Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Cancer and the poor

People in deprived areas of Scotland are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and more likely to die from it than their wealthier peers, according to NHS figures released yesterday.

 Diagnosis rates for 2017 were more than a third higher in the most deprived areas when compared to the least deprived, while mortality rates are 76 per cent higher, according to Information Service Division (ISD) statistics.

 The inequalities increased for diagnosis and death by almost ten per cent since 2016.

 In total 16,105 deaths were caused by cancer in Scotland in 2017, up from 15,813 the previous year and the highest number in 25 years.

Protect the kelp forests

An Ayr-based company called Marine Biopolymers (MBL) is now seeking a licence from Marine Scotland to take kelp from the Scottish seabed using a large mechanical arm. MBL commercially extracts polymers from seaweed for use in industries including food and pharmaceuticals.
Their dredging method would harvest seaweed using a mechanical comb, measuring between three and four metres to trawl the seabed. This method removes entire kelp plants, with the idea that juvenile plants are left to promote more rapid recovery. MBL claims that over five years it will start harvesting 30,000 tonnes per year of the seaweed Laminaria hyperborea, a large, leathery brown kelp.
Researchers in Norway have investigated the effects of kelp dredging on commercially important species, and found 90% fewer young fish in harvested areas. Scottish Natural Heritage suggests that Scottish kelp holdfasts typically house between 30 and 70 different species, including worms, molluscs and anemones. In turn, these animals provide food for fish and mammals like seals and otters. 
Existing Scottish kelp harvesting is limited to hand-cutting fronds, and ensuring that the stems and holdfasts (the part of the plant that connects to the seabed) are left intact. The new proposed dredging method will rip up entire kelp plants, including their holdfasts. Kelp dredging will also lead to a reduction of genetic diversity making kelp forests more susceptible to potential diseases and climate change.
Sir David Attenborough explained,  'These kelp forests - which can be found right here, around the coast of the British Isles - not only form an important part of the food chain, but also act as a vital habitat for a wide array of species. Their thick foliage offers food and safety from predators, and provides a nursery ground where juvenile fish can mature in safety. Look closely among the intricate stems and fronds of kelp, and you will find a range of fascinating sea life, from invertebrates such as sea stars, anemones and limpets, to mammals such as sea otters. Many of the fish species, such as cod, that are so important to us economically and culturally are also found here. For these reasons and many more (carbon storage being just one), it is absolutely imperative that we protect our kelp forests. It is perfectly possible to harvest them sustainably by removing their fronds while leaving the rest of the plant intact. But dredging - or indeed any kind of harvesting that removes the whole plant - is a wholly short-sighted measure that risks the wholesale devastation of our kelp beds. I urge decision makers to take the necessary action to protect these vital, and globally important, habitats.'

If we don’t abolish capitalism, capitalism will abolish us.

People have been talking about overpopulation for a very, very long time. Overpopulation is a prominent myth that remains largely unchallenged. Liberals, environmentalists, and xenophobes alike assert that the human population is out-growing the “carrying capacity” of the Earth who attribute global warming, mass migration, pollution to the growth of the global human population. However, such claims are emblematic of capitalist attitudes.  Earth is not overpopulated and given current demographic trends never will be. All of the problems that are blamed on 'overpopulation' are not population problems but social problems caused by the nature of our economic system. The idea of 'overpopulation' is rooted in racism and nationalism which targets the poor and people of colour. Africa is poor, not overpopulated. If anything, Africa struggles from UNDER-population. It doesn’t have enough people to effectively exploit its own resources. Africans suffer not because of their own use of its natural resources but because of the manner in which the natural resources are stolen by the West.

The ideal fertility rate is around 2.1 children/woman, but in developing counties (due to war, famine and inadequate medical care), it's closer to 2.3 children/woman. The total global fertility rate for the 2010s (so far) is 2.36 children/woman, and has been consistently falling since the 1950s. If 'overpopulation' was a problem, it seems we've already corrected it. The countries whose fertility rates are above the 2.3 ideal replacement rate are overwhelmingly poor and developing nations: whose citizens consume  fewer resources than the citizens of 'developed' nations. If population rates continue to drop, we're going to need newcomers from high-growth countries to supplement our workforce. We will need immigration from high growth countries to support our ageing populations.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Shit on the Tracks

A railway union has called for urgent action to prevent train operator ScotRail from breaking an agreement not to dump human faeces on Scotland’s railways. A deal between unions and the Scottish government scrapped the practice by December 2017 but a shake-up in the ScotRail fleet will lead to its return.

The RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said a senior ScotRail staff member has confirmed of the 10 high-speed trains expected to be in service by December, only one will be fitted with a tank for human waste. He has written to the company’s managing director, Alex Hynes, and the Scottish government transport secretary, Michael Matheson, calling for urgent action on the issue and highlighting the “serious health risks” posed.

