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Showing posts from January, 2015

Conflict Flashpoints

EGYPTIAN ATTACK   'At least 26 people have been killed in a series of attacks by Islamist militants in the north of Egypt's Sinai peninsula. A car bomb and mortars hit military targets in the North Sinai capital El-Arish, killing a number of soldiers.' (BBC News, 29 January) Other attacks took place in the nearby town of Sheik Zuwayid and the town of Rafah, bordering Gaza. Militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which pledges allegiance to Islamic State, said it carried out the attacks. RD
UKRAINE ATTACK 'Negotiators from Ukraine, Russia and Europe are set to hold fresh peace talks on Friday in a bid to end a surge in fighting between Kiev and Kremlin-backed rebels, with tensions running high after the EU hit Moscow with more sanctions.'  (Gulf News, 30 January) Talks in Belarus's capital Minsk will bring together the contact group of representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Belarus foreign ministry sa…

Capitalism or Common-Sense Common Ownership

“If class warfare is being waged in America, my class is clearly winning.” Multi-billionaire Warren Buffett
There has been much talk about class warfare, mostly from right-wingers accusing socialists of fomenting unfair and divisive hate against the wealthy. Class war must exist so long as society is divided into classes with opposing interests. Capitalism, by its very nature, creates that division. Class war must end as soon as society is no longer divided into hostile classes. Socialism, by its very nature, creates a classless society. Socialists don’t "preach" class war—they describe the class war that already exists. Class struggle is both the reality of everyday life under capitalism and the way forward to a society based on human needs and not profit. They call upon the working class to help bring about the change from a society which must be divided into classes to a society where no such division is possible. They urge that universal brotherhood, which can be only a …

The not-so-golden years

Thousands of Scots face decades of poverty in retirement.
More than four out of ten questioned by Scottish Widows admitted they hadn't considered how they would survive when they gave up work. Almost as many optimistically said they would look to their children for financial support, while one in seven expected the state to cover their costs.
According to Aviva, 50 to 65 year olds underestimate the length of their retirement by up to eight years. Women put the average lifespan for a reasonably healthy person at 84 years, while men say it is 80, but they could well live to 89 and 88 respectively.
A survey by HSBC found that despite almost six out of ten UK workers worrying they won't have enough to retire on, the economic downturn has prompted more than four out of ten to cut their pension savings or stop altogether. Just over half of those taking part in the HSBC survey said they simply couldn't afford to save enough and a third said paying off debts was preventing them.

The Road to Socialism is Paved Red with a Green Verge

The political system does not take into account the essential needs of the people, and that they are not invited to participate in decision-making. The world capitalist economy with its unceasing drive for capital accumulation is the most immediate cause of the current environmental crisis. The solution requires replacing world capitalism with a socialist society.  Marx believed that the working class would lead in the transformation of society because it was at once the most dehumanised and alienated class, and potentially the most powerful, since the functioning of society depended upon it. The radical ecological approach dates back to the likes of Peter Kropotkin and William Morris. Forget socialism in one country — in ecological terms socialism in one country is even less feasible because environmental problems don’t respect national or institutional borders. That interdependence should be a reminder that sustainability will come only through global solidarity and world socialism…

Democracy At A Price

One of the boast of USA politics is that unlike some countries they have a democracy, but it is a democracy that is subject to the whims of the very rich. . 'A secretive political network led by two billionaire pro-Republican brothers plans to spend $889 million (£585 million) on next year's presidential election, a war chest that rivals the financial firepower of the official parties.' (Times, 28 January) Charles and David Koch, who are worth $41.5 billion each, revealed their plans to fellow donors yesterday. RD

Capitalism is Bankrupt. So What’s Next?

