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Showing posts from December, 2012

A TORTUROUS SYSTEM

Every country in the world that engages in military conflict always claims that they carry out engagements in an honourable and humane fashion. It is always their opponents who are accused of dirty tactics such as torture, but recent events have shown that Britain like ever other capitalist nation has dirty hands when engaged in military conflict. 'The Ministry of Defence last night confirmed it had paid out £14m in compensation to more than 200 Iraqis who claimed that British forces detained them illegally and tortured them. Human rights organisations and lawyers for former detainees described the abuse as systemic and said it was carried out by military interrogators who were following their UK training instructions and the orders given to them in Iraq. A total of £8.3m was paid to 162 Iraqis this year, while 17 received pay-outs last year and 26 in 2010, a national newspaper reported.' (Daily Telegraph, 21 December) In the struggle for markets, trade…

GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER

We should be used by now to the crazy indulgences of the the world's owning class but this takes a bit of beating. Forbes magazine ranked the Yoovidhaya family as the fourth richest family in Thailand this year, with an estimated net worth of $5.4 billion. But the grandson of Red Bull creator Chaleo Yoovidhya, is known for milking his family's deep pockets for all they are worth. 'In October of this year, 27-year-old Vorayud Yoovidhaya was accused in the hit-and-run death of a police officer and had his father pay the officer's family $97,000 to stall the civil lawsuit. The car involved in the accident was a Ferrari and is valued at about $1 million.' (Business Insider, 19 December) RD

NO HOUSING PROBLEM HERE

We are at present living during an economic recession and we are assured by politicians that we must all share the burden of this market downturn. It would seem, however that members of the capitalist class are determined that some of their favoured clique will manage to get by quite well during this period of hardship. 'Mark Carney, the new governor of the Bank of England, will receive a £5,000-a-week "accommodation allowance" on top of a salary worth £624,000 , it has been announced. ....The Canadian's £250,000 annual housing allowance was confirmed by the Bank of England's non-executive directors, who revealed that it was offered to him before he accepted the job last month. ....The size of the housing allowance will give Mr Carney the option of living in several of the most sought-after and expensive parts of London. In his price bracket, estate agents are currently listing properties including a 5-bedroom house on Oakley Street in Che…

A New Year’s Revolution

We wish all Socialist Courier readers a Happy New Year. We do so wish them that but at the present time the signs of it being happy are none too hopeful. At the dawn of another new year it behoves us to look backwards at the past. 2012 was the year in which world crisis of capitalism continued unabated and working people suffered attacks upon our living standards from the bosses in the public and private sectors. The world was shaken with wars and rumours of wars. 2013 bodes to be little different. The current crisis has highlighted the fact that the capitalist class are unable and unwilling to provide for the needs of working people.

While many have been carrying on the class struggle in their daily lives, we have nonetheless been steadily losing ground. Why is it that the potential majority for world-change, the proverbial 99%, are still working in relative isolation from one another? Why aren’t we joining the dots and bringing together the full power of our class into a single-fo…

NATIONAL ILL-HEALTH SERVICE (2)

If you are a member of the working class and find yourself in need of urgent medical attention let us hope you do not suffer the fate of the many tens of thousands of patients who are being kept on trolleys or in ambulances because there are not enough hospital beds. 'Some are 'warehoused' in corridors or side rooms for up to 12 hours before being taken to a ward. Others are parked outside in ambulances for up to 30 minutes until they are allowed to be admitted. Experts warn that such patients are liable to deteriorate without access to extra oxygen, monitoring equipment, call bells or even meal rounds. .......... Department of Health figures show that in the last 12 months a total of 125,887 patients have waited for between four and 12 hours to be transferred to a ward after being seen by a doctor in A&E.' (Daily Mail, 27 December) Needless to say you would not suffer this NHS treatment if you were a member of the owning class. RD

THE PROMISED LAND?

Capitalism is worldwide and it produces social problems no matter where it operates. Even in relatively economically advanced Israel the spectre of poverty and hunger is present. 'More families are going without food and more children are forced to go begging, according to a report from the Latet Israeli Humanitarian Aid organization, released on Monday. The 2012 Alternative Poverty Report from Latet, a non-government umbrella group for food aid organizations in Israel, found that 10 per cent of children who live in impoverished families receiving support resorted to begging, up from just three percent in 2011. The report also found that 50% of children from struggling families were required to work in order to help maintain the household.' (The Times of Israel, 17 December) This is hardly the land flowing with milk and honey dreamt of by all those zealous pioneers who struggled for a homeland for dispossessed Jewish refugees. RD

Forward to the past?