Cash said: “Our members are rightly appalled that ScotRail have sought to rip up a clear agreement to end the filthy and disgusting practice of dumping human excrement on Scotland’s railways. This disgraceful and retrograde step must be halted now and the union will take whatever action is required to hold ScotRail to their agreement with the union."

If we are to survive

What has the world to offer the child born into it? We might be tempted to answer, "Not very much at all,"

The world is and will remain, a mass of trouble as long as capitalism lasts because capitalism with its privileged and unprivileged, its class cleavage, and its hunt for profit for the privileged contains the seeds of trouble. No sooner does one sore appear to be healed than another breaks out. There is only one solution to the misery and insecurity of the mass of the world’s population and that solution requires that its workers of the world realise that they perform all the functions necessary to feed, clothe and house everybody. That the reason so many go short is because the means of production are owned by a relatively small proportion of the population who reap the benefits of the worker’s toil without the need to work themselves. In other words, that the workers carry parasites on their shoulders. When the workers achieve this knowledge they will realise that the solution lies in making these means of production and distribution the common and equal possession of all mankind. When this awakening occurs then genuine optimism will supersede the fatuous and spurious optimism that occasionally appears today.

 so long as world society is split up into rival groups of nations, competing with one another for the sale of their commodities, with 90 per cent. of the national wealth owned by 10 per cent. of the population, causing as it does, the POVERTY which besets the mass of the human race, there can be no solution in agitating for fiddling reforms or hoping for “better times” under the present of any future “governments.”

What is required is the total abolition of class ownership of social wealth, including mines, electricity plants, productive machinery of all kinds and transport on land, sea, and in the air. In short, the abolition of commodity production, with its buying and selling and advertising: shoddy goods for the masses, but diamond tiaras for the few. Its mansions, and its hovels. To say nothing of the colossal waste of human lives and socially produced wealth in recurring wars, etc. Despite their failures—and even though their successes are few and futile—the appeal of the politicians persists. Workers vote for them in their millions with, apparently, hardly a thought for an alternative They are content to be exploited to keep the capitalist system running. The Socialist Party presents a viewpoint that is completely opposed to the other parties —that viewpoint is one of working-class interests. For all the talk of “democracy” and “equality of opportunity,” what has the political parties ever done for you or for the working-class generally? Did it solve the housing problem? Did you become substantially better-off? The answer is an emphatic NO.

Why is this so? The answer is a very simple one. None of these parties sets out to solve your problems or to make you better off—what they set out to do, in fact, is to run this social system called capitalism in the only way that it can be run; that is in the interests of your bosses, employers, ruling class, call them what you will.

What then is the basis of this social system? Capitalism means a social organisation where all the means of producing wealth (mines, land, factories, transport and so on) are owned by a small section of the people. That leaves us, the working class, with nothing except our ability to work. And work we must, or else we suffer. From the employer’s point of view, it is a simple proposition—more for you means less for them, and so they do all that they can to prevent any raising of your living standards. But this isn’t our only objection to capitalism. Our bosses are always squabbling with the ruling classes of other countries over the distribution of the loot, resulting in continual international crises and minor wars, leading sooner or later to major ones.

We say that there is an alternative  Socialism - means a world where the things of life will be produced solely to satisfy the needs of mankind, instead of for the purpose of realising a profit for your bosses; a world where the whole of humanity will own and control the means of living and where wars and international tension cannot exist: a world where people will no longer be subject to the threat of unemployment and to the perpetual struggle to make ends meet—in short, a world where everyone will freely and equally associate and enjoy all the fruits of their labour. 

Housing is one of the most pressing questions and although the Labour and Tory parties talk glibly of the numbers of flats and houses they promised to build, the fact remains that to-day’s housing problem is as bad as it ever was. At root, the lack of decent accommodation for working people is a part of the working-class poverty problem. If you happen to be well-off, there is no shortage of fine houses and flats—at an appropriate price. In other words, workers live in poor housing because they cannot afford anything better, and never will be able to afford anything better as long as they remain members of the working-class.

Education too, under capitalism, means the fitting of our children into the tasks required by the social system; in other words, the production of the engineers, programmers and all the other kinds of worker that are essential to capitalism. The present-day bias towards technology education is but a reflection of the industry’s needs for more and more technical workers. Nothing wrong with that, you might think. But the trouble is that capitalism has no regard for the realisation of a child’s potentialities or for education in the sense of equipping children for full and happy lives.

Your wages, generally speaking, are no more than sufficient to keep you and your family going from one pay-day to the next, and this is affected little, if at all, by the raising or lowering of the level of taxation. We say that all these problems are capitalist problems, which means that they are inseparable from the nature of the society under which we live. All the efforts of the reformers over the years have not altered your basic position one bit. What is required is something far more drastic—a revolutionary change in the nature of society.

