Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A plague upon both houses

With a referendum looming in the future, once again Socialist Courier declares its policy:-

The world-wide working class has a common interest, to end its exploitation and solve its problems, to join together to establish a world without frontiers in which the resources of the planet will have become the heritage of all, so that there can be production to meet needs and not for profit. One world, one people, where cultural differences will still be celebrated, but where we’ll all be citizens of the world. It is clear, then, why socialists don’t take sides in the debate about whether it is better for workers there to be ruled from Edinburgh or from London.

The SNP argues that the problems facing workers in Scotland are due to “Westminster rule”. If only there was an independent Scotland, they say, separate from the rest of Britain, then there would be full employment, higher wages, job security, better state benefits, a healthy health service and all the other things politicians promise at election times. But it is absurd. This would be a purely political constitutional change which would leave the basic economic structure of society unchanged. There would still be a privileged class owning and controlling the means of production with the rest having to work for them for a living. An independent Scottish government would still have to operate within the constraints of the world capitalist system. It would still have to ensure that goods produced in Scotland were competitive on world markets and that capitalists investing in Scotland were allowed to make the same level of profits as they could in other countries. In other words, it would still be subject to the same economic pressures as the existing London-based government to promote profits and restrict wages and benefits.

Our opposition to the SNP should not be interpreted as support for the pro-union parties. We are just as opposed to them. A plague on both their houses is what we say.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

THE UNCARING SOCIETY

There are many examples of how heartless capitalist society is. Millions starving while food is destroyed to keep up prices, people being denied the basics of human survival while billionaires exult in their obscene wealth. However even by capitalism's heartless treatment of the poor and vulnerable the following must rank as amongst the most bestial."The Government has ordered an urgent review into the "inhumane" abuse of people with learning disabilities at a residential hospital filmed by BBC Panorama. Police arrested four people after secret filming showed vulnerable adults at Winterbourne View, in Bristol, being punched, slapped and taunted by carers." (Daily Telegraph, 1 June) Needless to say all these victims came from families who could not afford the lavish treatment enjoyed by the owning class.RD

poverty porn

Last year Socialist Courier posted about The Scheme now the Onthank housing scheme in Kilmarnock, featured in the BBC Scotland's documentary series The Scheme has become a tourist destination.

At one point residents erected a sign charging "all scheme tourists £1 entry" - with a view to erecting a children's playground with the proceeds (only for East Ayrshire Council to haul it down within hours as illegal "fly-tipping" and as one resident said the fastest response to dumping "rubbish" ever recorded in the scheme.)

"The reason we put up the first sign is you will pay to go into a zoo or safari park, and they are coming here likes it's a safari park but with human beings on show. That's why we put up the sign, as a joke," said Karen McLean

Author and social commentator Peter York said it was understandable that the television programme would draw in spectators: "...the white working class has become the one group that can be baited and no-one complains as they would any other social class, and you have a situation where people want to see these people as they would animals in a zoo."

The Scotsman commentator Mark Smith writes "The characters in The Scheme are the alter ego of the filthy rich. They are the casualties of our capitalist society, the flawed consumers, those who, through little fault of their own, cannot step up to the plate at the altar of the free market. Yet still we deride them for reaching out to grasp some of the spoils from the rich man's table: the mobile phones, the 40in televisions, the designer gear." He goes on to say "To identify the human misery apparent in The Scheme as a symptom of the unequal nature of society is uncomfortable. It requires that we look at ourselves and at our positioning within that unequal society. It is far easier to cast judgments, to bemoan the depravity of the poor."

Monday, May 30, 2011

GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY

Members of the working class suffer all sorts of indignities in their working life but it is when they grow old and infirm that capitalism really rubs their nose in it. "Failures in nursing care for elderly patients have reached the point at which doctors are prescribing water to make sure it is provided, the health regulators say. Inspections at 12 hospitals by the Care Quality Commission found that three failed to meet basic standards of dignity and nutrition, and that three more raised concerns. This, according to Dame Jo Williams, chief executive of the CQC, was "fairly representative" of the NHS, with only half of hospitals meeting essential standards of dignity and nutrition for older people." (Sunday Times, 29 May) After a lifetime of producing surplus value for the owning class many workers are condemned to eke out an existence in sub-standard nutrition and toilet conditions.RD

