Monday, February 28, 2011


A defense of capitalism often heard by socialists is that socialism would be impossible because without the goad of the wages system workers would be too lazy to work, but recent statistics seem to contradict that argument. "A record 5.26 million people worked unpaid overtime last year, clocking up an average of more than seven hours a week without pay, according to a new study. The TUC said workers were missing out on almost £5,500 a year, worth £29bn to the economy. One in five employees regularly put in extra unpaid hours last year, with public-sector workers most likely to work unpaid overtime,said the TUC. The number of workers doing unpaid overtime was the highest since records began in 1992, the research found, with 5.26 million people clocking up an average of seven hours 12 minutes unpaid overtime every week." (Independent, 25 February) RD

Sunday, February 27, 2011


It is a beautiful picture - the idyllic notion of "schooldays are the happiest days of your life", but for many kids it is a cruel fallacy."Ministers should draw up an emergency plan to tackle extreme levels of poverty as new research showed that more than one in four live in penury in some major UK cities. The figures, compiled by Save the Children, show that 1.6 million youngsters live in severe poverty, which the charity condemned as a "national scandal". With unemployment rising and a radical shake up of the welfare system seeing £18bn wiped from benefits, the charity fears the number of children living without the basics will rise unless action is taken." (Guardian, 23 February) Well-meaning charities may talk about "emergency plans" and "national scandal", but the realities of capitalism dictate government policies not noble sentiments. RD

Saturday, February 26, 2011


There is a widespread illusion that we live in more equitable times than previous generations, but recent statistics from the World Bank give the lie to that notion. "A sharp rise in food prices since June has pushed 44 million people in developing countries into extreme poverty - having to live on less than $1.25 a day - according to a report by the World Bank. (New York Times, 15 February) RD

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Politicians like to portray themselves as peace-loving do-gooders who want a peaceful world, but when it comes to selling armaments such scruples are soon forgotten. "David Cameron insisted that selling arms to authoritarian regimes does not clash with his desire to assist the "building blocks of democracy" across the Middle East, as he landed in the Gulf with eight of Britain's most senior businessmen from the defense and aerospace industry. ... He faced questions however, over his decision to bring representatives of  BAE Systems, Thales UK, QinetiQ and Rolls Royce on the private aircraft from London on the next leg of the visit." (Times, 22 February) Mr. Cameron is a realist. Pacific words are all very well at election meetings but the arms trade is big business. He expects to clinch  deals for millions of pounds over the sale of RAF Euro fighters to the Gulf and make a deal with oil-rich Kuwait over the sale of civil nuclear power installations. He is well aware that the Lybian dictatorship used British military equipment to kill peaceful demonstrators, but business is business.RD

the price of kids

The cost of raising a child in Scotland until their 21st birthday has risen to £203,000 – or £26.50 a day – a report has revealed. The study shows the cost of bringing up a child has risen by 50% since the firms’s first Cost of A Child Report in 2003. It has gone up by an inflation-busting 4.5%, from £194,337, in the last year alone.

Childcare and education – excluding private school fees – account for the biggest costs to parents. Childcare is estimated cost £67,430 over the course of a child’s upbringing. Other regular expenses that have risen in cost at a rate higher than inflation include clothing, which is up 11.7% compared to last year, holidays (up 6.4%), food (up 5.9%) and personal care items, such as toiletries, which have risen by 5.1%. Overall childcare costs are £84 for 25 hours a week – more than half the gross average part-time weekly earnings of £160. In addition, Government support to parents to fund childcare is going down – from 80% to 70%.

"Three-quarters of parents said they were having to economise because of the financial pressures they were under, with nearly half making savings on holidays.” Satwat Rehman, director of One Parent Families Scotland, said those on lower incomes were particularly vulnerable to rising costs. "The cost of basics are going up and the greatest impact is on parents who are at the greatest risk of poverty.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

old and young suffer

Save the Children said its research revealed there are 90,000 children in Scotland - or one in 10 - living in what they term the most "severe poverty" and the charity said they feared that number would rise "dramatically" due to Scots having the lowest chance of finding work in the UK.

In January this year, Glasgow had Scotland's highest proportion of youngsters in severe poverty at 18%, followed by North Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire and Clackmannanshire at 14%, and Dundee at 12%.

