Showing posts with label crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crime. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What is crime? What is law?

 Crime is an inevitable outgrowth of capitalism. The ideology of the cash nexus between man and man are the prime social incentives to crime.

A criminal is literally a person accused and convicted of being harmful to society. But is he really harmful to society than the old gent in the wig who pronounces sentence upon him? A crime is an act forbidden by the law of the land all laws devised by the strongest force in a community, and in the last analysis, made for the protection of the dominant class. This means that law has not been evolved to protect society but rather a tool developed through the class struggle used to protect that class which dominates the State. Within propertied society the law’s most important task is to protect the right of possession; that is why by far the largest class of crimes may be called crimes against property. One of the first rules of capitalist society is that where people offend against the laws of property the solution is to punish them into submission.

 Criminality continues to grow, and the punishments inflicted, though they can neither protect nor indemnify the honest, only succeed in corrupting and degrading. Crime is mounting, bred by the miseries of  capitalism and the great majority of crimes are motivated by inferior economic position, by elementary need. Crime policy has little to do with reducing crime or protecting the public, and much more to do with controlling economically deprived sections of the population, providing an ideological diversion from more serious problems.

There are criminals and there are criminals. Society rests on private property. Go to the county estate owner and listen and you will soon think the poacher is the embodiment of all diabolical vices while the poacher invariably and rightly regards the land-owner as the emissary of the evil one!  In the  past the land was held in common and there is abundant evidence that all early human communities were communistic in character. The man who attempted to retain for himself land or goods, or who fenced off a portion of the common ground was a criminal of the deepest dye.  Nevertheless these criminals have clawed their way to the top and have become the respectable members of modern society. The poacher asserting a right  belonging to a past time is condemned as anti-social! A poacher may be an outside the law but he preserves the mentality of honest people.

The gangsters of the Al Capone type merely expresses the dominant  power, afflicted with the drives of the capitalist but without the sanction of social superiority and acceptance. Anti-social behavior remains anti-social, whether it be called the individual initiative of the millionaire or the racketeering of a mobster. “This American system of ours, call it Americanism, call it capitalism, call it what you will, gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if we only seize it with both hands and make the most of it”  Al Capone has been quoted as saying and elsewhere he said “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class” Al Capone

It cannot be denied, of course, that the causes of crime are many and varied. But to lump all possible factors together indiscriminately is to obscure an elementary truth. Broken homes, family tensions, slum areas, gang activities, unemployment and insufficient income, lack of recreational facilities, poor educational methods and opportunities – all these things are indubitably involved in the creation of the criminal.  This is just another way of saying: Capitalism causes crime. For what are all these “complex” factors but aspects of our bourgeois culture? What are they but  illustrations of an outmoded system of private property?

The materialist viewpoint is invaluable because it shows us the interrelation of causes; it makes clear which factors are primary, which derivative; it explains how various elements are intertwined in a dynamic cultural pattern. The Marxist does not insist that all crimes are economic in character (although the evidence indicates that the great majority of crimes are such) ; we do, however, make it plain that the economic structure of society determines the cultural facts which orthodox theorists hold are non-economic in essence. Is the broken home a contributing factor in the origin of crime? Very well, but is not the broken home a manifestation of the conflict of capitalist culture, particularly prevalent in those unprivileged areas where unemployment, etc., inevitably disrupt normal family relations? Are slum clearance and housing projects important? Quite so: but the slum is an inevitable product of capitalist development, and the utopianism of hoping to achieve adequate housing under an outmoded system of private property is evident from what has come out of the none-too-laudable housing schemes. Poor educational opportunities, lack of recreational facilities – what are these but proof-by-example of class oppression? Mere enumeration of possible causes is not enough; what is necessary is a social theory which indicates which factors are basic, which of a reflex or secondary nature. The Marxian analysis, which relates cultural factors to the economic bedrock of society, makes it clear that the social scientists who enumerate multitudinous factors as isolated causes are guilty of the therapeutic error of symptom treatment: they are attempting to cope with factors (education, housing, unemployment, etc.) which are on the periphery of social reality. The primary fact is capitalist class society, organised on the basis of private property and private profit; from this basic economic fact flow the surface evils with which muddled sociologists are preoccupied.