Sunday, May 29, 2011

THE MIDDLE CLASS MYTH

In reviewing Owen Jones's book "Cavs: The Demonization of the Working Class", the journalist Carol Midgely makes some valid points. "When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 more than seven million people earned a living in manufacturing. Now that figure is about 2.83 million. Much easier to blame the unemployed than the forces that caused the unemployment. The Thatcher experiment, Jones says, repositioned working class not as something to be proud of but something to escape from. Being middle class was the holy grail. The Dockers, miners, skilled factory workers and car workers of Britain have watched powerless as their jobs disappeared or were sent abroad." (Times, 28 May) Here we have Jones and Midgely making the usual mistake about class. All men and women who because of their lack of property are forced to seek work for a wage or a salary are members of the working class. Whether you work in a factory or an office whether you push a barrow or a pen if you have to seek a wage or a salary in order to live you are a member of the working class.RD

rich list 2011

The 2011 Sunday Times Rich List, published this weekend, reveals that the 1,000 wealthiest people in the country are now worth a combined £395.8 billion, equivalent to more than a third of the national debt.

The number of billionaires has risen from 53 to 73, while nine people have seen their fortunes rise by £1 billion or more during the past 12 months alone.

Britain’s 10 Largest Fortunes (in billions of pounds)

1. Lakshmi Mittal and Family Steel 17.5
2. Alisher Usmanov Steel, Mines 12.4
3. Roman Abramovich Oil 10.3
4. The Duke of Westminster Property 7
5. Ernesto and Kitty Bertarelli Pharmaceuticals 6.9
6. Leonard Blavatnik Industry 6.2
7. John Fredriksen and family Shipping 6.2
8. David and Simon Reuben Property 6.2
9. Gopichand and Srichand Hinduja Industry 6
10. Galen and George Weston Retail 6

Saturday, May 28, 2011

AUSTERITY - FOR SOME

We live in austere times, there is a budget deficit and the government has been forced to make all sorts of unpopular public spending cuts. We have recently seen drastic cuts in local amenities like libraries, transport and social amenities. The government draw the line at some cuts though as seen from this announcement. "David Cameron has spent more than £680,000 of public money renovating Downing Street in the year that his government inflicted the biggest ever spending cuts across the public sector." (Guardian, 27 May) Times might be tough but one has got to have decent living accommodation, old chap.RD

NEVER STEAL ANYTHING....

Working class school children throughout the world are taught the mantra "never steal anything". So what are we to make of the following news item? "A former managing director of Nasdaq has been charged with insider trading by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Donald Johnson stole client information, making $755,000 in illegal trades, it said. He admitted securities fraud in criminal charges brought by the Justice Department." (Times, 27 May) $755,000 is quite a haul so perhaps children of the capitalist class are taught not to get caught and just as important "never steal anything - small." RD

all at sea

How the other half live and more accurately how the 0.00002 per cent live. CRN Spa, builders of mega-yachts, estimates that there are just 1,500 people in the world wealthy enough to consider buying a boat from them. ( there is also, of course, the "ultra-mega yachts" of the type recently purchased by the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, the world's biggest, featuring two helipads and a submersible escape submarine.)

"I know the names of all our clients," says the boatyard's chairman, "They're not famous people. You won't have heard of them." But, chances are, in one way or another, money that was once in your bank account is now in theirs'.

A few years ago an American client arrived and had signed a contract to buy a 43-metre yacht within two hours, with a price tag of €25m (£21.6m). He had never owned a boat before. "He told us: 'The interiors, the colours, the finishes, I don't care. The only thing I care about is the safety of my dog, as the boat is a present for her.'" On boats you have big holes, big gaps, big open spaces where a dog might fall. In the end he spent over a million euros having the holes closed over with glass and netting.

One wife of an Eastern European gentlemen, apparently, spent €3.5m on Swarovski crystals, which were attached to everything. In the finished vessel, the great chandelier in the main dining room matched the flip-flops worn by guests. She also requested a real wood fire, right next to a silk and cashmere carpet that cost €750 per square metre.
One of CRN's yach
ts, Maraya, has been chartered several times by P Diddy (with an estimated wealth of only $475m, or £288m, he doesn't quite make the 1,500), at a cost of €400,000 a week.