The charity said Glasgow had almost 18 people chasing every job vacancy, and that in West Dunbartonshire there are more than 36 people vying for every job.

Douglas Hamilton, Save the Children's head of Scotland, said: "Urgent action is required in Scotland's most deprived areas or we will end up with a lost generation. Some of these children will grow up living in households with no working adults - they have never seen a parent or grandparent work and this becomes the norm. People don't see a route out of poverty or this cycle of worklessness "

Meanwhile, Pensioners should lose a series of benefits, including free TV licences, free bus travel and the winter fuel allowance, to ease the financial squeeze on younger people, according to the think-tank., the Institute of Economic Affairs.

David Manion, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “Suggesting that all older people enjoy a ‘privileged’ economic position shows total ignorance of the reality of life for the majority of over-65s. In fact the UK has one of the lowest state pensions in Europe, with 1.8 million pensioners living in poverty and many more surviving just above the breadline.”

Yet Elinor McKenzie, chair of the Scottish Pensioners’ Forum, said: “Every year around 3000 older people in Scotland die over the winter months from cold-related illnesses."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Millions of people have been trained to think about what they buy through advertising slogans. They go into the grocer for a packet of "exceedingly good cakes" and some "prolongs active life" for the dog; in the sweet shop they pick up a "helps you work, rest and play" bar and perhaps "just one Cornetto" - to the approved tune, of course; then on to the travel agent to book two weeks in Benidorm with "we'll take more care of you"; down to the garage to pick up the "Vorsprung durch Technik" and fill it with a few gallons of the petrol which" you can be sure of". It is hardly surprising that a buying and selling society has taught the consumers to go in for commodity-talk, Think of all the language we'll lose to a world of free access: no more mindless slogans and jolly tunes to persuade us to buy shoddy brand A rather than bargain brand B. In a moneyless society l suppose we will have to learn to survive without the ad-men telling us what we want.

Steve Coleman

Socialist Standard July 1985

Monday, February 21, 2011


The Socialist Party Summer School



When socialists describe capitalism as a class divided society some of capitalism's supporters dispute this claim, but here is one dyed-in-the wool supporter of capitalism who seems to be agreeing with us. "Britain is dividing into "two nations", Iain Duncan Smith warns today, as he indentifies a growing underclass for whom life is comparable to the Third World and who can expect to die in their fifties. ... Speaking just days after publishing his Welfare Reform Bill with radical measures to drive people into work, he said: "In Britain today there are pockets that are peculiarly Third Worldish in terms of life expectancy, general expectations, disconnection for a group that is growing in number." (Times, 19 February) Needless to say Smith's determination to "drive people into work" applies to the working class not the useless parasitical capitalists. RD

Sunday, February 20, 2011


We live in a very wasteful society but surely this example of its wastefulness takes a bit of beating. Sacha Hall a 21 year old worker was arrested for taking ham, pies and waffles dumped in a caged dumpster at the back of a Tesco Express in Essex. "Arrested at home, she was handcuffed and marched to the police station, charged with the rarely applied crime of "theft by taking", for which she could receive a prison sentence." (Times, 19 February) Sacha who is on a low wage at another supermarket, said she was feeding her extended family. Wasteful? Tesco made a profit of £3.4 billion last year and yet some useful member of society risks a prison sentence for taking something out of their rubbish bin. Wasteful? The police, the courtroom staff and maybe even the prison wardens are spending their time dealing with "a dangerous criminal" like Sacha. RD

heartless system

Deaths of people who were waiting for appeals to be heard against the loss of benefits has prompted calls for a fairer assessment system. The claimants from West Dunbartonshire, died from the conditions which caused them to claim Incapacity Benefit (IB) while waiting for appeals to be heard against cuts to their benefits.

One was deemed fit for work during a work capability assessment, despite having a deteriorating chronic illness, and lost both incapacity benefit and disability living allowance. When his support worker appeared at the appeal tribunal she had to report her client could not be present because he was dead. The appeal was upheld and the backpayment will become part of his estate.

The other had a congenital condition which caused difficulty in walking but was assessed capable of work and his incapacity benefit was withdrawn. He was waiting for a date for an appeal tribunal when he died.