Our proposition is a simple one. We, the working-class, not only produce all the wealth but also carry out all the necessary functions to keep society going. The tragedy is that we keep it going for the benefit of a privileged minority. What we suggest is that workers throw off the domination of the ruling class and organise and run society in their own interests instead of in the interests of their bosses. Then and only then will we see an end to the problems that have beset the working class for so long. This is well worth struggling for, hence our participation in elections. Our candidates are a protest against capitalism, and to give working people an opportunity of registering their support for the only constructive alternative to capitalism and for the only effective solution to their problems.

Our fellow-workers should join up with the world movement for the achievement of socialism, helping to abolish the chains of wage slavery. Everyone who joins us in the struggle against this pernicious social system is helping to make the life of capitalism shorter and helping to bring about a sane and rational social order. The need for socialism becomes ever more pressing in a world riddled with frightening problems, and a start must be made in wresting power from the ruling class. Every socialist means another step towards a freer, better world.

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Socialist Party, a party of revolution

Mainly the workers live on wages and any changes that occur in the amount of wages have a definite bearing on their conditions of life. The wages which they receive represent a portion of the wealth they produce. This portion takes the form of money and is given to them by the owners of the places where they work in return for the use by the owners of their ability to work for specified periods of time. This is a condition of existence common to all workers, not less to those who wear white collars than to those who wear overalls.

Over the years working people throughout the world have employed a variety of methods in the hope of improving their living conditions. They have petitioned parliament, supported candidates for office, organised political parties. They have paraded in the streets, erected barricades and fought against police. But most important, they have organised in trade unions, which have provided them with their most effective weapon, the strike.

The trade union exists to protect and improve wages and working conditions. It engages in a number of other activities most of which are worthless, sometimes harmful. Because its members are not politically informed, it often allows itself to be used as a stepping stone to office by aspiring politicians. Indifference and apathy amongst its members sometimes lead to careerism. But the real worth of the trade union must not be overlooked.

It seldom happens that a worker by himself can negotiate with the employer and obtain a pay rise. Certain workers in particular types of employment may be able to do this, but not the average employee. He or she would be more likely to find him or herself on the street searching for a new employer. Workers may influence their wages and working conditions only by collective effort and only by being in the position to stop working if their demands are not met. The ability to withhold their services is a weapon in their possession. It is the only final logic known to employers. Without it wages will tend to sink to subsistence level. With the threat of the strike a substantial check can often be placed on the encroachments of the employers and improvements both in wages and working conditions can be made.

The strike is not a sure means of victory for workers in dispute with employers. There are many cases on record of workers being compelled to return to work without gains, sometimes with losses. Strikes should not be employed recklessly but should be entered into with caution, particularly during times when production falls off and there are growing numbers of unemployed. And it should not be thought that victory can be gained only by means of the strike. Sometimes more can be gained simply by the threat of a strike or a work-to-rule. Workers must bear all these things in mind if they are to make the most effective use of the trade union and the power which it gives them.

But above all, the workers, besides making the greatest possible use of the trade union, must also come to recognise that even at their best the unions cannot bring permanent security or end poverty. These aims cannot be gained within the limits of capitalist society. Yet it is working people themselves who perpetuate this foolish system; who do the useless tasks as well as the useful; the unproductive as well as the productive. The trouble is that the alternative, a world of common ownership and common effort, is frightening in its simplicity. It seems too easy to be true. Nevertheless, true it is. It’s as simple as that! When the workers have raised their sights high enough to envisage a society where there can be no conflict over wages and where each will contribute to the production of wealth according to his ability and receive from the produce according to his needs, they are thinking of a goal that can be gained only after they have become organised into a political organisation having for its object the introduction of socialism. Such an organisation is the Socialist Party.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Penny-pinching employers

THOUSANDS of Scottish workers are being paid by the minute in pennies, The Herald on Sunday can reveal.
The details have emerged as part of a wider investigation into the gig economy, and precarious and insecure employment in Scotland.
 At least 10 per cent of the total Scottish workforce – some 259,000 people – deemed to be in insecure employment.
     • Concerns that some social enterprises – firms meant to provide a social good and often in receipt of support from the taxpayer – are engaged in questionable employment practices.
  • The rise of "bogus self-employment" where firms bring staff onboard, including waitresses and baristas, under self-employed terms – thereby not paying tax, national insurance, holiday pay, sick pay, or pension contributions – but treat them on the same terms as if they were staff

