Thursday, February 28, 2013

Scotland built on slavery

When the British Government passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 – 26 years after the trade itself had been done away with. it paid  the equivalent to £2 billion today which  was said to be equal to 40% of the government's entire budget in compensation to slave-owners.

Colonel John Gordon of Cluny, who in 1851 forced some 3000 of his tenants on the Outer Hebrides to emigrate to Canada. Cluny died in 185 received a total of £24,964 in compensation, relating to 1383 slaves across six plantations in Tobago, in the southern Caribbean.

Other Scots include James Cheyne, who cleared tenants from the Isle of Lismore in the 1840s and 1850s; the Malcolms of Poltalloch, who were involved in clearances in Argyll; Sir Archibald Alison, a noted social commentator; James McCall and Patrick Maxwell Stewart, who both had substantial holdings in railways; the Marquis of Breadalbane, and Sir William Forbes.

The figure was £6 for a child, an average of £50 for an able fieldworker, or between £18 and £20 if the fieldworker didn't have any specific skills to offer. For the top craftsmen within the slave population, like the sugar-boilers, who had a dangerous job and were particularly well sought-after, the figure might be £100. Slave-owners were allowed to claim compensation according to the composition of their workforce. A white artisan worker in Scotland would have been paid 25 shillings, of £1.25, a week, which is an instructive comparison.

 Scottish historian Professor Tom Devine "The list is mainly, perhaps even exclusively, concerned with the Caribbean. The great Tobacco Trade of the 18th century in Glasgow could not have existed without un-free labour.These are people on the list who were compensated for owning slaves but it does not include professional people, such as physicians, overseers, merchants and military people, who all gained from the plantation economies. Glasgow is usually the place that is cited as having a colonial connection, but if you look at the range of names and locations on the database, it is everywhere in Scotland, particularly in rural areas. This is why some people have argued that these monies were very important in terms of such things as agricultural improvement and the like."

Prof Devine said: “The myth has always been that Glasgow, for example, didn’t dirty its hands with the great transatlantic trade in blacks. Scotland was deeply involved in this but we are still in a degree of denial.”

Historians believe that much of Glasgow was built on slavery. Merchants earned huge fortunes from trading and so-called ‘Tobacco Lords’ — including John Glassford, Andrew Buchanan, James Dunlop and Archibald Ingram — all had streets named after them.

Professor Catherine Hall said it was "very striking" how many slave-owners there were in Scotland. She said: "The empire offered opportunities to the Scots on a very significant scale and working on the plantations was a favoured choice for Scots seeking their fortunes in the late 18th and early 19th century."

Nor should it be forgotten that during the American Civil War much of Scottish business – including the owners of the Glasgow Herald newspaper – was firmly pro-South. Scottish shipyards, then at the cutting edge of marine technology, built the only fast steamers capable of evading the Union blockade of Confederate harbours and supplying the rebellion. Vast fortunes were being made by Clydeside shipbuilders and brokers building ships to beat the blockade. At the height of this boom in 1864, Warner Underwood, the US consul in Glasgow, complained that 27 Clyde yards were building no fewer than 42 large blockade runners. Early 1860s Scotland was the scene of a cat-and-mouse game between Confederate agents and Federal spies, the latter operating from a safe house in the sedate dormitory village of Bridge of Allan.  The cash rewards for the Scots involved in this illicit trade were phenomenal. The sum total spent on building and refitting runners up to 1864 was £1.4 million (about £140m in today's money) – one-third of which was pure profit. These blockade-runners made up no less than one-third of the vessels that ran the Union blockade – more than half the British-built tonnage. The South had few of the industries needed to equip and support armies of half a million men and acquiring modern (mainly British-made) weaponry was vital to the war effort.

Nor was it exclusively an elite preference. Scots coal miners, unlike Lancashire cotton workers, were working-class supporters of the slave-owning South. The South's morale was sustained by romantic 19th-century nationalist mythology partly derived from the novels of Sir Walter Scott. Many Victorian Scots made the link between the Confederate armies with those other glamorised underdogs of Scott's novels, the Jacobites, while the daring victories of Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson were won by quasi-guerrilla tactics overpowering stronger armies, offering Scots parallels with the victories of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. For the American South, romantic nationalism and chivalry were, of course, no more than sugar coatings on an economic system based on slavery, but they played a big part in causing the rebellion and keeping it going

Capitalism - Flogging a dead horse

Most people are several generations away from the actual hands-on experience of producing their own food and this leads to many misconceptions such as over-romanticizing it but armers have a CEO mentality. They make decisions based on return on investment. The food system is in a crisis because of the way that food is produced. Most people's food budget is spent on processed food, which is where the big food processing conglomerates like PepsiCo, Nestle and Kraft make their money. The industry has worked with food scientists to develop foods using fat, sugar and salt that affect brain chemistry and are literally addicting, making people continually crave junk food. The ingredients that give junk food their taste and texture are relatively cheap. These sweeteners, oils and chemicals are big business. When food becomes a commodity, it goes where profits can be made.

 Today, twenty food corporations produce most of the food eaten by Americans, even organic brands. Four large chains, including Walmart, control more than half of all US grocery store sales. One company dominates the organic grocery industry, and one distribution company has a stranglehold on getting organic products into communities around the country. Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke recently said higher food prices and food price speculation should be welcomed. Big supermarkets have squeezed farmer’s margins and much of the retail competition has been eliminated. The type of ‘long life’, ‘always available’ food on display has been pumped full of chemicals from field to shelf, or is shipped half way around the world from poorer countries that produce cash mono-crops for export to rich nations, which in turn impacts their own agriculture and contributes to poverty and hunger and the destruction of local, bio-diverse, self-sustaining communities.

 Since 2008, through the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the big 4 – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s have made over £26.5 billions profit. Tesco takes £1 out of every £7 spent in the UK. Capitalist  'efficiency' means market domination (30% for Tesco), squeezing that market at both ends by shafting the supplier and customer, exploiting low paid workers to maximise profits, damaging the environment with megastores, and contributing to the devastation of local high streets by reducing diversity and putting small stores out of business.

The super profits of Walmart and indeed giant supermarkets like Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons in the UK are made on the backs of their low paid workers. Justin king, the CEO of Sainsbury’s, receives £3.2m a year; Tesco’s Philip Clarke gets £6.9m; Dalton Philips of Morrisons receives £4m.

 In the early days of capitalism workers’ food was frequently adulterated to lower costs and increase profits. Karl Marx wrote of the ‘incredible adulteration of bread’ in Victorian London, and used a report of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to reveal that the London worker, ‘had to eat daily in his bread a certain quantity of human perspiration mixed with the discharge of abscesses, cobwebs, dead cockroaches, and putrid German yeast, without counting alum, sand, and other agreeable mineral ingredients’. It was the same story in America. A committee  in 1859 launched one of the first studies of American food purity and their findings make for less-than-appetizing reading: candy was found to contain arsenic and dyed with copper chloride; conniving brewers mixed extracts of “nux vomica,” a tree that yields strychnine, to simulate the bitter taste of hops. Pickles contained copper sulphate, and custard powders yielded traces of lead. Sugar was blended with plaster of Paris, as was flour. Milk had been watered down, then bulked up with chalk and sheep’s brains. Hundred-pound bags of coffee labeled “Fine Old Java” turned out to consist of three-fifths dried peas, one-fifth chicory, and only one-fifth coffee. Though there was the occasional clumsy attempt at domestic reform by midcentury — most famously in response to the practice of selling “swill milk” taken from diseased cows force-fed a diet of toxic refuse produced by liquor distilleries — little changed.  “Oleo-margarine,” a butter substitute originally made from an alchemical process involving beef fat, cattle stomach, and for good measure, finely diced cow, hog, and ewe udders.  This “greasy counterfeit,” as one critic called it, was shipped to Europe as genuine butter.

