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Showing posts from July, 2014

A Suicidal Society

In its unrelenting search for ways to cut welfare spending the NHS is an easy target as reports of poor mental health care show. Family doctors have warned of the deteriorating state of mental healthcare in England, after a survey revealed that one in five had seen a patient come to harm because they could not get specialist help. 'GPs reported that some patients had committed suicide or been sectioned because of a lack of available community mental health services. More than eight in 10 GPs now believe that their local mental health teams cannot cope with caseloads, and nearly half said that the situation in their area had got even worse in the past 12 months.' (Independent, 31 July) RD

Capitalism Distorts Democracy

The United States of America never tires of telling the rest of the world what a perfect example of democracy the USA is, but the influence of corporate big business exposes that claim as nonsense.  An explosion of spending on political advertising on television - set to break $2 billion in congressional races, with overall spots up nearly 70 per cent since the 2010 midterm election - is accelerating the rise of moneyed interests and wresting control from the candidates' own efforts to reach voters. 'The top three outside groups alone - Americans for Prosperity, Senate Majority PAC, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - have already spent a combined more than $80 million in congressional races. Americans for Prosperity, backed by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, has spent $44 million on House and Senate races. Senate Majority PAC, which supports Democratic Senate candidates, has spent more than $22 million on Senate races, and …

The Breadline Beckons

The scale of the pensions disaster is underlined in a survey which shows the average retiree will be living off just £15.95 a day in future. Just a quarter of people are saving enough for a "comfortable" retirement without work, it shows. 'The research, from financial services company True Potential, warns millions may never be able to give up employment if they do not want to live on the breadline. It found a toxic mix of high inflation, government cuts and low interest rates will also hit pensioners. True Potential's David Harrison said: "It is not a gap, but a chasm. Without an enormous change in behaviour, it will be simply impossible for millions of people to retire well into old-age. Indeed, many millions may never be able to retire".' (Daily Express, 28 July) So much then for many workers dream of a contented retirement - the breadline beckons! RD

End Capitalism - End War

Contrary to popular misconceptions, in the beginning of human society war was generally unknown. Life was too precarious, the means of subsistence too difficult to obtain, and the instruments at hand too puny for war possibly to have been carried on to any considerable degree. Militarism means masses. War is an act of society.

The  aim of pacifism is to bring about a state of affairs in which war will not exist. Pacifism would be satisfied where it would no longer be possible to compel a human being to kill or to be killed. The goal of pacifism is a warless society, but under exactly the same form of production,  as at present. The goal of socialism is the socialist society, that is, a society without exploitation, the society in which the demand for the complete abolition of private property in the means of production will be realised. Not only is pacifism powerless to prevent war it can actually facilitate war, harsh as this may seem to pacifists themselves, many of whom are person…

The Not So Great War

With the 100th anniversary of the day the first world war began, it is sobering to look back at the way that conflict was so badly reported. The catalogue of journalistic misdeeds is a matter of record: the willingness to publish propaganda as fact, the apparently tame acceptance of censorship and the failure to hold power to account. 'But a sweeping condemnation of the press coverage is unjust because journalists, as ever, were prevented from informing the public by three powerful forces - the government, the military and their own proprietors. It is undeniable that newspapers began by demonising the German enemy. They published fabricated stories of German barbarism, which were accepted as fact.' (Guardian, 27 July) It has taken 100 years for British newspapers to come clean about their misreporting so how much of that still goes on today? RD

A Sick Society

Capitalism is a completely inadequate society when it comes to dealing with social problems. From world hunger amidst a potential abundance to military violence both local and world-wide - the list goes on and on. Although the following might not seem as pressing as some of the more dramatic problems the following can prove fatal for many workers. 'One in nine people trying to see a GP cannot get an appointment, with doctors turning away their patients more than 40 million times this year.  Doctors' leaders said that the figures were a "shocking indictment" of a  failing system and warned that the early signs of cancer and other deadly  diseases could be missed when patients were shut out of surgeries.' (Times, 28 July) RD

Neither Separatism or Unionism

Down through the ages mankind has been fired with the great vision of a world free of war and strife, without national rivalries, without racial and religious strife. The ideal of the “Brotherhood of Man” has inspired all the struggles against inequality and oppression. As Burns wrote:
For a' that, an' a' that, 
It's coming yet for a' that, 
That Man to Man, the world o'er, 
Shall brothers be for a' that.