A third person, again from West Dunbartonshire, died recently after winning a second appeal tribunal following three years of repeated assessments and decisions being overturned.He worked as a shop assistant in his 20s but was forced to give up due to severe heart and lung problems caused by a degenerative syndrome.An “indefinite” award of IB and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was revoked after only two months on the basis of a questionnaire he had filled in.Six months later it was reinstated by an appeal tribunal. Despite this ruling and the finding that his condition was worse than the original assessment, his case was once again referred for medical assessment. Once again, the benefit was withdrawn. He appealed again, with help from staff at the Clydebank Independent Resource Centre, and a tribunal date set for a further six months on. By that time he had been confined to bed with severe pain for several days and his extreme difficulty in reaching the chair in the tribunal room caused the chair of the panel to say the hearing would be as short as possible and that a taxi would be waiting to take him home. He won the appeal but only after three years of unrelenting anxiety over whether his benefits would be cut.

Mary Hodgson, from Annan in Dumfries and Galloway, worked from the age of 16 until she was 41, latterly as a support worker for people with learning disabilities. That ended suddenly when a lower disc cut through her spinal cord leaving her semi-paralysed. “I went from being a fit and healthy person to being unable to walk without crutches and needing a wheelchair to go any distance,” she said. “The damage to my nerves has caused other problems and I need daily care from a nurse.” She was assessed as fit to work. That decision was overturned on appeal and she now receives the higher rate of Employment and Support Allowance, but the experience has left her fearful over her future support.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


In pre-capitalists societies the elderly were often respected and even revered but this is capitalism and the poor elderly are looked upon as a burden today. A recent report by the health service ombudsman has accused the NHS of "failing to meet even the most basic standards of care". "Ann Abraham writes in the report: "It is incomprehensible how staff are still neglecting fundamental aspects of care for older people, including food, water and cleanliness." ... Despite a series of scandals over the neglect of elderly patients in several NHS trusts, the report, to be presented to Parliament today, catalogues a "harrowing" array of failings in hospitals and GPs surgeries." (Times, 15 February) It should be noted that it is only those people who are forced to use the NHS because of their poverty that suffer such indignities. The useless, rich, parasitical owning class enjoy the same comfort and ease in old age as they wallowed in their youth. RD

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Scottish poverty levels 'not improving'

A BBC report out today argues, "Scotland is facing its "most difficult" challenges in tackling poverty in years, campaigners have warned.

The Assembly for Tackling Poverty, which is due to meet in Glasgow, said levels of poverty in Scotland have "not been improving for a number of years".

It said about 250,000 Scottish children were living in low income households.

The assembly will hear from community and voluntary organisers, faith groups, trade unions, academics and policy makers." ( Faith in reforms is a huge part of resistance to the solution: Added MC)

The assembly is part of a four-year project supported by the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland.

(Capitalism is a lottery right enough but it is stacked from the beginning in favour of those already winners:.Added MC)

It aims to support community and voluntary organisations to become more involved in developing anti-poverty policy.

A spokesman said it was now "crucial" to find solutions to the causes of poverty.

However well meaning some of this group are, we would have to point out that there is only ever going to be a solution to poverty however one may define it by getting rid of the system which causes it.Capitalism must be destroyed. ( What is Capitalism?)

Official statistics show that despite taxation the distribu¬tion of incomes and wealth remains as it must be under capitalism: concentrated in the hands of a few. The few are rich through their monopoly of the means of life and their returns on their investments as rent, interest and profit; the workers get as wages and salaries little more than enough to keep themselves and their families in efficient working order. State action, such as tax reform and social security benefits, cannot alter these basic inequalities of capitalism any more than they can solve the problems in housing, health and education which arise for workers as a result.

Don't be fooled either by Labour politiians in opposition now positioning themselves as teh champions of the poor.
On 20 July 1946 the late Aneurin Bevan claimed in a speech at Durham that: "when the next election occurs there will be no housing problem in Great Britain for the British working class" (Hansard, 14 July 1948, Col. 1202); and the Labour Party announced that "destitution has been abolished" (Labour and the New Society, 1950, page 5). Merely to recall these claims is to expose the futility of reformism.

The Labour Party has always shown disdain for the Socialist Party of Great Britain's insistence on first convincing the workers of the need for Socialism,(What is Socialism?) choosing instead to put forward reforms in its electoral programmes in order to gain working class support and thus obtain political power. 'The workers want something now', we have always been told, the implication being that a workers' party should imitate the openly capitalist parties and make promises of reforms in order to catch votes. Such reasoning ignores the fact that a party which rises to power on non-socialist votes can only administer capitalism. The fate of successive Labour governments is proof of this.

