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Showing posts from February, 2014

Who Owns the South Pole - Polarisation

Antarctica and the Arctic are the focus of global hunger for untapped resources. As the Antarctic Treaty has grown in recent decades, some nations eager to join it and build bases in Antarctica appear to have long-term interest in the continent's mineral and energy resources.  The southern continent has been governed since 1961 by the Antarctic Treaty, a creation of the cold war, intended to prevent US-Soviet tensions from spilling into the region. The treaty enforces environmental regulations, allows nations to inspect each other's bases, and requires sharing of scientific data. It started with 12 nations, but now includes 28. Seven nations claim sovereignty rights to parts of Antactica.  Just as people playing the board game Monopoly profit by building a house on Park Place or Boardwalk, countries building a station and conducting research in Antarctica can obtain treaty membership and influence. Conditions in Antarctica will be tough, but rising commodity prices and improv…

A tragedy was always around the corner

For those people who think that third world, nineteenth century factory conditions of work can never come back to the 'First' world, the New York Times reported (15/12.13) a garment factory fire in Prato, Italy. The building did not have emergency exits and windows were barred. The fire was likely caused by a camp stove used for preparing meals. Seven Chinese workers died in the blaze. This low-cost business model has developed over the last twenty years. Officials said that a tragedy was always around the corner but were apparently powerless to do anything about it. So much for government of and by the people. John Ayers

Point of View!

The December issue of The Socialist Standard, the journal of our Companion party in the UK, included an article in which British comedian Russell Brand aired his views. Though he made some comments no socialist would disagree with, he showed his limitations by his comments on politicians, " They are all dishonest and self-serving…Like most people, I regard politicians as frauds and liars." Contrary to what Brand thinks, some are well meaning but, once elected, find themselves trying to administer a crazy and constricted system that forces them to do things they had no intention of doing (see the article under Wage Slave News on our web site re Mandela). In other words, it's the system that creates the conditions or man makes his own history but not under circumstances of his own choosing! John Ayers

Workers Unite

A 2011 census showed that 579,000 Poles were living in Britain, 10 times more than a decade earlier. In Poland, unemployment among the under 25s was a whopping 27.4 percent in December 2013 (and 30 percent for young women). Just imagine how much higher the figure would have been if young Poles had stayed in their country. In Hungary, 24.6 percent of people under 25 are unemployed, while in Bulgaria it’s 29.4 percent (and 33 percent for men under 25).This mass exodus from Eastern Europe is brought about by lack of employment opportunities.

Certain employers tolerate, encourage and take advantage of this influx of immigrants, not only for the purpose of filling a labour shortage but also to artificially increase the reserve army of labour, an army of vulnerable workers who are forced to work at substandard wages. The principal aim of permitting and fostering immigration under imperialism is to greatly increase competition among workers and keep downward pressure on wages.

If some peopl…

Another Useless Solution

All over the world homelessness is a prevailing problem, but in Florida they have come up with a "solution". 'Over the past decade, municipalities in Florida's Osceola County, just southeast of Orlando, have spent more than $5 million to repeatedly jail three dozen homeless people for quality-of-life offenses. Rather than major crimes like assault or burglary, nearly every one of these arrests were because of violations of local ordinances prohibiting activities that many homeless people do to survive, such as sleeping in public or panhandling.' (Think Progress, 5 February) Even from the standpoint of capitalism this seems financially crazy. From the standpoint of socialism it is socially crazy, as houses would be built for people to live in. RD

A Wasteful Society

At a time when many families are finding it difficult to feed their children the action of some supermarkets appears crazy. 'Last year Tesco threw away almost 30,000 tonnes of food in just six months, 41 per cent of it from the bakery. Across the UK an estimated 15 million tonnes are discarded a year, including by customers. Despite this many supermarkets are hitting back at skip-divers, the students said. Some pour bleach or blue dye on their products, while others slap "not for human consumption" stickers on them.' (Daily Mail, 8 February) Needless to say inside a socialist society food like everything else would be produced to satisfy human needs not to make a profit. RD

A socialist lesson from Kiev

The events of Ukraine may be far away from Glasgow and Edinburgh but the driving force of the conflict is very familiar.

 What is making people take one side or another and feel so passionately about it that they take to the streets in violent confrontations, is nationalism, that sense of identity based on “ethnicity” (and in Ukraine, language). Nationalism has made allies of people who we might have called "liberals" and people who we definitely call "fascists."

Nationalism is the idea that the most important thing about a person is his or her nationality When nationalism is strong, then people judge their politicians  by asking "Are they of the right nationality?" What this means is that leaders are not judged by asking, "What are their values?" or "Are they for equality or inequality" or even "Are they honest or corrupt?"

