Monday, December 31, 2012


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 routes, sources of raw materials and political influence every country uses the most ruthless tactics. RD


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


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 Chelsea (£4,500 a week) or a five-bed house on Elm Tree Road in St John's Wood for a similar price.' (Daily Telegraph, 19 December) RD

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-focused movement for the revolutionary transformation of production and distribution so that all the fruits of the world can be shared by all of the world?  Why aren’t we united and up in arms against catastrophic global warming, resource depletion, endless war and mass starvation? How is it possible that tens of thousands of organisations and millions of environmental and justice-minded individuals have been thwarted by the capitalist few?

Let us ring in the new with a New Year resolution to strive to build the Socialist Party and to speed the Revolution. We will raise the red flag, sing the "Internationale" and celebrate the establishment of a free and humane society in the next new year. Let us show that our ideas are more than just ideas but a practical feasible future. Let us then stand together and enter the new year shoulder-to-shoulder.

Our demands are most moderate – we only want the Earth.

Best wishes for the New Year to all our class, and the liberation of humanity as a whole! 

Happy Hogmanay, comrades

Sunday, December 30, 2012


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


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 outcompete and replace ordinary capitalist businesses, leading to the coming of “the Co-operative Commonwealth” (which is often used as an alternative name for socialism). They would constitute, as it were, little oases in the desert of capitalism. The movement would grown until finally the workers would have achieved their emancipation.

The creation of cooperatives may very well offer an example of self-management but they simply cannot compete with the economic might of modern capitalism. We cannot self-manage capitalism in our own interests and the only way we can really live without exploitation is by abolishing capitalism. The state can be counted on to represent and protect the interests of the privileged minority. A "non-capitalist" sector just do not have the same resources at its disposal and therefore cannot beat the capitalist sector at its own game. In any endeavour to challenge their capitalist rivals, co-operatives would require to hire wage labour, resulting in exploitation. History is littered with the experience of failed co-operatives or corrupted co-operatives. Either the cooperatives "sell-out" or they are "put-out" by market-forces. We know what happened. This was because they had to compete with ordinary capitalist businesses on the same terms as them and so were subject to the same competitive pressures, to keep costs down and to to maximise the difference between sales revenue and costs (called “profits” in ordinary businesses, but “surplus” by the co-op). The co-operative movement was outcompeted. Cooperatives in a capitalist economy are still capitalist enterprises. Co-ops facing competition have one option other than cutting wages which is to go for the niche market: make the co-op part of their brand and market themselves to people for whom that would be a selling point, aim for "ethical consumer" market.

As with our position on reforms, we do not oppose reforms per se if they are to the workers' advantage, but we do not support reformism, a political policy of proposing palliatives as half-way measures towards socialism and similarly we do not view setting up co-ops as a revolutionary strategy or one which advances the interests of the working class as a whole. It isn't something to be promoted as anything more than a mere coping mechanism to survive a bit better under capitalism. The Socialist Party have nothing against working in a 'workers' cooperative if it means better conditions at work under capitalism and not being treated like a piece of trash every single day. We'd all rather work for a boss who at least treats us like human beings. But we emphasise that co-operatives can only ever involve a minority of workers, and the more they are integrated into the capitalist economy and its profit- seeking, the more their members will have to discipline and pressurise themselves in the way the old bosses did - what is known as "self-managed exploitation". The fact is that there is no way out for workers within the capitalist system. At most, co-operatives can only make our situation a little less unbearable.

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,

Saturday, December 29, 2012


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 out to be a man's death. RD

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.


(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 many of us are there
Throughout the country?

The blood shed by our comrade President
Has more power than bombs and machine guns
With that same strength our collective fist
Will strike again some day.

Song, How imperfect you are!
When I most need to sing, I cannot
I cannot because I am still alive
I cannot because I am dying

It terrifies me to find myself
Lost in infinite moments
On which silence and shouts
Are the objectives of my song

What I now see, I have never seen
What I feel and what I have felt
Will make the moment spring again. 