The common interests of wage workers transcends all national boundaries and differences. Our aim is the emancipation of all humanity from exploitation and oppression or as the Communist Manifesto puts it:
“in place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

The capitalists have their own type of internationalism, they have a kind of "solidarity" among the capitalists of the world, with their network of inte…

Another NHS Scandal

There was an inquiry into a scandal at the Stafford Hospital where there was thought to have been 400 - 1,2000 avoidable deaths between 2005 and 2009, but patient mistreatment continues in the NHS. In a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing about The  Ridgewood Centre in Surrey it was revealed that elderly dementia patients were "scalded" by their own urine after being left in their beds for days. 'The case comes amid mounting concern at the number of complaints about the treatment of elderly patients, including those with dementia and other mental health conditions, which have risen from 3,118 in 2011-12 to 3,701 last year.' (Sunday Times, 27 July) This treatment is reserved for the working class - the owning class can afford much better. RD

The Stupidity Of Leadership

The working class are brought up to believe in leadership and encouraged to imagine that in a complicated society like capitalism it is best to leave decisions to the intellectually superior minds of politicians and statesmen. The madness of that notion was well illustrated by a recent news item. 'The sick should turn to astrology for answers, a Tory MP has declared. David Tredinnick said astrology had a proven track at helping people recover from illness and should be incorporated into standard medical treatments. The MP for Bosworth in Leicestershire also admitted he had prepared astrological charts for fellow MPs - but refused to say who.' (Daily Mail, 26 July) Tredinnick is a member of two influential Commons committees, the health and science and technology committees, but it would be interesting to know if he suffers from some ill-health in the future whether he will consult an hospital or just look up his astrology chart. RD

Their World Or Ours?

The paper, “Policy Challenges for the Next 50 Years,” published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,  (OECD), a club of the the world’s most developed countries along with a few large developing countries, can be considered as an authoritative representation of elite thinking.

Economic stagnation is forecast. World economic growth, from an overall 3.6 percent (but only 1.2 percent for OECD countries) in the 2010-2020 decade to 2.4 percent (0.5 percent for OECD countries) in the 2050-2060 decade. The implications mean more unemployment and more inequality because capitalism is a system that requires growth. A system based on endless growth can’t function without it — slow growth (worse still,  no growth) means misery for working people as the recent years of so-called “recovery” from the 2008 economic collapse has demonstrated.

Among the remedies prescribed by the OECD:
“Worker mobility (e.g. pension portability” which is code for privatizing public-retirement…

The Class Divide

A walk through the streets of a town like Calcutta is enough to convince you of the appalling poverty suffered by India's working class. You can witness homeless families living a hand-to -mouth existence in the streets.  There is another side to India though - the immense wealth enjoyed by the capitalist class. 'India's super-rich have long raised eyebrows around the world with their spectacular spending. Mukesh Ambani, the country's wealthiest man, has built the world's most valuable home in Mumbai, the commercial capital. The 27-storey tower, complete with helicopter pads, indoor cinemas and a staff of more than 600, is worth an estimated $1bn (£500m).' (Guardian, 24 July) Nor is Ambani a unique specimen of India's wealthy.There are now nearly a sixth more Indians worth in excess of $3.75m (£2.2m) than just one year ago, according to a report from the Kotak Mahindra bank. RD

Inherited Wealth

The notion that capitalism rewards the owning class because of their drive and devotion to business is a complete fraud. Robert Reich Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley exploded that myth in his recent blog. 'The "self-made" man or woman, the symbol of American meritocracy, is disappearing. Six of today's ten wealthiest Americans are heirs to prominent fortunes. Just six Walmart heirs have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined (up from 30 per cent in 2007).' (Robert Reich blog, 15 July) Reich was Secretary of Labour in the Clinton administration and  Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century, so he has a good grasp of how capitalism operates. RD

Time to reboot the world

Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What awaits us? Many feel confused in a state of anxiety and fear. World history shows that we live in a situation where devastating wars, exploitation and oppression of peoples have become a permanent fact of life. 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. In our world, injustice and the denial of the most elementary rights have become common practice. More and more peoples are under the iron heel of military regimes and police states. Billions of dollars are spent to perfect methods of surveillance, repression and torture. 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. In this capitalist world the normal condition …

A Broken Reid

The late Jimmy Reid was a man of many worthy attributes. Who can forget his demolition job of the smug Kenneth Williams on the Michael Parkinson talk-show. After his Jimmy Reid’s death, a left-wing reformist think-tank was set up, naming itself in his honour, the Jimmy Reid Foundation which spawned the campaign Common Weal. The Socialist Party judges a person’s political credentials, not his personal character and The Socialist Standard painted a less than flattering portrait of Jimmy Reid. 