     • Evidence of cash-in-hand payments used routinely in the gig economy, raising questions about losses to the exchequer.
Trade union activists have described some of the worst examples of precarious employment as "Dickensian", "Victorian" and a throwback to the relationship between factory owners and workers in the 19th century. They also called on the Scottish government to tackle the problem with action, not words.
The "paid by the minute" scandal centres on the care industry where councils outsource care at home to private or charitable companies. Care staff are electronically monitored – clocking in and out of a client’s home – using technology such as mobile phones or iPads.
As an example, if a carer has five jobs in an hour each lasting six minutes then they will be paid by the minute for a total of 30 minutes. If the worker is on the Scottish living wage – £8.75 an hour – this would see them earn approximately £4.38 for an hour’s work, or just under 15 pence per minute. Many are not paid for the time in between jobs, or for travel to and from jobs.
Scottish Care, which represents private care providers, estimates that the practice of "paying by the minute" occurs in half of Scotland’s 32 council areas. An estimated 15 per cent – or 8550 people – of the private care workforce, which stands at 57,000, are on zero-hours contracts, where most of the "paid by the minute" work is found. However, the numbers on ZHCs rises to 20-25 per cent in the sector of "older people’s care". Care providers and carers are also penalised if workers stay over the allotted time per visit, in the event of a client being ill or distressed.
Scottish Care said: “Over the last few years Scottish Care has continually argued for improvements to conditions which make employment in the care sector precarious for too many individuals. One of these is the call to offer properly funded contracts to providers to enable them to reduce dependency on zero-hour contracts ... While admittedly some staff desire the flexibility that such contracts provide them with, from our research the vast majority of providers wish to move to a situation where adequate funding makes full-time contracts for the care workforce a possibility.
“The main reason for the existence of zero-hours contracts is the discriminatory practice around the way in which care is bought from charitable and private providers by the public authorities. A local authority only pays for the work which is done rather than what may be intended. This makes it impossible to guarantee hours for many, especially smaller care providers. ... At the moment many, especially smaller organisations, are effectively paid by the minute and therefore by extension unless the provider has its own reserves and assets the worker is paid by the minute. This is no way to deliver care in the 21st century. We are faced with a scenario where workers are pressurised to get tasks done in as quick a time as possible and are penalised if they are late for their next client. For the person receiving the care this makes the whole experience less than dignified despite the best efforts of individual care workers ... This is especially unacceptable when we are talking about supporting people with palliative and end-of-life care.”
Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, said: "There is something very wrong about a local authority treating its own staff fairly and well and yet treating the staff of services they buy in, whether they are employed by a charity or private care provider, in a manner which is little less than exploitative. Workers are made to clock in and clock out and their organisations are only being paid by the minute, and even then if a worker is late or stays longer because someone needs more help or is ill they are being penalised."
Jim McCourt, one of Scotland’s most prominent trade unionists who runs the Inverclyde Advice and Employment Rights Centre in Greenock, explained, "It’s the ultimate in the gig economy," says McCourt. He blamed the issue on care providers bidding against each other for council contracts and creating “a race to the bottom” in the market. “They bid with prices they can’t meet and it is their workers who suffer," he said.
"These private care companies are funded by the public purse as they are contracted by councils – so our tax pounds are propping up this system. This is about looking after the most vulnerable people in society. We are looking at a value set here – if people think there is money to be made in this way out of caring for the sick and elderly then there is something very wrong, especially if the public purse is being used."

Popular Capitalism

 Under capitalism, democracy can have only the most limited of meanings and is usually given a meaning and justification that is completely opposed to its theoretical principles. The principles of majority rule and the recognition of the rights of minorities can only really achieve practical fruition in a world free from economic and social domination. It is only with the establishment of socialism that people will be able consciously to effect their wishes through democratic practice. Only then will today’s empty and hollow cry of “democracy" bear a meaning worthy of human organisation. To talk of “freedom" today, in a world of social and economic class domination, is as absurd as talking of the “democracy" of the capitalist countries, all of whom practice in one form or another the suppression of minorities and the flouting of majority wishes.

Capitalism is a social system in which all the things which are necessary to make and distribute the world's wealth —such as land, factories, transport—are owned by a small section of the world's population. This class, because of their ownership of the means of production, can live without having to work for a wage. On the other hand, the working class is compelled to sell their ability to work to an employer, for they have no other method of getting a living. The capitalists invest money in industries and, because they must have a return on their investments, those industries produce wealth with the motive of profitable sale. This means that industries throughout the world are constantly seeking cheap, abundant fields of raw materials, profitable markets for their products, and trading routes to connect them to their overseas markets and sources of supply. When "peaceful" competition cannot win these, a war breaks out. That was the cause of the last two world wars. A future world war will quite possibly be fought with nuclear weapons. These have been developed because each capitalist power must always strive to arm itself more powerfully—which means more destructively — than its rivals. This has made war an even more urgent problem, which cannot be solved by a conference between prime ministers and presidents. There is only one way certainly to abolish war. That is to abolish capitalism. Until this happens we shall continue to suffer the insecurity which drives many people into mental hospitals and transforms others from co-operative human beings into anti-social criminals. Crime and violence will flourish and with them the escapist drugs and tranquilisers.