Friday, December 28, 2012


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 their kids. Hardly prime time material for the telly. RD


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 there had been in that whole 350-year span.

 If the global slave population is 27 million, it's still 27 million out of a total of 7 billion, making it -- and here's the paradox -- the smallest fraction of the global population to be enslaved ever. If slavery generates between $30 billion and $45 billion a year to the global economy, it's a big industry, but it also amounts to the smallest ratio of the global economy ever represented by slave labor and slave output. While slavery has grown in absolute terms, it's shrunk in relative terms.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


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


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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

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 with the defeated miners of the 84-85 strike. “Sing tho they hae ye crushed in the mire…you’ll win through yet, for there’s nae power on earth can crush the men who can sing on a day like this.”

Some of his poetry


I am the Common Man
I am the brute and the slave
I am the fool, the despised
From the cradle to the grave

I am the hewer of coal
I am the tiller of soil
I am serf of the seas
Born to bear and to toil

I am the builder of halls
I am the dweller of slums
I am the filfth and the scourge
When winter's depression comes

I am the fighter of wars
I am the killer of men
Not for a day or an age
But again and again and again

I am the Common Man
But Masters of mine take heed
For you have put into my head
Oh! many a wicked deed

For other poems click read more

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"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 most basic healthcare — and clean water, sanitation and bed nets to prevent malaria. On top of that, capitalist greed destroys the environment and catastrophic climate change is upon us.

To re-title John Lennon's song , Happy Xmas, the class war is not over

The class division of society is the main source of conflict. When the world's peoples stop using money and exchange and abandon private ownership of property, the following conditions will quickly be alleviated or come to an end: war; scarcity; poverty; inequality; slavery; wage-slavery; theft and criminality; most violence; hoarding, including the hoarding of ideas and inventions which is the the suppression of knowledge, learning, intelligence and wisdom; most lifestyle-related illnesses and many poverty-linked diseases; the repression of individuality and free expression; the mass mind-control of media propaganda; the destruction of family and community relationships; destruction of the environment; the separation of humans from nature - the denial of life and the joy of living.

What are we waiting for?

Monday, December 24, 2012

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
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 do-gooders rush around and rant and rave and loudly blare
Merry Christmas
I hope yours is a bright one, but for me it’s blue.

Bob Dorough

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.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

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".
"Well, I still think that it's a doll, and anyway I don't fancy all that simulated violence".
"Hmm, okay then, how about something more sedate like the game of Monopoly?"
"But I want to abolish money".
"Okay, okay, look here's a good one. Hangman".
"What's that about then?"
"Eh, let me see. Oh yes, it's rather like one of those interminable game shows that are never off the telly. What happens is this: your opponent makes up a word which you have got to find out by guessing the letters one by one. Every time you guess wrong, that's another step up to the gallows. If you guess wrong too many times then your man is hanged, hee, hee hee".
"It's a bit reactionary isn't it?"
"Well, it is only a symbolic hanging you know. I mean they don't actually hang anyone . . . Wait a minute, these television producers are always looking for new ideas for telly shows, this could be the break I've been waiting for. Hey kid, how would you like to hold the throne for five minutes until I call my agent? . . . "
"Hey Santa, I'm not finished yet".
"What? Oh okay, another half an hour and I'll be on my break anyway. Right, where were we?"

