Friday, August 31, 2007


It’s 10 since Diana Spencer’s death and my attention has been drawn to an article printed in the Socialist Standard October 1997, it’s appropriate given the hype recently displayed on TV and newspapers.

Do I care that Diana Spencer was killed in a car crash in Paris? I do, but not to order and never in the way I am expected to care. In almost all cases we humans are saddened by death. We know that without any doubt we must all come to an end and to not know how this will take place or where or when is probably at the back of most of our minds. But I find it incomprehensible that I should be expected to grieve to distraction over a woman I have never met, was never likely to meet and had no desire to meet. Not only that but I now find that an assumption is made that I will automatically become involved in some of the sickening hypocrisy that we have all witnessed in the wake of her death, and I must say I find this deeply insulting to my intelligence.
If Diana preached that we should not discriminate against people with AIDS, so what? If she told us land mines should not be used to kill civilians, so what? Is there something intrinsically clever or wise about this? So many of us have said the same. But Diana was listened to and admired because like everything else under capitalism she had been "packaged", her money and her position entitling her to be "right" in the eyes of those people who are impressed by such things. She was a princess and princesses, unlike other people, apparently, KNOW these things. Wealth had made her attractive and interesting, ensuring therefore, that when she spoke about AIDS victims, the homeless, children, then she would be taken much more seriously than when we lesser mortals give voice on similar subjects. So only the successful and the wealthy have that priority of wisdom, while the rest of us are seldom consulted except for one day every five years when we have the dubious honour of being invited to put a cross against the name of some remote person who knows and understands less than we do.
So what is it about human beings that they often cannot differentiate between what is real and matters and what is cosmetic, contrived and overly-sentimental? Centuries of conditioning must be one of the reasons why the human race resorts to adulation of the rich and the powerful, the sages, the clever ones, those who know what is best for us, whom we allow to enslave us, resulting in an almost innate inferiority. The media and the system under which we all live encourages this; it is to their advantage.
Many of us will have worked all our lives to change this system of society, while others believe that belonging to a trade union or joining the Labour Party will increase the chances of a better life for the working class. Believing that reform will bring about change and benefit us all. Socialists know that only by eradicating capitalism can we begin to redress injustice and poverty and look cowards a sensible and rational life for us and our children and their children.Meanwhile, my heart aches for those who do not dare to trust their own judgment, who fawn on the shallow figures in our society and make gods and goddesses of them because they have never considered that the power to change what is sick in this world lies in their own hands


"Critics are accusing President Vladimir Putin's government of a Soviet-style rewriting of Russian history with a series of new "patriotic" textbooks to be unveiled in the new school year. New laws passed this summer have given the government sweeping powers over which textbooks will be used in schools.
Mr Putin has complained that the negative view of the Soviet past in current history textbooks is down to the fact that the authors received foreign grants to write them. Now, the Kremlin claims it wants to change that situation and a re-commissioning of Russia's history textbooks is under way. A handbook for teachers, on the basis of which a future textbook for students could be written, is called The Modern History of Russia, 1945-2006. ... The book calls Joseph Stalin a "contradictory" figure, and states that while some people consider him evil, others recognise him as a "hero" for his role in the Great Patriotic War (the Second World War) and his territorial expansion. ..Officially, little attention has been paid to the darker aspects of Russia's Soviet past, such as the Stalinist purges or the deportation in appalling conditions of 3 million of its own citizens during the Second World War, with the focus instead on the strength of Stalin's Soviet Union and the victory over Germany." (Independent, 30 August)
In forcing kids to learn patriotic lies about history Putin is only doing what every capitalist government does. RD