We invite you to consider the case for socialism. This is a social organisation based on the ownership of the world’s wealth by the world’s population. When it is established, everyone—man or woman, whatever the colour of their skin —will have completely free access to society's common pool of wealth. There will be no privileged class enjoying the best things in life whilst the majority of people make do with the shoddy. There will be no wars to settle the competition between opposing capitalist groups. There will be no division of interest, such as exists today between employer and employee, to cause strikes and other social dislocation. Everybody’s interests will be the same—to co-operate in producing the best and happiest world which humanity is capable of, for the enjoyment and benefit of the whole of mankind.

This is no empty dream. Socialism can be established tomorrow if the people of the world understand it and want it. Then they can send their delegates to the seats of power—such as Parliament—to carry through the formal process of establishing socialism. That is why we are a political party. Our membership and funds are small and or candidates are not great leaders who promises to work miracles. They are not leaders at all for we do not believe in leaders. They are ordinary members of the working class and of our Party who holds with us that only socialism can solve the world’s problems. That never has been popular — the millions have so far always preferred their the reformist programmes of their parties, and the acrimonious world that they stand for.  Time for you to strike a blow for the freedom and brotherhood of all mankind. You have time before then to become a worker for socialism. Read and understand the simple facts of your class position: get in top gear as soon as you can. For you, the working class is the power that can rid the world of the vast horrors of capitalist civilisation.

Socialism has always meant opposition to capitalism as a system of economic and political power, replacing corporate interests with common ownership leading to a more egalitarian class structure and expanded democratic governance.  Unfortunately, the world is bereft of anti-system movements at a time when global capitalism has solidified its ideological hold. 

Classifying objects by their essential similarities and differences is a necessary step to thought and action. Every trade unionist does this when he or she organises with others who live by receiving wages, against employers who live on profits. The Socialist Party does it when we differentiates the system of society known as capitalism from a basically different system of society we call socialism.

There is presently a Labour Party “to make everyone a shareholder." The new Labour Party plan is for employees to be given shares in large companies. The idea is that it is a good thing to have more people owning a stake in the industry, and that these new share-holders will share in the growth of capital and profits of the companies. Come the next stock-market crash (and there will be one) employees expecting only rising share-prices may find themselves owning worthless shares. The postal workers under privatised Royal Mail are experiencing the fall in their share-prices.  It is always the big speculators, “those in the know,” who have the best chance of selling in time but even they are often caught unawares.

 The relatively small sums that will be owned by employees will only be trifling amounts in comparison with the wealth of the capitalist class with very little voting power at AGMs. But even if the prices of shares and profits of companies went on rising the relative position would be the same, because the wealth of the rich would be growing at the same time. All the changes of the past decades have not altered the basic relationship that about a tenth of the population owns about nine-tenths of the accumulated wealth.

More important still, the relationship between the capitalist, who lives by the wealth produced for him by the working class, and the working class who produce that wealth, but receive only a part of it in the form of wages, is not altered at all. The worker who has a few hundred pounds of shares does not cease to be dependent on wages because he or she receives a dividend of a few pounds a year from the investment.  The possession of a few hundred pounds of shares does not change a worker into a capitalist. A capitalist is a man whose wealth is large enough to enable him to live on the “property income” he receives from it, an income derived from the exploitation of the working class. The worker with £500 in shares is no more a "small capitalist ” than he is a "small millionaire."

Why is the Labour Party fostering this idea? Clearly it is with the purpose, not of making us all into capitalists— which is as impossible as having a social system in which all the population, including the slaves, are slave-owners — but with the intention of deceiving the workers into believing that they have an interest in preserving capitalism  and that the employers’ business belongs to them in some way.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

When sachet of sauce is a meal

Child poverty campaigners and politicians in Glasgow have urged UK ministers to seize a “golden opportunity” to ease the financial burden on struggling families in Monday’s budget. It comes after an 8-year-old Glasgow boy was forced to eat tomato sauce sachets because he didn’t have enough to eat.

A community group, which runs a foodbank on the South Side of the city, told how the child was referred by a concerned teacher who caught him stealing from the school canteen.

Crookston Community Group warned politicians at Holyrood that the rise in demand for the services of foodbanks was reaching “crisis point”.

John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, said: “That any child, any family, has to rely on food banks in 21st century Scotland is an absolute disgrace."

The Capitalocene Age

According to environment scientists, the Earth has entered a new geological epoch that will be less stable and less hospitable to human life. Because the change is driven by human activity, it is called Anthropocene – from the Greek anthropos, human being, which blames humanity as a whole for climate change. We’re told that people are the problem and only population reduction can prevent disaster.

The so-called population explosion actually doesn’t exist. Family size has fallen to a global average of 2.45 children and is projected to fall to two or less in the next few decades. The main reason why global population is projected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, and possibly 10 billion by 2100 (a high projection that is disputed by many demographers), is that currently, a large percentage of young people are entering their reproductive years. High fertility persists in only a few countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, because of deep class and gender inequalities and the failure to invest in education, employment and health services, including accessible, high-quality family planning. The overpopulation myth leads to the promotion of policies that are terribly unjust and inhumane.