1. 'Eclipse' 557ft Roman Abramovich Features a missile-detection system and a laser shield to hinder the paparazzi's cameras. It also holds the distinction of being the world's largest.
2. 'Dubai' 532ft Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum This floating palace has seven decks, with jacuzzis and a mosaic swimming pool. It can also support a nine-tonne helicopter.
3. 'Al Said' 508ft Qaboos bin Said al Said The Sultan of Oman's yacht has a heli-pad, a cinema and a concert hall which can accommodate a 50-strong orchestra.
4. 'Prince Abdulaziz' 482ft Saudi Royal Family The world's largest and most expensive yacht when it was built in 1984. Its luxurious lobby was inspired by that of the doomed Titanic ocean liner
.

Friday, May 27, 2011

BEHIND THE TV FANTASY

Every evening on the TV you can see programmes where some dastardly criminal is brought to justice by some ingenious detective. Every crime committed in these dramas is solved. It is all very satisfying, but of course it is a complete fantasy. "Just one criminal jailed for every 93 crimes. Just one criminal is jailed for every 93 offences committed, figures showed. A total of 101,500 offenders who were convicted last year were handed an immediate custodial sentence representing less than eight per cent of all those sentenced, according to the Ministry of Justice. But separate figures from the British Crime Survey show a total 9.5 million crimes were committed in England and Wales during the last 12 months." (Daily Telegraph, 26 May) As long as we have a property based society we will have crime, and despite the efforts of Inspector Morse, Taggart and Miss Marples the vast majority of them will go unsolved. RD

Thursday, May 26, 2011

WHERE THE GREEN MOVEMENT FAILS

On the face of it the Green Movement has a lot of things in its favour. It would be difficult to find fault in their concerns about how the planet is being abused. Global warming, deforestation and pollution are real areas of concern for anyone who examines how modern society is developing. Where socialists would differ from green activists is in two major areas. Firstly in their analysis of what causes the problems and secondly what is the solution to the problems.
Quite often green activists make the assumption that the problems are caused by social ignorance and that secondly the solution can come about by a series of legal enactments that would save the planet from its present dangers. Socialists would repudiate such a simplistic analysis. Let us look at one of the major concerns of Greens and socialists alike - the deforestation of the Amazon area. "Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased almost six-fold since last year despite government promises to reduce the destruction according to data released yesterday. Satellite images obtained by the National Institute for Special Research reveal 595 sq km (230 sq miles) of deforestation in March and April of this year. Figures from the Brazilian government show a 27 per cent increase in deforestation of the world's largest rain forest from August to April." (Times, 20 May)
This deforestation is not caused by social ignorance. All major governments are aware of the problem, but they are also aware that in order to keep capitalist profits on the rise they must have timber from the Amazon and the clearing of the forest for the growth of crops and the rearing of cattle. "In 30 or so years, we have gone from zero to 400,000 heads of cattle," boasted Onofre, president of the local ranchers association. Nowadays everybody says we have to preserve the forest. But when we arrived nobody knew we had to protect anything we had to deforest. We chopped the trees down so we could feed our animals, our cattle." .... Back on his ranch, Onofre reflected on his hopes that Brazil's congress would approve a controversial bill altering the forest code and reducing the amount of rainforest Amazon landowners had to protect." (Observer, 22 May)
The local farmers and cattle raisers can heave a sigh of relief at the latest piece of news from their government. "Brazil's Chamber of Deputies has voted to ease restrictions on the amount of land farmers must preserve as forest. The amendment also grants amnesties for previous deforestation." (BBC News, 25 May)
The drive for more and more profits make it essential that the Amazon landowners continue their policy of forest clearance. The importers of timber, cattle and agriculture products also cry out for more deforestation. While the profit motive remains all attempts by the Green Movement to restrict the development of capitalism in the Amazon area is futile. Only the establishment of world socialism can stop this insidious destruction of our planet. RD