The socialist recognises that in our class society, with the controlling social stratum enabled through its monopoly of the means of production to exploit the non-owning groups in the interests of its own material profit, there exists a fundamental clash of interests, which takes overt form in such phenomena as strikes, revolutions – and criminal acts. All of these expressions of class conflict represent, more or less directly, an attack upon the right of private property by the non-owning, or working class. Individual criminal acts are products of direct economic oppression, or of attitudes and sentiments engendered by class divisions, or of both.  Crime and organised revolt, then, are but two expressions, the former primitive and futile, the latter conscious and purposeful, of the same fundamental class conflict. This conflict grows out of the the competitive principle of private property, exercised in the interests of a minority.  The development o capitalism has produced the widest extremes of wealth and poverty; created enormous slum districts and underprivileged areas; wars in every generation; and formulated a most elaborate system of checks and restraints upon individual and social conduct and all the time while lawlessness and crime have been ever increasing because the sacred interests of private profit is leaving people in a condition of insecurity which sooner or later resolve themselves in revolt, or assert themselves in criminal behavior. More and more repressive laws have been created, more and more agencies of enforcement established. Criminal threats upon property rights must be prevented by the principle of deterrence through fear. Capitalist society  necessitates an ever-increasing degree the policing of the lower class by the agents of the ruling class.

 The socialist movement has the  power to put an end to the system responsible for the deprivation and poverty which give rise to crime in the first place. Socialists seek to abolish the present machinery of so-called justice, with all its painful and inhuman aspects, but we do not want to replace it with either total individual liberty to do as one wishes or the crowd’s summary justice of the lynch-mob. Socialists  are usually blamed for the vagueness  of our proposals to solve the most painful social problem as soon as it comes to dealing with the problem of reconstruction and practical life in the future society. However, it is not up to the Socialist Party to fix the future beforehand, but rather to simply guarantee the conditions of freedom necessary for the social evolution to eventually secure the greatest well-being and the greatest material, spiritual and intellectual development for all. We do not boast that we possess absolute truth, good for all times, universally applicable, or determinable in advance, but that instead, once freedom has been secured, mankind will go forward discovering and acting gradually with the least number of upheavals and with a minimum of friction. Thus our solutions always leave the door open to different and, one hopes, better solutions. In the interest of public safety it is useful that railwaymen, for instance, specialise in their job and doctors for example  entirely devote themselves to their skills. But we need not permit  someone to be a  judge by profession. Everybody should take care of social defence, in the same way in which everybody promptly helps when disaster strikes. If people do not feel sufficiently protected by the public, no doubt they immediately call for the policeman. Therefore, the only way of preventing the policeman from existing is to make him useless by replacing him in those functions that constitute a real protection for the public.

Let people remember that among the most hideous crimes are the millions of deaths by slow starvation during the first years of a child life.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Thieves Den

"Some will rob you with a six-gun, And some with a fountain pen." - Woody Guthrie

It has been described as the biggest banking fraud in history yet no-one has been prosecuted for the Libor fixing scandal. The financial rewards of rigging rates were, and are, immense. For example RBS’s rates, currencies and commodities group — the one where Libor rigging and other forms of market manipulation are believed to be commonplace — saw its income rise by 87% in the half year to June 2008, at a time when the overall income RBS Global Banking and Markets fell 10%. Royal Bank of Scotland admitted that between 2006 and 2010 staff based in London, Singapore, Tokyo and the US conspired to manipulate the global financial benchmark, the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) calculated in both Swiss Francs and Japanese Yen. By pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud in its Japanese arm, RBS managed to avoid having its US operations shut down by the US Department of Justice.  Libor is a global benchmark used to price some $300 trillion of contracts, ranging from mortgages to student loans to interest-rate swaps, calculated by averaging out submissions from up to 40 global banks.  Two other global banks have reached settlements along similar lines over Libor crimes. UBS was fined $1.5 billion (£950m) in December, and Barclays was fined $451m (£287m) in June 2012. A further 20 or so global banks are have yet to reach settlements. In the UK they are thought to include Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC.

“This is the biggest scandal, the biggest anti-trust felony, in the history of the world, and it continued for years,”
said Bill Black, associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a world leading expert on financial crime. “Even after the investigation became public knowledge, the felony continued, and it continued with greater efforts being made to cover it up, with people being instructed to no longer to use instant messages and such like in order to make it harder for the regulators What is most stunning is that these traders and submitters were willing to say these things, knowing that there was a verbatim record being kept. What does that tell you not just about the institution itself, but also about the FSA and the Serious Fraud Office? That is the one of the most important and revealing fact that comes out of this. The perception inside the bank was ‘we don’t need to worry about those clowns’.” He added "The bank is too big to prosecute, it’s too big to run honestly... it’s created catastrophic harm to the British people. RBS holds the British economy and the British people hostage."