"You were asking me what I wanted for Xmas and I've been trying to tell you that what I'd really like is to have socialism".
"Listen you little Commie runt, how would you like me to jam this plastic pixie right down your . . . Ulp!... here comes my boss. Quick - give me a big smile. C'mon you can do better than that. Wider, that's it. Now wave to him and I'll let go of your nuts. Phew! There he goes into Santa's workshop. Boy are Santa's helpers in for a shock. Now look son, let's be reasonable, there's a big queue forming. After all, if they all thought like you, well, where would we be?"
"In a happy sane society".
"I knew you were a pervert. Look son give me a break. I'm not really Santa Claus you know. I'm actually an out of work actor between engagements and I can tell you it's not easy sitting here all day like a white haired ventriloquist".
"Couldn't you get some work in television then?"
"If only I could. I did once manage to get a walk-on part in a soap opera or to be more accurate it was a sit-down part".
"What part did you play?"
(Sigh) "Santa Claus".
"Listen, socialism won't have Santa Claus, nor for that matter will there be such a thing as Xmas".
"But that would mean that I'd be out of a job".
"Everyone would be out of a job, at least in the sense that there would no longer be employment which is what people really mean when they talk about work. Since there will no longer be employers and employed, people will be free to do the kind of work they really enjoy doing and that includes acting, because people will still want to be entertained".
"Good grief, it's as if a veil has been lifted from my eyes, everything is so clear now . . . "
"You're overacting".
"Sorry, was it so obvious? I studied the Method you know. Anyway, I'm going to do something positive for a change, and to begin with I'll remove this stupid wig. There, I've done it. What a great feeling. Now I think I'll burn the wig. Hee hee".
"You mean that you've grasped the concept that I've been explaining as easily as that?"
"Of course dear boy, it's so simple that even a seven year old could grasp it".
"Well I'm certainly relieved to hear you say that".
"Oh, why?"
"Because now you can explain it to that long line of howling kids. Merry Xmas".


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 director Chris Johnes. “Benefits are already at their lowest levels relative to average incomes since the welfare state was founded and it’s highly likely that this regressive change could lead to an increase in poverty, especially for those people who are already facing a perfect storm of cuts to public services and rising prices.”
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the bill is a “naked attack on hard-working families” who should pay the price for the government’s economic failure.

Recent studies show that millions of people in Germany are threatened by rising poverty despite low unemployment rates. 12.4 million people or one in seven people in Germany have been at risk of poverty. Critics argue that the expansion of the low-paid job opportunities, called “mini jobs,” have put the economic pressures on the poorest in society.

Friday, December 21, 2012

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 handful of countries criminalize atheism per se. In addition, there are several forms of legal measures found across many countries that either criminalize the expression of atheist beliefs or result in systematic discrimination against atheists and those who reject religion. These include laws regulating:
• Apostasy and religious conversion
• Blasphemy and religious criticism
• Compulsory religious registration, usually with a list of permissible religions
• Religious tests for citizenship or participation in civic life
• Religious control of family law
• Religious control of public education.

Atheists in at least seven countries can be executed for their lack of religious belief and suffer persecution or discrimination in many other parts of the world. Expression of atheist views can bring capital punishment in Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

In a range of other countries -- such as Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait and Jordan -- publication of atheist or humanist views on religion are totally banned or strictly limited under laws prohibiting "blasphemy." In Greece and Russia, the Orthodox Church is fiercely protected from criticism and is given pride of place on state occasions

 In others like Malaysia, atheists have to register as adherents of a small number of officially-recognized religion. Atheists are thereby forced to lie to obtain official documents without which it is impossible to go to university, receive medical treatment, travel abroad or drive.

In Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin and North America, countries which identify themselves as secular give privileges to or favor Christian churches in providing education and other public services.

In Britain the 26 most senior Church of England  Bishops are automatically granted membership in the House of Lords – the upper chamber of Parliament – where they have the right to speak and vote on all legislation. They acquired this right solely by virtue of their position in the hierarchy of one particular denomination of one particular Church. They are unaccountable to the public.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

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%

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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 Prime Minister Stephen Harper had been publicly making aggressive statements about competition in the Arctic, particularly in relation to Russia. In private, however, Harper had been making different claims. As revealed by Wikileaks, Harper expressed the message to the Secretary-General of NATO that there was no real military threat in the Arctic, instead expressing the perspective that, “Canada has a good working relationship with Russia with respect to the Arctic, and a NATO presence could backfire by exacerbating tensions.” Harper added, according to the released cables, “that there is no likelihood of Arctic states going to war, but that some non-Arctic members favoured a NATO role in the Arctic because it would afford them influence in an area where ‘they don’t belong’.” All the public statements and aggressive military stances in the region have, however, helped to sway public opinion into believing that there is a “security or sovereignty threat to the northern border,” and thus justify increased expansion into the region for exploitation. The issue is not one ofsecurity, but of securing resources (for corporations, no doubt). One released cable from 2009 relayed this point accurately, noting that Canada’s defense plan to build six Arctic Patrol ships for the navy was “an example of a requirement driven by political rather than military imperatives, since the navy did not request these patrol ships. The Conservatives have nonetheless long found domestic political capital in asserting Canada’s ‘Arctic Sovereignty’.