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DIVINE NONSENSE

Inside capitalism politics and religion throw up some crazy ideas, but this piece of Russian nonsense takes a bit of beating. "A new Russian religious sect worships Vladimir Putin as the reincarnation of Paul the Apostle whose career follows in the footsteps of the early Christian missionary, a news report said Wednesday. The sect is based near the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod and led by Mother Fotina -- a former convict who once worked on the local rail road, the Sobesednik weekly said on its website. "According to the Bible, Paul the Apostle was a military commander at first," the sect's founder told the weekly. "In his days in the KGB, Putin also did some rather unrighteous things. But once he became president, he was imbued with the holy spirit, and just like the apostle, he started heading his flock," she said." (Yahoo News,11 May) If a virgin can give birth, a carpenter make the blind see and the dead walk why can't a member of the ruthless KGB become a saint incarnate? RD

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 30

The Danish government is planning to officially announce that it is to lay claim to the North Pole, according to a draft Danish-Faroese-Greenland strategy. The draft says that “The Kingdom is expected to lay claim to the continental shelf in five areas around the Faroe Islands and Greenland, including the North Pole itself”.

Several ministers have previously suggested that Denmark could lay claim to the North Pole, but if the draft is adopted, it will be the first time that Denmark’s official policy is to claim the Pole and puts Denmark on a collision course with other Arctic claimants. Territorial claims over vast stretches of the energy-rich Arctic are serious business.

Conservationists aren’t pleased with the territorial ambitions, however, saying countries bordering the Arctic Ocean should focus on the region’s fragile environment and not its demarcation and development.“This is a land grab which is about getting access to resources,” said Mads Christensen, executive director for Greenpeace Nordic. “No one is advocating for a pathway where we look at it as a global good.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ALL RIGHT FOR SOME

That we live in a society that has world hunger, unemployment and homelessness is hardly a matter of dispute, but that is only a series of problems that confront the useful members of society, for others there are no social problems."Paris Hilton has been spotted house hunting in Malibu. The heiress and reality TV star seemed to have taken a particular shine to a luxury pink stucco mansion with a hefty price tag. The rental property is reportedly costing $80,000 to rent per month. With four bedrooms and four bathrooms, the beachside mansion would make the perfect summer hangout for the LA socialite and her many friends. Paris also checked out other luxury villas, all close to the beach with gorgeous sea views. "Just got home. Saw some beautiful properties, so it's going to be a hard choice to make, she tweeted later that day." (Yahoo News, 12 May) Could someone please tweet her that she is a useless parasitic exploiter? RD

Monday, May 23, 2011

LAND OF THE FREE?

In schoolrooms throughout the USA children are taught to be patriotic and learn to sing with pride the verses about "Home of the Brave, Land of the Free", but the reality is somewhat different according to recent statistics. "Today, 2.3 million Americans are behind bars; the United States has the world's highest rate of incarceration. Convictions for non-violent crimes and relatively minor drug offenses - mostly possession, not sale - have accounted for the bulk of the increase in the prison population since the mid-1980s. African-Americans are far more likely to get prison sentences for drug offenses than white offenders, even though studies have consistently shown that they are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites." (New York Times, 14 May) RD

The Russians are coming !!

Thanks to big-spending wealthy Russians visitors Scotland's tourism industry is withstanding the economic downturn.

Hotel bills of around £20,000 for a 10-day stay for two are said to be commonplace while some small family groups are reported to have spent £100,000.

The Scotsman has learned of guests hiring a castle for £7,000 a night and shopping sprees lasting just half an hour have notched up the same bill. Two Russian guests were said to have hired out the Royal Yacht Britannia, in Leith.

Moscow is home to the world's second-largest concentration of billionaires after New York.

Denise Hill, head of international marketing of VisitScotland, said:"We are getting a lot of oligarchs visiting, for whom money is no object, as well as growing numbers on incentive trips through their businesses. Some groups will spend £20,000 on whiskies in a hotel without even thinking about it."

David Tobin, founder of Dream Escape, which provides tailor-made luxury holiday packages in Scotland, said many Russian clients arrived in their own private jets and travelled around Scotland by helicopter. "Many of them will own property in London and come up to Scotland on holiday when they are in the UK," he said. "They are used to spending several thousand pounds on hotel suites around the world, so they think nothing of spending the same on a private hire of a castle...I know of four guests popping into the House of Bruar in Perthshire for half an hour and spending around £7,000."