Since being found out by regulators, RBS’s strategy has been to blame junior and middle-ranking people for the scandal, claiming that no one at the top of the bank knew it was going on. This is surprising, given that in September 2007, the Financial Times’s Gillian Tett highlighted concerns that Libor was “a bit of a fiction” [FT 25 September 2007], and that in April 2008 the British Bankers’ Association sent a memo to ‘panel’ banks including RBS asking them to check their Libor submission processes and ensure they were “submitting honest rates” after the Wall Street Journal’s Carrick Mollenkamp highlighted “growing suspicions about Libor’s veracity” [WSJ 16 April 2008]. Some RBS traders who have been dismissed for Libor rigging argue that they are being used as scapegoats, claiming that their superiors  ‘condoned collusion’. Tan Chi Min, RBS’s ex-head of Japanese Yen interest-rate trading, declared that Libor rigging was a well-known and common practice at the bank in 2006-11. The FSA said that, in March 2011, RBS misled the regulator, indicating that it had put proper systems and controls in place when it had not.

Many believe the government and  authorities are being too soft on financial crimes, seeing mollycoddling miscreant financial institutions that it majority owns as more important than seeking justice. The fact that RBS’s share price rose on the day of its settlement suggests investors believe it got off lightly.  Neil Barofsky, former special inspector-general of the Troubled Asset Relief Programme and author of Bailout, said: "...each settlement on favourable terms reinforces the perception that, for a select group of executives and institutions, crime pays. It is only rational. They know that they will get to keep all of the ill-gotten profits if they go undetected, and on the small chance that they’re caught, most probably only the shareholders will pay – and only a relatively minor fine at that. The lack of meaningful consequences for those committing these frauds encourages future fraudulent conduct."

Adapted from here

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Violent Scotland

Scotland is still the violent crime capital of Europe, despite offending falling as a whole. A quarter of crime is violent. The report found violent crime is higher per head of population in Scotland, than elsewhere in Europe.

 Domestic abuse, in particular, rose sharply in 2011/12 to almost 120 incidents per 10,000 population.

"Every society has the criminals it deserves.”
Emma Goldman

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Swindled Scots Again

A previous post concerned the Darien Scheme. Not many Scots however know of Gregor Macgregor, Prince of Poyais, Poyais being not far up the Central American coast from Darien. Gregor MacGregor was born in Glengyle in Stirlingshire and claimed direct descent from Rob Roy. He was a soldier and mercenary who fought in the South American wars of independence. 

Upon his return in 1820 to Britain, he claimed to be cacique ["prince"] of Poyais, a Central American country that MacGregor promoted to investors and colonists. Poyais, was an independent nation on the Bay of Honduras. He claimed that a native chief King George Frederic Augustus the First had given him the territory of Poyais, 12,500 sq. mile of fertile land with untapped resources. Gregor presented himself as His Serene Highness Gregor I, Prince of Poyais and his beautiful wife as the Princess of Poyais. No-one questioned their bona fides; instead they were welcomed into the ranks of the elite and were the toast of society. MacGregor published a 350-page guidebook entitled Sketch of the Mosquito Shore, including the Territory of Poyais. It described Poyais in glowing terms and concentrated on how much profit could be made from the country's ample resources. Poyais was said to possess an already existing infrastructure with civil service, army and democratic government , gold and silver mines and large amounts of fertile soil ready to be settled. The capital, St Joseph, even boasted an opera house. The region was even free of tropical diseases. But now he needed settlers and investment and had come back to the United Kingdom to give people the opportunity. At the time, British merchants were all too eager to enter the South American market that Spain had denied to them. The Lord Mayor of London organised an official reception in London Guildhall. MacGregor was also introduced to Major William John Richardson and he made Richardson Legate of Poyais. He also moved to Oak Hall, Richardson's estate in Essex, as befit his station as a prince. An office for the Legation of the Territory of Poyais was opened in the City of London and MacGregor enhanced his popularity with elaborate banquets and invited dignitaries like foreign ambassadors and government ministers.

MacGregor also claimed that one of his ancestors was a rare survivor of the Darien Scheme, the failed Scottish attempt of colonisation in Panama in 1690s. In order to compensate for this, he said, he had decided to draw most of the settlers from Scotland. For this purpose, he established offices in Edinburgh Glasgow and Stirling. In Scotland, MacGregor began to sell land rights for 3 shillings and 3 pence per acre. The average worker's weekly wage at the time was about £1, which meant that the price was very generous. The price steadily rose to 4 shillings. Many people hoping to make a new start in the new country signed on with their families. MacGregor successfully raised a £200,000 loan on behalf of the Poyais government, in the form of 2,000 bearer bonds worth £100 each.