The economic crisis has provoked a number of "non-capitalist" schemes to ameliorate the reductions in workers' living standards. Co-operatives and "peoples banks" [credit unions] are being hailed as alternatives to capitalist businesses. These attempts, however, do not significantly challenge the status quo. Creating a "non-capitalist" sector is like reinventing the wheel. We have had the experience of the 19th century thrift movement of savings banks and building societies and the local Co-op yet some still have not learn the lessons of the past.

Some advocate that workers should create a "non-capitalist" economic sector that could compete with the big capitalist enterprises and gradually overturn the existing order. If workers co-ops function efficiently under self-management, surely all other industries could be run in this manner goes the argument. Theorists of the co-operative movement see it as a movement that will eventually outcompet…

French poverty

A plea for help by the head of a French charity, struggling to cope with an “explosion” in demand, has highlighted the increase in poverty in France.

Olivier Berthe, president of Restos du Cœur (Restaurants with Heart), which hands out food parcels and hot dinners to those most in need, reported a 12 percent rise in the number of people coming through its doors, which, according to Berthe, represents an extra 100,000 compared to this time last year.  “We know that the situation we are in is going to deteriorate and we will have to take measures to manage it. If our donors do not react then we will not be able to cope,” Berthe said.

In the winter of 2011/2012 the charity distributed 115 million meals compared to just 8.5 million in 1985,

BEHIND THE GLAMOUR - THE REALITY

Every day you can see the adverts on television and in the newspapers telling you what an exciting life can be yours by joining the army, but here are some sobering statistics. 'As many as 12 active-duty soldiers committed suicide in November, pushing the Army above last year's record number of suicides with one month left to go in the year, officials said today. With the deaths in November, of which one has been confirmed as suicide, the Army has now had 177 suspected suicides among active-duty soldiers this year. Last year's total of confirmed suicides was 165. Of the deaths this year, 113 have been confirmed and 64 deaths are still under investigation. Typically, about 90 per cent of suspected suicides are confirmed.' (Army Times, 13 December) We would warn all unemployed workers who in desperation may be considering joining the army that the adverts might claim "It's a man's life in the army", but it can just as easy turn o…

The Last Poem

Eight former army lieutenants have been charged in the killing of Chilean singer and songwriter Victor Jara during the 1973 coup that toppled President Salvador Allende. His body was found riddled with bullets and bearing signs of torture.

 VICTOR JARA'S LAST POEM

(Written in the football stadium cum concentration camp, where the Scottish national side to their eternal shame ignobly chose to play at a few years later)

We are five thousand
Confined in this little part of town
We are five thousand
How many of us are there throughout the country?

Such a large portion of humanity
With hunger, cold, horror and pain
Six among us have already been lost
And have joined the stars in the sky.

One killed, another beaten
As I never imagined a human being
could be beaten
The other four just wanted to put an end
To their fears

One by jumping down to his death
The other smashing his head against a wall
But all of them
Looking straight into the eyes of death.

We are ten thousand hands
That can no longer work
How ma…

CRIME AND CAPITALISM

The world of entertainment whether on TV or film has a love affair with crime. Every day we can switch on our telly and see super-smart policemen solving major crimes, but most crime in capitalism is far from glamorous or sophisticated. 'In deprived areas like Rotherham, where crime has increased by 28 per cent in the last 12 months, the poor have been reduced to stealing groceries and other essential items just to survive. The claims come days after it was reported that the number of people turning to charity food banks this year is expected to double to almost 250,000, and charities said people were walking up to 20 miles to claim emergency handouts because they could not afford public transport. In Rotherham, many shoplifters are now targeting everyday items rather than luxury goods, according to the South Yorkshire Police, interviewed by the BBC.' (First Post, 18 December) This isn't clever bank robberies it is mothers nicking dried milk to feed…

DIPLOMACY AND DOUBLE DEALING

It has been said that "a diplomat is someone sent abroad to lie for his country", but Jack Straw has proved you can be a diplomat without leaving the country. 'Britain has agreed to pay £2.2 million to the family of a Libyan dissident who claimed that Jack Straw and M16 played a part in their kidnap and forced return to Colonel Gaddafi's Libya.' (Times, 14 December) Sami al-Saadi, who was tortured during six years of detention had been forced on a plane with his family from Hong Kong to Libya in March 2004. The former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is quoted as saying about the incident: "At all times I was scrupulous in carrying out my duties in accordance with the the law." So kidnap and torture are "in accordance with the law" are they? RD

Slavery statistics

Buying and selling people into forced labor is still a thriving business. Slavery is endemic to global capitalism.

