the global total), followed by Germany (4,000), Japan (3,400), United Kingdom (3,200) and Switzerland (3,050). Numbers in other BRIC countries are also rising fast, with 1,950 members in Russia and 1,500 in Brazil, and strong showings are evident in Taiwan (1,200), Hong Kong (1,100) and Turkey (1,000).

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 Social Service, said even some people with jobs cannot make ends meet. "We do hear about people who actually have to make a choice between paying for their accommodation, whether that be a mortgage or rent, paying for food and paying for essentials such as clothing or school books for their children,"

Friday, October 12, 2012

RECESSION? WHAT RECESSION?

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

A DEADLY SOCIAL SYSTEM

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 fauna are doomed. RD

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 their very own country. Nationalism, though it is a seemingly noble effort to realize social unity, is the twenty-first century's great plague. Nationalism continues to hypnotize us with unrealistic visions of heaven-on-earth. Nationalism divides human beings territorially, culturally, and economically.  National identity is used by the state to legitimize its actions. Nationalism is regressive.

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 cold, and that has an impact on illness and their children’s health.”



Last winter, more than eight in ten households rationed their energy use because of cost.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

SOME GOOD NEWS

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

A LIFETIME OF MISTREATMENT

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 expected to have repercussions around the world. The maize harvest is expected to be the lowest in nine years.

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.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

EXPERTS GET IT WRONG AGAIN

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.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/environment/revealed-how-scots-throw-away-1bn-worth-of-food-each-year.19076921

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" offers an extremely broad range of services, from nursing care to cleaning to catering. The company's global sales are estimated at €18 billion, and its 391,000 employees make it one of the 25 largest employers in the world. The family of company founder Pierre Bellon is believed to be the richest family in France. The company and its products quickly fell under suspicion of being at least partially responsible for the mass outbreak of illness in eastern Germany because many of the affected establishments were supplied by its industrial kitchens. Sodexo quickly became sector leaders with rock-bottom prices of €1.55 ($2) per meal and many employees working for low wages, according to the NGG union. Today, 65 Sodexo kitchens supply 200,000 daily meals all across Germany.

The fundamental problem remains the lack of willingness to pay enough for good food. Even Horst de Haan, the head of Sodexo operations in Germany, complains of enormous price pressure "The tendering rules call for an agency to accept the cheapest price," he says.

Berlin's Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district decided that they weren't going to pay more than €2.10 for school lunches. And experts like Ulrike Arens-Azevedo,  professor of nutrition at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, explained "one cannot cook healthy food over the long term for such low prices."

Meanwhile, school children in rich cities, such as Konstanz in the southwestern state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg, receive subsidized school lunches that cost roughly €4.50 each, use ingredients from the region and are 40 percent organic. In Gera, on the other hand, a city in the eastern state of Thuringia, meals can't cost more than €2.30, and parents are solely responsible for paying for them. Even the catering companies only receive a fraction of the cost of these low-priced meals. In addition to having to pay all of the 19 percent in value-added tax themselves, they are also responsible for energy, transportation and personnel costs. "Maybe 50 cents of the €2 are left to the caterer to pay for the ingredients," says Polster, the head of the DNSV advocacy association. "That already makes one wonder of what kind of quality they are."

Sarah Wiener, a celebrity chef, calls for schools to receive higher food subsidies. "By having meals at such a low culinary level, we cement a taste for industrial food," she says. "We shouldn't put the profit maximization of a sector over the well-being of our children."

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 increases. When the economy seized up in 2008 and access to easy credit ground to a halt, so did the consumption engine. Millions of people lost their jobs or a significant household income.

Adapted from here
http://www.alternet.org/books/most-us-will-not-have-better-life-unless-we-turn-tables-super-rich?paging=off

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 hunger is permanent and global. It is hunger by design. This does not mean that those who design the contemporary   food systems intend to create hunger. It does mean that creation of hunger is built into the capitalist structure of industrial  production and globalised distribution of food for profit. The dominant myth of big agro-buiness is that it produces more food and is land-saving. However, the more industrialised agriculture spreads, the more hungry people we have. And the more commercial agriculture spreads, the more land is grabbed.

"Hunger and malnutrition is manmade. It is in the design of the industrial chemical model of agriculture. And just as hunger has been created by design, producing healthy and nutritious food for all can be designed through food democracy."
writes environmental activist Vandana Shiva.

Much of her argument is for ecological and sustainable systems of food production that work with nature and not against and  has value, yet as socialists frequently encounter, when those social scientists deem technology as a root cause they overlook the economic imperative to create profit for a particular class which according to ourselves is the real root cause. Unless this is addressed directly then no amount of campaigning for reform will change the reality producers and consumers face. Food production reformers talk within an economical and  political vacuum with no real attention given to genuine solutions.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

ANOTHER MEDIA ILLUSION

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.”

Fundamentally....

“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.


Sunday, October 07, 2012

MONEY TO BURN

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

CAN OF BEANS, ANYONE?

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 their private jet and own their own island." (Guardian, 20 September) In a society where millions of people try to exist on on couple of dollars a day billionaires are spending a quarter of a million pounds on a kitchen. That is capitalism in action. RD