The Legation of Poyais chartered a ship called the Honduras Packet. Its cargo also included a chest full of Poyais Dollars, the Poyaisian currency MacGregor had printed in Scotland. Colonists were assured the only legal currency in their new home would be the Poyaisian dollar and so, before departing, they exchanged their old Scottish and English pounds for this new currency. What did they care for old money from the old country anyway? A wonderful new world of plenty awaited them. On 10 September 1822 the Honduras Packet departed from the Port of London with 70 would-be-settlers aboard. They included doctors, lawyers and a banker who had been promised appropriate positions in the Poyais civil service. Some had also purchased officer commissions in the Poyaisian army. A Scottish shoemaker was equally entranced at the thought that he was to be the Official Shoemaker to the Princess of Poyais. On 22 January 1823 another ship, the Kennersley Castle, left Leith for Poyais with 200 would-be-settlers. It arrived in the appropriate place 20 March and spent two days looking for a port. Eventually the newcomers found the settlers who had sailed on the Honduras Packet.

The bond issues, land sales, and currency of the Territory of Poyais were all part of a scam. Poyais was an imaginary country. What the settlers found was jungle. "St Joseph" consisted of only a couple of ruins of a previous attempt at settlement abandoned in the previous century. There was no settlement of any kind. Standing where the towering buildings, opera house and banks of the shining capital of St Joseph were supposed to be were instead four rundown shacks. There was no Poyaisian army, no royal family, no civil service, not even one solid building. The great, prosperous nation of Poyais had all been an elaborate illusion, a heartless fraud committed on men and women from hard-working backgrounds who had dared to hope for a better life in the Americas. The monumental fraud had enlisted the credulity not only of adventurers but also of earnest bankers, profit-hungry land agents, and an old-boy network of aristocrats. A bull market had raged and the banking houses were abuzz with the news that Sir Gregor MacGregor was offering acreage in the New World at bargain prices. So convincing was MacGregor that he had duped them all. 180 of the 270 would-be settlers perished during the ordeal. Fewer than 50 came back alive to Britain. MacGregor himself, however, had already left for France where he had plans to send French emigrants to Poyais.

MacGregor published a new constitution of Poyais and changed it into a republic with himself as the head of state. In August 1825 he issued a £300.000 loan with 2.5% interest through the London bank of Thomas Jenkins & Company and the trading organization "Compagnie de la Nouvelle Neustrie" was commissioned to further the affairs of Poyais. Recruited settlers were required to buy 100 francs worth of the company shares. When French officials noticed that a number of people had obtained passports in order to voyage to a country they had never heard of, they seized the la Nouvelle Neustrie ship. Some of the would-be-emigrants realised that something was not right and demanded investigation of the affair. MacGregor was arrested with others but was acquitted at his trial and released.

MacGregor returned to London. This time he claimed that he had been elected as the head of state, the "Cacique of the Republic of Poyais", and opened a new office in Threadneedle Street in the City, without any diplomatic trappings and in much a smaller scale than before. He issued a loan worth £800.000 as 20-year bonds again with Thomas Jenkins & Company as brokers. In 1828 MacGregor tried to sell land from Poyais at the price of 5 shillings per acre. In 1831 MacGregor promoted a "Poyaisian New Three per cent Consolidated Stock" as "the President of the Poyaisian Republic". In 1834 he was living in Scotland and had to issue a new series of land certificates as payment for unredeemed securities. In 1836 he wrote a new constitution for the Poyaisian Republic. The last record of any Poyais scheme is in 1837, when he tried to sell some land certificates.

 Such a scam could never happen again in Scotland, could it?

 The Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland effectively went bust during the recession. At best, there were appalling management failures with an obsession with growth taking precedence over prudent banking practice. At worst, the banks were out-of-control and riddled with fraud and criminality, having been primed by its management teams to deliver maximum short-term profit growth with maximum reward for executives, irrespective of whether the banks had a chance of surviving long term — or whether its customers were harmed. The Financial Services Authority turned a blind eye to the blatant wrongdoing and recklessness, accused by many of acting as a cheerleader for the big banks, if not an accomplice.