There is a global slave population of between 20 million and 30 million people from South and Southeast Asia, along with China, Russia, Albania, Belarus, and Romania. There is a significant slave presence across North Africa and the Middle East. There is also a major slave trade in Africa. Slavery persists in Mauritania, where children of slaves are passed on to their slave-holders' children. And the North Korean gulag system, which holds 200,000 people, is essentially a constellation of slave-labor camps.  Most contemporary slavery is based on people-trafficking. There are likely more slaves in the world today than there have been at any other time in human history. For some quick perspective on that point: Over the entire 350 years of the transatlantic slave trade, 13.5 million people were taken out of Africa, meaning there are twice as many enslaved right now as t…

NATIONAL ILL-HEALTH SERVICE

From time to time various supporters of Britain's National Health Service will boast that it is the best in the world. If that is so we shudder at the fate of workers in other parts of the world. Between 2002 and 2011 there were 35 cases of mistreatment brought against the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and three against the Worcester Royal reports the Sunday Telegraph. "It says Worcester Acute Hospital Trust is to pay out a total of £410,000 in compensation. According to the newspaper, instances of mistreatment at the Alexandra Hospital include the case of an 84-year-old man admitted to the hospital in June 20009 after a fall, who was prescribed a special diet but was not fed properly and starved to death. Among other allegations are claims that an elderly woman was left unwashed for 11 weeks and nurses taunted patients. (BBC News, 23 December) RD

THE HOMELESS PROBLEM

A walk through the streets of London would reveal thousands of empty houses. Many of these have been empty for months if not years but this is not a sign of a solution to the housing problem as these figures show. "Figures for the first six months of 2012 indicate that the housing crisis has worsened. They show that 1,910 families with children were forced to stay in B&B accommodation, compared with 1,020 in the same period in 2011. A record 820 families lived in such accommodation for more than six weeks in the same period – higher than the number for the whole of 2011." (Guardian, 24 December) What the working class suffer from is not a housing problem but a poverty problem. RD

Joe Corrie - Rebel Poems

Joe Corrie (1894-1968), poet and playwright, was a Fife miner, and his early poems were published in the left-wing paper, the 'Forward'. He has been described as "a class-consious poet." T. S. Eliot described him as "the greatest Scots poet since Burns". Many of his poems have now been set to music by such as the Battlefield Band. The Corrie Centre in Cardenden was named after him as belated recognition of his talents.

Corrie's first plays, The Shillin' a Week-Man and The Poacher, were performed by his group of fellow miners, the Bowhill Village Players, during the 1926 General Strike. In Time o' Strife Corrie dramatised the subsequent lockout. He wrote the play about the strike (which was heading to a bitter, protracted defeat) because he was on strike. Had he not been on strike, he couldn’t have written a full length play of any kind. The play itself is a family argument about how to make the best out of defeat. The last line will resonate wit…

"Peace on Earth" means no more war

Capitalism pursues "war on earth." In 2012 the U.S. launched over 330 drone attacks in Afghanistan where over 1700 Afghan children have been killed or harmed in the conflict -- 85 times the number of the horrific Sandy Hook School massacre. The money spent funding wars and weaponry leaves millions in hunger. Extreme poverty, as defined by the World Bank, means living on less than $1.25 a day. More than 1 billion people struggle to get by on this paltry amount. They work hard but have little chance of escaping the poverty trap into which they were born. They have life expectancies up to 30 years less than we do. Their children die from diarrhea, pneumonia, measles and malaria, which no longer kill people in developed countries. UNICEF estimates that more than 8 million children die from avoidable, poverty-related causes each year. That's 22,000 child deaths every day from diseases that we already know how to prevent or cure. We need to provide the means to spread the mos…

Merry Marxmas from Socialist Courier

Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern).