Economically the world has become one, yet workers remain separate and isolated, atomised consumers instead of communities. The current economic crisis, the incompetence and corruption of capitalist corporations and politicians, has led some commentators to declare that these elites are discredited and that this development creates an opening for the socialists. There is some truth in this view, illustrated by polls that suggest that people in the United States and around the world are becoming more skeptical of capitalism and supportive of what they believe to be socialism than anyone could have imagined just a few years ago. Socialism is no longer a dirty word and Marx is no longer the despised demon he once was.
The interests of capitalists lie not in the defense of a mythical free market but in making profit. When their profit-making is served by measures that interfere with the free market, capitalists will favor and aggressively push for them. This also explains the bank bailou…

A Polluted City

According to state media, Beijing's mayor, Wang Anshun, has called the city "unliveable" because of its noxious smog, according to the China Youth Daily newspaper. To establish a liveable and harmonious city, it is very important to establish a system of standards, and Beijing is currently doing this, he said last Friday, 'At the present time, however, Beijing is not a liveable city. Anshun,s speech came days before the market research company Euromonitor International announced, in its findings on the global tourism market in 2013, that tourism to Beijing had declined by 10% from the year before due to pollution and a countrywide economic slowdown.' (Guardian, 28 January) RD

Election Promises

With the election looming all the reformist political parties are proffering their "solutions"  to the social problems of capitalism. Ed Miliband promises a "10-year plan" for the NHS including longer home visits by social care workers. Prime Minister David Cameron also hinted that pensioner benefits may continue to be protected from further welfare savings mooted for after the election. 'All of the major parties have pledged what they say is enough money to maintain NHS services in the next Parliament after the general election. The Conservatives say they would ring-fence and "protect" the NHS budget while the Liberal Democrats have promised to meet "in full" the £8bn extra NHS managers say is needed by 2020 and UKIP has said it would commit an extra £3bn a year to the service.' (BBC News, 27 January) What none of them say is that they are all committed to running the buying  and selling system in the only way it…

A future without money

Our planet is changing itself to cope with global warming in ways that will make our environments hostile to our continued existence as a species. Capitalism distorts the values, relationships and structures that ideally exist between people and between people and nature. At the heart of the capitalist system is the practice and concept of money.  Capital is money that begets more money. Money and markets represent capitalist power. You cannot have capital without money. You cannot have wage-labour without money. People who have no money understand that money is not a neutral tool, it’s a form of control. Capitalists are defined by money, their power is monetary power, their logic is a market-based logic. If our strategies for confronting, undermining and overwhelming capital are based in these simple facts, it is not hard to challenge the system.
Marx often ridiculed those who seemed to think that they could simply redefine money, issue it on different terms, regulate it in new ways…

Dysfunctional Society

Gledhill Public School in Toronto has its grade six students (11/12 years) creating murals for a public information evening on mental health. A spokesperson said, " The reality is, even in grades 3,4 and 5, we do see children with stress, with gender issues and violence issues and in grades 5 and 6 some do have issues around texting and sexting, so the need for mental health supports can be great." If people so young can have serious mental problems, it is an indication of a dysfunctional society that is worth working to abolish. John Ayers.

Coalition Losses

According to a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) the spending power of middle class families with children are among the losers of tax and benefits changes brought in by the coalition.'The wealthiest 10 per cent of households are among the hardest hit since the coalition came to power. Those in this  bracket, which includes childless couples with a combined net income of more than £52,238, and couples with two children and a joint income of £76,267, have lost £2,330 a year on average.' (Times, 23 January) RD

Telling it like it is

There are numerous studies by banks, think tanks, universities plus television networks and newspapers that keep giving a picture of how bad things are but it is always invariably partial and incomplete. What they leave out, and what the working class needs to know above all, is that the problem is the capitalist system of wage slavery — and the solution is socialism. People need to know that it is because of the capitalist system, that the powerful ruling class dictate legislation. The struggle against capitalism and for socialism requires knowledge of the system of exploitation. That is essential to the struggle for socialism. Understanding the enemy is a basic necessity for working-class. Class consciousness means understanding the enemy class and all of its treacherous features. Workers own only their ability to work and a few personal possessions they have been able to accumulate in a lifetime of labour. Workers are dependent on the bosses to live. They must sell their ability t…

