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Showing posts from October, 2013

The Lesson from INEOS

There is a post-mortem taking place amongst the labour movement and the Left parties about the developments at Grangemouth. The Trotskyist group Socialist Party of England and Wales/Socialist Party Scotland have followed their usual party line. The UNITE leadership were at fault for not staging an occupation and calling for nationalisation. The old leaders should be  substituted by them as new leaders who would defy the law and go down fighting rather than capitulation without a fight. Bantam-weights should square up to heavy-weights. It is all about the perfidy of union bureaucrats. Others accuse the unions of being the enforcers and the agents of capital.

The point is that the context of the struggle at Grangemouth was not shaped by Unite but they were instead simply reacting and responding to factors beyond their control i.e. victims of the ebb and flow of the demand for world fuel and how corporations finance themselves under global capitalism.

The union itself is an inadequate f…

We Want Revolution

“The history of all societies to date has been the history of class struggle.” - Marx

Britain is no stranger to revolutionary working class activity and some claim it has been to the very brink of revolution. In 1919, at Milford Haven, the crew of  HMS Kilbride hauled down the Royal Navy ensign down and hoisted the red flag.

Socialists agree upon one thing, and that is that they constitute a revolutionary party, the champions of the class interests of the workers. But unfortunately the idea of revolution is many-sided, and conceptions of the revolution differ very greatly.

The working class has many names, proletariat, labouring classes, labourers, waged workers. There are people who are clearly members of the working class who are not producers of real wealth, that is, who do not produce surplus value. But in a much broader sense it includes the families of workers, that is, their wives, their children, single parents, students, the unemployed and the retired and the infirm.


Being poor means poor intelligence

Economic health disparities are a reality. In two separate studies, researchers found that experiencing poverty in early childhood is linked to smaller brain size and less efficient processing of certain sensory information. Exposure to early life adversity should be considered no less toxic than exposure to lead, alcohol or cocaine. Exposure to poverty in early childhood negatively affects brain development, but good-quality caregiving may help offset this effect.

In one study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, children who grew up in impoverished households showed smaller white and grey matter in their brains compared with those who had more means — these make up the density of nerve connections between different parts of the brain. The less wealthy kids also developed smaller hippocampus and amygdala regions, which are involved in regulating attention, memory and emotions.

According to the researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the smaller brain region…


For the best part of 50 years Christia Freeland worked at the Financial Times and Reuters, so when she writes a book entitled "Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich" she has a fair idea of the subject. According to a book review by John Arlidge she has some revealing facts about the rich. 'These people have become richer. Not just a bit richer. But profanely richer. The top 10% of Americans, for instance receive half the nation's income. Freeland shows that inequality in Europe is rising sharply too, and points out how the rules of the economic game have been rigged to favour the rich.' (Sunday Times, 27 October) The reviewer points out the book is stronger on the whos, hows and whys of the rise of the new global super-rich than it is on whether we should (or can) do anything about this inequality. From a socialist perspective we can, we should and we will do something. We will abolish it! RD


More than half of all poor children in the UK are living in homes that are too cold, and around a quarter said their home suffered from damp or mould, a survey published by the Children's Society indicates. 'Of those children surveyed who said their family was "not well off at all", 76% said they "often worried" about how much money the family had. More than 53% said their home was too cold last winter and 24% said it was "much colder" than they would have liked, while 26% said their home suffered from damp or mould. There are over three million children living in poverty in the UK, a figure that is predicted to rise.' (Guardian, 29 October) Behind these grim statistics lie the awful realities of this crazy system that condemn working class children to endure these conditions.

Does capitalism work?