From here

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 Scotland said: “It’s vital to remember that behind this complex-seeming data are tens of thousands of children whose education, health and life chances are being systematically damaged by low income, poor housing, lack of jobs and inadequate access to services.”
The Ferguslie Park area of Paisley is the most deprived neighbourhood of Scotland, while Edinburgh’s Craiglockhart is the least, according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2012.

1 Paisley Ferguslie, Renfrewshire
2 Possilpark, Glasgow City
3 Keppochhill, Glasgow City
4 Paisley Ferguslie, Renfrewshire
5 Parkhead West and Barrowfield, Glasgow City
6 Drumry East, Glasgow City
7 Parkhead and Barrowfield, Glasgow City
8 Paisley Ferguslie, Renfrewshire
9 Craigneuk Wishaw, North Lanarkshire
10 North Barlarnark and Easterhouse South, Glasgow City
11 Central Easterhouse, Glasgow City
12 Larkhall, Lightburn and Queenslie South, Glasgow City
13 Drumchapel North, Glasgow City
14 Carnwardric West, Glasgow City
15 Cliftonville South, North Lanarkshire

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


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

Monday, December 17, 2012

Blue-Blood Feminism

Daughters of titled aristocrats are calling for a re-examination of inheritance rules amid claims the proposed change in succession laws which 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 she nor her younger sister will inherit the title which will eventually pass to an uncle. Lady Clare, who is married to the Tory minister Nick Hurd, said it was now time to re-examine the practice.

Also among those being passed over under inheritance rules are the three daughters of the Duke of Rutland: Lady Violet Manners, 19, and her sisters Lady Alice and Lady Eliza. The heir to their family seat, Belvoir Castle, is their 13-year-old brother Charles, the Marquess of Granby.

 Peter Yorke,  author of the Official Sloane Ranger Handbook, said that the tradition of male primogeniture had developed to preserve aristocratic power and wealth by preventing estates being divided up but was now ripe for reform. “What mattered was that the estate goes to one person...n this sense primogeniture is more important than gender, it goes to one person rather than being divided up. The relative survival of the British aristocracy is down to them being cruel to younger sons, but also daughters. Daughters you married off, younger sons became soldiers or clergymen or whatever, they went off to safe bits of the establishment"  
Socialist Courier cares little for the rights of the female aristocracy to feudal titles, baronial homes and family estates.

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.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

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 high as the air quality standard, and up to 10 times higher than in nearby streets.

 Highly toxic diesel pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, were four times higher than the relevant air quality standard, according to the report. They are blamed for causing cancers.

Rickets is back

Rickets is making a comeback. Cases of rickets have risen fourfold since the mid-1990s  Half of Britain's white population, up to 90% of the multi-ethnic population, and a quarter of children, are suffering from vitamin D deficiency, the main cause of rickets.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

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 enemy of the working class is the entire capitalist system itself. What is wrong with the working class taking sides in struggles is that it amounts to encouraging the working class to co-operate with one enemy in order to defeat another, in order later to be suppressed by the first. If the independence movement succeeds profits are intended to rise at the expense of the Scottish worker. The ruling class - or those who aspire to become the ruling class - have always been able to rope the working class into fighting their battles for them. Certainly no one country's exploiters are so superior to the rest that the workers should sacrifice themselves defending them. There can be no relief for Scots in changing an English robber for an Scottish one. The person of the robber does not matter—it is the fact of the robbery that spells misery. Let the thieves fight their own battles!