Capitalism is presently demonstrating that nothing has changed. Whether it’s best beefsteak or a horsemeat burger it is a commodity produced for the sole purpose of making a profit. If it takes adulteration to do so, then so be it. We live in a capitalist country, within a global capitalist economy, where the pursuit of ever-greater profit is all that matters, even in relation to food, one of humanities basic needs. The cause of the ‘horsemeat crisis’ is the capitalist economic system and its core principle of making as much money as possible. Capitalism only works for a very small group of people and they are called capitalists. Those capitalists make a lot of money, and they can only do that by exploiting the rest of us – they pay us less than the value of our labour, they sell us products for more than their actual worth, and they sell us ‘beef’ that is actually horsemeat. During a recession wage levels are held down as a matter of course, which means costs must be trimmed elsewhere in the production process. The capitalists have forced-down supplier costs to maximise their own profits, which means the cheapest, least nutritious contents go into the supposedly "value" meals sold in such large quantities in areas of poverty and deprivation.

Humanity faces serious, highly interconnected environmental problems. The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that drugmakers sold about 30 million pounds of antibiotics in 2011 for use in food animals such as pigs, chickens, and cows. This was a record high and nearly four times the amount sold to treat sick people. Using antibiotics to make food animals grow faster and to compensate for the overcrowded conditions in which they are raised breeds drug-resistant bacteria. These "superbugs" can end up in our air and water, in our meat and poultry and, ultimately, in us. If they cause infections, the diseases can be more difficult and costly to treat and more likely to result in death. Each year, antibiotic-resistant infections are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations.

Imagine going to the grocery store and buying 10 bags full of food. Now imagine throwing four of those bags into the trash. Seems crazy, right? But this is what’s happening every day in homes, businesses, and institutions throughout the United States. Forty percent of the food produced in the US is wasted every year, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council report. It’s happening at all levels – on the farm, during processing, in restaurants, and in the home – due to cosmetic preferences, misleading date labels, over-purchasing, and excessive portion sizes. This unnecessary waste is destructive to the environment.

It doesn’t really matter what you call it, capitalism is about money. Everything people need to live – homes, household appliances such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners, TVs and smart phones, clothes and the car at the door – are all commodities. Quite simply, a commodity is anything made for human use. Commodities are produced in order to make profit, and are bought by people wanting to make use of them. This system of production and sale for profit is called capitalism. The one and only purpose for producing anything is profit. It’s what commodities are primarily for, to supply a human need only so a profit can be made.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Let them eat coco-pops

Kelloggs vice President Jodi Gibson says one in eight people around the world face food insecurity issues every day.

 The company is pledging to provide one and a half billion servings of their cereals to children and families in need through an anti-hunger program by the end of 2016.

A nice piece of advertising and product placement. Perhaps it may counter the negative publicity it received when Oxfam named them among the worst offenders of 10 multinational companies, lacking in efforts to ensure rights of workers and farmers, protect women, ease climate change and provide transparency of their supply chains.

 The hundreds of brands lining supermarket shelves are predominantly owned by just 10 huge companies, which have combined revenues of more than $1bn a day. 80% of the world's hungry people work in food production, and these companies employ millions of people in developing countries to grow their ingredients.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


After a life of wage slavery in the factory or office many workers imagine that retirement will ease the burdens of poverty and anxiety , but alas capitalism doesn't work that way. 'Pensioners are at increasing risk of spending their old age in poverty, with living costs for the over-75s rising by more than a quarter in just five years. Research by AXA, the insurance group, found that people between 65 and 74 faced cost-of-living increases 5.2 per cent a year - significantly higher than the 0.3 per cent rise experienced by those between 50 and 64.' (Times, 25 February) Michelle Mitchell, director general of Age UK's Charity summed up their plight with these words. 'Steep hikes in the cost of living in recent years have left many older people on low incomes feeling forced to cut back on essential items such as food, heating and clothes.' RD


In a mock independence referendum students at Glasgow university voted "No" by a margin of nearly two to one. Just 967 votes (37 per cent) were cast in favour of independence, with 1,614 (62 per cent) against. There were eight spoiled ballots. In the actual debate, according to an Al-jazeera report, nationalists chanted “in-de-pendence”, while some at the back of the hall responded with cries of “the workers have no country.”

 The Socialist Party of Great Britain seeks to abolish all nation states and we stand firmly against the proponents of nationalism in Scotland and in other parts of the world. We make a call for workers of the world to unite. We do not think this demand is some utopian hope. Capitalism itself is leading the world in that direction of  breaking down national barriers with globalisation driving workers towards a potential of integrate and fuse.  Will socialism be achieved as the product of a big bang, a simultaneous, worldwide revolt of the working class and the oppressed? Or, because of differing national conditions and traditions, will social change be more fragmented and disjointed? The Socialist Party suggests the former. The global development of capitalism and the subsequent increasingly common conditions encountered by the international working class would support such a proposition. Do the pro-nationalist "socialists" believe an independent Scottish state will be socialist? If yes why do they not believe that England, Wales and countries beyond will move to socialism simultaneously. For if all those other countries do become socialist at the same time why would an independent Scotland differ from its neighbours? The working class in Scotland (and in England and Wales and elewhere) will remain on its knees and will remain so until workers around the world are effectively united effectively as a class and not by nationality. We are arguing that the only way forward for workers in Scotland, across Britain and the world is through their struggle and unity in the fight for socialism.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ice wars

The Arctic is home to unique human communities whose livelihoods and communities are increasingly challenged by the effects of climate change. Melting ice, stronger storms, growing erosion, thawing permafrost, more unpredictable weather and other direct effects of climate change are already impacting indigenous communities. But warming temperatures and melting ice are also making possible more commercial, transport and military initiatives in the region. New sea routes are being opened, new enterprises are being planned, new drilling and mining licenses are being issued and new tourist destinations are opening up. The movement of more people to the Arctic region will have significant effects on indigenous populations, cultures and livelihoods.

The Arctic is inhabited by approximately 4 million people of whom 400,000 are considered indigenous. Approximately two-thirds of the total population in the Arctic lives in relatively large settlements, although indigenous peoples living in circumpolar countries is characterized by small, widely separated communities. With “longer ice-free periods now available to explore for hydrocarbons, a new scramble for oil and gas could occur” especially if the price of oil and gas increase and new technological developments take place. In 2009, 15 percent of petroleum production came from onshore Arctic production. But 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13 percent of world’s undiscovered oil is in the Arctic. New maritime routes in the Arctic raise new issues about sovereignty and offer expanded opportunities for military operations. The stakes are getting higher for control of territory in the Arctic. Greenland is thought to sit on vast mineral deposits but previous efforts at large-scale mining were unsuccessful because of the expense of working in the bitterly cold climate.

The question is who in the Arctic will make these choices.

The UN estimates that there are about 5000 different indigenous peoples, with a population of about 370 million and occupy 20 percent of the world’s territory. The Arctic peoples make up 2%. Like other nomadic peoples, mobility has long been recognized as characteristic of Arctic communities as they have traditionally moved in response to seasonal changes and to support of livelihoods, whether hunting, reindeer herding, fishing or foraging. Also like nomadic peoples in other parts of the world, there have been increasing pressures on Arctic indigenous communities to settle in villages rather than to move continually.

Inuit Circumpolar Council which represents the Inuit of Denmark, Canada, the US and Russia launched its Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Arctic Sovereignty on 28 April 2009, stating “it is our right to freely determine our political status, freely pursue our economic, social, cultural and linguistic development, and freely dispose of our natural wealth and resources.” The ICC represents all 155,000 Inuit – from Russia to Greenland -- on matters of international concern.  In fact, article 26 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples enshrines their right to own, use, develop and control the lands they have traditionally occupied.

Trade Wars

The Pacific War against Japan was never a contest between democracy and fascism, as we have been taught. Neither the British nor the U.S. or the Dutch had ever entertained democracy for Asian peoples. Chiang Kai-shek remained a U.S. ally throughout the war and British historian Christopher Thorne has commented that, “if the term ‘fascist’ is to be employed in a non-European context for the 1930s, to no regime is it more appropriate to attach it than that of the Kuomintang in China.”

Leaving aside the conspiracy theory that the American government knew of the Pearl Harbor attack would take place and chose to allow it to happen, there is no question that an attack from Japan was probable. Contrary to U.S. political folklore, Japan’s subsequent attack was launched on a U.S. naval colony in Polynesia not U.S. territory (Hawaii only became a US state in 1959). And it cannot properly be described as a surprise.