“How stupid and shortsighted the ruling class really is! Cupidity is stone blind. It has no vision. The greedy, profit-seeking exploiter cannot see beyond the end of his nose. He can see a chance for an "opening"; he is cunning enough to know what graft is and where it is, and how it can be secured, but vision he has none — not the slightest. He knows nothing of the great throbbing world that spreads out in all directions. He has no capacity for literature; no appreciation of art; no soul for beauty. That is the penalty the parasites pay for the violation of the laws of life.” - Eugene V. Debs

 Socialists argue that it does a disservice to people's needs and their democracy. Supporters of the system claim that capitalism empowers individuals. Capitalism has actually pushed individual enterprise to the fringes of economies. No more than ten percent of populations are self-employed. In Canada and the U.S. ninety percent depend on wage and salary work. Although capitalism g…

Capitalism isn't fit for purpose

In the most deprived communities, men and women can expect to spend 22.7 years and 26.1 years respectively in "not good" health. That compares to just 11.9 years and 12 years for men and women in most affluent parts of Scotland.  Cancer and heart attack rates remain higher among those living in deprived areas. Since 2008 "the admissions rate in the most deprived areas has increased at a faster rate than in the least deprived areas", leading to an increase in both relative and absolute inequality. Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland explained "... "for those people living in the most deprived communities the inequalities in health have never been more apparent. We cannot simply continue to argue that public health policies are working to improve the lives of Scots when the differences between rich and poor are so apparent...whilst doctors can do all they can to treat these illnesses, they will not reduce the drivers of inequality in society.…

One for your book-shelf

Now out is the World Socialist Review, an anthology (224 pages) of socialist writings from the archives of the World Socialist Party of the United States.

Available USA $9.05
UK £6.60


The text of the Socialist Party's identity leaflet.

Somebody once remarked that the most important word in the  political vocabulary is “we”. It was a shrewd observation, since to get someone to use “we” in relation to some group of people is to  get them to identify their interest as the interest of that group.

In the battle for “we”, socialists are trying to get all those excluded from ownership and control of means of production to recognise the fact of their common interest as one  class within capitalist society, to regard themselves as “we” and to use “our” and “us”  only in relation to that class and its interests.

Those who control one or other of the two hundred or so armed states into which the  world is divided have to try to prevent this practice emerging, and deliberately seek to  undermine it, in the interest of the other main class in capitalist society – those who do  own and control means of production and who derive a privileged income from this. They seek to con…


With  gas and electricity prices rising a survey for Age UK found that 28 per cent of pensioners said their main concern for the coming cold months was ensuring they could heat their homes. 'The charity said the figures suggested the problems could affect as many as three million older people across the UK. Age UK also raised the alarm over the health dangers to the elderly people, warning that cold weather and poorly heated homes increased the risk not only of influenza but also of heart attack and stroke. There are about 24,000 excess deaths in a typical British winter, many of them preventable.' (Independent, 28 October) Britain is one of the most developed countries in the world yet it condemns millions of old workers to this health hazard. RD

Nazi Huns

Home Truths

The sequel book, Crap Towns Returns, describes Kilmarnock as Scotland’s least desirable place to live. In 2010 Kilmarnock gained UK-wide notoriety when BBC documentary The Scheme featured graphic scenes of drug abuse, violence and ­anti-social behaviour in the Onthank ­estate.

 “Once an industrial powerhouse, famed internationally for its carpets, Kilmarnock is now a post-industrial wasteland, with much of its once handsome town centre bulldozed. The main shopping drag is a grim, litter-strewn wind tunnel with nary an outlet that isn’t a pound shop or a pawnbroker. The town is ringed by a growth of dirty-grey, pebble-dashed flats of unspeakable misery.

One contributor described the community as: “A truly crap town… where heroin addicts and stabbings, as well as football violence and pound shops, are aplenty.”

Broxburn in West Lothian and Galloway's Newton Stewart are also listed among the top 50 most undesirable British communities.

 Broxburn’s main distinguishing features are “r…

Social Democracy

The apologists for capitalism will argue that it is the natural order. That people like and want it.  That the privileged few are better than the rest of us and deserve what they have.