Evaluating politicians this way is a recipe for enabling leaders who are personally corrupt or who wa…

Kilmarnock Discussion Group

Kilmarnock Discussion Group  

 Thursday, 27 February 2014
 Thursday, 27 March 2014
 Thursday, 24 April 2014
 Thursday, 29 May 2014
 Thursday, 26 June 2014
 Thursday, 31 July 2014 -

7:00pm - 9:00pm
The Wheatsheaf Pub,
70 Portland Street,
 Kilmarnock KA1 1JG
(About three minutes walk from the rail station and five minutes from the bus station)

For more information contact: 
Paul Edwards.
Tel: 01563 541138

Orange Pith

From the August 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Orange Myths

It is Sunday 7 July. In Portadown this morning a riot took place and working people, including policemen, were hurt; some were arrested. Another battle  . . . another myth . . . another contribution to the bitterness and hatred that divide the working class in Northern Ireland.

The government and police and wanted to ban this morning's march through the exclusively Catholic Obins Street district. The marchers, Orangemen going to church accompanied by bands playing sectarian tunes and flaunting sectarian symbols, refused to obey the Government, the police and the law despite their vociferous protestations of loyalty to all three. The police - probably working on the assumption that they could cope more easily with the Catholics than they could with the loyalists - gave in and the march took place. The holy men of the Orange Order marched defiantly through Obins Street to communicate with their god.

The Orange Order in…

Sensitive Billionarses

A couple of recent newspaper reports illustrate that billionaires are getting upset with the rest of us. 'Billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell agreed with capital pioneer Tom Perkins that wealthy Americans are being unfairly criticized and said that the 1 per cent work harder.' (Chicago Tribune, 6 February) 'Tamara Ecclestone, the daughter of Bernie Ecclestone, the billionaire head of Formula One, has accused Britons of having a "vicious attitude" towards people born into wealth. ...... The celebrity heiress has starred in a reality television show, Billionaire $$ Girl, about her opulent lifestyle, and is known to have spent £30,000 on champagne in a single night and bought a £1 million crystal bathtub.' (Times, 25 February) As far as we can ascertain Tamara has never worked a day in her life, despite Zell's claim about billionaires working harder. RD

Down with the State

Societies without States have continued to exist down to our own times among the many of the indigenous peoples of the world. As soon as there are in a society a possessing class and a dispossessed class, there exists in that society a constant source of conflict which the social organization would not long resist, if there was not a power charged with maintaining the “established order,” charged, in other words, with the protection of the economic situation of the possessing party, and therefore with the duty of ensuring the submission of the dispossessed party. This from its very birth  has been the role of the State. The offspring of struggles or threats of struggles between conflicting interests. The State, for socialists, is not any neutral beneficial social organization whatsoever. It is the public power of coercion created and maintained in human societies by their division into classes, and which, having force at its disposal, makes laws.  The State, having been created by th…

The Great Divide

From the April 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard an article from an Edinburgh branch member

The "North-South divide" has become part of political rhetoric. The government recently issued figures which showed that of the jobs lost in recent years, 94 per cent were in the north of the country and only 6 per cent in the south, thereby seeming to provide still more evidence of a division between North and South. In fact the "north" now includes almost anywhere outside the south-east of England as the Midlands have also suffered massive job losses. Predictably, the opposition parties have blamed this on the government's mismanagement of the economy. Roy Hattersley, Labour's deputy leader and shadow chancellor, said the government had "scandalously neglected those areas of the economy with which it does not feel any emotional sympathy and deep political interest" (Independent, January 21). He accused them of favouring city and financial interests in …

Food For Thought

A horrifying article in the Toronto Star of December 28 focused on the mutilation and sale of albinos' body parts in Tanzania, "In Tanzania's black market, black magic is for sale. Witch doctors offer bits of albinos' bodies; arms, legs, hair, genitals, and blood. They are used for potions that the sellers promise will bestow health, wealth, and happiness." It is shocking that in today's world where so much knowledge is available that such incredible superstition exists – an incentive to work for truth and scientific knowledge for the whole world in a socialist society. John Ayers

Helping The Poor?