Who Owns the North Pole part 83

Canada is moving ahead on building a fleet of Arctic patrol ships to provide a naval presence in the resource-rich north. The CAN $3.5 billion project (US $3.2 billion with Lockheed Martin handling onboard combat systems, will produce five ships.
Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice Adm. Mark Norman has said the Arctic patrol ships will give the service greater reach into the remote region. "The Arctic offshore patrol ships will enable us to become a truly Arctic, rather than just northern, Navy with the capability to operate in the Canadian Arctic archipelago on a sustained and persistent basis," he told delegates to a naval conference in October.
Defense analyst Martin Shadwick said for the Navy, the contract is significant as the ships will be capable of patrolling farther into the Arctic and stay in the region for longer than the service's existing ships. "For the Navy it is a deal changer," said Shadwick, who teaches strategic studies at York University in…

Greek Upset

Greece's general election has been won by the Anti-austerity Syriza party putting them on a possible collision course with the EU over its massive bailout. Syriza is projected to win 149 seats, just two short of an absolute majority with nearly 75% of the votes counted. 'Outgoing Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has admitted defeat and phoned Mr Tsipras to congratulate him. Syriza's result will send shockwaves through Europe, the BBC's Gavin Hewitt in Athens reports.. (BBC News, 26 January) RD

For the planet not parochialism

Independence then socialism is often the nationalists’ favorite bait for workers. Independence is said to be a step forward towards the workers’ own liberation, a step towards socialism. Nothing could be further from the truth. With the conditions that prevail today around the world, movements for independence would not mean a step forward towards socialism. It would be a step backwards. Despite protestations of being populists nationalists work on behalf of the capitalists but those on the Left declare they merely wish freedom from “imperialist domination”. The Left-wingers simply play with words. The point of nation states is that they compete with each other, sometimes through alliances with other nations.  In fact it is usually through alliances with other nations, but this doesn’t make such alliances examples of internationalism.
The success of socialism depends on achieving the greatest possible unity of the working class and it is utterly ridiculous to argue that the working c…

Did You Know Its Sponsored?

Here comes 1984 once again. Harper's federal Conservatives are paying a publicity agent to create and distribute government-approved news items to community newspapers, television and radio stations. The articles must be credited to "News Canada" but there is nothing in this so-called news that lets the audience know that it is sponsored material. John Ayers.

Money Counts, People Don't

When speaking about the threat of Ebola, John Ashton, president of the UK faculty for Public Health said, We must also tackle the scandal of the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in research to produce treatments and vaccines, something they refuse to do because the numbers involved are, in their terms, so small and don't justify the investment. This is the moral bankruptcy of capitalism acting in the absence of an ethical and moral framework." In other words, money counts, people don't. John Ayers.

The Tree of Liberty

The Tree of Liberty 
Heard ye o’ the tree o’ France,
I watna what’s the name o’t;
Around the tree the patriots dance,
Weel Europe kens the fame o’t.
It stands where ance the Bastile stood,
A prison built by kings, man,
When Superstition’s hellish brood
Kept France in leading-strings, man. Upo’ this tree there grows sic fruit,
Its virtues a’ can tell, man;
It raises man aboon the brute,
It maks him ken himsel, man.
Gif ance the peasant taste a bit,
He’s greater than a lord, man,
And wi’ the beggar shares a mite
0′ a’ he can afford, man This fruit is worth a’ Afric’s wealth,
To comfort us ’twas sent, man:
To gie the sweetest blush o’ health,
And mak us a’ content, man
It clears the een, it cheers the heart,
Maks high and low gude friends, man;
And he wha acts the traitor’s part,
It to perdition sends, man. My blessings aye attend the chiel,
Wha pitied Gallia’s slaves, man,
And staw a branch, spite o’ the deil,
Frae yont tho western waves, man.
Fair Virtue watered it wi’ care,
And now she sees wi’ pride, man,
How …