In 1932, the Ottawa Conference cut off Japanese trade with the British Commonwealth, including India. Three years later Japan was forced to curtail shipments of cotton textiles to the Philippines while U.S. imports there remained duty free. (At the same time, U.S. tariffs on many Japanese goods surpassed 100%.) Japan protested about American, British, Chinese, and Dutch encirclement strangling its economy. So in 1937 Tokyo began its conquest of China in earnest, wiping out 140,000 Chinese civilians at Nanking while proclaiming a desire to promote economic development and prevent Communist domination of Asia.

Four years later negotiations between Admiral Nomura and Secretary of State Cordell Hull broke down over the Japanese request for equal trading rights in Latin America in return for allowing U.S. capital penetration of China.

On July 2, 1941 the Japanese decided to move troops into southern Indochina. Washington, having broken Tokyo’s purple code, immediately knew of the decision. On July 21, 1941 Japan signed a preliminary agreement with the Vichy government of Marshal Henri Petain, leading to Japanese occupation of airfields and naval bases in Indochina. Almost immediately, the U.S. and Britain froze all Japanese assets in their countries. Radhabinod Pal, one of the judges in the post-war Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, later noted that the U.S. embargo presented a “clear and potent threat to Japan’s very existence.”

On July 24, 1941 FDR informed the Japanese Ambassador that if Japan would refrain from putting troops in southern Indochina Roosevelt would use his influence to have Indochina neutralized. But this message failed to reach the Japanese Foreign Ministry until July 27.

On July 26, 1941 Tokyo disclosed its intention to move troops into southern Indochina. The U.S. promptly froze all Japanese assets in the U.S. With Japan importing 90% of its oil, half of that from the United States, Admiral Richmond Turner, Director of the War Plans Division of the Navy Department, stated that it was “generally believed that shutting off the American supply petroleum [to Japan] will lead promptly to an invasion [by Japan] of the Netherlands East Indies.” FDR publicly stated that this reaction would be a justification for war. The New York Times characterized the U.S. move as “the most drastic blow short of war.”

For the Japanese military, it was “now or never.” The Western powers controlled and were choking off access to the raw materials on which Japan's national existence depended. With Washington refusing to lift its embargo unless Tokyo surrendered Chinese territory it had fought for years to conquer (Note: Washington objected to being shut out of the China market, not Tokyo's atrocities there), Japan was left to choose between submitting to U.S. demands or going to war to obtain the oil and other vital raw materials available in the East Indies and Southeast Asia.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Capitalism is a complex society with apparently inexplicable booms and slumps, so it is good that we have experts like the following genius in charge. Lord Lipsey, a Labour member of the House of Lords economic affairs committee recently came up with this gem. 'The employment figures mean that, whether or not the recession is working, it is not really hurting — at least not really hurting the people who still have jobs and don't claim benefits," he said. "An unemployment-lite recession has nothing like the social impact of a job-crushing one." He said it is much better to be poor with a job than without one.' (Daily Telegraph, 22 February) Better with a job than on the dole? Wow, we wonder what years of economic study lie behind that profundity.RD

Talking socialism

Cde Donnelly will open the March 20th Branch talk with the subject The Rise of Chinese Capitalism

Cde Cumming will open the April 17th Branch talk with the subject The Curse of Capitalism

The proposed Day School programme
Saturday, 11th May


1pm to 2.15pm The Rise of Scottish Nationalism Vic Vanni
2.15pm to 3.30pm The Occupy Movement John Cumming
3,45pm to 5pm The Threat of War Brian Gardner

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Patriotism? No thanks!

“Yet some can be patriotic who have no self-respect, and sacrifice the greater to the less. They love the soil which makes their graves, but have no sympathy with the spirit which may still animate their clay. Patriotism is a maggot in their heads.” - Henry David Thoreau

Nation-states have a logic of their own. So insidiously is the logic purveyed through the state’s institutions that it becomes common-sense. Like religion, it encourages devotion to a vague and ill-defined abstraction. Even in its most innocuous forms, patriotism is irrational. The World Cup and the Olympics are known for their unabashed displays of nationalism. Flags, patriotic chants, and cross-national rivalries are the order of the day. Football is the quintessential illustration of sociologist Benedict Anderson’s argument that nationhood itself represents an “imagined community”  –  an affinity between strangers who will never meet or hear of one another, but are bound by a mental image of shared history, often mythologized, and of common destiny. Nowhere is that community imagined more fiercely than in the football stadium, and among the hundreds of thousands gathered in pubs and living rooms across the country communing with those in the stadium urging their national team forward against those of other countries. Do hundreds of thousands of Scots gather in front of their TV sets on St Andrews Day to celebrate their nation by singing “Flower of Scotland”? No chance. But that’s exactly what happens when Scotland takes the field in a World Cup or Euro match. However, so eroded are national boundaries in the modern game that it mocks the very idea of a flag, anthem and passport that distinguishes between “us” and “them.” FIFA, recognizing the reality of massive and constant migration accelerated by economic globalization, allows a player to effectively “choose” a country to represent at senior level, even if they’d played for a different one all the way up to Under-21 level. The  cosmopolitan make-up of today’s football teams also negates the idea of a shared history lionized in national flags and anthems.*

The world moves on and nationalism is becoming less and less relevant in face of increasing globalisation. National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life.

 Many a good Scot do not consider themselves as nationalist, instead they much  prefer the more noble label ‘Scottish patriot’. A patriot, so the idea goes, does not look down on other nations, but ‘instead only’ loves his own. The "Scottish nation" is meaningless: all "nations" are mongrel, a mixture of so many immigrations and mixings of peoples over time that the idea of a Scot is largely comical. Nation-hood is not the same as culture. There are many varied cultures within Scotland which is not some homogenised whole but like most countries, is a diverse and complex tapestry. If you take a person from Berwickshire and someone from Northumberland, separated by only a few miles and introduce them to a German, he's not going to be able to tell the difference, by looks, by dress, by accent, by mannerisms. Take somebody from Glasgow and Thurso and i am sure the German will recognise a difference in at least the accents.

Nationalism is the egg that hatches fascism it has been said. And patriotism is but the begetter of nationalism. Patriotism is highly toxic. When ingested, it corrodes the rational faculties. It gulls people into believing their leaders. It’s  wheeled out whenever a leader needs to improve his ratings. It masks those who benefit most from state policy. And it destroys the ability of people to come together across boundaries, to take on those with the most power: the multinationals.

All borders are fabricated myths, and with them the false concepts of immigration, emigration, nationality, national pride and patriotism. It is not the rich who ascribe topatriotism. They are perfectly at home in every land. Russian and Indian oligarchs living the high life in London. Celebrated Scots like Sean Connery and Jackie Stewart take up residence in foreign climes. Patriotism is not for the likes of wealthy.

The lottery of place of birth should not be used to cloud judgement. One cannot feel pride for being born Scottish, that was just the luck of the draw, you might well have been born Welsh. Patriotism is a fraud whereby would-be rulers "self-determine" to impose their vision of nationhood on an entire community. Nationalism is an ideology of separation, of hatred for the ‘other.’ It is a creed of oppression. What is necessary is to develop human solidarity, the instincts of mutual aid that enable us to survive and which have fueled all human progres. Throughout history, governments incessantly brainwash the minds of men, women and children with the evils of past foreign masters. The struggle against alienation is inherently a struggle against patriotism.

The Socialist Party doesn’t believe in patriotism. Our critics can call us unpatriotic but we will take pride in being unpatriotic. We never identify ourselves as Scots (or British) first and foremost, instead we define ourselves in terms of our socialist politics. Patriotism was born with the one and sole purpose: to control the masses; and so far it had done a very fine job.The process of creating the "Scotland" was awash in the blood of Scot slaughtering Scot. Nation-states can only be authoritarian and geared to the interests of a tiny elite. The working class is manipulated into identifying their well-being with the aims and ambitions of the ruling class. As classes within the nation disappear, the hostility of one nation to another will also come to an end.  Socialists work for the day "patriotism" will simply means being proud to be part of humanity. Or to perhaps adopt Eloise Bell's word, socialists are "matriots" those who loves Mother Earth.

"Conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot." -  Emma Goldman. 