At first it sounds reassuring. 'Pope Francis on Monday revolutionized the Vatican's scandal-plagued finances, inviting outside experts into a world often seen as murky and secretive and saying the church must use its wealth to help the poor.' (New York Times, 24 February) A department known as the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which manages financial holdings and real estate, will formally assume the role of the Vatican's central bank the statement said. The role and structure of the separate Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), will not change for the time being. Both the IOR and APSA have been at the centre of scandals. Italian magistrates are investigating the IOR on allegations of money laundering. Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, who worked as a senior accountant at APSA for 22 years and who had close ties to the IOR, is currently on trial accused of plotting to smuggle millions …

For World Socialism

We have managed to create a new world full of technological wonders and a potential for a bountiful abundance for all, but we still run it the old way - the capitalist way.  Governments cannot fix the problems. The remedies will require a massive and new degree of cooperation. That, in turn, requires not just information networks, but basic changes in human behaviour such as our overly-attachment to nations and our approach to politics.

Capitalists are not interested in production to benefit the peoples of the world. They are interested only in profits. If the productive forces in the world were to be used for the purposes of construction, the entire planet could be transformed and the standards of living and level of culture raised to undreamed of heights. This is not possible under capitalism. It is not profitable to feed the starving people. Only the unity of the workers and a socialist world can produce that “One World” which can abolish want and oppression and war. Only a social…

Rape Insurance!

In March a new law will take effect in Michigan that has been called Rape Insurance! It will force women covered by public or private health plans to pay extra for fear they may suffer an unintended pregnancy, including one that threatens their lives and well-being. This is the latest move by the Michigan's House and Senate to restrict abortion for poor women, whereas rich women do not need insurance plans. This bill is hardly the most democratic one considering only one third of voters support it. Senate minority leader, Gretchen Whitmer, " Requiring Michigan women to plan ahead for an unplanned pregnancy is not only illogical (there's that word again!), it is one of the most mysogynistic proposals I've seen in the legislature." Two aspects of this are crystal clear, life for the poor gets harder everyday and life under capitalism gets crazier.John Ayers

Capitalism or Socialism

The world in which we live is in a desperate situation. Poverty and unemployment, disease and war, are endemic in the modern world. Industrialisation have wreaked havoc on the environment. People starve, not because there is no food, but because food is distributed only when it can make a profit. Corruption is rife in politics and commerce. Work, for most people, means drudgery. A sense of community in our world is increasingly missing in our daily lives. The answer lies in ending the separation of economics and politics. It involves people taking control of their workplaces, their neighbourhoods, their communities – directly and without mediators. Without bureaucrats, capitalists and managers standing in the way, it should be possible to build a sense of community, of unity, of cooperation. Either we do this or we will destroy ourselves.

The class struggle is simple to understand. A handful of industrial and financier capitalists who are in control of the factories, the banks, the n…

more food for thought

Here is how logic works in capitalism. The Toronto Star wrote that the state of Florida is set to boom as its population will very soon overtake that of New York State with its attendant increase in economic expansion without thought. Florida's prime source of water comes from the Florida Aquifer that is replenished by rainwater soaking into the ground. The more you pave over driveways, parking lots, and other structures, the less water seepage you get. Logical, eh? Can you predict the result? Capital cannot! John Ayers

Food for thought

On December 26, scientists announced that eighteen million tons of methane gas had been discovered near the Siberian arctic coast that, owing to global warming, was being leaked into the atmosphere. What will be done? Nothing! Why? Because global warming is a direct result of capitalism's mad dash for profits at any cost. Isn't it logical to stop harmful activities?  Yes, but logic and capitalism are not compatible. The only real logic is to organize and stop capitalism. John Ayers

Marx and the Soviet State

Marx and Engels never believed that their millennium could be brought about on earth by the will of the few and imposed on man generally. The society they envisaged must result from a ‘natural evolution’ and their theory only showed men how to behave, how to recognise favourable conditions – that is, if the material basis on which such a society is possible exists – and eventually how to act so as to hasten its advent in such circumstances. This they called  the materialist conception of history. The ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. More than this Marx never asserted.

The Leninists, Maoists and Trotskyists call themselves Marxists and of course proclaim their theory to be true communism. In reality, however, it has nothing to do with Marx. In their form of society, the producers have no control or administrative power whatever over production, so that the picture thereby painted represents a strange version indeed of Marx'…

A Couldn't Care Less Society

Everyone agrees that being a carer is probably the most humane action that anyone can perform, but as we live in capitalism it can turn out to be the most costly. 'Almost half of carers in Northern Ireland are indebted and struggle to pay household bills, new research has claimed. The financial straits endured by many of those who have been forced to give up or cut back on work to look after an older, disabled or seriously ill loved one have been revealed in the year-long study by charity Carers Northern Ireland.' (Belfast Telegraph, 4 February) The charity's research found that amongst other horrors that more than four in 10 carers (42%) were unable to afford utility bills. Almost half (46%) were in debt as a result of caring. One in seven adults in Northern Ireland said their work was negatively affected by caring. 11% of adults in Northern Ireland, 151,811 people, had given up work to care at some point. The fate of carers in Northern Ireland is…