"The nation" and "The people" are not identical. "The people" have never determined their own political, social and economic affairs. In every country, political, social and economic policies are drawn up by, and in the interests of, the ruling class. What is presented as being for the good of the nation is purely for the benefit of the bosses. Any ideology which denies this is so, is a barrier which must be broken down. Pro-independence advocates encourages workers to waste their efforts in chasing something which cannot be achieved. An independent Scotland cannot be free from external control. The rulers of any newly "independent" nation-state immediately find themselves having to come to terms with a worldwide economic system dominated by powerful blocs and integrated on a global scale. Their room for manoeuvre within this framework is extremely limited. Of course, nationalists say that the working class would be better off in a Scotland controlled by Edinburgh but international capital based in the City of London, Brussels and Wall St will still determine its affairs. The best that it can be achieved is to mitigate some of the worst effects. The  capitalist class is still to remain the proud possessor of the land, factories, the mines and transport.
"As long as we have not broken the world capitalist order, we remain exploited by the mercantile relations of production."  Ben Bella, a leading figure in the Algerian Front Liberation Nationale during the struggle against French colonialism and who became President of newly independent Algeria in 1962, speaking of his disillusionment following their success.

Scottish nationalist does not strengthen the real force for socialism, a united, class-conscious working class, but fragments and weakens it. National divisions are a hindrance to working-class unity and action, and national jealousies and differences are fostered by the capitalists for their own ends. The Socialist Party of Great Britain does not defend the unity of the United Kingdom in any way but that does not mean we are in favour of separatism. Our abstention distinguishes us from the Left. The interests of the workers of all countries are the same – the establishment of the socialist world. What workers has to realise clearly is that the interests of their fellow workers in other lands are nearer to theirs than are those of their masters in their own country. The bonds which bind worker with worker, irrespective of nationality, are those of class solidarity. Struggles over the environmental is just as much part of the class struggles as the workplace and encompasses solutions that go beyond the factory floor and national boundaries. Socialists claim membership to the whole of humanity not just a part of it.

For the triumph of socialism organisation is essential, but the organisation must be for socialism and based on socialist principles or such organisation can be nothing to the workers but a delusion and a snare. To the Left unity is the Holy Grail, always sought but never found. Insistence upon the necessity for agreement on principles, on methods, and above all on the aim, appears to be scorned as sectarianism. True unity is a means to an end. First of all the essentials regarding the end to be sought and the means to that end must be agreed upon, for “unity” without this is unity in impotence, being without everything that makes unity useful, namely, common principles, methods, and object. Unity under any other conditions than that of agreement on the essentials of aims and methods is doomed to failure. This type of unity does not prevent certain members of the party from calumniating '"fraternally" against their "dear comrades", nor discourage persecuting them with venomous bile. We need look no further than the  the SSP and Sheridan and the other Trotskyist groups. And now they urge unity with our class enemy to achieve Scottish sovereignty!

We of the Socialist Party are few in number but our mission is simple. We  proceed with educational propaganda until the working class have understood the fundamental facts of their position - that they do not own the means by which they live, that they are but commodities on the market, never hired unless employers can profit, always discarded when a liability. We have to emphasise the fact that no appreciable change is possible in the working-class condition while we all remain commodities. There are no short cuts. Naturally, we wish the work to be accomplished as soon as possible, and that is why we oppose and expose those who, sometimes with the best of intentions, blur the issue that must be kept in clear view, and so prolong the task of emancipation. For the worker in Scotland there is hope. Join the local branches of the international socialist working class and make common cause with the socialist workers of all countries for the end of all forms of exploitation; saying to both English and Scottish capitalists: "A plague on both your houses". For the true battle-cry of the working class is more significant and more inspiring than mere nationalism, and that rally cry is: THE WORLD FOR THE WORKERS!