The executives who ran HBOS and RBS were supposed to be the best and the brightest. They were selected from the finest schools and the top universities, well qualified in business and accountancy. How exactly do the people running these operations invest? Do they watch everyone else and then do the exact same thing, following instinct of the herd? Do they figure that they have some form of immunity and get away with what others can't? Surely, they understand the business cycle. Surely, they understand what a bubble is. Surely they could see what was going on, when it was going on, and where it was leading before it went there? If they didn't, how come others did? The financial world was full of information about the coming crash before it happened. Most in the money community knew the market was bound to come tumbling down. But, just what are the chances of those with their snouts deep in the trough ever questioning the system? Little to none. Not in a million years will they ever question the fundamentals of the system, even though it blows up in their faces every decade or so. Despite all the sophisticated best-practices and the cleverest financial technology capitalism is fatally flawed. The system will eventually rebound from the present recession. The bankers with their spread sheets, their risk analysis, their clever accounting methods will once again seek out their "opportunities" in the next bubble. And then express their surprise when that too bursts.

At some point, the system has to be questioned. The idea that people can trust in more and more regulatory authority to foil the "few" bad pennies and rotten apples is sheer wishful thinking. What must come out of this mess is not a restructured financial and regulatory environment but a fundamental questioning of the whole concept of capitalism. It is no exaggeration to say that the global financial sector tolerates and even encourages systematic fraud. The behaviour that caused the sub-prime mortgage bubble and financial crisis of 2008 was a natural outcome and continuation of a criminalised pattern, rather than some kind of economic accident. There have been very few prosecutions and even less criminal convictions of senior executives. Similar to MacGregor, the bankers have walked Scot-free from the legal process.

The economist, Nouriel Roubini, in Crisis Economics recalls Gregor MacGregor and reminds us of the recurring nature of economic crises. He wrote "...the panic of 1825 reverberated around the world. It began in Britain and had all the hallmarks of a classic crisis: easy money (courtesy of the Bank of England), an asset bubble (stocks and bonds linked to investments in the emerging market of Peru), and even widespread fraud (feverish selling of the bonds of a fictitious nation called the Republic of Poyais to credulous investors)."

Just like many another capitalist swindler, Gregor MacGregor got away with his crimes and found a friendly foreign country to retire to. His name can still be seen on a  monument to honour Venezuela’s heroes of independence. His legacy in his Scotland is very different. The fraud cost more than just the livelihoods of those he fooled, it cost them their lives.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fear and loathing in Glasgow

Taken from here

In Glasgow a stabbing occurs every six hours - and many more go unreported. Survey after survey, from the World Health Organisation to the United Nations, identifies Glasgow as one of the most violent cities in western Europe. Among young males aged between 10 and 29, the rate of homicide is similar to Argentina, Costa Rica and Lithuania. Alcohol-related death rates are three times the British average while Scots have one of the lowest life expectancies in Europe. Three-quarters of all weapons crimes in Scotland occur in the Strathclyde policing district in and around Glasgow. Between 5000 and 6000 are recorded each year and more than 2200 hospital beds are taken up with the victims.

The nightmare is constant, a cycle of violence that each weekend sees the alcoholic and drug addicted, chronically unemployed and angry, the young and the old, take to the streets armed with knives, machetes and even samurai swords to battle the demons of disillusionment - and each other.

"I know it sounds like I'm talking about savages but we can be called to a gang fight and there'll be fathers n' grandfathers shouting 'C'mon, get him'. This is what we are dealing with in West Scotland." - Inspector Dougie Stevenson, head of the Strathclyde Gangs unit.

Plain-clothes police officer, Barry Inglis - " can see it everywhere; generations have been doing it, grandfathers, fathers, sons, grandsons. We hear it all the time when we bring kids in: 'I did it when I was a boy, what's the problem?'''

Dr Marjorie Black, a forensic pathologist with the Scottish Crown office "Most of it is known to be gang related: there is this culture of defending turf … in Glasgow, if you stray into the wrong area, you are seen as fair game."

The Strathclyde police mapped 167 gangs, all guarding territory and turf rather than drugs - some covering just a few streets and laneways. The very existence of gangs for the kids of dysfunctional and distressed families offer a sense of belonging and security.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan of Strathclyde's Violence Reduction Unit "The violence we see here is of such intensity that it's almost unique in western Europe … accepted as legitimate, a community norm, something that cannot be changed...

Says Dr Christine Goodall from Medics Against Violence: "Research shows us that that if you live in a deprived area in Glasgow, you were three times more likely to have a facial injury or trauma. If alcohol is involved, the likelihood rises and is seven times higher than if you lived in a more well off neighbourhood. We were seeing people in their 20s with cirrhosis of the liver, kids of 14 who would take hours to be stitched up and when you tell them the scar would be there for life, they'd say it was OK … for them it was a badge of honour..."

Carnochan also explains "The young men's faces are scarred from the conflict but these scars label them not as the victims they are, but as fighters, violent men. This means they can't get jobs, find a relationship. Functioning in a society that is fearful of violence is difficult, too…we shouldn't forget that either."