Merry Christmas
I hope you have a white one, but for me it’s blue

Blue Christmas, that’s the way you see it when you’re feeling blue
Blue Xmas, when you’re blue at Christmastime
you see right through,
All the waste, all the sham, all the haste
and plain old bad taste

Sidewalk Santy Clauses are much, much, much too thin
They’re wearing fancy rented costumes, false beards and big fat phony grins
And nearly everybody’s standing round holding out their empty hand or tin cup
Gimme gimme gimme gimme, gimme gimme gimme
Fill my stocking up.
All the way up.
It’s a time when the greedy

give a dime to the needy
Blue Christmas, all the paper, tinsel and the fal-de-ral
Blue Xmas, people trading gifts that matter not at all
What I call
Fal-de-ral
Bitter gall…….Fal-de-ral

Lots of hungry, homeless children in your own backyards
While you’re very, very busy addressing
Twenty zillion Christmas cards
Now, Yuletide is the season to receive and oh, to give and ahh, to share
But all you December…

Tiny Tims

After the Celtic Tiger crash more than 18 per cent of children in the Irish Republic were at risk of, and almost 9 per cent were actually in, consistent poverty.

In 2009, the most up to date figures available, there were 233,192 people, or 5.5 per cent, in 'consistent poverty' and 579,819 people, or 14.1 per cent, 'at risk of poverty'. At risk means an income of €230 a week for an adult; consistent means unable to afford new clothes, meat or fish, or being unable to heat your home.

Xmas eve at the grotto

From the December 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Hello little boy, climb onto my knee and tell me what you would like for Xmas. A BMX bike? A computer? Or perhaps you'd like something more traditional like a train set?"
"Well actually Santa, what I'd really like is a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth".
"Hee hee, well, er, how about a nice Action Man instead hmmm?"
"But I don't like playing with dolls".
"Dolls? Dolls! Action Man isn't a doll. He's a real live, or rather real imitation live, bucho macho man. Why he's got muscles on his nostrils; he comes complete with all action SAS uniform, guns, grenades, knives, the lot. And for a little extra you can have a complete change of outfit. There's the riot-cops' gear with a super long club for clobbering pickets. Nothing namby-pamby about Action Man".
&qu…

Three countries - same story

The annual assessment of hunger and homelessness conducted by the US Conference of Mayors reveals that the number of homeless people in 25 large cities has increased by seven percent since 2011. It also says that about 20 percent of the hungry do not get any help, and that social services are being forced to turn them away empty-handed. Half of those seeking food assistance are families and nine percent are homeless. The survey has also found that the lack of affordable housing, rising poverty and unemployment are the root causes of homelessness among families with children.

The British government’s new benefit cuts that will hit working-age people could be “devastating” and dramatically increase poverty, says leading British anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

“This Bill will effectively mean a permanent reduction of benefits, which could be devastating at a time when a proper safety net is desperately needed by millions of the most vulnerable people in Britain,”
said Oxfam UK poverty directo…

Victimised atheism

The latest census reveals that in the UK respondents with no religion was up 10 points to 25%. A detailed survey in 2012 revealed that religious people make up 59% of the world population, while those who identify as “atheist” make up 13%, and an additional 23% identify as “not religious” (while not self-identifying as “atheist”).

Many countries criminalize manifestations of atheist convictions or skeptical thoughts. In prosecuting these “crimes” it may not be necessary to accuse the person of atheism. Many states prosecute people who express their religious doubts or dissent regardless of whether those dissenters identify as atheist. More commonly, secular people experience discrimination when they manifest their conscience by acting against the dictates of the religion of their family, community or country. In some societies allegations of religious dissent are manufactured for use against minority belief communities, or vulnerable individuals, or to settle personal vendettas. A ha…

Education - a fail mark

Boroughmuir High School in Edinburgh came joint first in Scotland, (along with Glasgow’s Jordanhill School), after figures released showed 69 per cent of S5 pupils obtained three Highers or more. A few miles away not one student left either Wester Hailes Education Centre or Castlebrae Community High with a Higher, let alone the qualifications needed for a university place.

In Glasgow, just 5 per cent of students at Govan High School obtained three or more Highers, while schools in deprived areas of Aberdeen and Dundee also performed poorly.

Meanwhile Scotland's university for the elite, St Andrews, where Prince William and Kate Middleton studied, is accused of failing to enrol students from the poorest backgrounds - only 13 students from the most deprived backgrounds of the country in 2010/11 – 2.7% of the student intake.

land up in value

In 1986 Scottish farmers had an estimated net worth of around £5.8 billion, land valued at £4.8bn, representing 68% of total assets. In 2011 figures reveal that total assets had grown to £38.4bn, of which land and buildings had increased as a percentage to 88%.

They also now owe lot less.  In 1986 liabilities were 17% of total assets. 2011 it i now only 6%

Who owns the North Pole - part 55

In October of 2012, it was reported that Canada was going to claim ownership of a massive size of undersea territory in the Arctic, larger than the size of the province of Québec, and roughly equal to 20% of the country’s surface area.

