Thursday, August 31, 2017

Paying the price of the recession

Some Scots could take up to a decade to save up for the deposit for their first home, BBC Scotland analysis suggests.
A person on typical wages saving 10% of their take-home pay a month could take almost eight years to save up a 10% deposit for the average property. And in some areas with higher property values, like Edinburgh, it could take more than a decade.
Generation Y, the millennials born between 1980 and 2000, coming of age in the wake of the financial crisis and years of steadily rising house prices, this group has faced a much more difficult path into the property market than previous generations. This has left many in the private rented sector, struggling to save up for a deposit while dealing with rising rents.
63% of those aged 16 to 24 and 61% of those aged 25 to 34 were saving up either for a deposit for a home or for home improvements.
They found that those 25- to 34-year-olds saved £132.63 per month, on average - roughly 10% of their monthly take-home pay of £1,341. The 16-to 24-year-olds saved at a slightly higher rate, potentially due to more of this group still living at home.
BBC Scotland analysis applied this 10% savings rate to pay levels in various parts of Scotland, assuming a 35-hour full-time working week, and then put that up against average house prices in those same areas. With the money going into savings with an interest rate of 1%, it would take a first-time buyer several years to save up enough money for a 10% deposit.In Edinburgh, this could stretch to more than 11 years; in Perth and Kinross, almost 10 years; in Aberdeen, almost eight years; and in Glasgow, more than six years.
Shelter Scotland said young people were increasingly caught between rising property prices and increasingly expensive rents.
Director Graeme Brown said people were "stuck in a very difficult place", with home ownership "often actually just a dream".
He said: "We know that in terms of buying a house, that's out of reach for most people on average wages. You have to have a 10% deposit, and of course prices have risen steadily over the past five or ten years, even since the great financial crisis prices have gone up. On the other hand social housing simply hasn't been built at the rate we need it to be built at, so people have been forced into the private rented sector. That's their only option. And that of course means private rented sector rents have risen because there's so much demand."
Rents for properties in the private sector increased by more than 10% over the six years from 2010 to 2016. Even a single bedroom in a shared property has increased from an average rent of £300 in 2010 to £340 in 2016.
Mr Brown said the situation was "absolutely" getting worse, with the increasing difficulty of sourcing a deposit amid "stagnating" wages - often while still paying rent at the same time.
He said: "The only way people can usually do that is through the famous 'bank of mum and dad', but for those people where that's not an option, they are really going to struggle. There's no doubt that young people will look now at the home-owning market and say, that's not going to be a reality for me. Whereas 15, 25 years ago most young people would have the aspiration at least to actually become a home owner. Home ownership is not for everyone, but young people just simply don't have the choices these days. That's the issue. I think the housing market in a sense is a reflection of how we've reacted to young people. Young people are actually now paying the price for the great financial crisis. That's going to be a long time until that's sorted."

Sleep in the Park - Homelessness for sale.

A sleep-out to end homelessness in Scotland is set to take place in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh for a night. It will see a line-up - consisting of Liam Gallagher, Amy MacDonald, Deacon Blue, and Frightened Rabbit - come together on December 9.
Sir Bob Geldof, the Band Aid organiser will sleep overnight in the gardens and John Cleese will also be making speaking appearances. The Monty Python legend will read a bedtime story. Comedian Rob Brydon will host. the Band Aid organiser will sleep overnight in the gardens. Edinburgh City Council, council leader Adam McVey, his deputy Cammy Day and council chief executive Andrew Kerr will also sleep out themselves.

Homelessness charity Social Bite wants to raise funds and work together to stop the “sticky plaster mentality” and get to the root issues with a plan to eradicate homelessness over a five-year period. Organisers have set a fundraising target of £4 million from the event, but are also looking to generate 1,000 employment offers and 1,000 lodging pledges. Josh Littlejohn was the entrepreneur who brought George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio to Edinburgh. People must pledge to raise at least £100 for Social Bite, which has just begun work on Scotland’s first “homeless village,” to secure a ticket for the event while 2000 spaces will be set aside for corporate teams, who will be asked to make a fundraising commitment of at least £3000 for five places.

Yet again, Socialist Courier can applaud the sincerity of well-meaning individuals who genuinely consider they are personally doing their bit helping to solve one of the problems of the day – lack of housing. But that does not mean that we in the Socialist Party can endorse such futile gestures as this, which do not come close to addressing the real root cause of homelessness and bad housing – capitalism, the system all those good-intentioned media personalities support.