The real challenge before us is to plan for the additional people on the planet in a sustainable way. Fortunately, that is possible, but only if we address the real causes of environmental pressures. The root cause for widespread misery and environmental degradation is the mode of production and consumption we have.  Instead of blaming overpopulation, people need to get serious about capitalism. We need to address the grotesque and growing inequality of wealth and power of the capitalist system that fuels conspicuous consumption. The dominant mode of agricultural production has huge negative impacts on humans and nature.

The focus on overpopulation is a great distraction from what really ails the body politic and the planet. People aren’t hungry because there isn’t enough food. People are hungry and malnourished because they aren’t getting the food that exists. On a world scale, there is more than enough food to feed everyone. Apart from conflict, famines occur because large numbers of the population don’t have sufficient funds to purchase foods, even though food was available – hence an issue of distribution, not limitation. Also In many developing countries, landowners harvest export crops (such as coffee and tobacco) rather than food crops for local people. Thus, hunger and malnutrition are the results of the existing political economy not any real shortage of food.

So much “overpopulation” propaganda appeals to images of overcrowding. However, population density (i.e., people per square mile) isn’t correlated with abject poverty. Countries like Japan and the Netherlands are among the densest to be found, but also have some of the highest standards of living and the longest longevity. Some of the poorest countries also are very sparsely populated (such as Mali). Thus, high population densities do not by themselves cause abject poverty nor do low densities guarantee health and prosperity. 

1. Certainly, there are millions of families that have more children then they can support, but this doesn’t make the world overpopulated. And in countries where lots of families fit this description, it itself is not a sign that the country is overpopulated. Let’s consider why families are having more kids than they can support. Women (and their mates) have “too many” children for four concrete reasons:
they have no access to safe and effective contraceptives;
the women have too few options other than being mothers
no social security system exists; and
the infant mortality rate is so high (so giving birth acts as a lottery ticket).

By demanding the more equitable distribution of wealth, education, economic opportunities, and health care, family size will drop. Population stabilizes with the reduction of poverty, increased access to contraceptives and immunizations, and the education and empowerment of women. Global sustainability requires socialism, not population control. Another world is possible if we end the rule of capital enriching the few and immiserating the many. Only a socialist society could establish the democratic economic conditions in which humanity can consciously regulate its numbers. Climate change will not be automatically resolved by the abolition of capitalism, but it is the necessary precondition to viable, long-term, and socially just solutions to such crises. Global warming requires swift action, but we can’t act effectively unless we clearly understand its causes. If we misdiagnose the problem, at best we will waste precious time on ineffective cures; at worst, we will do even more damage. Focusing on population growth isn’t just ineffective, it is harmful. Instead of confronting the real cause, it targets the victims of environmental destruction, people who don’t destroy forests, don’t wipe out endangered species, don’t pollute rivers and oceans, and emit essentially no greenhouse gases. The environmental crisis arises from a fundamental fault in our systems of production—in industry, agriculture, energy, and transportation. Society must confront and resolve the gross imbalance that exists between resources and human needs, including the absurd concentration of population into urban cities while converting productive farmland into cash-crop plantations.

The Socialist Party links environmental issues to a broader vision. Socialism stands for global sustainability and a world where humans live in harmony with the rest of nature.


Teachers from across Scotland are due to march in Glasgow later in support of their calls for a 10% pay rise. Marchers will assemble at Kelvingrove Park at 11:00 BST before heading into the city centre.
As well as EIS leaders, the speakers are due to include STUC president Lynn Henderson, NUS president Liam McCabe, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer, SNP MP Chris Stephens and Carole Ford for the Scottish Lib Dems.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said it expected thousands of teachers to attend the national march and rally in George Square.
EIS president Alison Thornton said: "All indications are that many thousands of teachers, together with other supporters of Scottish education, will be travelling from the length and breadth of Scotland in support of the campaign. Buses to the event from all parts of the country have been filling up as soon as they are available, and we know that many other marchers will make their own way to the demonstration via public transport."
The union has described the offer as "divisive" and has recommended its members reject it in a ballot which opens next week.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said "smoke and mirrors" were being used to pit unpromoted teachers against their promoted colleagues.
He added: "After a decade of deep pay cuts leading to a 24% reduction in take home pay, an offer based on a 3% cost of living increase falls far short of the expectations of our members. EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said "smoke and mirrors" were being used to pit unpromoted teachers against their promoted colleagues. The conflation of incremental progression, which teachers would always have received anyway, with this pay offer to make it appear more attractive is a shameful tactic drawn straight from the book of bad management."

Friday, October 26, 2018

Who owns Scotland, again?

Memories of the evictions of poor tenant farmers by wealthy landowners during the 18th and 19th centuries remain strong in the Highlands and Isles of Scotland. Thousands of people had to emigrate to avoid starvation in the wake of the Highland clearances and some of the worst abuses have been blamed on the then Duke of Sutherland.