* List of Scotland international players not born in Scotland
2009 data-list of foreign born players in the SPL
2011-12 season data list of 603 foreign SPL players


Some politicians have a twisted way of defending capitalism. If unemployment grows it is not because of the slumps and booms of the system but because of the "workshy" unemployed. The following news item seems to contradict that view. 'But when Costa Coffee advertised for three full-time and five part-time baristas to staff a new shop in the Mapperley area of the city, the company never could have imagined it would get 1,701 applicants in two months, some with 10 to 15 years' experience in retail behind them.' (Guardian, 20 February) Serving coffee in a Costa Coffee shop is hardly a wonderful job but 1,701 desperate workers showed that they were not workshy. RD

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The UN at the North Pole

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of oil is in the Arctic. Several companies, including Russia's Rosneft, Norway's Statoil and U.S.-based Exxon Mobil are getting ready to drill in areas of melting sea ice, despite the risks, technological difficulties and costs. Some countries have estimated that the Northern Sea Route would be turned into a shipping highway, with a 40-fold increase in shipping by 2020. There is also likely to be a boom in fisheries. A widely predicted northward shift in sub-arctic fish species, including Atlantic and Pacific cod, is now being detected. It is estimated that fish catches in the high latitudes, including the Arctic, could increase by 30 to 70 percent by 2055.

Last September, Arctic sea ice reached its lowest level in the satellite record, which dates back to 1979, and scientists say there could be an ice-free summer by 2030-2040. The Greenland ice cap has also been melting, permafrost on the tundra has thawed and there is less snow on land and on glaciers. As ice and snow retreats, more shipping routes are opened and access is easier for oil and gas exploration and mining companies.

"What we are seeing is that the melting of ice is prompting a rush for exactly the fossil fuel resources that fuelled the melt in the first place,"
said Achim Steiner, U.N. Under-Secretary-General and  United Nations' Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director.

The U.N. body advises that no steps to exploit the Arctic environment are taken without first assessing how activities would affect ecosystems and populations.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

China at the South Pole

China is boosting its presence in Antarctica with an eye on the icy continent’s vast untapped resources, even though it could take 35 years to start exploiting them. Antarctic Treaty members, which include China, have agreed not to exploit Antarctic resources until 2048, but there is nothing to stop them doing geographical surveys.  China already has as many permanent research stations as the U.S. in Antarctica — including the Great Wall Station on King George Island off the Antarctic Peninsula, Zhongshan (Sun Yat-Sen) Station in the east and Kunlun Station in the interior. Now the Chinese appear poised to start work on a fourth station close to the main U.S. base — McMurdo Station — in a part of Antarctica known as the Ross Dependency that is administered by New Zealand.

 Anne-Marie Brady, a political science professor at New Zealand’s Canterbury University and editor of The Polar Journal, wrote in a recently published research paper that China is clearly interested in Antarctic resources, which range from minerals to meteorites, intellectual property from bio-prospecting, locations for scientific bases, fisheries and tourism access. “As an energy-hungry nation, China is extremely interested in the resources of Antarctica (and the Arctic) and any possibilities for their exploitation,” Brady wrote. Chinese-language polar social science discussions are dominated by debates about Antarctic resources and how China might gain its share, she wrote. “Such discussions are virtually taboo in the scholarly research of more established Antarctic powers,” she wrote. Numerous newspaper reports in Chinese have alleged that some countries are already prospecting in Antarctica under the cover of scientific research, Brady said. In Chinese-language debates, scholars, government officials and journalists appear to agree that the exploitation of Antarctica is only a matter of time and that China be ready, she said.

Texas A&M University oceanographer and Antarctic researcher Chuck Kennicutt II said it would be expensive to recover oil and gas from Antarctica but that a spike in oil prices could make it economically viable.

 The increased Antarctic research activity by developing nations is partly driven by interest in the Arctic, which could soon be ice-free in summer, Kennicutt said. Many nations, not just those with northern territories, are interested in the economic and security potential of northeast and northwest passages, he said. “It is not just economic but also in regard to the whole balance of power and the military implications in terms of national security and homeland security,” he said.

In January, The Associated Press reported that the icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon) had become the first Chinese vessel to cross the Arctic Ocean. According to the state-controlled China Daily newspaper, China will launch its second icebreaker in 2014. In summer, Arctic shipping routes between China and Europe are 40 percent faster than those through the Indian Ocean, Suez Canal and Mediterranean Sea.

A crazy world

There are 870 million hungry people in the world today, experts estimate, yet around the world 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year.

Millions of tons of food, particularly perishable fresh produce, also go to waste in the developing world as a result of poor transport networks or lack of markets, storage facilities, and processing equipment.

“I have witnessed people throwing away tomatoes, vegetables, and fruits, among other produce, simply because they did not find a market for it, and they have nowhere to keep it,” said Jane Kathure Biashara, a Kenyan community development expert

Monday, February 18, 2013


The idea that the present economic downturn is affecting everyone from the richest to the poorest was recently given credence by this report. 'Britain's richest man took a small cut in pay last year. Lakshmi Mittal, chairman and chief executive of Arcelor Mittal, banked $3.87m (£2.49) in pay and perks from the steel giant, down from $4m previously. .... Lakshmi Mittal's 40% stake in Arcelor Mittal is worth $10.3bn (£6.6bn). The Sunday Times Rich List estimates his fortune at £12.7 bn.' (Sunday Times, 17 February) Wow, a fall from $4m to a mere $3.87m. It's tough at the top! RD

Weans in need

One in five children is living in poverty in parts of almost every local council area in Scotland. Nearly all of Scotland’s local authorities – 27 out of 32 – have council wards where more than 20 per cent of their children live in poverty, according to the Campaign to End Child Poverty. Children were classed as being in poverty if their family is forced to live on 60 per cent or less of median UK income.

Children in the Glasgow North East constituency have 43 per cent classed as poor. A third of children live in poverty in Scotland’s biggest city of Glasgow, while Dundee had more than a quarter classed as poor. Edinburgh had almost one in five children in poverty, with a similar figure for Fife, East Ayrshire and North Lanarkshire.

 Recent forecasts indicate that at least 65,000 more children in Scotland will be living below the breadline by the end of the decade – a far cry from promises made in 1999 to end child poverty by 2020.

Percentage of children living in poverty
By local authority

Aberdeenshire 9%
Angus 14%
Argyll & Bute 14%
Clackmannanshire 23%
Dumfries & Galloway 17%
Dundee City 26%
East Ayrshire 22%
East Dunbartonshire 10%
East Lothian 14%
East Renfrewshire 10%
Edinburgh, City of 19%
Western Isles 11%
Falkirk 17%
Fife 20%
Glasgow City 33%
Highland 15%
Inverclyde 24%
Midlothian 18%
Moray 12%
North Ayrshire 25%
North Lanarkshire 21%
Orkney Islands 8%

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Socialism is the antidote

Some say the world is divided into independent, territorially-based states representing and pursuing the interests of capitalists from within their borders, and that the world economy is characterised by competing separate national capitals only. Others view the capitalist system as a single economy, even if divided politically and geographically, into separate “nation states”, and that the recent globalisation represents the emergence of a global capitalist class not tied to a particular national state. Those holding the latter idea fully understand that national states have not disappeared and are still powerful players in the capitalist economy but argue that the transnational capitalist class uses them, through favourable politicians and governments, to pursue its transnational interests (rather than them being used by a national capitalist class to pursue its national interests).

However, any transnational capitalist class would only be a section of the capitalist class of the world. There are still plenty of national capitalists, actual and would-be, whose interests are not the same as those of the transnational section. So, although political power in the advanced capitalist countries, may be in the hands of politicians favourable to transnational capitalists, there is still opposition to them. From the point of view of the transnational corporations, states no longer have important policy-making functions. It is enough if they enforce property rights and maintain basic infrastructure in areas important for business. Small states can do these jobs as well as large ones. In fact, they have definite advantages. They are more easily controlled, less likely to develop the will or capacity to challenge the prerogatives of global capital.