Under capitalism, houses are produced as commodities to be bought and sold for a profit. The developer is compelled by competition to struggle for profit and a struggle against competitors,  a market war of each against all. The housing needs of workers are not his problem. In this profit struggle, the diverse needs of society can never be met. We are born into a class system in which we are propertyless and can only exist by selling our labour-power to an employer. We get the housing conditions corresponding to that class position. Capitalism is a society of haves and have-nots, of winners and losers. Homeless people are at the unlucky end of the social scale. Many of us are only just one pay-packet or two away from being thrown into homelessness. It is no surprise that companies will be sponsoring this “sleep-out”. Supported housing and other homeless services may help some people to progress, but they can’t solve the problem of homelessness itself.  Instead, homelessness is a business opportunity for capitalist organisations to feed on. Every problem created by capitalism – debt, lack of opportunity, lack of skills, addiction, crime – has become a consumer demand for a service. Homeless people are customers, who staff are supposed to think of as targets and outcomes to be recorded and collated. And in the cut-throat competition for funding, homeless services are integrating further with the market-driven dynamics of the economy. When society is driven by economic forces, rather than what people want and need, then some people inevitably suffer. Increased funding, new services, or reformed procedures may help a few people in the short-term, but they can’t address the causes of the problem.

It is no intention of ours to sneer at attempts to grapple with the vast and depressing housing problem. It is to their credit that they have at least taken a look at it, for all too often it fosters an attitude of apathy and hopelessness. But having said that, there is nothing in this campaign to shake our conviction that homelessness and bad housing is a product of private property society. The solution is not to tinker around with charitable gestures, but to create a world of common ownership. Decent houses will then be built and lived in.

More on Marxist Theory

Basically, capitalist society is divided into the capitalist class and the working class. The great majority fall into the latter category: those who produce wealth by applying their ability to work with raw materials, either in the state in which they are found naturally or already transformed by human labour. The minority, the capitalist class, are those who purchase this useful activity and employ it to increase their own wealth. How is the capitalist class able to buy the abilities of the worker? Because the division is based on ownership. The capitalists are the owners of all wealth of social significance. In comparison to them all previous owning classes—feudal lords, slave-owners, churches and ancient potentates—appear like paupers. The capitalist class have grabbed all the earth’s resources and will maintain their ownership until the working class decides to take it away. The workers own practically nothing, and as a consequence of this fundamental fact the worker is forced to sell his or her ability to work.

The capitalists are the greediest class in history. They insist that the workers continue to produce more and more wealth; not for the purposes of human satisfaction but solely to increase the profits of the capitalists and enable them to increase their ownership of wealth. The working class is the most “charitable”. Having produced all this wealth they allow it to be appropriated by another class, whilst they live in various degrees of poverty. There has never been such philanthropy in the history of the world! When the working class establishes a society of cooperation in their own interests as distinct from the interests of others, it will be a step towards a society that brings to an end the ruling exploiting class.

On the face of it, the Socialist Party attitude of opposition to reformism often seems harsh. We are frequently accused of being unsympathetic to worthy causes or removed from the centre of important action. Neither charge is true. These charges are superficial responses to a thorough assessment of social reforms which are at best irrelevant and most of the time dangerously diverting. We do not doubt that there are much sincerity and indignation in reformist campaigns, but by itself, this is not enough. Of course, it is important to care but sincerity can be misdirected and therefore illusory. When indignation is made sterile, it is tragic. Socialists want to avoid this.

The Socialist Party's attitude to programmes of social reform is central to our political position. It is a matter of crucial importance that this attitude be clearly understood. The Socialist Party commitment is to the solution of working-class problems confronting mankind. The two are inseparable. Socialist policy is not arrived at through obstinacy nor by a deliberate selection of difficult paths. Socialist policy is determined by the facts of the situation as we find them. Our analysis of society is directed first towards a description of the way in which social problems arise and then to a programme of political action which would lead to their solution. This is an objective analysis of the reality of everyday human experience, which leads to principles of action given by practical necessity. If social problems can be shown to be inherent within capitalist society then it follows that capitalism must be replaced by different social arrangements which will not generate the same problems. Social reform policies leave the basic structure of capitalism intact. Therefore programmes of social reform cannot hope to solve social problems. This argument is supported by a theory which is proved valid by the evidence of real experience. Whether it be through well-meaning ignorance or opportunism, one thing is certain, the present chaos shows that after a century of social reform, basic social problems remain unsolved. So-called “pragmatists,” tell us that politics is the art of the possible to justify compromise since political change require integrity of purpose and action. Socialism is the science of what is possible, and the surrender of principle is totally self-defeating. 

Capitalism cripples humanity. It does this in every way in which life is important. Materially it limits production to what is profitable. To maintain this human needs are sacrificed. At the level of relationships, capitalism is exploitative, men and women are objects to be used, their best potentialities as cooperative human beings remain unrealised. The condition of our lives is given by the productive relationships of capitalism. This material condition is circumscribed by economic laws which are not merely a product of capitalism but are inseparable from its nature. Under capitalism, the working class must secure its material standards within the limitations of the class ownership of the means of production, and the production of commodities for sale on the market with a view to profit. Within this system, the possibilities of employment and the ceiling on wages are determined mainly by the expectation of profit. In all the circumstances of class struggle in capitalist society, capital and labour pursue their interests against a background of competition and the struggle for markets, control of trade routes and resources, continued capital accumulation, strikes and other industrial action and the expansion and contraction of production which is the trade cycle. Our social possibilities are confined within the general anarchy of capitalist production with all its artificial scarcity.