Socialist Courier says that the youth of the housing schemes are right to think there is no hope within the present system but wrong to sit back and wallow in its excesses. Socialists say that society can be better than it is. Under capitalism tackling the “causes of crime” means nothing other than more empty words and broken promises, fuelling another, destructive, cycle of cynicism. Only socialism, where a real community of interests can be established and will resolve the destabilising and dehumanising days of capitalism. When community relationships break down, when drink and drugs to numb the pain of the daily rat-race becomes the norm, then society is in serious trouble.

See also the Socialist Standard article on knife and gun crime.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Poverty breeds violence

Scots in poor areas are more than 30 times more likely to be killed in an assault than those in affluent parts of the country, a study has revealed. A woman in the most deprived area is 35 times more likely to die in an assault than one in the most affluent area with men 31.9 times likely to die - a rate similar to deaths from stroke.

The authors said: "Reducing mortality and inequalities depends on addressing the problems of deprivation as well as targeting known contributors, such as alcohol use, the carrying of knives and gang culture."

Violence against the person can be attributed to the everyday stresses and alienations that are part and parcel of our existence in capitalist society. We are conditioned into seeing our fellow workers, with whom, economically, we have everything in common, as rivals; as competitors for jobs and houses. The victims will all too frequently be fellow members of the working class. Where those fellow workers also happen to possess characteristics that proclaim the greater diversity of our species, be it skin pigmentation, accent, age, gender, sexual proclivity, disability; whatever then they are all the more readily identifiable as potential targets for abuse or violence.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

'recession crime wave'

The Socialist Party in its case for socialism have argued that there is an economic cause to crime , rather than an innate human nature reason for its existence .

According to crime figures, around 95 percent of all statutory crime is property-related. This breaks down very roughly as follows: 25 percent theft from or of motor vehicles, 25 percent burglary, 30 percent other forms of theft – fraud, forgery, shoplifting etc., and 15 percent criminal damage to property. The remaining five percent comprises four percent violence against the person and one percent sexual offences . The great bulk of the residual five percent (violence against the person and sexual offences), can be attributed to the everyday stresses and alienations that are part and parcel of our existence in capitalist society. We are conditioned into seeing our fellow workers, with whom, economically, we have everything in common, as rivals; as competitors for jobs and houses.

The system is almost entirely responsible for statutory crime. In socialist society, common ownership and production solely for use would prevail. Almost all statutory crime would fade away. Theft would not exist. What would there be to steal? Your own property? If you really want to be “Tough on crime; tough on the causes of crime”, the solution is very simple – abolish capitalism and establish socialism.

Predictions by the government that deteriorating economic conditions will send crime rates spiralling are borne out by an Observer analysis of official police figures which reveals a significant increase in burglaries across England and Wales. In many cases, the percentage rise was in double digits and in most it was more than 5 per cent. The figures suggest that years of falling crime may be coming to an end. For more than a decade the number of recorded thefts from homes has been on the way down, partly because the plunging value of household goods such as DVD players and stereos has made burglary less lucrative.

Jacqui Smith, warned last month that crime levels will increase amid the economic downturn. A leaked draft of a letter to Downing Street from Smith suggested there will be 'significant upward pressure on acquisitive crime [theft, burglary, robbery] during a downturn'.

It said that if the economic slowdown was on a similar scale to the last recession, property crime would be likely to rise by 7 per cent this year and a further 2 per cent in 2009. Smith's letter warned that the economic climate could boost support for 'far-right extremism and racism'. It also suggested there would be an increase in public hostility to migrants as the job market tightens.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tax Fraudsters

THE tiny principality of Liechtenstein is one of three countries to be blacklisted by the OECD for failure to co-operate with a clampdown on tax avoidance.With a population of around 35,000, Liechtenstein has a banking system shrouded in secrecy.The OECD named it, along with Monaco and Andorra, as a country that could do more to clean up its tax laws. It has also been accused of condoning money laundering, and tax evasion.Non-residents can set up a foundation, allowing them to avoid taxes. Foundations also minimise requirements to file returns or accounts and guarantee anonymity for the investor.There is no need to keep accounts or submit financial statements if the foundation does no business or trade. If the foundation qualifies as an offshore company, it is not subject to income tax or capital gains tax in Liechtenstein. The only requirement is to maintain an "office" in Liechtenstein, but this can be a mailing address.