The National Ill-Health Service

From time to time the media and politicians like to brag about how Britain's NHS is superior to other countries but they ignore the fact that leading doctors have raised fears that high numbers of patients are dying  while waiting for heart surgery in Wales.  'The Royal College of Surgeons wrote to healthcare inspectors last year warning   of "grave concerns" that too many people were dying in the south of the   country because of long waits for heart surgery.  The letter, seen by The Daily Telegraph, calls for swift action to tackle "unacceptably high mortality" levels and highlights more than 150 cases in which patients died waiting for life-saving treatment.' (Daily Telegraph, 20 February) Needless to say all those 150 deaths were of workers. If you could afford it you would get the best of health treatment without recourse to the NHS. RD

Break the Chains

The history of society (since classes first developed in ancient times) is the history of class struggle. The continuing development of society from a lower level to a qualitatively higher one has been accomplished throughout history by the overthrow of one class by another which represents a more advanced form of organization of production and society as a whole. Thousands of years ago, when the development of the productive forces first made possible the accumulation of a surplus above what people needed to live, and the accumulation of privately owned means of production, the slave-owning class arose and established the slave system. As the productive forces developed, the feudal aristocratic landlord class arose within the slave system, finally overthrew the slave system and established the feudal system. With the further development of the productive forces, the capitalist class arose within the feudal system, finally overthrew the feudal system and established the capitalist sy…

The Rich get Richer

The notion much beloved of politicians that despite the recent recession "we are all in this together" seems a bit thin on the publication of the following figures. 'The richest 100 people in Britain saw their fortunes grow by 11 per cent last year, making their combined wealth equivalent to the poorest 30 per cent of the UK, according to a new report. Research by pressure group the Equality Trust claims that the combined wealth of the top 100 rose by £25 billion to £257 billion last year. Meanwhile the poorest 30 per cent of UK households have a combined wealth of £255 billion.' (Daily Express, 19 February) Of course this imbalance of wealth is not peculiar to Britain as Oxfam recently published a report which claimed the 85 richest people on the planet have as much wealth as half of the world's population. RD

A Madhouse Society

Capitalism is an insane society but it is doubtful if there is a more  obvious example of its insanity than the so-called housing problem.  Desperate families are reduced to living in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation as they attempt to get a council flat or scrape up enough for a deposit on a house. Meanwhile this farce is enacted.  'A third of the mansions on the most expensive stretch of London's "Billionaires Row" are standing empty, including several huge houses that have fallen into ruin after standing almost completely vacant for a quarter of a century. A Guardian investigation has revealed  there are an estimated £350m worth of vacant properties on the most prestigious stretch of The Bishops Avenue in north London, which last year was ranked as the second most expensive street in Britain.'  (Guardian, 31 January)  Inside a socialist society houses will be built for people to live in not to be bought and sold to make a pro…

Quote of the Day

It is not often that the Socialist Courier blog will quote a member of the old Communist Party polit-buro but when he talks as a trade-unionist then his views are worth repeating

In 1968, the late Mick McGahey, president of the National Union of Mineworkers in Scotland, attacked nationalism, an increasingly prominent force in Scottish politics, as a bourgeois deviation from the class struggle:-
 “[The Scots are] entitled to decide the form and power of their own institutions,” he said at a specially convened trade union conference on devolution. “But Scottish workers have more in common with London dockers, Durham miners and Sheffield engineers than they have ever had with Scottish barons and landlord traitors.”

Fact of the Day

More than 50,000 families are living below the poverty line in Edinburgh, Scotland's most affluent city. Edinburgh is exposed as "a city divided" in a report that shows that despite average incomes being 9% above the rest of Scotland, one in five households is living below the poverty threshold.

The poverty line is measured at £125 per week if people are single, £258 if they are a single parent family and £349 for a couple with two children.

Where there is oppression, there is resistance.

Humanity’s resources are wasted in senseless adventures while people’s basic needs remain unsatisfied, land is spoiled, misery increases, and poverty spreads. The gap between rich countries and poor ones, far from diminishing, is increasing. There is an increasingly evident imbalance between humanity’s capacity for progress and the wretched reality that hundreds of millions of people must live under daily. In many countries, hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and all kinds of degradations make the lives of hundreds of millions of men, women, and children scarcely tolerable. Every year millions of  people starve to death.

Why do we put up with it?  Who is responsible? How can things be changed? Some teach that it is because of the laws of nature while others preach that it is because of divine laws. These are the explanations of those who profit from this misery and whose power depends on maintaining the present conditions.  Reality shows  despite diversity in political regimes, in language…