The ideology of national capitalism, reflecting the interests of small-scale capitalists, is still strong and finds support both from the “right” and the “left” who beat the same nationalist drum during the referendum debate. Being against capitalist globalisation is not the same as being against capitalism in general. We have ample past experience of a world of competing national capitalisms – quite enough to demonstrate that there is no good reason for preferring such a world to a world under the sway of global capital. Leftists such as the SSP in effect argue that workers should support national as opposed to transnational capitalism. Socialists, on the other hand, don’t take sides in this conflict between different sections of the capitalist class. Socialism will do away with all national oppression, because it removes the class interests that furnish the driving force of such oppression. Nor do we have any reason to assume that the nation, in socialist society, will form the basic politico-economic unit.

The Socialist Party is part of the World Socialist Movement which didn't get its name for nothing. Unique amongst all political parties left and right we have no national axe to grind. We side with no particular state, no government. We have no time for border controls. The world over, workers must do what they can to survive and resist capitalism. In many parts of the world that means escaping the tyranny of political terror or economic poverty. Workers should resist taking sides in the battles of the economic entities named on your passport.

Friday, February 15, 2013

One World Socialists

The Greeks in the 4th Century BCE  coined the term “cosmopolitan” – meaning citizen of the world and that all human ethnic groups belong to a single community.   Diogenes it is said was asked where he came from and he answered: "'I am a citizen of the world". Eugene Debs of the American Socialist Party at the turn of the 20th Century said "I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World."

The importance of local democracy has to be seen in the context of the modern world. People aren't just concerned about whether a piece of local land should be used for housing, growing food, a cricket pitch or left as it is. People are engaged with issues affecting them which extend far beyond their local areas. So, as well as being citizens of their parish or district they would also be citizens of the world with all the opportunities for, and responsibilities of decision making and action in every sphere of life. Some of the problems which face mankind are "whole-world" problems. People are beginning to think in world terms. More and more people are coming to appreciate world music and world theatre. Millions more follow world sporting events, and there is a growing consciousness that all humans are part of one world, that we share a common planet. As more than one astronaut has remarked, when looking down on the Earth you can't see any frontiers. Millions of people throughout the world are concerned about world poverty and world hunger and problems such as global warming and tropical deforestation.Think globally, act locally.

We are all one species. Our world is the only one we've got and we must share it with everybody. Socialists do not stand for world government because we are opposed to governments everywhere. One World represents an entirely different vision of the future to the "United Nations" or "Internationalism" which, as their names imply, are attempts to improvise a patchwork from the fragments which capitalism makes of the world. We are for the planned production and distribution of wealth on a world scale to meet human needs. To move forward the dispossessed of the world must now look beyond the artificial barriers of nation-states and regional blocs, to perceive a common identity and purpose. We seek a global community with no private property beyond immediate possessions, no need for money, no racism or sexism, no enslavement of children, no profit motive to drive the oppression of working people, no battles over personal interpretations of spirituality, and no disrespect for the 'other'.

The socialist aim is a world where we peacefully cohabit our home planet. There never has been, and never can be, socialism in just one country. No longer will there be governments and their state machinery, or national frontiers. Instead of government over people there would be various levels of democratic administration, from the local up to regional and world levels, with responsibility being delegated if necessary to groups or individuals. A united humanity, sharing a world of common interests, would also share world administration. It is sometimes said that world administration would mean power of central control over local democracy. We, however, envisage an integrated system that would be adaptable and could be used for decision-making and action on any scale between the local and the world. In socialism, for the first time, local communities will be free to make decisions about the development of their areas. These would be decisions about local services such as health, education and transport; public facilities such as parks, libraries, leisure centres and sports grounds; local housing, the siting of production units, management of farming, care of the local environment, cultural events, and so on. The principle of local democracy would be that decisions affecting just local populations would be made by them and not for them by any larger or outside body. Local communities, nevertheless, cannot be completely independent or self-reliant as far as meeting their material needs goes; they are interdependent. People in small communities aren't able to produce all they need, or anything like it. The final stage of the production of a range of goods for everyday use could be done locally -- food, clothes, shoes, furniture -- as well as repairs but most of the raw materials cannot be produced locally. It is a question of them being interlinked in a single network of production which in the end embraces the whole world.

There is in reality only one world. Capitalism brought into being the one world. It is high time we reclaimed it. We have no country but have a world to win. Socialists aren't dreaming up a “perfect” or an “ideal” world. What we struggle to establish is a better world. Why we should prefer Scottish rather than British police to be used against strikes and pickets? Why we should want the government that presides over the operation of capitalism in Britain to be situated in Edinburgh rather than London? We remain unconvinced that we should take sides in the referendum debate about the political structure for running capitalism today.

A Thieves Den

"Some will rob you with a six-gun, And some with a fountain pen." - Woody Guthrie

It has been described as the biggest banking fraud in history yet no-one has been prosecuted for the Libor fixing scandal. The financial rewards of rigging rates were, and are, immense. For example RBS’s rates, currencies and commodities group — the one where Libor rigging and other forms of market manipulation are believed to be commonplace — saw its income rise by 87% in the half year to June 2008, at a time when the overall income RBS Global Banking and Markets fell 10%. Royal Bank of Scotland admitted that between 2006 and 2010 staff based in London, Singapore, Tokyo and the US conspired to manipulate the global financial benchmark, the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) calculated in both Swiss Francs and Japanese Yen. By pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud in its Japanese arm, RBS managed to avoid having its US operations shut down by the US Department of Justice.  Libor is a global benchmark used to price some $300 trillion of contracts, ranging from mortgages to student loans to interest-rate swaps, calculated by averaging out submissions from up to 40 global banks.  Two other global banks have reached settlements along similar lines over Libor crimes. UBS was fined $1.5 billion (£950m) in December, and Barclays was fined $451m (£287m) in June 2012. A further 20 or so global banks are have yet to reach settlements. In the UK they are thought to include Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC.

“This is the biggest scandal, the biggest anti-trust felony, in the history of the world, and it continued for years,”
said Bill Black, associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a world leading expert on financial crime. “Even after the investigation became public knowledge, the felony continued, and it continued with greater efforts being made to cover it up, with people being instructed to no longer to use instant messages and such like in order to make it harder for the regulators What is most stunning is that these traders and submitters were willing to say these things, knowing that there was a verbatim record being kept. What does that tell you not just about the institution itself, but also about the FSA and the Serious Fraud Office? That is the one of the most important and revealing fact that comes out of this. The perception inside the bank was ‘we don’t need to worry about those clowns’.” He added "The bank is too big to prosecute, it’s too big to run honestly... it’s created catastrophic harm to the British people. RBS holds the British economy and the British people hostage."

Since being found out by regulators, RBS’s strategy has been to blame junior and middle-ranking people for the scandal, claiming that no one at the top of the bank knew it was going on. This is surprising, given that in September 2007, the Financial Times’s Gillian Tett highlighted concerns that Libor was “a bit of a fiction” [FT 25 September 2007], and that in April 2008 the British Bankers’ Association sent a memo to ‘panel’ banks including RBS asking them to check their Libor submission processes and ensure they were “submitting honest rates” after the Wall Street Journal’s Carrick Mollenkamp highlighted “growing suspicions about Libor’s veracity” [WSJ 16 April 2008]. Some RBS traders who have been dismissed for Libor rigging argue that they are being used as scapegoats, claiming that their superiors  ‘condoned collusion’. Tan Chi Min, RBS’s ex-head of Japanese Yen interest-rate trading, declared that Libor rigging was a well-known and common practice at the bank in 2006-11. The FSA said that, in March 2011, RBS misled the regulator, indicating that it had put proper systems and controls in place when it had not.

Many believe the government and  authorities are being too soft on financial crimes, seeing mollycoddling miscreant financial institutions that it majority owns as more important than seeking justice. The fact that RBS’s share price rose on the day of its settlement suggests investors believe it got off lightly.  Neil Barofsky, former special inspector-general of the Troubled Asset Relief Programme and author of Bailout, said: "...each settlement on favourable terms reinforces the perception that, for a select group of executives and institutions, crime pays. It is only rational. They know that they will get to keep all of the ill-gotten profits if they go undetected, and on the small chance that they’re caught, most probably only the shareholders will pay – and only a relatively minor fine at that. The lack of meaningful consequences for those committing these frauds encourages future fraudulent conduct."