The total amount of wealth that becomes available in the form of commodities (the social product), is given not by political processes but by economic processes within the framework and limitations of capitalism.  In describing the economic limitations within which wealth becomes available under capitalism we are at the same time describing forces which prevent capitalism from operating in the interests of the whole community. In reaction to these conditions, various protest movements and reformist organizations become active in the hope that either as pressure groups or political parties they can improve the material conditions of life. We have ruled out the idea that such organizations can lead to a greater availability of wealth under capitalism. The organizations best suited to achieve a distribution of the social product more in favour of the working class are the trade unions. But even with their muscle and the pressures that they are able to apply, they have to accept that there is little they can do. When trade is expanding trade unions can negotiate marginal increases in wages. In the present time of recession with a high level of unemployment, even trade unions have to accept a lowering of workers’ living standards. They can only wait now until their negotiating hand is strengthened, whenever that may be. This by itself is a sad comment on the way in which capitalist economics is beyond any rational control.

With the welfare schemes of the post-war years, such as family allowances, improved old age pensions, sickness, and unemployment benefits etc., the state became more involved in the distribution of the social product. These schemes are part of the distribution of that portion of available wealth which goes to the working class as a whole. These measures were supposed to herald the dawn of a new era of social equality. The only equality about them was that the state organized and administered the more equal distribution of working class poverty. Regardless of the hopes of reformists, these schemes were introduced and are maintained by governments for the purpose of stabilizing and augmenting the general pattern of exploitative relationships. It is important to emphasize that what becomes available for this kind of distribution is given by the general level of exploitation over the whole economic field and again this is beyond the control of reformist governments. With some exceptions, on balance history does not show that capitalism has unwillingly absorbed reform. On the contrary, capitalism generates reform in its own interests. Reform is part of the normal pattern of political administration, its function being to stabilize capitalism. Social reform is the political process through which capitalism continues its own economic development and since government and the state are the political expressions of capitalist ownership, social reform will preserve that class interest. Reformism, inevitably then, involves an endorsement of capitalist productive relationships.

It is an undeniable fact that under capitalism man cannot control the productive process. We cannot set up productive objectives and then organize social resources to achieve those objectives. For example, the Labour Party has been powerless to act against mounting unemployment and lowering working-class standards. This is the price we pay for private ownership and the profit motive. The solution is to bring productive relationships into harmony with human needs. The means of producing wealth must be commonly owned, the earth’s resources must be at the free disposal of the whole of mankind. In these relationships, free from the economic barriers of capitalism, man can co-operate to simply produce the wealth that humanity needs. Socialism will not only achieve productive efficiency but will establish a pattern of relationships in which the dignity of man’s coming together will be enhanced through equality and co-operation. We can only break away from the self-repeating failures of reformism by recognizing that the problem is capitalism itself. We can replace disillusion with effective action by working to establish socialism.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Scotland's Inequality

Pat Rafferty, Scottish Secretary of the union Unite Scotland, writes:

Picture a wedding reception with a 100 guests The hotel staff wheel out the wedding cake. It is set out in 4 equally sized tiers. Suddenly 10 of the guests step forward and without any hesitation devour two of the four tiers, leaving only two for the other 90 guests. You might say this could never happen but it is exactly what’s going on across Britain, where the richest 10 per cent hold 45 per cent of the wealth in the country. The Herald investigation about the pay of Scotland’s top chief executives revealed a divided Scotland – a Scotland where the chief executive of RBS has a top line on his pay packet of £65,000 a week and a 20 year old shop worker on the minimum wage of £5.60 an hour gets £225 a week before tax. That’s an inequality ratio of almost 300-1.

The chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland had at his a top line £3.5m a year. RBS is currently running a massive advertising campaign to explain that it is not the Royal Bank "of" Scotland but the Royal Bank "for" Scotland. It’s actually the Royal Bank "for" its senior executives. And before we hear the howls of indignation from the ‘deserving rich’ we say simply there is no way those at the top of big companies who award themselves countless millions deserve it. There is nothing you can do that justifies a salary of £3.5m.

 Danny Dorling points out in “The Equality Effect” that the UK now has a greater inequality ratio than Africa’s Burkina Faso and the USA is more unequal than Uganda.

Those on zero hours contracts and rock-bottom wages, families dependent on food banks can’t wait for some future fiscal salvation from tax reform. Enter Unite Scotland. Building the trade union movement is the answer for the here and now. Where the union is strong decent wage rates replace poverty pay.