From the April 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

After twenty-five years Mr. Jimmy Reid, the doyen of Left Clydeside, has left the Communist Party where he was an Executive Committee member. His reasons for leaving the Party are obscure, as this institution of meddle and muddle has not altered either in its reformist leadership case, or in its slavish acquiescence to the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. (How could it, when the Morning Star, the Party organ, depends on Russian finance? Russia,…

The Capitalist Con

Capitalism is a system of economy where exists the anarchy of the market, capital, money, credit, etc., where social and political inequality is guaranteed by the capitalist state. This system is the fundamental basis of the maintenance of rule by the capitalist class, and the oppression of the working class. Capitalism is inseparable from the exploitation. It is a vicious system geared to buttressing the strong against the weak, to serving the handful of capitalists against the millions of workers, and to keeping many millions in poverty so that a few may prosper. Capitalism worships property and degrades life. It is at the root of the racialism and nationalism that poisons society and divides worker from worker. It is a system of massive waste and social disorder. It forces the working class to fight every inch of the way to better or even maintain its wages and conditions. The criteria of all capitalist enterprise is—does it make a profit? When it ceases to make a profit it goes b…

Zero Hours

Thousands of working Scots are on the edge of poverty because of the abuse of zero-hours contracts by some employers, according to Citizens Advice Scotland. The employment agreements enable businesses to vary the amount of hours a person works, week by week, and the system is meant to allow flexibility for both employers and workers.

Citizens Advice Scotland discovered some workers have gone for long periods with only a few hours in their jobs, or none at all, and therefore little or no pay. In a few cases bosses had drastically cut an employee's hours in what seemed like an effort to force them to resign. Citizens Advice Scotland also found some employers don't tell their staff the job is a zero-hours contract when they are taken on.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were more than 1.4 million zero-hour contracts across the UK in late 2013.

A Corrupt Society

All their life workers are taught at school, in newspapers, in cinema and TV dramas what a wonderful job the British police do in combating crime, but all of that is just another fantasy of capitalism. 'The family of the Brazilian mistakenly shot dead by anti-terror police were allegedly spied on by undercover Scotland Yard officers. Members of the Special Demonstrations Squad (SDS) gathered information on relatives who were campaigning for justice following the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, 27. His family are reported to be among at least 12 spied on by officers from the now defunct unit.' (Daily Mail, 23 July) Far from the fairy tales of Dixon of Dock Green, Inspector Morse or Midsomer Murders the police are just another institution corrupted by capitalism. RD

Crime And Capitalism

Capitalism is a violent society with military conflicts existing all over the world, but even in non-military situations it is a society fraught with murderous violence. 'Two federal agencies, the FBI and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, only recently announced plans to send additional manpower to Chicago to assist its police department over the remainder of the summer in the wake of the 4 July weekend which saw a shocking spike in shootings. In a four-day period, 82 people were shot across the Windy City, with 17 killed.' (Independent, 21 July) Even in a weekend supposedly set aside to celebrate the land of the free and the mother of the brave, workers are so infected with notions of rivalry and violence 17 of them die with gun-shot wounds. RD

Poverty Amidst Plenty

The following newspaper description of the desperate plight of the homeless in a shanty town would appear to be one about India or Africa but it  isn't. A rake-thin old man dressed in rags and without shoes staggers up a dirt track. Around him, people are living in tree-houses and caves. 'This is Silicon Valley - home to the digital revolution and one of the most celebrated sites of wealth creation the world has ever known. .... As many as 350 people live here, hidden from the surrounding streets, on the banks of a polluted, sunken creek - only 12 miles from the headquarters of Apple.' (Times, 21 July) Some of the inhabitants have excavated holes in the earth about 15 feet deep, 15 feet wide and 30 feet long. They sling tarpaulins and pieces of scrap-wood over the top. In effect they live underground - like modern-day troglodytes. These people are not living the American Dream they are experiencing the American Nightmare. RD

We Are The People !!