Adapted from here

Thursday, February 14, 2013

More Food for thought

The recent news has brought forward another horrific fire at a nightclub in Brazil as you have probably heard. These fires rival those at clothing factories for highlighting the sheer stupidity or outright nastiness of the system. Allegations from this latest one include security staff stopping patrons from fleeing from the fire as they hadn't paid their tabs (apparently it is the custom there to run up a tab and pay at the end of the night); fire extinguishers that do not work; allowing pyrotechnics by the band members to create a spectacle; expired fire permits; locked doors. Some may not be true but all of these things pop up regularly in these continuing tragedies. There must be thousands of places like this one just waiting for an accident to happen. One must ask why the system allows it. Where are the inspections, the licences, the authorities responsible? Obviously to demand a safe environment and proper supervision would cost money, drive investors away, and lose a large source of tourism dollars. Some system that engenders and accepts such madness for the only sure thing is that
it will happen again!  

John Ayers


It is popular for politicians to pretend that workers in Britain are enjoying steadily improving living standards, but from time to time the truth leaks out. 'Food prices are rising more than three times faster than the average worker's pay package as the cost of living 'crisis' continues, official figures revealed yesterday. While the average private sector worker's pay has risen by just 1.4 per cent - and millions of State workers are subject to a pay freeze - food prices have risen by 4.5 per cent in the last year, according to the Office for National Statistics. The crippling cost of the weekly trip to the supermarket is the most striking figure in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) for January.' (Daily Mail, 13 February) A food price rise of 4.5 per cent against a 1.4 per cent wage rise? It doesn't take a master statistician to see the flaw in the "steadily improving standard of living" argument. RD

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Food for thought

The level of paranoia in the US regarding guns and bad people around every corner has spawned some crazy solutions. In a small town in Texas, the local council elected to let teachers carry concealed weapons in the school. School Superintendent Thweatt commented, " We don't have money for a security guard, but this is a better solution. A shooter could take out a guard or officer with a visible holstered weapon, but our teachers have master's degrees and are older and have extensive training. And their guns are hidden. We can protect our children."
Better still, why not arm all the children, then you would have a couple of hundred shooters ready to blast away! John Ayers

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

worth every penny?

Sir Philip Hampton, chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, asserts that its cheif executive, Stephen Hester,  is only “modestly paid” - at £7.8 million a year. “Stephen is doing one of the most difficult, demanding and challenging jobs in world business. He has been paid well below the market rate compared to others in the same job.” Hampton explained.

Hester’s £7.8m package is made up of a basic salary of £1.2m, plus a maximum annual bonus of £2.4m and a further £4.2m that can be earned through the bank’s long term incentive schemes.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Food for thought

In 1994 when South Africans voted in Nelson Mandela's government in the country's first democratic election, education was the way to raise the level of the black population. Now, as South Africa grapples with poverty, economic inequality, crime, and soaring youth unemployment (welcome to the capitalist norm), the education system, which is training for a job, hasn't done anything to change South Africa. Of the 1.1 million born since 1994, less than half have taken the Graduation Exam and the ones who take it and pass (75%) are receiving something less than valid as pass marks hover around the 30-40% range, something that probably wouldn't get them a job if any were available. This is a failure of capitalist education that is job oriented and not to develop one's knowledge and person to the fullest. John Ayers

They never learn

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the fighters France is battling in northern Mali are some of the very same ones it helped arm in Libya.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he favored the idea of arming Syrian militants.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Food for thought

The International Energy Agency has said that the US will become energy self-sufficient by 2035 and is counting on massive expansion of the technique of fracking shale to get oil and gas. Sounds good but, as usual, it comes with a price. In this case environmental -- what happens to water tables, for example? The drilling industry refuses to disclose the toxins included in the fluid injected into the shale but it is known (Toronto Star, Dec 8, 2012) that it contains the carcinogens benzene and formaldehyde. This and a host of other problems will not stop the mad search for more oil and gas (and profit) as long as we tolerate this system. John Ayers

Global Govanhill

Govanhill on the south side of Glasgow is home to some 15,000 has people from an estimated 42 different nationalities living within one square mile. Why Govanhill?  The availability of cheap, private-let housing is one practical reason. Also, immigration is self-perpetuating – the presence of an established community makes it more likely others will come and settle. Govanhill was at one time a mining village outside Glasgow. It started to expand significantly from 1837 with the foundation of the Govan Iron Works, known to this day, even though it is long gone, as Dixon’s Blazes. The Irish also began to arrive in Glasgow in large numbers at around this time, estimated at more than 1,000 people a week during 1848 – escaping the famine and seeking employment. In the 1960s, with the demolition of the Gorbals tenements, a second wave of Irish moved to Govanhill. At the end of the 19th century, heavy industry began to draw Jews from Poland and Lithuania. Significant immigration from the Indian sub-continent, in particular from Pakistan, was a phenomenon first observed in the 1960s and 1970s. The sheer numbers of Irish and Asians living in Govanhill during this period led to the area being nicknamed Bengal/Donegal.

Along Allison Street you can daunder up and down and hear not a word of Glaswegian, spoken. It’s all Urdu, Romani, Slovak, Polish, Czech, Somali, Igbo and more. Much of the shop front signage is in Arabic. Completely dominant is the presence of food and drink. A smell of spice and other aromas so strong you can taste it: haleem; nihari; fried fish; dried fish; chana chat; chips; and, of course from the pubs the reek of beer. Available is lado, barfi and gulab jamun (balls of dough, deep-fried and dipped in syrup) or ewa agoyin – a Nigerian dish of beans and stew. Italian Scots  established so many beloved chippies and ice-cream parlours. The Asian immigrants started to arrive in the 1970s. Pakistan was the main country of origin, very few Indians.  There are  biryanis, daal, mustard-leaf saag and curry options, about half of which include meat on the bone – the traditional way of doing it, with way more flavour and naan bread. Also now on the multi-cultural menu is goja, a Romani word, the bowel of a pig stuffed with potatoes and garlic, then boiled or fried.

Since 2004, when Slovakia and the Czech Republic joined the EU, another ingredient has added flavour to the Govanhill melting pot – the Roma people. There are thought to be around 3,000 in the area, and in some parts of the district they appear to be the most populous group; one local primary school has a majority eastern European population and very few English-speaking pupils. The first Roma in Glasgow were asylum seekers from Slovakia, escaping racial hatred. Most, now, are economic migrants, coming from villages in the region of Michalovce. In Glasgow, they have found casual work in potato and chicken processing factories, though, increasingly, jobs are hard to come by. Romanian nationals have very restricted access to the benefits system, and there is anecdotal evidence that some Roma from that country, now living in Govanhill, cannot afford to feed themselves and thus go through the bins of private residences and shops, looking for food.

Kelly’s is one of a number of pubs in the area which cater to those remnants of the Irish population once so dominant here. Tony Mai Gallagher, 71, from Kincasslagh, Donegal moved to Glasgow in 1954 at the age of 12. He well remembers the anti-Irish, anti-Catholic prejudice of his earlier years, and this experience softens him towards the Roma. "Harmony is what we need.” he says

Taken from here

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Food for thought

lLast month I reported on the expanding military deployments of Japan.
This month it is the German's turn. Chancellor, Angela Merkle, recently
told a military gathering that German deployment overseas, "will soon
encompass the entire globe." The German defence minister concurred, "Now
we are in a position and have the duty, even, to make our impact felt."
This emphasizes yet again that capitalism is a competitive system where
everybody must look out for themselves and he who has the biggest club
wins. Not too far from our caveman days are we? John Ayers

class loyalty

The media and the political mouthpieces of capitalist ideology have done their job well. Scottish workers are being caught up by the "patriotism" of the referendum debate - either for independence or for the union. Capitalism has reached a point at which it threatens all humanity and not just the divided national, religious, racial (or other falsely labeled) identity groups.