Money is power, but it is also a result of power. More money, more power, more money, more power — a revolving door if you are among the wealthiest 1 per cent. In every system throughout history, economic and social power always became political power.  The world’s inability to deal with our looming environmental crisis are a result of the concentration of economic and social power in the hands of fewer and fewer people.  Oil and coal make money for powerful people. If a minority holds most of the economic and therefore social and political power the result will be that the minority will inevitably reward itself. Its power will grow and ever-expanding inequality will result.That’s how the system works.

 What can we do to fix it? High taxes on high incomes, inheritance taxes on the wealthy, taxes on all…

The Madness of Class

Under Scotland's Mental Health Act, someone with a mental illness can be detained against their will if a doctor and a mental health officer agree that they suffer from a mental disorder. This must be for the maximum benefit of the individual. It should also respect the wishes of their relatives or carer.

Lady Hamilton, wife of the Duke of Hamilton, said a psychiatrist had suggested they go to hospital to check the duke's medication and she was led to believe this would just be for a few days but after she filled in an admissions form she was told her husband had actually been sectioned for 28 days.

"I said, 'It's alright pet. You're here voluntarily, you can come home if you want to'. Then a voice behind said, 'No he can't. He's been sectioned for 28 days and he may not get out then'."

"I thought, if this can happen to the Duke of Hamilton, what chance has Joe Bloggs got?"

Lady Hamilton managed to have her husband discharge…

Food for thought

Capitalism is a system of greed and corruption , if more proof were needed, comes from Heather Mallick's column in the Toronto Star, September 28. She writes about how banks pay massive fines as part of the price of doing business and then keep on doing whatever they want to. JPMorgan Chase, she writes, is negotiating the fine it will pay US regulators re mortgage -backed securities. The figure is around $11 billion, and comes after a $920 million fine last week for its London Whale loss. In Britain, the PPI (payment protection insurance) scandal has caused banks there to set aside sixteen million pounds (more than the cost of the London Olympics). Yet we are in the middle of austerity measures that seek to strip or modify every benefit the workers have gained for sixty years and health, education, and social programs are starved for money. Time to put this lot to bed! John Ayers.

It is a waste

Yet another report on unnecessary food waste. This time from India.

 40% of India’s fruits and vegetables and roughly 22% of wheat are lost annually due to poor cold storage facilities and infrastructural bottlenecks, according to a study done by a UK-based institute. 1.2-2 billion tonne of food items, or 30-50% of total production, is lost each year. Losses of rice in South-east Asian nations can range from 37% to 80% of production, depending on the stage of development, totalling around 180 million tonne a year, the report also said. About 550 billion cubic meters of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer

‘‘This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as the nearly one billion people in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food,’’ said Tim Fox, the head of energy and environment at the Institution of M…

Food Banks Return

We all see the TV adverts from the Red Cross, UNICEF and Oxfam for donations to aid the starving in third world countries but what we do not expect to see are calls for aid and donations by Scottish based charities and organisations to help the poverty stricken and starving in Scotland. We live in a country that is supposed to be part of a developed nation yet it is cutting benefits alongside price hikes by energy companies.

Food banks are returning to Scotland’s streets. Not to feed the homeless and
those sleeping on the streets, but families who cannot put food on the table because they choose to heat their home rather than freeze.

According to Margaret Lynch, chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, she said: “The reason for the rise in food bank cases is that household incomes are not keeping up with the cost of living. Half of those who use food banks are actually working, but their wages are too low to sustain them. The other half are people on benefits, whose low incomes ha…

"Its Human Nature..."

It is claimed that socialists are unrealistic who hold fantasies and dreams that things will change overnight, imagining people work together for the common good without being forced to by the carrot or the stick.  The most common claim is that a socialist society founded on equality and, cooperation is contrary to human nature and people are greedy. If you look at society today then the argument seems justified. Many people do see life as a rat-race in which the key thing is to take what you can for yourself, regardless of others.