"Leona Helmsley's dog will continue to live an opulent life, and then be buried alongside her in a mausoleum. But two of Helmsley's grandchildren got nothing from the late luxury hotelier and real estate billionaire's estate. Helmsley left her beloved white Maltese, named Trouble, a $12 million trust fund, according to her will, which was made public Tuesday in surrogate court. She also left millions for her brother, Alvin Rosenthal, who was named to care for Trouble in her absence, as well as two of four grandchildren from her late son Jay Panzirer — so long as they visit their father's grave site once each calendar year. Otherwise, she wrote, neither will get a penny of the $5 million she left for each." (Yahoo News, 29 August)
£152,150 for a legless hero. $12 million for a pet dog. Capitalism has some strange priorities. RD


The contempt and disregard with which the capitalist class treat members of the working class was illustrated by the following news item. Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, who served in southern Afghanistan with the British Army suffered horrendous injuries. "Diane Dernie, his mother, said yesterday that she was planning to take the MoD to the High Court because her son was awarded £152,150 in compensation for his three worst injuries but the assessment did not take account of all his other wounds. She told The Times: "They assessed his compensation on the basis of losing both legs, his head injuries and a broken elbow. But he also lost his spleen, lost his voice and had shattered ribs." His other injuries included a fractured cheekbone, nose, jaw, pelvis and vertebrae. He is believed to be one of the worst wounded serviceman ever to survive, but his mother said that he would need care and special help for the rest of his life." (Times, 29 August) RD

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tax sharks

Almost a third of the UK’s 700 biggest businesses paid no corporation tax in the 2005-06 financial year as reported here .

Another 30 per cent paid less than £10m each, an official study has found.

According to a National Audit Office analysis of the tax raised from the 700 companies handled by the large business service of Revenue & Customs 50 businesses, or 7 per cent of the 700, paid 67 per cent of the tax while about 220 paid none and another 210 each paid less than £10m.

Some tax experts were taken aback by the small amount of tax many of the companies paid. Michael Devereux of the Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation, said: ”It is certainly surprising.”

NOT so to the Socialist Courier , it isn't .

We reported in the Socialist Standard way back in June 99 that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp protected their profits by a series of complex financial arrangements involving off-shore tax havens—arrangements that have seen News Corp pay no net British corporation tax in 11 years, despite profits here of £1.4 billion.

Capitalism -Good for a very few - Bad for the many

THE average pay for directors of the UK's biggest firms has soared to £2.87 million after seeing their salary packages rise by over a third in the last year, as reported in the Edinburgh Evening News .

The 37 % rise outstrips average inflation of 2.3 % and is 11 times the increase in average employee pay of 4 % .

The total pay packages of the 1389 FTSE 100 company directors last year broke through the £1 billion barrier for the first time, totalling £1.01billion - enough for 15 hospitals or 50,000 nurses.

The top-paid UK executive was Bob Diamond, head of the investment banking arm of Barclays Bank, who earned £23 million. Although his basic salary was only £250,000, Mr Diamond was awarded a performance bonus of more than £10 million and over £12 million in share awards.

Bart Becht, chief executive of household cleaning company Reckitt Benckiser, was not far behind with a total package worth £22 million , nearly 80 per cent of the firm's total executive wage bill.

Among the other biggest earners were Giles Thorley, who heads the Punch Taverns pub group, which owns one in eight of all pubs in the UK and has more than 160 pubs in and around the Lothians. He took home a salary package of £11 million .

The highest paid woman, with a package worth £2.1million , was Dame Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of Financial Times publisher Pearson

Jann Brown, finance director at Edinburgh-based oil and gas explorer Cairn Energy, was the UK's third highest earning female executive, with a total salary package of £1.7 million.

Two Royal Bank of Scotland heavyweights also made the top ten in terms of the biggest cash bonuses paid out, with chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin bagging £2.8million and Johnny Cameron, chief executive of the RBS global banking and markets division, raking in £2.3 million.

Meanwhile the paper also reports :-

THE number of people declared bankrupt in Edinburgh has soared to almost ten a week, as rising interest rates start to bite. The number of people declared bankrupt in the Capital has nearly doubled in two years. Most cases involved people struggling with credit card or loan debts .