The patriotism of the capitalist class is better called national chauvinism. This "patriotism" equates loyalty to the nation with loyalty to the capitalist-controlled government and its policies. It seeks the acquiescence of workers in the crimes, aggressions, depredations and depravities of the ruling class and its agents.  It is intended to trick workers into sanctioning whatever is deemed in the interests of the business class. It's nationalistic baloney asserts that our interests as a “nation” are totally bound up with, if not identical , to those of our exploiters. But as we know, in class societies the state does not serve everyone equally. Instead, its main efforts are directed to helping the class that rules over the economy. In capitalism, that means essentially helping the capitalist class accumulate capital, repress opposition to their exploitative rule, and legitimise all the forms in which this goes on.  But to do this job well, the state has to appear legitimate in the eyes of most of its citizens, which requires above all else that its consistent bias on behalf of the capitalist ruling class be hidden from view. The flag and other patriotic symbolism are crucial to the success of this effort. Throughout, emotions play a much larger role than reason or thinking generally, and the strongest emotion evoked by patriotism is the pleasure of belonging to a cooperative social community where everyone is concerned with the fate of others. Unfortunately, the social community only exists in the shadow of an illusory community dominated by the ruling economic class and its state, where none of this applies.

Then there is a form of patriotism to which workers should adhere; it is loyalty, not to the institutions of the nation, but to the people; more precisely, to the majority of the people -- the working class -- with whom they share a common material interest. For workers today, class consciousness -- loyalty to one's class -- is patriotism. International working-class interests are the paramount interests to be served -- not those of any capitalist nation state. Without solidarity to one's class and to one's comrades. workers are helpless in the face of the ruling class's monopoly of the means of production. If workers can stick together, they can respond to employers' control of work. Solidarity between workers is therefore an essential prerequisite for success in class struggle. Class consciousness is the key to working-class victory in ending the class struggle.

Patriotism works to disguise the real differences which exist amongst people—which are differences of class and which involve irreconcilable differences of interests—and to encourage workers to identify with the institution—the state—which is the primary defender of class society. The slogan “workers of the world unite” is in part a call on proletarians to acknowledge that their home is in the company of other members of their class wherever they are to be found.

Scotland is divided into two classes -- the working class and the class of employers/investors that lives off its labour.  We can wonder how a capitalist party which of course the SNP is can keep on winning all the elections. The answer often lies far less in their programs than in the flag and other patriotic symbols with which these programs come wrapped. Most workers vote against their class interests because they "love" their "country".

There are a various definitions of what class is. Many of them assign people to class groups on the basis of cultural and behavioural attributes such as dress, speech, education levels, shopping habits, and employment sector. Such concepts are fallacious in that they reduce class to a matter of choice, taste, when it is nothing of the sort. Whether you read the Sun or the Times, or whether you shop at Asda or at Sainsbury's, is entirely irrelevant. The middle class are, in reality, workers. They too have to sell their labour to a master in order to survive, and the fact that the wages of that labour may be more, or that the job may be “white collar” rather than “blue collar” is of no significance.

In essence, there are two classes: the working class and the capitalist or ruling class. What matters is your relation to capital. The working class are the vast majority of people on the planet, those who must sell their labour in order to earn a living and survive. The ruling class are, to use a rough figure, the top one-percent of society. They do not have to sell their labour or work, but instead are maintained by expropriating rent, interest, and profit from the working class who produce it. They are, in short, parasites. The bourgeoisie are united across the national divide and therefore so should we. The working class must unite to fight against attacks and refuse to be divided or distracted. This is the only way to defend the gains of the past and fight for a future society worth living in.

Working people have only one country—the planet earth. There is only one foreigner—the boss.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Food for thought

In a remote corner of the Amazon lies one of its most stunning sites --
a series of caves and rock shelters guarding the secrets of human beings
who lived there more than 8 000 years ago. The mining companies, with
the compliance of the Brazilian government have discovered iron ore in
the region, mined and sent to China to make steel. It's a huge source of
income for the country that is hosting the next Olympics and the World
Cup of soccer. Expansion of the mining operation will destroy the caves,
treasured by scholars. What a dilemma! What to do? As we know, capital
will win out in the end as logic goes out of the window. John Ayers


The new governor of the Bank of England has taken over this top post at a time when we are told we will all have to make sacrifices in order to get out of this economic slump. 'The next Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has been forced to defend his £800,000-a-year deal under questioning from MPs. Mr Carney's base salary of £480,000 is more than that of his US and European equivalents combined – and he will also receive a £250,000 housing allowance on top. ............... Justifying the housing allowance, Mr Carney pointed out that London was a far more costly place to live than his present home city of Ottawa. "I am moving from one of the cheapest capitals in the world to one of the most expensive," he said.' (Independent, 7 February) Mr Carney is an example to us all. He is prepared to scrape by in expensive London on a mere £250,000 housing allowance. RD

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Food for thought

Recent years have seen a massive flood in New Orleans caused by neglect, the sub-prime mortgage disaster, the Enron and Lehman Brothers scandals, several European countries on the edge of bankruptcy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an un-civil war in Syria, massive unemployment around the world, blatant rape and genocide in the Congo, global warming, destruction of the land, sea, and air by pollution, deforestation, people losing their pensions, escalating violence, riots, and arson. Have we missed something? People tell us that socialism would bring chaos! John Ayers

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


Socialists are not the only people to comment on the gap between the rich and the poor inside capitalism. Here is an Indian billionaire on the subject. 'Azim Premji, the billionaire philanthropist and chairman of Wipro, the IT service group, said that practices such as flying in American bands for weddings at $1 million a time were damaging in India, where official statistics last year suggested that 360 million people were living in the depths of poverty.' (Times, 4 February) Mr Premji's futile solution to the problem is philanthropy by the owning class whereas the solution of socialists is for the working class to abolish capitalism. RD

Food for thought

The Toronto Star (Jan 12) had an article that focused on the enormous difference between capitalism and, if not socialism, at least communalism. A young woman, Mariangela, and her boyfriend had moved to Rome having lost their jobs in Italy's economic slump, one that has resulted in thirty-five per cent youth unemployment. They didn't move to Rome to find work, but to find a home. They joined other squatters in an abandoned building. Mariangela commented, " The first night I slept here, I woke up in the morning and thought, how nice! I don't have to pay rent anymore. I don't have to worry about not being able to make ends meet." Though the building leaves a lot to be desired, the communal atmosphere makes up for it. Mariangela continued, " You don't have to worry about going hungry. People check on their neighbours and help each other out if they need something." This proves the communal ethic exists, works, and hasn't been entirely crushed by the alienating affects of life under capitalism. It's human nature! John Ayers

Rab Wilson - poet

Continuing our occasional working-class/socialist themed poetry posts


The bricht rays o the Winter Solstice daws,
Streakin oot owre the Mauchline Basin Plain,
Lichtin oan a slumberin colossus,
The lanely relic o a bygone age.
The horrals o the Barony proudly staun,
Implacable; a great, grey ghaist o steel.
The ‘A’ Frame, lik some occult wicker-man,
Grim emissary o some auncient god,
Wha, like a god, demandit sweit an tears,
An the bluid o thaim wha wir sacrificed
Oan the altar o Mammon an progress.
They're mindit oan a memorial stane,
The men wha dee'd here, an the men wha leeved.
Twa thoosan pair o eident carefu hauns,
The miners an jiners an engineers,
Wha nevvir aince thocht, as they lauched an joked,
That Fate micht hae a sense o humour tae.
The knowledge they hud sae painfully won,
Wid disappear in that terrible year,
Swept awa bi the haun o history.

Nou the bus drives by wi young Jim an Tam,
Past chain-link fences, roostit 'Keep-Oot' signs,
Oan their wey tae the Technical College.
They ken they're lucky tae hae goat a trade,
It sets thaim apairt frae the ither boys.
The mantle o the village artisan
Is still a badge fir thaim tae wear wi pride;
Council jiners, plumbers or bricklayers,
Electricians, painters an plaisterers.
Aneath thon giant bestridin the yird,
Aneath the lengthnin sheddas o the past,
They'll stoop an gaither up the worn-oot tools,
An forge thaim wi a newer, keener edge,
O Comradeship an Unity an Strength.

Rab Wilson

Yvonne Hodge.

Ah wis juist nine at the time o the Strike
Ah thocht it wis great cause we goat free meals
But money wis ticht, fowk suffert fir real
Ah wis juist a wean though, nevvir knew, like.
Ah couldnae unnerstaun, we'd nae new claes
When ither yins wir getting new trainers
Ah caa'd fowk "Scab", but ye ken whit weans are
Like, ah regret some things ah used tae say.
Ah mind ma dad in the kitchen greetin
Ah asked "Whit's wrang?", an he said they wir beat
Noo things are worse, an they nevvir wir great
It's aa chainged roond here since they goat beaten.
Ah'm nineteen noo wi a wean o ma ain
Ah've seen enough anger, seen enough pain.