In 2013, Canada will begin chairing a two-year term of the Arctic Council, a grouping of eight nations working together to manage the development of the Arctic as an economically and strategically important global region. With the opening of new and large opportunities for economic exploitation and resource plundering, the states with territory in the Arctic have become increasingly aggressive in their military posturing in the region, “increasingly designed for combat rather than policing,” according to a study by the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions. The report noted: “Although the pursuit of co-operation is the stated priority, most of the Arctic states have begun to rebuild and modernize their military capabilities in the region.”

Canadian …

Deprived Scotland

The good news - there are fewer deprivation blackspots in major Scottish cities.
The bad news - the poorest areas in Scotland are now spread far more widely throughout the country.

Soaring jobless levels across the country are among the reasons behind the increasing spread of poorer areas. Experts are now warning that the situation is likely to worsen as the impact of looming welfare cuts starts to bite, thwarting the life prospects of thousands of Scots. Dr John McKendrick, a senior lecturer in Social Policy at Glasgow Caledonian University, said All the evidence shows that the problems of poverty are on the increase”. But the problems are not only a result of the downturn which has only served to intensify the problems, he said. “We must avoid coming to the conclusion that Scotland’s poverty is simply down to a temporary block in the economy. It’s much deeper than that. There’s a structural problem that has been there for generations.”

John Dickie of the child poverty action group in…

Under-employment

According to the TUC, about 270,000, or more than one in 10, Scottish workers are underemployed. That represents a 39% jump in the underemployment level in four years.

One view is that half a job is better than none. It keeps down the unemployment figures as workers accept part-time contracts in preference to redundancy and the unemployed take part-time work because it is all that is on offer.

Since last April low-income households have only qualified for tax credits (which are worth up to £3870 a year), if they jointly work 24 hours a week, with one partner working at least 16. Before April one partner working 16 hours was enough to qualify. The households caught in this trap are desperate for more hours but, in a tight labour market, they have difficulty getting them.



Fact of the Day

Just five percent of the population own 80 percent of the farmland in Guatemala.

Fifty-four percent of the population lives in poverty and 13 percent in extreme poverty, according to the 2011 National Survey of Living Conditions, while half of the children under five suffer chronic malnutrition, according to UNICEF

Blue-Blood Feminism

Daughters of titled aristocrats are calling for a re-examination of inheritance rules amid claims the proposed change in succession lawswhich will allow a daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to become Queen would leave the gentry "two steps behind" the royal family with calls for the aristocracy to overhaul its own traditions to grant women equality with men by ending the rule of male primogeniture.

The anomaly was highlighted last year by Julian Fellowes, a life peer, who described it as “outrageous” that his wife Emma Kitchener’s family title will die out rather than pass to a female heir. The current Earl, Henry Herbert Kitchener, a descendant of Field Marshal Horatio Kitchener, is 92 and has no children. Emma Kitchener is his niece but, under the current practice, cannot inherit.

 Another victim of this sexual discrimination is Lady Clare Kerr whose  father, the Tory politician Michael Ancram, is the 13th Marquess of Lothian, but neither sh…

One pay-cheque away from homelessness

A quarter of Scots families ‘one pay cheque away from homelessness’ according to Shelter if they happened to lose their job. Just over half (56%) of households would only be able to pay for their home for a maximum of three months.

As the rising cost of living and "severe" cuts to welfare benefits hit home, a lack of savings and the eroding housing safety net is putting more people at greater risk of being repossessed and evicted.



According to the charity, at least 5300 children in Scotland will be homeless this Christmas, often living in poor quality, damp and dangerous temporary accommodation.

A capital welcome

25 million people use Edinburgh Waverley station annually. Hundreds work there eachday and thousands pass though it daily

Exhaust fumes from trains and taxis, coupled with toxic dust kicked up by construction works, are endangering the health of commuters, tourists and workers – particularly those with asthma, lung or heart conditions, experts say.

 Scientists measured levels of nitrogen dioxide, a gas emitted by vehicle exhausts that damages the lungs, blood and immune system, at four locations around the concourse. They found average levels varying from 205 to 304 micrograms per cubic metre, compared with the annual average "air quality standard" of 40 required by European law. The concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in the station were four to six times higher than in the surrounding streets.