Friday, December 14, 2012

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 while giving them a boot in the side when it comes to benefits. This squares well with our view that the ceremonies, monuments etc. are all about propaganda, jingoism and much less about caring. For example, the Canadian government has spent millions promoting the War of 1812 in which the British and a few Canadian troops prevented the Americans from invading Canada. The same week, veterans and their widows demonstrated on Parliament Hill to protest the clawback of their pensions. Another group is taking the government to court on its decision to give veterans a one-time payment in lieu of a pension. It works out much cheaper for the government, of course. How long will the
working class be duped into going to war? John Ayers


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. McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner receives $8.75 million a year. Twenty years ago the CEO’s compensation was about 230 times that of a full-time worker paid the federal minimum wage now its 580 times.  Profit growth for period 2007 - 2011 was 135%. Dividends and stock buybacks last fiscal year $6 billion, the equivalent of $14,286 per restaurant worker employed by the company.

But guess what, there's an even bigger and more important company.

In  2012, Wal-Mart registered approximately $444 billion in sales, which is $20 billion more than Austria's GDP. If Walmart were a country, it would be the 26th largest economy in the world. Walmart has more employees worldwide — 2.2 million — than the population of Houston. The mega-retailer employs 1.4 million people in the U.S. alone. f Wal-Mart was an army, it would have the second largest military in the world, behind China. Wal-Mart is bigger than Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Sears, Costco, and K-Mart combined. The average family of four spends over $4,000 a year at Walmart. One of every four dollars Americans spend on groceries is spent at Walmart. Each week, Walmart serves more than 200 million customers at more than 10,400 stores in 27 countries. In 2010, CEO Michael Duke's annual salary of $35 million earned him more in an hour than a full-time employee makes in an entire year. The Walton family has given away about 2 percent of its net worth to charity — Bill Gates is giving away 48 percent of his net worth and Warren Buffet 78 percent of his net worth. An additional Walmart Supercenter per 100,000 residents increases the obesity rate by 2.4 percent. Roughly 4,700 (about 90 percent) of international stores operate under a banner other than Walmart, including Walmex in Mexico, Asda in the UK, Seiyu in Japan, and Best Price in India. Dividends and stock buybacks last fiscal year $11.3 billion. The Walton family has  some $93 billion in wealth, just under 0.14% of all US wealth, more than bottom 30% of Americans (49 million)

The total number of people employed in the U.S. at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and McDonald’s and Yum Brands restaurants exceeds the entire 2.7 million population of Chicago. Net income at those three companies has jumped by at least 22 percent from four years ago. Shareholders, not employees, have reaped the rewards. At the same time, companies have formed an effort to freeze the minimum wage, whose purchasing power is 20 percent less than in 1968. Minimum-wage earners have less power to demand higher pay because so many adults are willing to take low-wage positions.

 25% of Americans (or bottom 75 million) don’t have any net wealth at all. Their debts are higher than their assets.

The 1.2 million households whose incomes put them in the top 1 percent of the U.S. saw their earnings increase 5.5 percent last year, according to census estimates. Earnings fell 1.7 percent for the 97 million households in the bottom 80 percent -- those who made less than $101,583.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

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 will work for less money than the local lads so profits will be greater. There is nothing new in this. In the early nineteenth century, when British capitalists were making roads smoother so they could more easily move their products to market, they brought in Irish workers who would work for less -- hence the racist expression, 'an Irish penny'. This type of tactic alienates
workers from each other. The capitalists can't lose, they get more profits and keep the workers divided. Class-consciousness and a knowledge of socialism is the only antidote to capitalism's tricks. John Ayers

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 maintain consumption via ever-easier credit. Had falling labor shares of the bottom 99% in the United States not been compensated for by debt-led consumption, it is likely that world economic growth would have slowed or halted much earlier," the report said. The same phenomenon was seen in Britain, Australia,Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain. The pressure to rebuild national balance sheets or sustain corporate [profit] margins with further pressure on wages is all too clear.

 Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire who owns the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Adelson invested more than $100 million in the election, mostly on Republicans who lost -- including $20 million that went to Romney's super PAC "Restore Our Future," $15 million to another super PAC that almost single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich's Republican primary campaign going and about $50 million to nonprofit Republican fronts such as Karl Rove's Crossroads.
Adelson tells the Wall Street Journal he's ready to double his 2012 investment next time around. "I happen to be in a unique business where winning and losing is the basis of the entire business," he says, "so I don't cry when I lose. There's always a new hand coming up." He isn't looking back at his losses.
 Adelson says he has many friends in Washington, "but the reasons aren't my good looks and charm. It's my pocket personality," referring to his political investments. Adelson recently met with three Republican governors said to be eying the 2016 presidential race. This week he met separately with Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Warfare against Workfare

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

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 costing Superdrug money for using Workfare.

 'Work Experience' is not voluntary in practice. All workfare companies have to sign a contract saying that they will report anyone who does not show up for the schemes, which automatically results in benefit claimants having their benefits cut. Job Centre Plus and third party workfare profiteers like A4E bully benefit claimants on to the scheme. Benefit claimants can have their benefits cut if they do not not continue to 'volunteer' to stay on the scheme, after they have been on the scheme for a week. Only a tiny number of people on workfare get jobs afterwards. For example it is 3.5% for the 'Work Programme' and that includes participants getting jobs with other companies and very short-term jobs. Stacking shelves for Superdrug is not learning a skill. Argos state that 'Work Experience' people work alongside paid colleagues, but don't replace them, but the permanent staff lose out on holiday pay. Why aren't all of their temporary staff paid? Of the 25% Poundland say left their 'work experience' early, because they received a job offer elsewhere, how many were going to get offered a job anyhow? Poundland also put a positive spin on 10% going on to get jobs with them, but that means 90% do not, while Poundland continue to make profits from all the unpaid labour.

The traffic of people churning in and out of the Overgate mall in Dundee’s city centre seemed more intense then the usual Saturday afternoon – likely the beginning of this season’s Christmas shopping spree. We gathered near the entrance and reflected on the themes of workfare, the state and social community response to such threats. Those participating included myself and two comrades from the Anarchist Federation Dundee branch, a member of the independent Dundee Anarchists group and an activist from the Scottish Unemployed Worker’s Network. We were also joined by members of other left-wing groups, gathered under the event named ‘Name and Shame: The Dundee Workfare Provider Tour’.

Whilst the event was relatively small from a headcount perspective, the public response, though moderate, was exclusively positive. It was an important opportunity to answer frequently asked questions such as whether or not organised anarchist groups are a hypocritical phenomenon, and how the manner with which these organisations are structured created an alternative to hierarchy and centralism. We were in turn provided with the opportunity to meet individuals, their relations and co-workers who have endured the literal consequences of the government’s Workfare project. Whilst we didn’t encounter any staff contracted under Workfare, our touring of companies such as Primark, Tesco, McDonalds and the local casino, revealed an active participation in workfare schemes – with most of the managers and staff either denying involvement or redirecting our questions to ‘higher command’. One member of staff, however, broke the pattern by informing us of a Workfare employee that worked with her on certain days of the week. It was confirmed that many under the Workfare scheme fell through the employment net.

The event lasted three hours overall, and left those participating with food for thought. Reaching out and networking with individuals under Workfare contracts is becoming an increasingly pressing matter for social response to the government’s policy. It has become apparent that the greater majority are either unaware or unconvinced of the presence of social resistance and platform movements against Workfare.

Taken from Libcom

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 pressure on families, with 82 per cent of children who moved away from their older parents having done so for work reasons. Margaret Paterson, head of operations for WRVS Scotland, said: “Many children have no choice but to move away from their older parents, and really regret the fact they aren’t close enough for more regular visits.”

Only 28 per cent of older people in Scotland spoke to their children on the phone every day, compared with 40 per cent across the UK. Most older people did not use Skype to talk to their children, many because they did not know how BUT OF those who do 85 per cent said it helped them feel more connected. The regularity of Skype in Scotland is that 75 per cent of those who use Skype do so weekly,

A separate report warned lonely people are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Researchers found it was not so much the fact of living alone as feelings of loneliness which increased the risk of having the degenerative brain disease.