When the residents of Garbh Allt in the Scottish Highlands were offered the chance to buy their land from the wealthy family behind the brutal eviction of their ancestors, many were initially hesitant. But years of underdevelopment under the Sutherland Estate - one of Scotland's biggest landowners - and the prospect of shaping their own future convinced them to take the leap, and in June the land was sold into community ownership.

"People were saying, oh I'm not really sure if we should take it on or not. And I was thinking to myself, my father would be spinning in his grave if we didn't take up this opportunity," said Anne Fraser, head of the Garbh Allt community initiative. "I had to pinch myself the other day to actually remember we're in ownership," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "It gives me great delight when I'm walking along and suddenly think, oh, this belongs to us. It's quite something." Fraser said she did not see the deal as revenge for the clearances, but as a chance for the community to take control in an area that, like many in rural Scotland, has suffered years of underinvestment and depopulation.

 It is among the latest transfers of private land into residents' hands under the Scottish Land Reform Act of 2003, which gave communities first right of refusal when land was put up for sale.

"Scotland is characterised by having a very concentrated pattern of land ownership," said Andy Wightman, a Scottish Green Party member of the Scottish parliament. "Approximately 440 to 450 landowners own half of all the privately-owned rural land. Scotland until 2004 still had a system of feudal land tenure."

Our Aspiration - Socialism

We want to abolish wage labour, but what do we propose to replace it with? The abolition of wage labour can only be conceived as a process of emancipation that will affect every aspect of our lives. It means a total transformation of social relations. The Socialist Party conceives of a society that abolishes exploitation and we expose those proponents of various “socialisms” which is merely the replacement of private property by state property while preserving the foundations of capitalism: wage labour and the commodity. Nothing will belong to anybody anymore. Socialism as we understand it, is above all a human community where there is no property, no State that oppresses, no classes that separates and which confers distinction. Socialism is not a platform of reforms must be led to victory by the number of votes or by violence. The Socialist Party does not aspire to conquer State power and replace the unjust and perverse power of the ruling class with its own power. Our electoral policy is not about raising up some individuals to be ministers or peoples commissars, but of rendering such functions useless.

 The socialist revolution can only be, from its very first steps, the founding act of the democratic and common ownership of the means of production, a community in which no one is excluded and where buying and selling —even money—will be unknown.  The principle of sharing will replace the principle of exchange without taking the form of a State — the rule of some over others. With the abolition of the State, money and the commodity, people will exercise conscious control over their own activity by way of the relations and interactions that they establish among themselves and between them and the rest of nature. 

Socialism will be a society where the most precious gift will reside in human relations; where all human beings will have the chance to enjoy what they do, and possess the time and the space in which to do it  and for which they are themselves will responsible for. Socialism presupposes the free association of men, women, and children, beyond the roles of dependency and reciprocal submission. Likewise, socialism entails the realisation that scarcity or poverty is not the result of a shortage of means, of things or of objects, but that it derives from a social organisation based on the monopoly of a few at the expense of the rest.

In a capitalist society, all goods are produced for sale, for making a profit.  Within socialism, the producers will not exchange their products: nor will the human activity incorporated in these products appear any longer as their value, as if this were a real quantity that they possessed. These goods will no longer be characterised by having a value; they have no price and cannot be exchanged (in accordance with that value, regardless of the standard by which it is measured), nor, for that same reason, can they be sold. They will have no other purpose than the satisfaction of human desires and needs such as they are expressed at any particular moment.

With the elimination of commodity production, the domination of the product over the producer will also disappear. Mankind will rediscover the connection with what we make. With the disappearance of money, goods will be freely available at no charge. One will not have to have a certain amount of money in order to have the right to obtain anything whatsoever. A socialist society will therefore not be a mere extension of our “consumer”.  society. It will not be an immense supermarket where passive beings only have to help themselves. There will be no devastation of resources without worrying about the future nor will there be a pursuit of a constant stream of useless throwaway junk. The fact that a product has been made by one person or another will not entail the persistence of the principle of property, even of a “ cooperative and decentralised” variety. Productive activity will no longer be bound to the notion of ownership, but to that of individual and collective creativity, to the awareness of satisfying human needs for both individuals and for the community as a whole. With the replacement of exchange by common ownership, goods will no longer have an economic value and will become mere physical objects which human beings can use to satisfy any needs they may have.  Production will not obviate the necessity of undertaking an estimation of the needs and possibilities of the community at any given moment, but they will not be reduced to a common denominator measured according to a universal standard. They will be assessed as physical quantities and only in this respect will measurement have any meaning for human beings. In the past, some socialists (including Marx himself) expounded the idea that the distribution of products could be regulated by the circulation of labour-time vouchers that would correspond to a social average labour time calculated after taking account of deductions devoted to social funds. In fact, the existence of a common standard that measures product and labour is incompatible with the real abolition of wage labour, exchange or value. Furthermore, such a system would require the consideration of certain arbitrary variables in accordance with the difficulty of the job, of its inherent interest thus it would, therefore, relapse into an “economic calculation” that would require a “unit of value” whether expressed in the form of money or, directly, in that of labor time. Socialism, as a society without money, will not, however, need any universal unit of measurement; all calculations will proceed in accordance with the nature of the thing calculated. The appeal of an object will, therefore, be derived from the object itself and not from any value that is more or less arbitrarily assigned to it. Its production, like its use, will be determined in accordance with its meaning for men and nature.