 Scientists also found high levels of tiny particles known as PM10s, which inflame lung tissue and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. They were nearly twice as …

Food for thought

Stop the Press! Last month we reported how China must be communist because it believes that the resources of the Arctic are the common property of mankind. This month, unfortunately, China falls back into the ranks of all the other countries, i.e. capitalist. The New York Times reports (November 4, 2012) that billions have been hidden for Premier Wen Jiabao and his family. Wen says his family was extremely poor when he was young but records indicate that just one of his mother's investments is worth $120 million. How this widow from poverty acquired this wealth is not known, but that she appears to have become wealthy after her son's elevation to China's ruling elite. Other records indicate that Wen's wife, son, daughter, brother and brother-in-law have
similarly made spectacular advances in wealth and influence in the Chinese system. Gee, sounds just like the Western countries (he says, tongue-in-cheek). John Ayers

Your Life - Their Country

Scottish independence is a gesture of despair but for many Scots, and it is also a beguiling idea full of promise of a nation. Nationalism facilitates the efforts of various national bourgeoisies as they seek to obscure class conflict. So long as the workers form the “tail” by following any section whatsoever of the bourgeoisie, they will remain tame and incapable of gaining their true freedom. They will merely secure the ends of those very bourgeois against whom they think they are fighting; and since they are not looking after their own interests, they will either forget those interests or be unable to distinguish them.

Scottish nationalists seek to merely re-arrange the existing national boundaries by establishing a new state. This new Scottish state would be just as much an enemy of the working class struggle as are the existing United Kingdom state. In overthrowing capitalism the Socialist Party agitates for the abolition of all nation states and national boundaries. The real en…

Food for thought

It used to be that if a job applicant had young children, it was a plus because an employer knew if someone had young mouths to feed they wouldn't make waves. But not any more -- a recent program on TV's 20/20 focused on how that is now a drawback. In job interviews the applicant is asked if they have children at home. Some times the interviewer will have photographs of children on his/her desk to lure the applicant into admitting that they do. Once they answer in the affirmative, it's a matter of 'we'll call you'. The thinking is that if the children are sick or involved in any trouble, the parent won't be at work. This is just another example of the insecurity under the capitalist mode of production. On Remembrance Day, Thomas Walkom's article In the Toronto Star was on how much the government appreciates the soldiers who have fought for its capitalist class. His thesis is that the government lauds its soldiers in the abstract w…

Wal-Mac

McDonald's sells more than 75 hamburgers every second. McDonald's' daily customer traffic 62 million, that's about 1 percent of the world's population. McDonald's' $27 billion in revenue makes it the 90th-largest economy in the world. The $8.7 billion in revenue from franchise stores alone, makes McDonald's richer than Mongolia. McDonald's hires around 1 million workers in the US every year ( a 700,000 domestic workforce with 150% turnover rate.) According to company estimates, one in every eight American workers has been employed by McDonald's. Americans alone consume one billion pounds of beef at McDonald's in a year – five and a half million head of cattle. McDonald's has 761,000 employees worldwide, that's more than the population of Luxembourg. From 2011 to 2013, McDonald's plans to open one restaurant every day in China. McDonald's is the world's largest distributor of toys, with one included in 20% of all sales. M…

Food for thought

The Toronto Star of October 27 reported that the Chinese government blocked the web site of the New York Times because an article focused on the 2.7 billion wealth of the family of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. This shows two things -- that through the control of the media the capitalist class can decide what news we do and don't hear, and where there is great disparity of wealth, capitalism prevails whatever a government calls itself. Some may remember that in Stalin's heyday a British communist called Reg Bishop wrote a book called "Soviet Millionaires". The Vancouver Sun recently reported that four new coal mines in British Columbia are bringing in two thousand Chinese migrant workers to do most of the work. A spokesman for Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc. said that not enough Canadians are skilled enough to do the work. You can bet that unemployed miners are glad to know that. You can also bet the mine owners know that the Chinese…

Scottish health apartheid

New figures revealed men in the wealthiest areas live 11 years longer than those in the most deprived parts of the country. For women, the gap is 7.5 years between the poorest areas and the most affluent. Deprived area residents have higher rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and drug and alcohol abuse as well as poorer mental health.

There is enough food to feed the world

Some attendees at a conference in London’s Chatham House to debate how to feed the planet’s growing population without degrading the earth’s resources argued that current levels of food production - if better managed - could accommodate everyone. They acknowledge that many people around the world are already going hungry, but contend this is not an issue of food shortage. Instead, they point out that vast quantities of edible produce are used for animal feed or biofuel production, or are allowed to spoil in storage or otherwise go to waste. 