Welcome to the Revolution

The vote has provided a tool to the working class for its emancipation. The vote gives us the power to determine our own destiny. Yet, what cannot be denied is that the working class has not significantly exerted its strength to bring about any change in its own favour. The ideological power which the capitalist class hold over the working class is such that, despite full adult franchise there has been no corresponding alteration of the social system from one benefiting a parasitic minority to one benefiting all people. That the working class has not used the power of the vote and this certainly contrary to the expectation of many of its early opponents, who believed that giving the right to affect political decisions to non-property owners would instantly lead to social revolution.

So far the workers have used the vote to register their consent to the present system. Each time an election comes around, seventy-five to eighty per cent of the electorate vote, mainly for the Labour or Conservative parties. About twenty per cent of the electorate regularly abstains from voting, although it is impossible to tell how many do so positively (as a conscious refusal to vote for the parties standing) and how many are negative abstainers (those who do not care). Even among those who do not vote many are confused or cynical. Many Labour voters may decide themselves that they want to see a social change in the interest of the working class, many Tory voters are looking for a party that will defend them from the omnipotence of the State, many LibDems are simply not voting for the others. There is nothing new in Labour and Conservative Parties adopting each other’s policies; that is all part of the fact that they have basically the same policy — the maintenance of capitalism and, within that social system, the protection of the interests of the British capitalist class.

But there is another possibility, which is not voting for useless leaders but considering the idea of socialism and then voting for it. The Socialist Party exists to provide an alternative to those who wish to lead the working class. A vote for real socialists in a General Election is a vote in your own confidence to determine your future. If there is a socialist candidate in your constituency he will be conspicuous by not grovelling for your vote, but only asking you to vote socialist if you understand and want socialism. If there is not a socialist candidate but you want to cast your vote for socialism, then write “Socialism” across your ballot paper. In every election it is power that is at stake; are you going to give a blank cheque to the parties of the profit system or will you use your vote in your own class interest? The weapon of the vote is yours; you have only to use it. The working-class movement should concern itself with the spread of socialist knowledge and with principles, not personalities. If the workers continue to put their trust in leaders and cherish the ever-renewed hope that at last, they have found the inspired political Moses, who will lead them out of the wilderness, they do so at their peril. Fellow-workers socialism alone can end your degradation. Don’t be misled as to what constitutes “socialism?" Study the eight points of our “Declaration of Principles,” and be assured that our “Object” is no pious expression of impossible attainment. In the politically instructed worker lies the future hope of all mankind.




Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Scottish Fat Cats

We live in a divided Scotland where ten chief executives become millionaires every year whilst tens of thousands live on poverty wages on zero hour contracts.” Unite union leader Pat Rafferty said. He said the executive pay packets were “an insult to the poor in Scotland and a monument to greed.”

Scotland's top chief executives are pocketing pay packets worth more than 24 times the salary of the average worker, The Herald can reveal, amid claims the income gap has become a "monument to greed".
The highest paid CEO among the 39-strong cohort was Ross McEwan of Royal Bank of Scotland, who earned £3.5 million last year despite the bank posting a loss of £7 billion.
His salary is the equivalent to that banked by 152 average workers.

Over the last year the group of chief executives accepted a collective two per cent pay cut, but still amassed more than £35 million in remuneration, with half earning six-figure bonuses.
Research by The Herald has found that median pay for chief executives in their companies’ most recent financial year was £556,000, down from £596,000 the previous year, representing a cut of 5.6 per cent. However, there was a median increase in salary for two per cent of bosses among the group, with 19 business leaders receiving a salary increase, three seeing their salaries cut, and eight individuals experiencing no change. The average gross salary in Scotland is £22,918.

Rafferty insisted that best way "to reduce inequality is to build the trade union movement to secure better pay and conditions for the lowest paid”. He added: “The problem with the Tories is that they think that the rich don’t have enough money and the poor have too much.

Last year Alistair Philips-Davies of energy firm SSE was paid £2.9m, with his 72.5 per cent increase giving him the highest boost in pay from the group of Scottish executives. His pay pot was comprised of an £844,000 salary, a £910,000 annual bonus, a £644,000 performance share plan award, £502,000 in pension contributions and £25,000 in other benefits.

Next on the list are Martin Gilbert and Keith Skeoch, now joint chief executives of the recently merged financial giant Standard Life Aberdeen. In the last year before the merger, they were paid £2.8m and £2.75m respectively.

Simon Thomson from Cairn Energy was the best paid chief among Scotland’s oil and gas sector’s listed businesses, and fifth overall, with a total remuneration of just over £2m.