Debt management experts today warned the problem will worsen as homeowners come to the end of fixed-rate mortgages and house prices stabilise. Lenders are also being blamed for "exercising their muscle" by forcing people into court to be declared bankrupt, rather than letting them pursue voluntary insolvency.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


In an article by Gareth Rose, printed in Scotland on Sunday august 26th employees are finding more and more imaginative illnesses for staying at home. Why? Well Professor Michael Linden, a clinical Psychologist in Berlin who has led the research claims they fear the work place, the people in it and the problems that arise there.
Should workers fear the workplace? The Stockline plastics factory mentioned in SAFETY AND OVER HEADS in one of the recent postings here in the Socialist Courier certainly justifies any apprehension in that area. In the CONSTRUTION SAFETY CAMPAIGN NEWS, the summer edition 2007 it leads with an article on the devastating increases in incidents involving cranes, deaths in Battersea and Liverpool , narrow escapes, repairs not carried out, etc. I could go on quoting from it but I’m sure you know other industries have similar problems, it’s a class thing and workers welfare will always be dismissed when profits are threatened.
The professor says, “Anxiety can lead to avoidance. Job anxiety can, therefore, be one explanation for sick leave, work absenteeism or early retirement.”
Is the professor showing sympathy for workers? Apparently not, the article is headed “Skivers suffer from phobia of workplace” I wonder if the professor could research a possible fear of profits loss, it could be the reason funds are really being provided for his research.

The red white and blue of Larkhall

The Scotsman describes the religious bigotry of the Central Scotland town of Larkhall where the colour green and the connotations lead to vandalism and the only "safe" colours is the red and white and blue of Glasgow Rangers and the Union Jack .

"...historians believe anti-Catholicism to have been greater in mining towns such as Larkhall, where Irish Catholics were used by pit owners to break strikes. So the fuel was as much economic fear as it was cultural dilution of Protestant stock, the idea which found support in sections of the Church of Scotland in the 1920s and 1930s..."

By playing the "orange card" the bosses employed the divide and rule tactic to weaken the Scottish workers and the consequences linger on to this day .

Isn't it time to discover class loyalty rather than loyalty to the crown ?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


"The Pentagon said Tuesday that it would shut down a database that had been criticized for including information on antiwar protesters and others whose actions posed no threat to military facilities and personnel. A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Gary Keck of the Army, said the database was being shut down Sept. 17 because “the analytical value had declined,” but not because of public criticism. Last year, a Pentagon review found that as many as 260 reports in the database, known as Talon, were improperly collected or kept there. ....Eventually the Pentagon hopes to create a system — not necessarily a database — to “streamline such threat reporting,” a brief statement issued Tuesday said." (New York Times, 22 August) George Orwell's dystopia 1984 had Big Brother is watching you. So look out you so-called peaceniks - Uncle Sam is watching you now. RD


"A factory blast which killed nine people and injured 40 in May 2004 would have been avoided if £405 had been spent on replacing a gas pipe, Glasgow high court heard yesterday. A hearing into the causes of the explosion which destroyed the Stockline plastics factory in Maryhill, Glasgow, was told the corroded pipe from a propane gas cylinder had not been inspected since being buried during renovation work. ..Over the years, bosses of the two companies involved had ordered risk assessments at the Stockline plastics factory but these had not specifically investigated the condition of the underground pipe work. It also emerged that one risk assessment had been carried out by a college student doing vacation work." (Guardian, 28 August) The constant drive of capitalism is to increase profits, one of the ways to do this is to cut overheads. In this case it led to the deaths of nine workers, that is how capitalism operates. RD


"City bonuses have increased by 30% to a record £14bn this year. The rise is twice as big as in 2006 and likely to exacerbate the widening gap between executive and shop-floor pay. The bonuses come against a background of record debt, rising bankruptcies and home repossessions. Analysis by the Guardian of preliminary data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that bonuses across the economy rose 24% this spring to £26.4bn, comfortably is exceeding the country's entire transport budget. More than half, £14.1bn was earned by the 1 million people in the financial services sector. The figure for 2006 bonuses was £10.9bn. The bonuses have fuelled unprecedented demand for luxury goods and high-end property. Bonuses are regularly cited by estate agents as a key factor in pushing up property prices in London. ..The waiting list for a new Rolls-Royce is now five years and there is a shortage of crew members for super yachts." (Guardian, 28 August) Spare a thought for the position of our "betters"; they have to wait five years for a new Roller and have difficulty getting a crew for their yacht. It is certainly tough at the top! RD