Billions live in dire poverty amid unimaginable wealth, and we hurtle relentlessly towards environmental catastrophe.  We see capitalism as a destructive system that hurts, divides and exploits the vast majority of our people for the sake of profits and power for the few.

There is no shortage of  ready-made blueprints for a fairer society. However, socialism is not something which can be decreed into being by political parties or individuals but must be created by the mass participation of workers ourselves. Many people may think that socialism sounds like a good idea but doubt it would work in practice. However first it is worth asking "does capitalism work?". We believe there is ample evidence that a socialist society would function far better than our current capitalist one for the vast majority of people.

When we speak of socialism we are talk of a way of organising society based on the principle of “from each according to ability, to each according to need”, and second…

A New Politics is Needed

The capitalist class have no thought for the future; with eyes only for immediate plunder and with their dreams of avarice they plunged into the gamble of casino capitalism. They build up recklessly and without plan. They always assume that their winnings will continue for ever. Any attempt to organise the growing productive power to meet human needs is a question which does not even enter into their heads; it cannot arise within the conditions of capitalism.

Millions seek employment in vain, and have to struggle to exist on a grudged and bare subsistence rate of the minimum wage. The wages of the other workers who are still able to keep their jobs are cut and cut again; exploitation is increased. The parasitic burdens of capitalism grow ever greater. The attacks of capitalism, to maintain its profits, grow ever more sweeping and ferocious, ranging over every field, against both employed and unemployed, against working conditions and social services, for new forms of intensified labo…

The Scottish Police State

Police in Scotland carry out nine times as many ‘stop and searches’ as New York police. The comparison between the Scottish and New York forces was left out of the Scottish Police Authority’s final report as it was deemed irrelevant. The Scottish police also conducted three times as many searches per 10,000 people as London police.

The figures show a 400 percent rise in searches in some parts of the country, including Fife, since the creation of the single national force in April 2013, and a spike in the number of children under the age of criminality being search illegally.

Should the future have a name?

The path to socialism is long. The task is to develop a new politics. For the up-coming generation there will be a vastly expanded terrain of initiatives to be active upon. We must construct an authentic socialist strategy, to be seen as  realistic in its objective, the transformation of capitalism into a classless society. To begin with the ends is the proper starting point for a socialism of our times. Our purpose in the Socialist Party is to sketch the reality of our goal and vision in its general characteristics. To transform capitalism, we must transform its representation of the world.The socialist perspective is no longer to be treated as an ideal for the future, but very resolutely refers to the everyday. We must dream, not in the manner of losing ourselves in fantasy, but in the way that prepares us to picture our goal, what Marx describes in the Manifesto the "real movement that supersedes the current state of things".

The terms socialism and communism  implies so…

Mucky coal and electric

Longannet power station has been named as one of the top 30 polluting power plants in the EU,  ranked 21st on the list. Longannet is the second largest coal power station in the UK, and the third largest in Europe.

The report shows the top 30 polluting power plants in the EU, ranked according to their total carbon dioxide emissions in 2013.

The UK and Germany came joint first, with nine of the dirtiest coal plants each. The nine UK power stations produced just under a third of the UK's electricity supply last year but were responsible for nearly two thirds of carbon emissions from the power sector. The UK's coal plants produce air pollution in the form of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, particulates and mercury, which have significant negative impacts on human health and the environment. Air pollution caused by UK coal power stations is estimated to be responsible for 1,600 deaths per annum in the UK.

A Billionaire's Plan

It is always interesting to hear what our masters think we should be doing in the workplace. When that particular member of the owning class happens to be "worth" over $75 billion his views are worth noting. 'Mexican billionaire tycoon, Carlos Slim, has called for the introduction of a three-day working week, offset by longer hours and a later retirement, as a way to improve people's quality of life and create a more productive labour force. ........ He said current retirement ages come from a time of lower life expectancies, and should rise to 70 or 75.' (Guardian, 21 July) Owning a mere $75 billion you can understand why he wants "a more productive labour force" and having you toil until you are 75 years of age must seem reasonable to him. RD