In total, ten chief executives were awarded seven-figure packages, with Clydesdale Bank owner CYBG’s David Duffy, Aggreko’s Chris Weston, Stagecoach’s Martin Griffiths, First Group’s Tim O’Toole and Robin Watson of Wood Group completing the list.
Celtic’s Peter Lawwell missed out on joining the seven-figure club by just £1,000, but topped the second tier of 13 chiefs, who earned more than £500,000 but less than £1m.

Only three earned less than £100,000 with the lowest paid on the table being Trevor Brown of Braveheart Investment Group, who picked up £37,417 in spite of his predecessor as chief executive, Geoffrey Thompson, being paid £234,721 the previous year. However, Mr Brown owns 29.85 per cent of the share capital in the business.

In 2015, 11 chiefs made more than £1m with Martin Gilbert’s £4.3m making him the highest paid, thanks to a £3.8m bonus.

Mr Gilbert again had this year’s highest bonus, of £2.3m. The highest salaries paid to individuals on the list was £1m, to bank bosses Ross McEwan and David Duffy.
The total bonus pot was £9.5m, representing 27 per cent of the total.
Just eight chief executives reaped the rewards of a long-term incentive plan (LTIP), with Ross McEwan’s salary-matching £1m payment being the largest.


What Future?.


From the Daily Herald evidence mounts of the multiple risks climate change poses to people and wildlife, 2017 is predicted to be another record hot year. And one of Scotland’s leading climate experts is warning that the world is facing the catastrophe of “runaway” climate change because of the impact of pollution and the damage it is doing to nature. One of the biggest fears facing scientists is that climate change has become impossible to control. Scientists say this would lead to more floods, droughts and heatwaves threatening millions around the planet.

Experts are predicting that 2017 will end up being one of the world’s hottest. “Though we only have global observations to June, it is likely that 2017 will be globally one of the warmest three years since 1850,” said Simon Tett, professor of earth system dynamics at the University of Edinburgh. According to NASA, 2016 was the world’s hottest year since records started, with the next two hottest being 2015 and 2014. Scotland’s hottest year so far was 2014, and last winter was the fourth warmest on record. Globally 2017 looks like being even hotter than 2016, and so could be the fourth year in a row to be the hottest ever,” said Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland. “Our weather is becoming more extreme and more unpredictable, all of which is bad news for people trying to get on with their lives and brings major challenges for Scotland’s wildlife.” Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, pointed out that extreme weather events had been breaking climate records around the globe. “Climate change is already having real and serious impacts on people, places and nature, both in Scotland and around the world,” he said.

The true extent of the threat posed to Scotland by climate change, according to the latest government assessments is that major parts of Scotland’s vital infrastructure are under threat from coastal erosion and flooding. Thousands of homes and businesses and long stretches of roads and railway lines are also at risk. So are power stations, wind farms, sewers, bridges, and farmland, as well as many other crucial facilities and even golf courses. Seabirds, fish and plants are endangered, as well as butterflies, food crops and peat bogs. Scotland can expect more rain, more droughts, more storms, more wild fires, more landslides, more pests and more diseases – and snow is disappearing from the mountains.

The study for the Scottish Government warned that the rate of coastal erosion around Scotland has doubled since the 1970s. Researchers identified 30,000 buildings, 1,300 kilometres of roads and 100 kilometres of railway lines “close to potentially erodible coasts”. According to the government conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, more than 20 coastal golf courses have already acknowledged erosion problems. These include golf links in the Western Isles, Highland, Dumfries and Galloway – and Donald Trumps resort in the sand dunes at Menie in Aberdeenshire.

Another report from the UK Committee on Climate Change highlighted the threats posed by climate change to infrastructure, farming and wildlife in Scotland. An estimated 180,000 residential properties are currently at risk of flooding, with the number predicted to rise as the climate deteriorates. The report warned of a 50 per cent increase in sewer flooding over the next few decades as the system is inundated by heavy rain. It flagged up risks to electricity generation, transport and other key networks. About 150,000 hectares of arable farmland were said to be at high risk of river flooding, and an estimated seven per cent of Scotland’s prime agricultural land was within flood risk areas.

Along with flooding and coastal erosion, climate change will also bring higher temperatures - meaning that up to half of Scotland’s prime agricultural land will be at moderate to severe risk of drought by the 2050s, particularly in Tayside and Fife, the report said, and water use is likely to be restricted. Higher temperatures could boost the spread of livestock diseases, including foot and mouth, bluetongue and liver fluke. “Serious epidemics predicted to become the norm by the 2020s, especially in the north and west of the country,” warned the report. It forecast a big increase in forest fires, as well as major impacts on migratory birds, fish and mountain plants. There was a “significant risk” for iconic species such as ptarmigan and mountain hares and “the possibility of no snow cover below 900 metres by the 2080s.” The report predicted that mean summertime temperatures in Scotland would rise by up to 4.5 degrees centigrade by the 2050s, while winter rain could increase by up to 30 per cent. The sea level around Edinburgh is expected to rise by between 20 and 40 centimetres by 2090.