THE identities of wealthy British tax evaders will be kept secret, even though UK tax authorities now have access to their details, it emerged yesterday. HM Revenue and Customs has admitted it has details of about 100 Britons who evade an estimated £100 million in taxes through Liechtenstein. The names will only be unveiled in the improbable event of a criminal prosecution. A spokesman for HMRC admitted this was "highly unlikely", because it was so difficult to prove tax evasion in court and it would cost taxpayers too much to pursue a trial. Of an estimated 130,000 inquiries into alleged tax fraud last year, only a "handful" ended up in criminal trials.

Not quite the same zeal the State puts in when it comes to hounding those of the working class who may be claiming a little more than the rules and regulations of the so-called welfare system .

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Jailhouse Blues

Sometimes Socialists feel for our political rivals . Yes , we really do . We know they know that their political programme and policies are worthless yet they are unable to refute them .
One such politician is Mark Oaten one-time Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman .

The Winchester MP desperately wanted to say that all prisons should be demolished and replaced with education and training centres, mental health facilities and drug rehabilitation units. But his Lib Dem colleagues would never allow him to air this radical view in public.

"It was clear to me that prison wasn't working," says Mr Oaten. "But I would have been crucified as a front line politician for saying this in public and the party would have tumbled in the opinion polls."

Since he is no longer seeking re-election he is now able to disclose his real views on political and social matters .

"Prison is not fit for purpose and it's beyond reform. We need to abolish it and replace it with more workable alternatives," he tells BBC Radio 4

The Winchester MP identifies mental health problems, drug addiction and illiteracy as three of the main reasons for criminal behaviour. According to Mr Oaten 72% of prisoners have mental health problems. These people, he argues, should be held in secure therapeutic facilities where they would undergo treatment. Mr Oaten believes offenders detained in mental health facilities should only be released when they are no longer considered a threat to society.
Mr Oaten envisages the drug treatment facilities he proposes attracting plenty of offenders, claiming that currently around 50% of all prisoners have a drug problem.
For those identified as committing crime because of their lack of employability, Mr Oaten would like the government to establish a network of secure education and training centres.
He says: "Thirty seven per cent of prisoners are functionally illiterate. They should be in classrooms learning to read and write or in training and getting skills." Those sentenced to education and training would be released upon successful completion of their course.

This Liberal Democrat may believe he is on to something but we would suggest that he has one big huge glaring omission in his analysis - Capitalism and its alienating deprivation of ownership and control of everyday life that contributes to the crime situation and the anti-social behaviour of many of our fellow workers . He is as it turns out just another reformer seeking palliatives and cures for problems that are inherent within the capitalist system and which cannot be removed by good intentions . A jail will be a jail , prison walls or not , and as the rest of the article indicates , there is more to solving crime than Mark Oaten's penal reforms .

"Law is nothing but a class instrument – a weapon of the capitalist State for its own preservation. It is necessary to the capitalist State because the ruling class in capitalism have laid thieves’ hands upon the means of life... However much he may be made to fear the Law, the proletarian will no longer respect it. He will come to regard it in its true light, as the enemy, not the friend, of the working class; as the necessary adjunct of class rule, by means of which alone the producers of all wealth can be robbed and murdered and debauched, with some sort of one-sided orderliness, by a class of idle, drunken parasites, steeped to the neck in moral turpitude, sunk to the eye-brows in abomination which even the hardened Law dares find no name for. That superstitious awe which, quite apart from the fear of policeman and prison surrounds the Majesty of the Law, will dissipate, and no longer will the worker "blush for shame" at being caught in the act of law-breaking. (Socialist Standard, July 1911)

And as Eugene Debs once remarked :-

While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Crime figures

People of ethnic minority backgrounds in Scotland are more than twice as likely to be victims of crime as others, according to new police figures. One in 20 victims of crime are from ethnic minorities, despite the fact they make up just one in 50 of Scotland's total population.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Crime Pays for Some

A junior barrister was handed more than £1 million in legal aid last year, it was revealed yesterday. Balbir Singh, head of Birmingham’s Equity Chambers, was paid £1,116,000 in 2005/06.

The second-highest paid was Nigel Lithman, QC, who received £978,000 in legal aid, followed by John C. Rees, QC, with £947,000.

Four of the 10 top-earning criminal barristers were from the same chambers: 2 Bedford Row in London. Mr Lithman, William Clegg, QC, Jim Sturman, QC and Howard Godfrey, QC had a combined pay-out of £3.3 million.

Tuckers Solicitors was the highest paid criminal firm, receiving £8.5 million in the year from the legal aid purse. They were followed by Irwin Mitchell (£5.3 million) and Burton Copeland (£5 million).

In a separate list of community legal service firms - carrying out non-criminal work - the highest paid was Duncan Lewis Solicitors with just under £7 million, followed by Irwin Mitchell with £5.2 million.