The question needing to be put to this group is, can capitalism be made to work differently? Or must there be a social revolution to replace capitalism with some other society? (Reform or Revolution?)



It does not take a genius to figure out that being a soldier is a very dangerous job, but we usually associate the dangers from enemy fire not from mental stress. Recent figures show that the stress of hostilities can be a ruthless killer. "By some estimates, well over 300,000 troops have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan with P.T.S.D., depression, traumatic brain injury or some combination of those. ...As a result, psychiatric drugs have been used more widely across the military than in any previous war. But those medications, along with narcotic painkillers, are being increasingly linked to a rising tide of other problems, among them drug dependency, suicide and fatal accidents - sometimes from the interaction of the drugs themselves. An Army report on suicide released last year documented the problem, saying one-third of the force was on at least one prescription medication. Prescription drug use is on the rise the report said, noting that medications were involved in one-third of the record 162 suicides by active-duty soldiers in 2009. An additional 101 soldiers died accidentally from the toxic mixing of prescription drugs from 2006 to 2009." (New York Times, 12 February) So  you might survive the enemy worst efforts to kill you only to succumb to prescription drugs. RD

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


When we were young we were taught at school to respect "our betters". Amongst that learned group we were taught were business men, religious leaders and statesmen. The German Thilo Sarrazin, a former executive member of the Bundesbank would certainly qualify for that august body that is due our respect, but some of his opinions might cause even our old school teacher a moment of doubt. "A German banker who has said "all Jews share a certain gene" and described Muslims as "dunces" will speak tonight at the London School of Economics amid a row over free speech." (Independent, 14 February) Since our schooldays we have learned to doubt whether religious leaders and statesmen are indeed "our betters". We can now add business men to that doubtful list.b RD

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


One of the illusions peddled by politicians is that we  making progress and we are all better off than we were in the past, but according to the Consumer Price Index prices have risen by 4 per cent against a 2 per cent rise in wages. "Households face a deepening "income recession" as the cost of living rises far more  quickly than wages, analysts warn today. Official figures released tomorrow are expected to show that inflation is rising at approximately twice the pace of salaries, leading to punishing deterioration in living standards." (Times, 14 February) Progress for the working class is a delusion that should fool no one. RD


Shortly before the last general election David Cameron gave a speech at East London University about political funding. "The Cameron pitch on political reform included a call to limit donations to political parties to a maximum of £50,000, from an individual, a business or a trade union. That way, the impression that money could buy influence would wane in the new world of transparency. Almost exactly a year on, such talk sat uneasily with news that since he became Conservative leader in 2005 funding for the Tories from the City's richest had risen fourfold to £11.4m a year. Just 10 City individuals, it transpired, had given £13.2m over the past five years - 13% of total funding. Rather than practising what he had been preaching Cameron had let an elite group of the very richest tip their millions into party accounts to help it win power." (Observer, 13 February) Despite the pre-election promises it is still business as usual at Tory HQ. RD

Monday, February 14, 2011


One of the fallacies much beloved of British politicians is that the NHS is a no-expense spared service that provides patients with unbeatable treatment, but the evidence of Aseem Malhotra seems to contradict that claim.  "The healthcare that clinicians offer is usually exemplary. Why, then, are the ill served such disgraceful meals? I mend hearts. Then I see my patients served junk food by our hospitals. Fry-ups, burger and chips, fizzy drinks and ice cream for pudding. You would expect to see these delights on the menu at a McDonald's or Burger King. But, sadly, this is the sort of food that is also likely to be served at your local hospital. I work as a cardiologist at one of Britain's leading cardiac centres. ... Coronary artery disease is the biggest killer in the western world and a significant part of my job involves performing a lifesaving procedure, angioplasty, to restore the blood supply to the heart muscle. Coronary atheroma (fatty deposit within the artery wall) takes many years to develop and is the culmination of risk factors, of which lifestyle - and diet in particular - is a major contributor." (Observer, 13 February) Dr Malhotra asks why they are served such meals, but the newspaper provides the answer. "The majority of hospitals spend an average of less than £1 on each meal per patient."