Meanwhile average train fares have increased by more than 26 per cent since the start of the recession, almost three times faster than wages, new research revealed today, making even harder for families to visit. Fare rises will outpace wages and inflation again in 2013, with the cost of some fares set to soar by ten per cent, while pay is forecast to rise by an average of 2.5 per cent.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

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 Mayor, Blumberg, he said, " He was the only one who could end New York's financial woes. Well, maybe if he signed over all if his wealth.". On Mitt Romney, " He seems very eager to go to war in every place where we are not already at war." On Sarah Palin, " She was a cartoon character and the fact that people treated her seriously shows how sick America's political system is." John Ayers

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-intensive industries out-source low-skill jobs to small-scale providers using non-union labor and advocate privatising public utilities largely aimed at breaking trade union power. 

Why are capitalists uninterested in the jobs crisis? The indifference to the jobs crisis isn’t simply a matter of being out-of-touch. Businesses oppose employment creation policies in order to keep wages low, even though this may limit the market for their own output. After all, without a mass reserve army of labour to decrease the demand for labor and bully the workforce into a more pliant state of submission, profitability becomes imperiled by the threat of enhanced worker power and the ensuing demand for higher wages. This is a process one can clearly see in the wake of the present crisis. Rising financial profits have reduced workers' wages and squeezed profits across the rest of the economy, according to a new TUC report. Worker wages have fallen to historic lows. Such are the true splendors of the “market"

Of course, the role of mass unemployment in suppressing wages and ensuring continued profitability necessarily extends to the global capitalist system as a whole. In 2011 the global reserve army of labour stood at some 2.4 billion people, as opposed to the 1.4 billion found in the active labour market. That is, the global reserve army of labor stood 70 percent larger than the active world labour market. “The existence of an enormous global reserve army of labour forces income deflation on the world’s workers,” Foster and McChesney explained in their book The Endless Crisis. Where labour is on the defensive, capital is on the offensive. Hence, amid rising corporate profits we see a varied global attack on labour—stretching from Brooklyn to Broxburn to Bangladesh and beyond. The class struggle must be international. The international dimension of economic power is the IMF, the World Bank and the ECB through which the U.S. and E.U. imposes imposes austerity on Greece, Spain and the rest of the world, targeting families, the elderly, the sick and the poor, as governments slash benefits. People are being pushed into poverty and no longer can afford the basics such as food, heating and education. The "invisible hand" of the market is unable, or unwilling, to satisfy the needs of society.

 Some political activists call for mobilisation against the bankers and the billionaires but socialists say don’t hate the players, hate the game.

Based on this article

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.

Monday, December 10, 2012


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


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 been. Its goal to maintain the standard of living in Glasgow as the war strained the economy. According to the 1916 STUC report, the cost of living between July 1914 to July 1915 increased by 35% while food prices increased by 17% in small towns and 19% in cities.This would prove to be but a mere taste of the war's costs for the lower class. By December 1917, food prices had increased 106% while the cost of living increased by 85% to 90% as compared with pre-war levels. Workers' wages did not even come close to keeping up with this inflation. By April 1917, skilled laborers' wage increased by only 50%.

In 1913, for the first time in the history of Great Britain, a census of production catalogued the wealth of Great Britain. According to the report the £712,000,000 that formed the net output of Great Britain was divided between 6,984,976 workers, which would mean that if this wealth was divided evenly, each person would make  £102 per year. However, the average wage of workers in Great Britain was "officially stated to be not more than 24 shillings per week, or  £62 4/- per annum. Thus in 1907, the British worker was generous enough to pay the manufacturer  £40 per annum for the privilege of working to produce wealth. The Scottish Trades Union Congress uses the findings of the report to calculate the inequality amongst engineers and determined that the "net output per person employed [was]  £108." Meanwhile, the average annual wage of engineers was £67. "There is the simple answer, £41 per employed person to the capitalist." The 1920 Manifesto of the Socialist Labour Party notes that "of the wealth produced in this country, roughly £1,700,000,000 per annum, the workers' share is, according to capitalist authorities, less than £665,000,000 so that the working class gets little more than a third of the wealth produced." The manifesto would conclude that "this is wage-slavery."