 Professor James Curran, a renowned climate scientist and the former chief executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency thinks that nature is losing its ability to store carbon and slow global warming. He has studied data from the world’s best record of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. He looked at the annual drop in CO2 concentrations every spring and summer in the northern hemisphere to estimate how effectively trees and plants were capturing carbon. Leaves absorb CO2 as they grow and feed carbon compounds into the soil, a vital natural process that helps store pollutants that would otherwise disrupt the climate. It had been thought that additional growth triggered by carbon emissions might help reduce climate change. According to Curran, this happened until 2006 but since then natural carbon capture has been in decline. “Excessive heat, droughts, wildfires, pests and diseases, wind storms and floods can damage natural vegetation and crops to such an extent that their ability to absorb carbon begins to decline,” he said. Curran said these early warnings were "very serious and concerning", adding: "This is what may, ultimately, create runaway or uncontrollable climate change.” He concludes that the declining ability of natural vegetation to absorb carbon is responsible for 30 per cent of global emissions. He pointed out that carbon dioxide levels were rising faster than ever, despite man-made emissions flat-lining for the past three years. “It's because nature is damaged and can no longer absorb as much as it used to,” he told the Sunday Herald. “Ecosystems across the world are failing and are no longer so capable of sucking carbon out of the atmosphere. Climate change will begin to accelerate, despite our best efforts to reduce emissions, unless we urgently rebuild and reinvigorate our natural systems.”

A recent analysis by the conservation group, WWF, concluded that there had been a 58 per cent decline in world populations of fish, birds, mammals and other animals between 1970 and 2012. Another study showed that 700 species of endangered mammals and birds had already been negatively impacted by climate change.

While the strategy of the environmentalists lobbying for legislation may achieve limited success against government policies, at the end of the day they will never be able to combat the motive of profit which is the root cause of the problems they wish to ameliorate and are destined to struggle endlessly against the tide of capitalism. Before anything constructive can be done, capitalism must go and, with it, the artificial division of the world into separate, competing states. The Earth and all its natural and industrial resources must become the common heritage of all humanity. A democratic structure for making decisions at world-level as well as at local levels must come into being. Then what scientists already know should be done can be done, and humanity can begin to organise its relationship with the rest of nature in a genuinely sustainable way.

The 1797 Massacre of Tranent


The Massacre of Tranent took place on 29 August 1797. 

The Scottish Militia Act of 1797 conscripted able-bodied Scottish men between the ages of nineteen and twenty-three into military service. Ordinary people hated the Act.  It was seen as a direct attack on workers because members of the bourgeoisie could always buy their own exemption. On August 17, 1797 a large crowd gathered at Eccles in Berwickshire armed with sticks and stones.  They made clear that they were intent on stopping the authorities from implementing the Act.

AberdeenDalryGalstonStrathavenFreuchie, and Kirkintilloch all saw rioting as a result, and the government responded by sending in troops. 

When the army rode into East Lothian on 28 August 1797 to pick up the conscriptees, they found the roads lined with women and children from the local villages who marched behind a drum shouting "No Militia" and at a mass meeting in  Prestonpans where a series of resolutions were then passed denouncing the Act.  The demonstrators then returned to Tranent.  Once in the village itself, the troops tried to proceed to the assigned meeting point, but there was a crowd gathering with sticks and a drum. a proclamation was drawn up by local people to object to the conscription of Scots into the British Militia, to be used either for controlling their own people or for deployment elsewhere. The proclamation comprised four clauses:-
  1. We declare that we unanimously disapprove of the late Act of Parliament for raising 6000 militiamen in Scotland.
  2. We declare that we will assist each other in endeavouring to repeal the said Act.
  3. We declare that we are peaceably disposed; and should you, in endeavouring to execute the said Act, urge us to adopt coercive measures, we must look upon you to be the aggressors, and as responsible to the nation for all the consequences that may follow.
  4. Although we may be overpowered in effecting the said resolution, and dragged from our parents, friends, and employment, to be made soldiers of, you can infer from this what trust can be reposed in us if ever we are called upon to disperse our fellow-countrymen, or to oppose a foreign foe. 
On 29 August, the proclamation was handed to Major Wight, the commanding officer of the recruitment squad; it was initially ignored. Later, a contingent from the local colliery communities, led by 'Jackie' (Joan) Crookston challenged the troops and the response was swift and bloody.  There was a protest, and soldiers who had been confined to the John Glens public house in Tranent broke out of the back door, many of them the worse for drink and adopted a "shoot to kill" policy against the local populace. Several of the protesters, including Crookston, were shot dead out of hand. The dragoons rampaged through the streets driving the protesters into the fields where the  cavalry would be more effective. The protesters fled from the centre of the small town into the countryside, pursued by the Cinque Port Light Dragoons and the Pembrokeshire Cavalry who cut down people indiscriminately, caring little whether they were involved in the protest or not. Casualty estimates range from around a dozen to twenty or more men, women and children dead, with many more injured. After the slaughter the troopers carried out rapes and pillage in the small town.