Dorothy Welsh, director of sales and marketing at Gleneagles, said: "A stay of 10 nights in one of our best suites is certainly not unusual and some guests will spend as much as £20,000 here."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A MOCKERY OF DEMOCRACY

The capitalist media is fond of depicting the democratic political systems that exist in Britain and the USA as perfect examples of fairness and well- balanced pieces of legislation where everyone is equal as far as the law is concerned, but this is shown to be a complete charade when we consider the following example. David and Charles Koch are billionaires, in fact each is reckoned to be worth $22 billion. "Both have a 42% stake, (in Koch Industries) which makes chief executive Charles (now 75) and vice-president David (71) the joint 18th richest people in the world. Charles is co-founder of the libertarian think-tank the Cato Institute, while David founded the conservative non-profit group America for Prosperity and has spent $45m bankrolling rightwing politicians." (Observer, 15 May) The brothers fund such organisations as the America for prosperity which is linked to the Tea Party and have spent $20m in 2008 and $20.5m from 2009 to 2010 lobbying against legislation on global warming and other right wing targets. Yes, like you they have only one vote each but unlike you they can spend millions lobbying for legislation. A strange sort of democracy. RD

An Amazon drug for the poor

There’s often a fine line between using drugs for enjoyment and using drugs to escape the pressures of society. While the drugs "problem" is not a make or break issue for socialists, it does illustrate how capitalism tends to operate in defiance of any logic, even its own. Even if you accept capitalism's own profit-oriented logic, its attitude to illegal recreational drugs still fails to make any kind of sense. From Al Capone to Afghanistan, the history of drug prohibition by capitalism continues to represent one of the most bizarrely stupid aspects of a social system never notable for its good judgment. Most of the arguments against illicit drugs are bogus, unscientific and politically oriented. Whether it’s a pint in a pub, a joint at home, or ecstasy in a nightclub, many of us use drugs to unwind or enhance our experiences. However, heroin and alcohol addiction are causing countless damaged lives. Now there is a new one.

Officials in the Amazon region of Brazil first started hearing drug users refer to Oxi in about 2005 but had probably been used as early as the late 1980s, likely being mistaken for crack cocaine. It first appeared in the tiny northwestern Brazilian state of Acre. With a population of only 732,000, Acre borders both Bolivia and Peru - two of the largest producers that import freebase cocaine paste into Brazil. Oxi is not a particularly unique drug. It is a derivative of cocaine paste, the clay-like foundation product used to make crack and refined powder cocaine. To make Oxi, chunks of freebase cocaine are soaked in gasoline. When gasoline is not available, kerosene is sometimes used. It is then mixed with limestone powder, a product used in construction. Easily attainable household solvents, like cleaning chemicals, are also sometimes added to the toxic mixture. In the final process, the rocks are dried, often simply under the sun, and then sold on the streets for consumption. According to police, with cocaine paste as the main ingredient, Oxi can be made very easily and cheaply without the need for a background in chemistry - unlike refined powder cocaine, which needs the infrastructure of a laboratory to produce, and is much more time-consuming and complicated.Because it is cheap, Oxi was initially used primarily by people from lower economic classes, the drug is often called "an Amazon drug for the poor". The average price for one rock being five Brazilian reals, which is the equivalent of about three American dollars. Sometimes, a rock of Oxi can sell for as cheap as one American dollar. The difference between Oxi and crack is that crack usually has about 40 or 50 per cent purity, but based on studies of what has been confiscated, Oxi is being made from freebase cocaine that has 80 to 90 per cent purity. It's stronger and the effects of addiction faster, and consequently it is considered a better drug by the users. The immediate effect after smoking it lasts only three to five minutes, so most users say they are always looking to get their next hit. A user can normally get five inhales on one rock, extending the total buzz from one rock to roughly 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how experienced the user is and how long the smoke is kept in their lungs. Regardless of the prowess of the user, the effects do not last long, and leave the victim searching for another hit soon after they finish. Oxi ravages internal organs, causes severe weight loss and critical brain damage. But it is highly addicting; most users who try it get hooked in the first try.
Alvaro Mendes, a researcher who helped conduct the first study of Oxi back in 2005, told Al Jazeera "In the 15 years I have been working with chemical dependency, I have never seen a drug with such a potential of destruction as Oxi.When a person starts using Oxi, on average they die within one year"