Socialism Matters

Many believe that socialism means government or state ownership and control but socialism is something entirely different. Socialism means economic democracy, workers making decisions every day where they work and in the field in which they are most qualified. When we use the word “worker,” we mean everyone who sells his or her ability to work (labour power) to an employer. Coal miners are workers, but so are musicians, scientists, nurses, teachers, architects, inventors and mathematicians. Industry should be used to benefit all of us, not restricted to the creation of profits for the enrichment of a small group of capitalist owners. Our natural resources could be intelligently conserved. We would have full and free access to the means of wealth production and distribution. There would be a complete and full democracy in which the final and only power will be the great mass of our people, the useful producers, which in socialist society would mean everybody. Society no longer would b…

Sunrise capitalism

From the May 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Japan is often cited as an example of how capitalism can work, if only all workers were hard-working and loyal. Its low unemployment, high growth rate and high wages are apparently what we should all be striving for. Indeed, when he was describing Labour's economic policy recently, Neil Kinnock said that Labour was after a Japanese-type economy.

It is not only in this country that Japan is held up as a shining example of "successful" capitalism. In the United States, competition from Japan has led to many industries closing down - especially car and steel plants - which in turn has resulted in some American workers mistakenly blaming "dirty foreigners" for their unemployment. Russian leaders have also been pointing to Japan's economy, and the quality of their goods, as an example of what their workers should be aspiring to.

Despite the fact that in Japan unemployment is one fifth of Britain's, that wages…

Crisis In Ukraine

We live in a social system beset with conflict and and nowhere is this more apparent than in Ukraine. 'Some 5.2 million people live in conflict-affected areas and 1.4 million are considered "highly vulnerable and in need of assistance". More than a million people have fled their homes with 633,523 living as displaced persons within Ukraine and 593,622 living outside Ukraine, mostly in Russia.' (BBC News, 22  January) According to a UN report of 9 January more than 4,800 people have been killed in the fighting and at least 10,322 have been injured, including at least 102 children. RD

Bound Together to Break the Chains

Society stands at the crossroads of socialism or chaos. If the working class does not succeed in overthrowing capitalism, then this chilling prediction will seem in retrospect to have been too mild. The current economic crisis brings back on to the agenda the prospect of revolution but also the possibility of counter-revolution. There will be ebbs and flows, setbacks and outright defeats in the class struggles ahead. The workers do not immediate seek revolution. There will be illusions in reformism, religious demagogy, populism, nationalism and – most dangerous of all – racism and xenophobia. All contributing to despair and confusion. However, there will also be a resurgence of socialist ideas, which will grip the minds of the working class. It will go against all Marxist thought if socialist ideas do not find an audience. There is speculation about a rise of a popular right wing such as UKIP. But it will be even more surprising if a new left does not sooner or later present a challe…

Tory stirs the sh*t

It is not often that the Socialist Courier blog finds itself agreeing with a Conservative Party MSP but when Ruth Davidson describes the lowering of flags to half-mast to mourn the death of the Saudi Arabian despot, as "a steaming pile of nonsense". we can only congratualate her and can only assume her choice of the word nonsense may have not been the word she had in mind.

To change everything, start everywhere

The world is a mess. We’re living in an age of crises – economic, environmental and political – for which our rulers have no solutions. We are all repelled by such horrors as the persistence of modern-day slavery, the relegation of a child to a life of poverty, the outbreak of disease epidemics In the face of these crises, people face a conundrum. On one hand, the right manipulates the political situation to further its own advantage. On the other hand the liberal reformers offers little to distinguish itself from its right counterpart. It's an abomination that while working people are striving every day for a more sustainable, more equal and more democratic economy, politicians are willingly trading off our future for short-term profit. Within the new protest movements an old debate has re-emerged. Are the numerous crises we face simply the product of mismanaged capitalism – the result of greedy, power-hungry people at the helm of business and government? Or is it the inevitable…