The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo Nwanze, explained “There is enough food in the world to feed every man, woman and child. Yet one-third of the food that is produced goes to waste. Fifty-seven per cent of food produced is not used for consumption. There is enough food to feed every mouth. The issue is access to food.”

The issue is indeed access to food - free access.

The outlook is bleak

Some 26 of 30 countries covered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have shown a falling labor share of national income since 1990. International Labor Organization (ILO) data show the gap between the top 10% of earners and bottom 10% increased in 23 of 31 nations since 1995. Between 1999 and 2011, average labor productivity in developed economies worldwide increased more than twice as much as average wages. Real average monthly wage growth worldwide, excluding China, fell to 0.2% last year from 2.3% in 2007. Unemployment might have been higher than it might had it not been for reduction in working hours, shorter working weeks, cuts in overtime and even job sharing in exchange for keeping jobs.

The United Nations bodY focuses on how the shrinking share of the pie going to workers was one cause behind the credit bubble. The falling share of national output going to workers in the decade before the crisis ended up boosting household debt as workers tried to ma…

Warfare against Workfare

Neither Edinburgh or Glasgow branches of the SPGB participate in these examples of resistance but we do sympathise with the purpose.

Glasgow
On Saturday 8th December as part of the Boycott Workfare Week Of Action a couple of dozen people from Clydeside Industrial Workers Of The World, the Crutch Collective, Glasgow Anarchist Federation, Glasgow Solidarity Federation, the Right To Work Campaign and other individuals leafleted a branch of Superdrug in one of the city centre's busiest streets. The one thousand leaflets given out highlighted Superdrug taking on even more people on the Government's 'Work Experience' workfare scheme for the Christmas period. The extra people on workfare means less holiday pay for the regular staff. There was a lot of police about and Superdrug had hired extra security for the day. However the combination of the picket, the leaflet saying, 'Don't Shop At Superdrug' and the added security costs meant we succeeded in our objective of…

Drug Legalisation?

The Home Affairs Committee recently released a report on drugs use in Britain. After a year of research the committee concluded that "the international drugs control policy has failed to curtail consumption," and that our government should consider a major shift in policy.

In 2005 (largely based on 2003 data) the UN estimated that the illegal drug trade is worth more than $320 billion, 0.9 per cent of global GDP. According to the UN 2012 World Drug Report the total retail market for cocaine amounts to some $85 billion and the opiate market amounts to some $68 billion (figures for 2009).  According to IMF data, a nation with a net worth equivalent to that of the global drugs industry would be the 34th largest economy in the world, just above Denmark and below Venezuela. Scotland's GDP is $177 billion

'bread and water'

The letter was sent out by Mauchline Primary, in East Ayrshire, was issued after around 21 families collectively failed to pay almost £90 of their children’s school meals fees. Those pupils affected would be made to wait until all the other pupils had been served before being able to get their own meals. Those “who have not brought money to pay for meals will be provided with a plain sandwich and water to drink until the backdated debt has been paid”

A hard but true lesson about capitalism for the pupils...can't pay - can't have

The Poor Rich

Europe's richest families are suffering, the poor wee souls. Having had returns on investments of 8 percent in 2011 and nearly 12 percent in 2010 the annual return dropped to 3.6 percent. They could have performed better if they hadn't held so much low-performing cash, or real estate, because some stock markets and asset classes such as government bonds moved ahead strongly. Rather than speculate in shares, the rich have hoarded in the safety of bank deposits and land.

The old and the lonely

10,000 over-75s in Scotland will spend Christmas Day alone because their children are too busy to visit them, a new report claimed today. Across the UK, the survey found a total of 363,176 older people had children too busy to see them. The study by the older people’s charity WRVS said many elderly people were left isolated and lonely because their families had moved away, often to find work. But almost two-thirds of older people said they would not tell their children they were lonely because they did not want to “bother them”. In the Lothians, around 1700 over-75s will be on their own on Christmas Day.