"A human rights group in the US is suing Yahoo for alleged complicity in rights abuses and acts of torture in China. The World Organization for Human Rights says Yahoo's sharing of information with the Chinese government has led to the arrests of writers and dissidents. One journalist cited in the case was tracked down and jailed for 10 years for subversion after Yahoo passed on his email and IP address to officials. ... Shi Tao was jailed for posting comments critical of government corruption on the web. Yahoo is not the only internet company accused of collaborating with Chinese authorities. Rivals Google freely admit to blocking politically sensitive items on their China website. ..The internet firms argue it is better to offer Chinese users some information than none at all." (BBC News, 28 August) On the face of it these gigantic companies seem to be faced with a major ethical dilemma, but what they do not mention is that the Chinese market is huge and the potential profits are immense. When that is the case moral dilemmas mean little to capitalist firms. RD

Money goes to money

The Guardian is reporting that City bonuses have increased by 30% to a record £14 billion this year. The rise is twice as big as in 2006 and likely to exacerbate the widening gap between executive and shop-floor pay. The majority of the £14.1 billion will have been earned by a few at the top of the City tree pulling in hundreds of thousands or even millions in spring bonuses at the end of a year .

The bonuses have fuelled unprecedented demand for luxury goods and high-end property. City buyers were behind a 20% surge in farmland prices last year as the high-rollers moved to buy up a chunk of the countryside, often surrounding a weekend retreat. The waiting list for a new Rolls-Royce is now five years and there is a shortage of crew members for superyachts. Worldwide, 688 yachts measuring more than 80ft were launched and there will be 250 more this year.

BSkyB chief executive James Murdoch has pocketed a cash bonus worth almost £4 million on top of the near-£3 million remuneration package Mr Murdoch received for the year to the end of June.

Elsewhere , Office for National Statistics figures released in June showed Britons were saving proportionately less of their income than at any time for 50 years.

A quarter of people fail to save any money at all , and a quarter of those said they had too many debts to pay .

Monday, August 27, 2007


British capitalism built up its power on the exploitation of British workers but it also exploited Indian and African workers. The new emerging capitalist class in China are following that example."The courtyard in front of the Zambia China Mulungushi Textiles factory is so quiet, even at midday, that the fluttering of the ragged Chinese and Zambian flags is the only sound hanging in the air. The factory used to roar. .. Today, only the cotton gin still runs, with the company’s Chinese managers buying raw cotton for export to China’s humming textile industry. Nobody can say when or even if the factory here will reopen. “We are back where we started,” said Wilfred Collins Wonani, who leads the Chamber of Commerce here, sighing at the loss of one of the city’s biggest employers. “Sending raw materials out, bringing cheap manufactured goods in. This isn’t progress. It is colonialism.” (New York Times, 21 August) RD

The price of a life

Certain capitalist economists accuse the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence of valueing the quality of human life too high . NICE judged "value for money" at a cost far higher than the NHS could afford.

The effectiveness of the drug, and its side-effects, are balanced with its cost to give a price per extra year of good health - called a Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY).
In approximate terms, if the new treatment can deliver one QALY for £20,000 or less, then it is deemed cost-effective and heading for NHS approval. If the QALY costs up to £30,000, it may still be approved for NHS use by NICE.

The think tank The Kings Fund and City University, suggested that this £30,000 threshold was far too high when compared with how the rest of the NHS worked out which treatments to fund.
Some primary care trusts simply just pay £12000 in key areas such as circulatory disease per QALY .