Socialism means the end of the separations that compartmentalise our lives. There will be no antagonism between looking out for oneself and looking out for others. People will associate with each other, brought together by their shared tastes and affinities. This by no means implies that all conflicts will be abolished, but that the irreconcilable opposition between human groups and interests will come to an end. This does not mean that life on earth will be a “paradise”, but that the relations between people will no longer be relations between individuals who are indifferent with regard to each other. Socialism will rehabilitate what is human. In socialism, the elderly will not be warehoused in nursing homes that are merely the last stop before the cemetery. Nor will education be compulsory as a preparation for wage labour and separated from the rest of social life. Socialism will introduce an unprecedented freedom: the freedom to travel over the whole surface of the planet without having to answer to anybody or show any documentation, the freedom to go wherever you want whenever you want and to stay there as long as you want.

The socialist revolution is not a clash between two armies, one of which follows the orders of the privileged and the exploiters while the other serves the working class. It cannot be reduced to a war for the seizure of power and the control over territory. We would play the enemy’s game if we reduce our revolution to a confrontation of force and to safeguard “conquests” construct another state structure. The revolution would then degenerate into a civil war, fatally falling victim to the mere repetition of the mistakes of the past. The confrontation between two armies, the red and the white, will not be the socialist revolution but the transformation of the workers into the army of another vanguard.

The revolution will, in fact, be a social revolution that will completely transform all other relations and that will make men and women the subjects of their own history. It will destroy the State and politics and it is by abolishing commodity relations that it will destroy capitalism. Socialists do not seek to be nourished by the taste for capitalist blood in a spirit of vengeance. The aim of the Socialist Party is to eliminate the material and mental structures of oppression rather than to destroy individuals. Our goal is the emergence of a reconciled community. There exists the possibility (remote as it seems) that our class enemies could undergo a change where they will come to understand the benefits in the realisation of the community without masters or slaves.  If a truly human society is to be created where we can relate to each other as members of a real community instead of as isolated individuals, then the commodity-form must disappear completely. The death of the commodity will be the beginning of a truly human society existing in harmony with the rest of nature.

Adapted and abridged from here

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Declining NHS

The NHS in Scotland is not financially sustainable and its performance has continued to decline, the public spending watchdog, Audit Scotland, said.
Health boards were "struggling to break even,... relying increasingly on Scottish government loans and one-off savings". and none had met all of the key national targets - with NHS Lothian not meeting any. The report said pressure is building in several areas - including the recruitment and retention of staff, rising drug costs, Brexit and a significant maintenance backlog.
The "declining performance against national standards indicates the stress NHS boards are under"
The Scottish government invested £13.1bn in NHS services last year, but Audit Scotland said when inflation was taken into account there was a 0.2% real terms drop in cash.
Auditor General Caroline Gardner said: "The performance of the NHS continues to decline, while demands on the service from Scotland's ageing population are growing."
Dr Lewis Morrison, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland, said the "stark warning" from Audit Scotland "could not be any blunter". But he added this would "come as no surprise to frontline doctors who have faced the consequences of inadequate funding year after year."
RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said the report "underlines what those in the nursing profession have been warning about for a number of years - an unsustainable pressure on staff to deliver more care. This leads to staff burnout and, in some cases, a choice between staying in the profession and their own health."

Stagnating Scotland

Progress on making Scotland a fairer and more equal society has stagnated, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The report highlighted differences in educational attainment, health, work opportunities and living standards among social groups. 
The report said women were less likely to be in work and they continued to earn less than men on average.
It said those women who were in work continued to experience sexual harassment as well as discrimination related to pregnancy.
Meanwhile, disabled people were twice are likely to be unemployed and more likely to live in poverty, according to the review.
It also said differences in school attainment were evident as early as Primary 1, especially for children living in the most deprived areas.
The EHRC's Scotland Commissioner Lesley Sawers said: "Fairness should be at the heart of Scottish society. This review suggests that there is still some way to go... However, the evidence in this review suggests a general stagnation in progress."
The report highlighted differences in educational attainment, health, work opportunities and living standards among social groups.
The report said women were less likely to be in work and they continued to earn less than men on average.
It said those women who were in work continued to experience sexual harassment as well as discrimination related to pregnancy.
Meanwhile, disabled people were twice are likely to be unemployed and more likely to live in poverty, according to the review.
It also said differences in school attainment were evident as early as Primary 1, especially for children living in the most deprived areas.