Earlier research from the WRVS showed 27 per cent of Scots over-75s feel lonely – more than in any other part of the UK. 11 per cent of older people in Scotland lived at least one hour’s drive away from their nearest child, which meant almost half were visited just once every two to six months. The survey found lack of job security and changes in the labour market had increased the pr…

Food for thought

Scandinavia is often cited as the shining example of good capitalism where the safety net protects everybody and capitalists and their corporations look after workers and the environment. But recently furniture giant, Ikea, was forced to apologize for using political prisoners in East Germany as forced labour to produce some of their furniture. Must have been a good profit margin that couldn't be turned down. Scratch the surface and they are all the same! On television's "Pawn Stars", a guy sold the Stars! -- a colt 45 revolver of Western movie fame. The authenticator said, "Two hundred thousand were produced for use during the Civil War. Afterwards, they maintained production because so many people were moving out West and everybody had to have one." A real indictment of a private property based society. The famous photographer, Fran Leibowitz, was asked to comment on some of America's leading political figures. As for New York Mayo…

Screwing the workers

Just four years after the worst shock to the economy since the Great Recession, U.S. corporate profits are stronger than ever. In the third quarter, corporate earnings were $1.75 trillion, up 18.6% from a year ago, according to last week'si gross domestic product report. That took after-tax profits to their greatest percentage of GDP in history.  How is that possible? It’s simple: profits have surged because wages and other labor benefits are down.

Today’s economy is a market. The 1% populariSe the view that today’s economy is a fair and argue, as Margaret Thatcher put it, There Is No Alternative (TINA). The market's real invisible hands are at work insider dealing and anti-union maneuvering plus outright looting and fraud. What they all seek is power is hire strike-breakers, lobby for special favors and backing politicians pledged to act on behalf of the 1%. Firms use political leverage to make sure that anti-labour laws determine employment and working conditions. Capital-int…

Boycott Trumps

Bill Elliott, editor-at-large of Golf Monthly (readership around 500,000) and chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, is calling for a boycott of Donald Trump’s Scottish course.

Elliot explains" it was impossible not to be shocked by the tactics used to try to intimidate a few local residents who refused to sell their homes. This intimidation apparently goes on.”

Aberdeenshire farmer Michael Forbes, a neighbour and campaigner against the golf course, recently received the Top Scot prize at the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland ceremony.

Socialist Courier hopes that the vulture Trump gets a birdie, to use the golfing term, for his business venture - a dead duck.

A NOT SO MERRY XMAS

Behind the facade of the Merry Christmas spectacle lurks the sordid reality of how capitalism really operates. 75 per cent of the world's toys are manufactured in sweat shops in China. "Human rights campaigners have frequently raised concerns over the conditions of Chinese factory workers who make an estimated £150 a month A report in 2010 reported that the average monthly salary, including overtime, for a migrant worker was estimated to be just £150. Across China there are an estimated 8,000 toy-making factories employing 3.5 million people. According to New York-based China Labour Watch Chinese factory workers often work an extra 36.5 hours a week but are paid only 59 per cent of the minimum wage." (Daily Mail, 8 December) In its mad drive for more and more profits capitalism shows no mercy to the working class. RD

BIG BUCKS AND BIG BUNGS

Politicians love courting big businesses like Rolls Royce so it was no surprise to learn both the Conservatives and Labourites were lavish in their praise. "David Cameron and Ed Miliband have lauded the derby company, with the prime minister describing it as a business "of which the whole country can be proud"." ....It is likely that their praise will be somewhat muted at the following news however. .... "Rolls Royce have been accused of paying a $20 m bribe to Tommy Suharto, son of the former president of Indonesia, to win a giant contract in Asia. The British aero-engine maker also allegedly gave a blue Rolls-Royce to Suharto, who was convicted in 2002 of ordering the murder of a judge. In return, it is claimed, he persuaded Garuda, the Indonesian national airline to buy Rolls-Royce engines for Airbus planes." (Sunday Times, 9 December) Bribery? Murder? A strange source of national pride surely! RD

Without the Rose-tinted Glasses

This rather unsympathetic article by Gary Girod about Red Clydeside is of interest and a rich source of facts and details.

The Background

For many years, the Left have painted a picture of Glasgow and Red Clydeside as a revolution that almost was. Some have argued that the unrest in Glasgow during WWI and the immediate post-war period was a prelude to the establishment of a workers' republic in Scotland. Willie Gallacher's said of the 40 Hours' Movement that "we were carrying on a strike when we ought to have been making a revolution." Memoirs written decades after the 1914-1919 period and the government's hysteria paint a picture of Clydeside which was far more revolutionary in hindsight than it ever was in reality. In 1983 Iain McLean's "The Legend of the Red Clydeside" asserted that Red Clydeside was neither a revolution nor "a class movement; it was an interest-group movement." Glasgow was not Petrograd and it never could have bee…