It is curious that this claim is usually made by those who also insist that "everybody is different”. The fact is that all human nature is determined by conditions of life, education and experience.  It may seem that the. only human nature in present society is capitalist,  but that is because the capitalists  impose their views upon everybody. Often the theory of human nature is one spread by the capitalists to make the working class cynical about so…

The Unwanted People

"I never ever realised how much hatred there is towards me." - Noah

Katharine Quarmby’s book “No Place To Call Home” shows so clearly that there is a long and horrible history of hatred towards Gypsies and Travellers, from medieval days when they were killed, enslaved and branded in Britain to the slaughter of perhaps half of Europe's Roma in the Holocaust.

In Britain, they are our most excluded group. Gypsies and Travellers are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to education, health and housing, with lower life expectancy exacerbated by living on polluted sites.  Women die 12 years before the national average, while children are at higher risk of dying in infancy and adults more likely to kill themselves.  Travelling people are frequently victims of abuse and violence that they do not bother reporting. "Gypsies and Travellers are often victims, not perpetrators, of crime," Quarmby writes.

 She tells the story of one boy taken by officials from his family&…

Food for thought

It's nearly fifty years since Ralph Nader wrote his sensational book, "Unsafe At Any Speed", his expose of the auto industry and their ignoring of car safety in return for sales – hence profits. Recently, his autobiography, "Told You So", was published and it shows Nader has changed little over the years. To some he may seem uncorrupted (he refused the services of a prostitute hired by General Motors to way(lay) him, he doesn't own a car (too unsafe) or real estate, and lives on $25,000 a year. Nader has campaigned for anti-pollution laws, founded several public interest research groups, made public a forgotten study on the appalling conditions in the meat processing plants, founded a national anti-nuclear umbrella group, put all his income into his advocacy groups, campaigned for health care, attacked corporate crime, attacked NAFTA and the decline of democracy, and the list goes on. It's easy enough to say we need people like …

No Remedy except Revolution

At the present time, the spokesmen for the ruling class are making an all-out effort to convince us that there is a “recovery” taking place. With the current economic crisis capitalism cracked across the world they are crying for a return to normalcy, and normalcy to them means the former golden age of unlimited exploitation and oppression of labour. They believe they can turn back time. They do not perceive that they are creating new antagonism and bitterness and preparing the ground for renewed and intensified working class revolts against their despotic misrule. There can be no return to capitalist normalcy. The profitability of capital must be restored before the accumulation process can be resumed.

The struggle between labour and capital involves the system’s very existence, bound as it is to its continuous expansion. Objectively, the ordinary economic struggle takes on revolutionary implications and thus, political forms, because one class can only succeed at the expense of the…

Food for thought

Economic advisor to the Indian government, Jayati Ghost, recently co-authored a book titled, "Economic Reform Now: A Global Manifesto to Rescue our Sinking Economies." As Ghost points out, " China is suffering from a banking crisis and in India the situation is even more dramatic. Economic growth has almost halved and panicking investors are abandoning the rupee. Is the Asian era over before it has even begun?" – No comment needed. John Ayers.

Clear thinking brings clear action

The Socialist Party of Great Britain wants to make the revolution as soon as possible. When we speak of revolution, we speak of the capture of power by the working class itself. Many who call themselves socialists urge the formation of a “revolutionary party” but such a party cannot be revolutionary. The “revolutionary party” is based on the idea that the working class needs a new group of leaders who vanquish the capitalist class for the workers and construct a new government. According to this theory, the leaders will build a workers’ state and create the socialist society by means of decrees; in other words, the working class is still incapable of administering and organising for itself its work and production. The working class are not deemed capable of revolution, so it is necessary that the revolutionary vanguard, the party, make the revolution for it. From experience of history and the failure of past “revolutionary parties”. These often well-meaning activists merely conclude …

The Power of Capital

The lesson on the power of the capitalist has been re-learned at Grangemouth.

Unite's general secretary Len McCluskey said shop stewards had decided to accept the company's survival plan "warts and all" in the wake of the closure decision. That included a pay freeze, ending of a final salary pension scheme and other changes to terms and conditions which had initially been rejected by staff in a union vote.