 The Lord Advocate of the time, Robert Dundas, decided not to indict the soldiers for shooting unarmed civilians because "such a dangerous mob as deserved more properly the name of an insurrection."


Monday, August 28, 2017

Conservative Glasgow

THE MYTH AND THE REALITY 

A brief search of the Socialist Courier archives would reveal that it has been critical of the traditional depictions of Red Clydeside's "revolutionary" image. Unfortunately, it has made us bed-fellows of the Conservative historian, Michael Fry.

Glasgow's radical histoy has been exaggerated, he argues, in his latest work, 'Glasgow: A History of the City.'
“There has been a lot of attention to the working class history of Glasgow. I don’t accept that these interpretations work. Before the 20th century there weren’t all that many strikes and there wasn't that much industrial unrest. The main aim of the working class in the 19th century was respectability. They wanted to work their way up in society: learn a trade, establish a secure family and home. These people were often regular churchgoers. There were rigid demarcations against the great unwashed – it took an apprenticeship of several years to be accepted into the craft. It was all an industrial and social structure that established respectability.”
Indeed contemporary photographs of the "militant" engineers show well-dressed bowler-hatted skilled engineers rather than being clad in caps and overalls. 
 Fry says “The working class Tory vote lasted in Glasgow until the 1950s, a sign of that older tradition. Govan had a Tory MP in 1955.”
He describes Glasgow as a “ very puritanical city."

It Is Socialist Economics!

Delusions about the Labour Party still linger, through all the realities of Labour governments opposing strikers, or imposing cuts on workers' living standards. When it suits them—and particularly at election time—they pretend to operate under deeply held, inviolable principles. For winning—getting into power—is what capitalist politics are all about. All the parties which compete for our votes—as distinct from promoting a wider understanding of society—are hoping for some measure of control over the affairs of British capitalism. All the Keynesian Labourites and other supporters of capitalism still believe that capitalism can be made to work in the interests of all.

In order to keep the workers acquiescing in the system of lunacy that is capitalism, its supporters continually have to invent scapegoats and to point to them as the cause of the hardship experienced by the working class. Naturally, no defenders of capitalism are going to tell the workers the real reason for this current recession, even if they did know it themselves. So, by means of a well-conducted campaign in the media, every so often scapegoats are offered as causes of social problems and the misery of the working class. Migrants, refugees, benefit claimants or trade unionists. One by one these groups are singled out by the hack journalists and blamed for the present social malaise. The supporters of capitalism, regardless of whatever political party they adhere to, ask us to believe that this country is becoming overcrowded with migrants and that they are aggravating unemployment. Perhaps those who believe that immigration is in some way connected with high levels of unemployment, bad housing and poor social services, would care to explain why all these conditions existed in the 1930s and yet there were much fewer immigrants as a whole living in Britain. If immigrants really do provide the real cause of unemployment, why is it that in the areas worst affected by high levels of unemployment, such as Northern Ireland, Clydeside and Tyneside, the immigrant population is at relatively low-levels? Few people will appreciate the vicious campaign of ignorant distortions directed by the tabloid press and reality TV shows against those on benefit. Many of those out of work are slandered by being called lazy and unwilling to look for work. As any worker should know, employment as such is usually a miserable prospect anyway. But apart from that, the fact is that over the past few years reports have repeatedly shown that for every ten people registered as unemployed, only one job vacancy has been reported to the Job Centre Of course, those who believe that unemployment is largely due to laziness and unwillingness to work, never bother to explain to us why in the 1950s and early 60s relatively few people were “lazy” (unemployed), while in the 1930s and today many more have suddenly become so. Most workers are but a couple of wage packets away from joining the numbers of the official poor.  For many, it will be their first taste of idleness after years of steady work.

The truth is that social problems, such as unemployment, the housing crisis in large cities, homelessness, waiting lists at hospitals, overcrowded class-rooms and bad social services, are not caused by immigrants to this country or by any supposed reluctance of the unemployed to find work. When people complain about these social problems they are really protesting about the inevitable consequences of the capitalist system. Under capitalism profits for the owners of industry and the increased wealth of a small minority of the population are of prime importance. Social questions and the human need of the immense majority are pushed into the background time and time again, as is the case today. Cuts are made in education, medical services and transport, etc., and workers are thrown onto the dole queue. All of this is part of a vain attempt to solve capitalism’s insoluble problems. Poverty is not restricted to those who are officially classified as such, it is the condition that workers, in general, are familiar with. Rarely mentioned are the people who not only never need go near a Job Centre, but never need to worry about getting a job. The rich are not irrelevant to the question of poverty. The existence of one is the condition of the existence of the other. The wealth going to the rich of this world comes from the work of the poor. The rich own the means of production, the poor do not. The poor produce more than is required to maintain them as workers and this surplus keeps the rich. Be they old, lame, part of a single parent family, the rich need no supplementary benefits, least of all need they seek employment. There will be rich and poor as long as capitalism lasts.