Substance abuse will last as long as capitalism itself does as people feel the stress of coping with life under the profit system. People are becoming isolated from each other with drug abuse on the increase. Will drugs be as big a menace in socialism? The problem of illegal drugs might not be so easy to solve. One prime factor, however, would immediately disappear in a socialist system – the monetary incentive to produce such drugs. We believe that socialism would fill up the gaps in people's lives making it less likely (if not completely unlikely) that they would turn to drugs to fill an empty life or escape from an intolerable one. In a socialist society, many of the causes of the drug problem will not exist and have been eradicated—the chronic alienation, isolation and loneliness created by capitalist conditions of life, plus social deprivation, poverty and dissatisfaction . Once these factors are removed, the symptoms they produce will disappear along with them. One thing is for sure that there is no solution within capitalism.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Against independence

Nationalists believe we, the workers, should hold allegiance to "the Nation". Socialists do not. Socialists look forward to and struggle for a new world of common ownership and democratic control of society's resources, and uncluttered with the frontiers and class divisions which go hand, in-hand with "the Nation". As socialists, we say that nationalism is a dangerous poison. Nationalism is anathema to socialists. Wage and salary workers have no country. The outlook of “us and them” is a strong notion in the lives of many people and the idea that the world is naturally divided into nations is widespread. But the world of nationalism is full of contradictions, odd ideas and illogical beliefs. It comes almost as a reflex action for people born and brought up in Scotland to use “we” and to regard themselves as part of a Scottish “nation”. So people spontaneously say such things as “we beat the English at Bannockburn” or “we got five gold medals at the Commonwealth Games”. Such usage is music to the ears of the ruling class as they know it means they have succeeded in getting their subjects to identify with them and their interests. Wage slaves, instead of seeing “we” as their class, have come to see it as “the Nation”.

What is a nation? It is simply the people and the territory which have been appropriated by a class of robbers at some point in history. It has less to do with a common language, religion, race, culture, and all the other things which nationalists imagine or pretend are essential ingredients in the making of nations. This is certainly true of Scotland. The nationalist idea of a once united Scotland is just a myth. Every nation-state is by its very nature anti-working class. The “nation” is a myth as there can be no community of interests between two classes in antagonism with one another, the non-owners in society and the owners (the workers and the capitalists). Workers have more in common with people like ourselves in other countries than with the privileged owning class of the country where we happen to live and work. The world-wide working class has a common interest, to end its exploitation and solve its problems, to join together to establish a world without frontiers in which the resources of the planet will have become the heritage of all, so that there can be production to meet needs and not for profit. One World - One People, where cultural differences will still be celebrated, but where we’ll all be citizens of the world.

The illusions of nationality are yet another tool of the ruling class, intended to trick workers into thinking that this really is some kind of collective society, and to misplace their passions that could otherwise be directed into the class struggle. The presence of political nationalist ideas is an indication that some groups in society feel its real material interests are being frustrated by forces outside (or even inside the nation.) Of course the desire to achieve their aims is never expressed in terms of their own needs only. In order to enlist the necessary working class support such arguments as “justice”, “freedom”, and “the nation” are used to justify the real bone of contention and to give it an aura of sanctity. The current ruling class have cultivated such ideas as nationalism, propagating the illusion that we live in a society with a collective social interest. The more enlightened among them probably saw the effects of separating and alienating people from each other and their labour, and so stepped up the spreading of beliefs like nationalism in order to try and convince people that they were not so exploited as they really were, and that everyone had a common interest. The state ultimately exists only to defend the property interests of the owning class at any given point in history – which is why modern states across the world send the police and army in to break strikes and otherwise seek to protect the interests of the capitalists and business at every turn. As workers you have no real community of interests to gain from Scottish independence. In what way is the life of a Scottish wage slave basically different from that of an English , an American , or a Russian wage slave? There is no basic difference in the way of life of the world’s working class because we all suffer from the same problems. Jonathan Swift wrote “the first principle of patriotism is to resent foreigners.” This method, of setting one section of population against another, has been used ultra-successfully all around the world – so successfully that great swathes of people can now rouse themselves, with no apparent external cue, against the newest threat, the most recent immigrant group, anyone who looks or sounds like they may be from a group that’s not their own. Enemies are required by the state elites. Enemies within and without.