Workers who struggle to maintain and better their conditions should be commended, but until the working class consciously and politically organise to end the wages system the same battles will have to be fought over and over again. The bitter experience of the Ineos workers may lead some of them to question the basis of capitalist society, but from start to finish all this struggle was attempting was to get the best from a bad situation. Workers are learning by bitter experience. They are learning very slowly. Our job is to shorten the time and try to speed up the…

Food for thought

High in the Himalayas is the kingdom of Bhutan, the prototype of the mythical Shangri-la, a country, due to its isolation, was free from the turmoil and strife that beset the rest of the world. It survived for centuries without paved roads and electricity and with barter for currency. It wasn't enough for Bhutan's king to leave well enough alone – in the early sixties he decided to bring his happy land into the modern world. By 1999, it was decided that Bhutan needed something they never had before, a psychiatrist! Since then, Dr. Chenco Dorji has treated more than 5,300 depressed, anxious, psychotic, alcoholic, and drug-addled Bhutanese. Welcome to the modern world! Welcome to capitalism! John Ayers.

Socialism is what?

What is socialism must be the query each of our readers must ponder over. There is a tendency to confuse socialism with reform of one sort or another, to make it respectable and palatable. The Socialist Party draws the clear line between socialism and reform and revolution. Socialism means but one thing, and that is the abolition of capital and the turning over of production to the control of the workers and community.   Anything else is not socialism, and has no right to use that term. Socialism is not the reduction of the working-week nor the enforcement of minimum or living wage. None of these, nor all of them together, are socialism. They might all be done by the government tomorrow, and still we would not be any closer towards socialism. They are merely reforms of the present system, mere patching-up. Socialism is the common ownership of the means of production and distribution. While not opposing any reforms or improvements which may be secured under capitalism, the Socialist P…

Food for thought

On September 3, The Toronto Daily Star reported that 100,000 kilograms of dead fish have been scooped up from China's Fuhe River. The Hubei province's Environmental Department blamed the Hubei Shuanghuan Science & Technology Company. Officials said that a sampling of its drain outlet showed an ammonia density that far exceeded the national standard. Other incidents this year involving dead animals in rivers have added to public disgust and there are suspicions about the safety of drinking water. It is well known that, as China grows economically, inadequate controls on industry and lax enforcement of existing laws have worsened China's pollution problem. If this is the price we pay for capitalist development, then let's stop paying for it and opt for socialism. John Ayers

Ineos Closes Grangemouth

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith today called for the closure of the Grangemouth refinery to be treated as a similar economic emergency to the Royal Bank of Scotland collapse. Downing Street, however, has indicated there will be no bail-out for Grangemouth. Scotland’s biggest industrial plant  is worth about £1 billion to the Scottish economy. One member of staff claimed that Grangemouth Petrochemicals chairman Calum Maclean had been "smiling" when he made the closure announcement.

Smith said: “As many have noted over the recent period, the Grangemouth complex is too important to the Scottish economy to be closed on the vindictive whim of an unaccountable billionaire. When the stability of the economy was threatened by the failure of RBS and HBOS, government was quick to act. Now when the stability of the Scottish economy is threatened by the industrial blackmail tactics of INEOS, government must again find the will to act.”

The local Labour MP for Linlithgow and Falkirk…

What is Socialism?

Definitions matter because imprecision leads to carelessness when clarity is necessary. The term “socialism” has been bandied about by all and sundry, to the point of risking losing its sting, its cutting edge, and becoming instead the catch-all for every social movements or the  political gymnastics antics of individuals claiming to be socialists. To use the term without explanation is to get one’s self and one’s cause seriously misunderstood. The word socialism dates from the early decades of the nineteenth century and was first used by Robert Owen but socialism is not the product of the isolated thinking of an individual.  Rather it is the product of many thinkers and activists.

Socialism is not a reform, it is a revolution. Socialists do not merely wish to patch up the present system and keep it. Old political parties, and new ones that are  springing up everyday advocate reform measures. The Socialist Party of Great Britain are not “reformers” — we are “revolutionists.” By revol…