Professor Nancy Devlin, from City University said "It's all about value for money... in the current NHS, where there is far less money to spend..."

Sunday, August 26, 2007


There is a common view supported by the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and other newspapers that men and women of the working class cannot enjoy themselves without the constant monitoring of the owning class police forces. Here is an example. "A massive police operation is under way for the two-day event with officers serving an estimated 11,000 shifts throughout the (Notting Hill) carnival. The event is the world's second largest street party, after the Rio Carnival held in Brazil. ..Ross Bacon, a 54-year-old Londoner said: "I have never been before. I was scared because of the bad publicity but my friend's son is a DJ and he is here, so she convinced me to come. ..Finnish tourist Jukka Myllyniemi said: "I had heard lots of bad stories about it before but I think it's a very positive carnival, with so many people from different cultures." (BBC News, 26 August) Men and women of the working class can enjoy themselves without the assistance of the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph or the police force. Amazing, isn't it. RD

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Wow, it must have been wonderful for this particularly foolish person as he zoomed across the road. Marvellous just like the manufacturers and advertisers promised."A motorist has admitted driving at a speed of 172mph on a road in Oxfordshire with a 70mph speed limit. Timothy Brady was driving a Porsche 911 along the A420 near Kingston Bypass when he was caught in a routine speed check, Oxford Crown Court heard. Brady, 33, of Harrow in north-west London, will be sentenced in September." (BBC News, 24 August) Lucky for Mr Porche owner he didn't kill my kid or yours, I think our sentence might be just a bit more severe. The manufacturer and advertiser are beyond our contempt. RD

Friday, August 24, 2007

Declining Wages

There is a maxim often espoused by apologists of Capitalism - that a rising tide lifts all boats , meaning that a bountiful capitalism will benefit all sectors of society , not just the capitalist class .

But where is the proof of the pudding.

Profits at British companies are growing at their fastest pace in nearly 13 years while wages of ordinary workers are rising at their slowest pace since 2002, official data showed today.

Office for National Statistics said profits increased by 16.2% in the second quarter of the year compared with a year earlier. That was the best figure since the final quarter of 1994, the profit rise was widespread across different types of company.


Wages rose by a meagre 3.6%, the worst pace of growth since the first quarter of 2002.

And inflation - rose to 3.8%, the highest in more than a decade .

So in real terms we are 0.2% worse off

Darren Winder, chief economist at stockbrokers Cazenove said that the cash position and balance sheet of British business was stronger than ever.

"But with household debt now higher than annual GDP, workers may be showing more flexibility over pay rises because they need to keep their job and pay the mortgage."

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Make up your own mind. Here is a recent reply to a criticism of capitalism on our website. Have a look and make up your own mind. "It's not necessary to understand Marx in order to be a socialist. In other words, you can want to see an end to capitalism without having studied Marx. However, Marx did analyse for us the economics of capitalism, in the same way that Darwin analysed evolution. There are lots of 'intellectuals' out there, who think that they understand Marx, or Darwin, but they don't really. I think it's a good thing if people look at these ideas for themselves, reach an understanding, and are then in a position to rebut the 'intellectuals'.
That was a worker speaking on our website. Let’s hear from you. RD

you bet !

Labour's gambling reforms - which come into effect next week - will make it easier for children to bet online, experts warned . The Royal College of Psychiatrists issued a last-minute plea for ministers to reconsider letting foreign gambling websites advertise on television here.
Addiction experts fear the supposedly tight restrictions on such sites will be "unenforceable". They say children will take advantage of security loopholes to pose as adults and bet on-line. Hundreds of foreign-based gaming websites are expected to start advertising on British TV and radio channels from next Saturday - even though they are not regulated in the UK . With online casinos mostly based in places such as Gibraltar, critics fear many will perform only the most cursory checks on players' ages and identities - making it far too easy for UK children to gamble illegally on-line.

He who pays the piper calls the tune !

Labour has accepted a donation of £150,000 from the online betting company Bet 365