What is the difference between capitalist economics and socialist economics?”  The difference is the Labour Theory of Value. This law of capitalism, discovered by Marx, explains the operation of capitalist production and the exploitation of the worker.

The Labour Theory of Value states that the value of commodities is fixed by the amount of labour they contain. But not any old labour. “Socially necessary” labour, the labour required by society to produce an article. The determination of Value by the labour in an article was well known to the famous classical economists before Marx: William Petty, David Ricardo, Adam Smith and Ben Franklin the American; whom Marx quotes approvingly in Volume I of Capital (page 59, Kerr edition). "The value of all things . . . is most justly measured by labour"

The difficulty they found themselves in was this
  1. Value is determined by labour.
  2. What then determines the value of the labour?


They then went round in circles until Karl Marx cut the Gordian Knot by proving that Labour Power, as a commodity, is also subject to the Labour Theory of Value—that is, the amount of labour to produce and maintain a Labourer. Since those days capitalist "economics” has become a joke; starting with Marshall’s absurd "Marginal Utility” and finishing with J. M. Keynes’ disastrous inflation theories. Meantime the colleges teem with pompous wise-acres solemnly expatiating on "status” and "honours”, "power and conflict”, “blue-collar and white-collar workers” “the reward hierarchy” and associated trivialities.

Once you reject the Labour Theory of Value, you become an apologist—for capitalism.

The Labour Theory of Value also explains why, after 50 years of reformist legislation, Labour Parties have had no effect whatever. While they are trying to tart up capitalism with a few spraying jobs, an endless stream of profits pours into the laps of the capitalists, behind their backs.

A clear grasp of the Labour Theory of Value is a MUST for a socialist.



Sunday, August 27, 2017

Independence is still not the way

SOCIALISTS FOR WORLD SOCIALISM
In 2014  the Scottish Independence Referendum failed by a slim margin. Nothing has been resolved, the Scottish sovereigntists and they say that they'll keep trying for a second referendum. Everywhere, it seems, people want 'their own’ sovereign country.

There are two ways to look at Scotland's independence.The first is an emotional, irrational approach that considers ideas of power as opposed to the reality of power, and uses claims (long proved false) of how the economy functions.

The other is to consider what will really change if Scotland, some day, decides in favour of sovereignty.

Both sides, YES and NO, chose the emotional and irrational approach.

The Yes side argues that the Scottish people will be inherently better off in a nation governed by Scots. They have not shown any real benefits to the Scottish working class. Nor has the history of "independence” around the world been supportive of the Yes claim.

The No side predicts the direst results for Scotland, ignoring the fact that the UK would suffer if it did not trade with a sovereign Scotland. The No side lined up an impressive list of company owners, directors and such. Some nationalists responded, without justification, that if the rich oppose “independence" then "independence" must be good for those who aren’t rich.

The necessities of life

Most sane people are more worried about the necessities of life: putting food on the table, a roof over their head, and other such mundane—and ultimately far more important—considerations, than the name of the state they happen to live in.

History has shown, without doubt, that the Yes or No choice is a choice of which politicians get to sit next to the steering wheel as the ship of state careers back and forth in the winds of economic reality.

“Independence" is a word used to stir up emotions. An "independent" Scotland will be no more independent than it is today. It will still have to conform to global economic pressures which govern how much food will be on the table of the average person. The current economic system doesn’t play favourites based on national, ethnic, or cultural sovereignty.

Capital investment and migration are based upon the likelihood of making better profits, not upon which of the largely irrelevant politicians form the government.

Nationalist, quasi-racist "issues" such as Scottish "independence" are not the issues that will solve the problems that working class people in Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world face every day. The fundamental differences are far greater between rich Scots and working class Scots than between working class Britons and working class Scots or any member of the working class anywhere. The working class will never be served by nationalism or its bed-mate, patriotism.

It is no surprise that the SWP or SPEW voiced support for Scottish "independence" just as they support most such inherently racist "independence” movements while claiming to oppose racism.

If Scotland, in the future, decides to separate, Scottish workers should not expect it to improve their lives. Capitalist economics has a very forceful way of ensuring that the world remains class-divided and that the working class is at the bottom of that division. Scots and the rest of the world's working class don’t need a change in politicians. we need an end to class division. 


Summer School

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2017  21st – 23rd July Fircroft College, Birmingham   These days, con...