Karl's Quotes

Marx described the process of globalization of production one hundred and fifty years ago and saw the direction it would take…"And instead of producing for the individual merchant or for particular customers, the weaver now produces for the entire world of commerce…Trade now becomes the servant of industrial production, for which the constant expansion of the market is a condition of its existence. An ever- increasing mass-production swamps the existing market and thus works steadily towards its expansion, braking through its barriers. What restricts this mass production is not trade (in as much as this only expresses existing demand), but rather the scale of the capital functioning and the productivity of labour so far developed. The industrial capitalist is constantly faced with the world market; he compares and must compare his own cost prices not only with domestic market prices, but with those of the whole world. Previously, this comparison was almo…

Reading Notes.

From Taylor Caldwell's "Captains and The Kings" about the American Civil War, "My dear Mr. Francis, who do you honestly believe rules the nation? The apparent rulers, or the real ones behind the scenes who manipulate a nation's finances for their own benefit? Mr. Lincoln is as helpless as you and I. He can only, unfortunate man, give his people slogans, and slogans, it would appear, are what people want. Tomorrow you will meet some of the gentry I have spoken of, most congenial and tolerant men, who have no nationalistic prejudices at all, and no allegiances even to their own countries but only to each other and their banking interests."

The Plain Brutal Fact.

On May 23rd, 150 employees of the Heinz Ketchup factory in Leamington, Ontario, were let go. At the end of June, another 350 were forced to leave. This will leave 250 working for substantially lower wages. This has come as a shock to many because the company has been there for 105 years and many have spent their whole working lives there. Ever since Warren Buffett and the Brazilian private equity firm, 3G Capital, bought Heinz in 2013, there was talk of downsizing but no one suspected how bad it would be. The plain brutal fact is that no matter how long a company may exist within capitalism, change is the constant factor according to the market and profitability and it will always be the worker who gets the worst of it. John Ayers.

The Devil And His Evil Ways?

Recently, pope Francis has been ranting about the devil and his evil ways, "Look out because the devil is present." His holiness is concerned because satanic cults are spreading like wildfire on the net. Vito Mancuso, a Catholic theologian, complained that, " He is opening the door to superstition." As if the more 'respectable' religions aren't based on superstition. "The sad truth is that there are many bishops and priests who do not really believe in the devil", commented reverend Gabriele Amorth, a priest and exorcist. The sad truth is that while people look to any cult, including Christianity, to solve their problems, they are deceiving themselves. Only in throwing overboard all forms of superstition including belief in an afterlife and a supreme being and organizing for socialism and sense, and security for all can they accomplish that. John Ayers.

No Mean City - book review

From the November 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the thirties, a Gorbals bakery worker and a journalist by the names of McArthur and H. Kingsley Long wrote a novel describing the Glasgow slum area — the Gorbals — as it appeared to them in the 20's and 30's.

Basically, it is the story of a slum hooligan named Johnnie Stark, nicknamed Razor King, and of the gangland violences which were regular features of Glasgow life at that period. The gangs in Glasgow were not organized for criminal purposes and were hooligans trying to overcome the boredom and monotony of a sordid existence. Most lived in squalor — ten and eleven to a room — most were unemployed.

The authors concentrate their story round the Gorbals area (McArthur lived there), but the social conditions they described could be found in all working-class slums in Glasgow; Bridgeton, Anderson, Plantation, Calton, Townhead. All that these misguided hooligans could hope to gain from their inter-gang wars was perman…

This Is Progress?

One of the illusions spread by supporters of capitalism is that although it has a dire history of exploitation and poverty it is gradually improving. Try telling that story to the half million Bolivian children who are still suffering from near-Dickensian conditions. 'Bolivia has lowered the legal working age to allow children to work from the age of 10 as long as they also attend school and are self-employed. The law also permits 12-year-olds to be contracted to work for others. But they need parental authorisation. ...... More than 500,000 children already work to supplement the family income in Bolivia according to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).' (BBC News, 18 July) RD

Desperate People

They are not the only desperate people. Many from North Africa are trying to flee poverty and cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. 600,000 are waiting to make the journey and so far this year 42,000 have reached Italy. The risks they take to escape their poverty are high, often using unseaworthy boats causing the deaths of 170 so far this year. Such a system that causes and allows this to happen should be trashed and soon. John Ayers.