Rab Wilson

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Food for thought

The richest people on earth got richer in 2012, adding $241 billion
(US) to their total worth according to The Bloomberg Billionaires Index,
a daily ranking of the world's one hundred wealthiest individuals. The
overall wealth of the world's top tycoons stood at $1.9 trillion by
January 1^st . "Last year was a great one for the world's billionaires"
said John Casimatidis, the owner of the Red Apple Group. This shows two
things -- just how much wealth can be made by the exploitation of the
working class, and that something is very wrong with our current society
where, for many, unemployment and being homeless is the order of the
day, and where millions exist on a dollar or two a day. John Ayers

Monday, February 04, 2013

The War-Lord

"If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game...It's a joy for me because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I'm probably quite useful,"  Prince Harry comparing war in Afghanistan where real people die to playing a virtual reality video game.


Some "expert" or other is always pontificating about the National Health Service. Journalists and politicians espouse various schemes of improvement. Here though are the views of people that should know a little about the subject - the nurses. 'More than half of nurses think their ward or unit is "dangerously understaffed", a survey revealed yesterday. More than three quarters said they had witnessed "poor" care in their ward or unit in the past year, with nearly 30 per cent saying they regularly saw poor care. The Nursing Times polled 600 of its readers for the survey on issues like patient safety, NHS culture and staffing, the majority claimed the ratio of patients to each nurse could compromise patient care.' (Sunday Express, 3 February) Underfunded? Understaffed? Good enough for the working class inside the profit system. RD


Politicians like to pose as the friend of British working families but government ministers have admitted for the first time that as many as 100,000 children from working families will be forced into poverty as a result of the Government's plans to cut benefits for the poorest. 'Official figures show that a total of 200,000 youngsters from all families will be pushed into child poverty as a result of George Osborne's 1 per cent cap on benefits from April, in effect a real-terms cut in welfare payments. But Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat pensions minister, revealed in a parliamentary written answer last week that 50 per cent of those children come from families where at least one parent is in work. This new figure undermines claims by the Chancellor, George Osborne, that the cap on benefits is designed to target Britain's jobless "shirkers" . The children will join the 3.6 million already classed as living in poverty. Two-thirds of those are in families where at least one parent works.' (Independent on Sunday, 3 February) The real "shirkers" of course are members of the owning class who have no intention of working. RD

Mince and Tatties?

Next time you tuck into your mince and tatties you should be aware that it is meal of fat and gristle and tatties. And is doesn't seem like it will get any  better.

The UK have asked for an exemption from new EU regulations that limit the amount of fat and connective tissue that can be used to bulk up minced meat.Under the regulations, lean minced meat should have up to 19 per cent fat and collagen, while pure minced beef should contain no more than 35 per cent fat and collagen ( derived from the tendons and ligaments of animals and used to help bulk out meat and also used in cosmetic surgery).  In October last year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued an “impact assessment” on the new EU regulations, which are due to come into force next year. The report states: “A significant proportion of mince meat currently sold in the UK contains a greater proportion of collagen than would be permitted."

Sunday, February 03, 2013


Hollywood is fond of portraying the heroism of warfare. We are asked to believe that there is something ennobling about military conflict. These figures from the USA show that the horrors of war are so great that they often force soldiers to take their own life. 'In 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone. To put that another way, more of America's serving soldiers died at their own hands than in pursuit of the enemy. Across all branches of the US military and the reserves, a similar disturbing trend was recorded. In all, 349 service members took their own lives in 2012, while a lesser number, 295, died in combat.' (Guardian, 1 February) RD

Capital's apologists

Blair Jenkins, chief executive of the Yes Scotland campaign, claimed that Scotland “might very well not have had a financial crisis” if it had been an independent country. This is a ridiculous claim. Some commentators have argued that, if Scotland had been independent, the banks would have been better regulated. The Scottish equivalent of the FSA would have stopped them from pursuing self-destructive courses, barred them from ballooning their balance sheets with dodgy loans and toxic assets, and insisted on higher capital ratios. There’s absolutely no reason to believe that it would have been any different.

The idea that Scotland’s banks – RBS and HBOS, whose combined assets were 21 times Scotland’s gross domestic product at the time of their near collapse (for the sake of comparison, Irish banks’ assets were 4.4 times Irish GDP at point of their October 2008 collapse, and Icelandic banks‘ assets were 9.8 times times Icelandic GDP) – would have been better-regulated if Scotland had been independent is wide of the mark. It is preposterous to suggest the liabilities of a bank are liabilities of the population of the country where the head office of that bank is located. It cost the UK £70bn to recapitalise the Scottish banks. 

Alex Salmond thought the UK authorities and the FSA in particular, were being too tough on the banks in 2007. He felt Scotland would be better off with ‘lighter touch’ regulation. “We are pledging a light-touch regulation suitable to a Scottish financial sector with its outstanding reputation for probity, as opposed to one like that in the UK, which absorbs huge amounts of management time in ‘gold-plated’ regulation." he said in an interview with the Times on April 7th, 2007. Salmond wrote to Fred Goodwin when the latter was RBS chief executive, in May 2007 wishing Goodwin ‘good luck’ with his attempted €72 billion takeover of the Dutch Bank ABN Amro adding ‘it is in the Scottish interests for RBS to be successful’. The takeover is now recognised as one of the most disastrous in corporate history and contributed to the massive losses which caused RBS to fail and require a £45.5bn government funded bailout.

On March 31, 2008 when it was already clear to many investors and analysts that RBS and HBOS had massive holes in their balance sheets and were struggling to fund themselves, Salmond insisted that, with RBS and HBOS, “Scotland has global leaders today, tomorrow and for the long-term” in a speech given to Harvard University selling Scotland as another Celtic Tiger (but a Lion) economy like Ireland. On August 7th, 2008, the day it announced massive first-half losses of £692m, and a few weeks after it had had to tap investors for £12bn to patch up its balance sheet, Salmond told The Times that RBS was “one of the highest-performing financial institutions in the world” which would soon “overcome current challenges to become both highly profitable and highly successful once again”. On September 17th, 2008, Salmond describes the banks as "well capitalised, properly funded financial institutions" ignoring the fundamental problems and the bankers' irresponsibility.

So if the referendum bring change - little will change. Scottish politicians and Scottish parliament will continue to be the servants of capital. 

Separate Scotland

The voices of millions of Scots on low and average incomes rarely being heard, according to a report by a leading Scottish think tank. The Jimmy Reid Foundation's report, Not By The People concluded: "Scotland is run by people who pay higher-rate tax and they seek advice on how to run Scotland primarily from other people who pay higher-rate tax."

 Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teachers' union, said "This report describes a Scotland of two peoples; one runs the country, the other just lives here... Democracy is about more than simply voting twice a decade."

Although only 13% of Scots have incomes above £34,000, this group accounted for 67% of those giving evidence to committees and 71% of all appointments to public bodies.

In contrast, the 70% of Scots with incomes below the average salary of £24,500 accounted for 11% of public-sector appointments and just 3% of committee witnesses between 2007 and 2012.

The Foundation said it had deliberately erred on the side of caution in estimating incomes, and the true disconnect between income and influence was probably worse than the figures suggested.

A Bosses' Scotland

Jim McColl, the founder and chairman of Clyde Blowers and one of the country’s richest men, has argued that Scottish independence would be the same as a “management buy-out” from the UK.

McColl who lives in Monaco explained “We have a government responsible for economic policy whose focus is not growth in Scotland but rather London and the south-east of England. That tells me Scotland is a nation in desperate need of a well-planned and thought-through management buy-out.”

The the pro-independence campaign Yes Scotland team plans to intensify its wooing of the capitalist class with plans to produce a “business plan” depicting Scotland as a new company seeking investment.

CBI Scotland however disageed with McColl reasoning. "... in actual fact the developing proposals of the Scottish Government are that all economic levers would not come to Scotland – for example, control over currency and interest rates.” it said.

As Scottish Courier has repeatedly said, the issue of an independent Scotland is a dispute beteen rival capitalists and workers should have no truck with either section of our masters.