The law is an instrument of the owning class, that pretends to be for everyone, but is only for the rich. It's an instrument of class domination.

Shakespeare's Henry VI — “First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers” - Perhaps , on reflection that maybe a sanction a little bit too severe .

Monday, June 18, 2007

Freedom Is Jail

Just to reinforce the previous blog's comment that capitalism distorts all relationships a report comes out of Europe that finds many women in Scotland are choosing to go into prison - and stay there longer - because their lives on the outside are so chaotic .
In some cases, the problems faced by women on the outside were so enormous they considered prison as a refuge.

"There is evidence that some of these women are choosing to go to prison," said Dr Shewan of Glasgow Caledonian University .

It indicates some women choose to go to prison to escape abusive partners; others to try to stabilise spiralling debts and drug addiction. Also reveals that women had committed crimes (including fire-raising) within prison so as to actually avoid release .

Scotland has one of the fastest-growing female prisoner populations in Europe, despite repeated promises from ministers to reduce the problem. In the past decade, it has more than doubled. Last year, it peaked, with 365 women behind bars. On the same day in 2002, there were 273 women in jail.

The study suggests that sentencers sometimes send women to prison to receive help not available in the community.

Community services are so unable to meet the basic needs of women offenders with drug problems, and so many other problems, that incarceration becomes an easier option, according to the report.

"Could this be one of the underlying reasons why the female prison population in Scotland has been (increasing), and continues to increase?"
In his latest report on Cornton Vale, Scotland's only women's prison, Dr Andrew McClellan, the chief inspector of prisons, concluded that, of the inmates, 98% had drug addiction problems, 80% had mental health problems and 75% had a history of abuse and very poor physical health.
Mental health and addiction problems characterise these women, and many experts claim the experience of prison is likely to increase their drug-taking and offending. Many of them are still being imprisoned for minor offences. Seven out of 10 prison sentences passed on women are for six months or less. In 2004-5, more than 400 women were sent to prison for failing to pay a fine.
"We are locking up increasing numbers of increasingly damaged women," Dr McLellan said "It is desperately sad. You see it not just in their eyes but on their arms, which are deeply scarred from a long history of self-harming."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Prison Blues

In a recent Scotsman article it is estimated that the Scottish prison population will reach American-type proportions . Prof Coyle, head of prison studies at Kings College in London, said Britain was "ten to 15 years behind the US", which he said was already using prisons as a quasi-welfare state. America has a prisoner rate of 738 per 100,000 head of population, nearly six times more than Scotland's rate of 139 per 100,000.

Presently standing at around 7,200 people prison service estimates that the number could hit 10,000 within the next decade but Professor Andrew Coyle, a former governor of Peterhead and Shotts prisons, yesterday said that if courts keep sending mentally ill people, along with offenders whose crimes arise from drug and alcohol addictions, to prison, Scotland could end up with a prison population as high as 35,000.

He notes that seven out of ten prisoners in Scotland have mental health problems, with seven per cent displaying "psychotic elements" and eighty per cent suffering drug addiction problems .
Prof Coyle said that, instead of being used as a "punishment of last resort" for serious criminals, prisons were increasingly being forced to cope with mentally ill people and other problematic cases, such as drug addicts, who should be diverted into the health service rather than the criminal justice system.

Prof Coyle said a lack of adequate facilities for people with mental health problems was fuelling the growth in the prison population.

"I'm talking about the 'too difficult' groups, the mentally disturbed, the drug addicts. People with these health issues are not being given the help they need through the health system. They then appear in the 'system' for committing crimes. That system simply isn't equipped for dealing with people with health and addiction problems."
And what has Scotland got to look forward to if it follows the American incarceration trend .

The USA has the most prisoners in the world .

A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people -- or one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail.

China ranks second with 1.5 million prisoners

Followed by Russia with 870,000.

The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population

Ryan King, a policy analyst at The Sentencing Project, a group advocating sentencing reform, said the United States has a more punitive criminal justice system than other countries. King said various social programs, including those dealing with education, poverty, urban development, health care and child care, have failed.

"There are a number of social programs we have failed to deliver. There are systemic failures going on . A lot of these people then end up in the criminal justice system."
The easy fix of "lock em up and throw away the keys" isn't working . And the remedy of patching up and reforming the system don't change things either .

There requires to be a more profound and revolutionary approach to the causes of crime and all the many other social ills . Socialists cannot see prisons simply as the dumping grounds for the discarded and the despised .

Eugene Debs once said :-
" Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. "