Should self-government eventually be established workers will discover that they cannot will or legislate away the problems of capitalism. No country in the world, no matter how independent or rich in resources, has yet succeeded in eliminating poverty, unemployment, insecurity, etc. An independent Scotland would still have to operate within the constraints of the world capitalist system. It would still have to ensure that goods produced in Scotland were competitive on world markets and that capitalists investing in Scotland were allowed to make the same level of profits as they could in other countries.The workers are wasting their time when they struggle to make some aspect of capitalism better, to make capitalism more acceptable. Capitalism is not a system that can be humanised or reformed or transformed into something better. It is a profit system subject to economic laws which can only work in one way: as a system of profit-making and accumulation of capital in the interest of a tiny minority of profit-takers.

In Scotland today it’s true that there is a struggle - as there is in England, Wales, Ireland, or rest of the world for that matter. But the struggle in Scotland is not, as the nationalists would have us believe, the struggle for home rule or self-government. The struggle in Scotland, as in the rest of the world, is a class struggle: the struggle between the working class and the capitalist owning class. The interest of the working class in all countries is to reject all nationalism, to reject in fact the very idea of “foreigner”, and to recognise that they have a common interest with people in other countries in the same economic situation of being obliged to sell their mental and physical energies in order to get a living.

Neither London nor Edinburgh, but World Socialism.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Doom and gloom

Despite record low interest rates, falling by more than one-fifth since in 2008 the cost of owning and running a home in the UK has risen over the last year.

Bank of Scotland research found that soaring gas, electricity and main-tenance costs were the main causes of the rise. It showed that the average annual cost associated with owning and running a home rose by 1.4%, or £116, from £8525 in March 2010 to £8641 in March 2011. Utility costs were up by £102 on average and maintenance costs by £33.

Bank of Scotland housing economist Suren Thiru said: “Household finances remain under pressure with the significant drop in mortgage payments since 2008 mostly offset by increases in other household bills. Rising utility bills have been a clear driver behind this, along with increases in maintenance costs. The current strain on household finances is particularly concerning at a time when earnings growth remains weak.”

Another study revealed over-50s are suffering a drop in their quality of life as their incomes are squeezed by low interest rates and high inflation. Research by Saga found that around 56% of older people cite the rising cost of living as their biggest concern, more than double the 27% who are most worried about their health.

Monday, May 16, 2011

funemployment

The Guardian columnist describes what is called "funemployment"

Workshy, embracing unemployment as a lifestyle choice, sometimes one inherited from the parents, and spending money scrounged off others on booze and drugs. No, not the feckless "chav" caricatures who regularly feature in tabloid horror stories, used to justify further attacks on Britain's besieged welfare state. It's a new generation of young, wealthy freeloaders - the "funemployed".

It might seem perverse to associate fun with the trauma of unemployment. Around 2.5 million Britons are officially without work; youth unemployment is currently running at over 20%. But in a society where Jobseekers Allowance is just £67.50 – among the lowest of comparable western European nations – it's a right that only a small elite can meaningfully exercise. While most Britons are suffering the biggest squeeze on living standards for nearly a century, there is plenty of money around for the uber-wealthy to splash out on their kids. The wealth of the top 1,000 people went up by nearly a fifth in the last year.

Public, an exclusive Chelsea nightclub set up by Prince William's best friend Guy Pelly, has only been open for five months, but more than a hundred residents and businesses have called for it to be closed because of the disorderly behaviour of its privileged clientele: noisiness, vomiting and used condoms left littering the streets.

unemployment

Areas such as West Dunbartonshire and East Ayrshire have overtaken inner London boroughs as the hardest places in the country to find work, with more than 40 candidates chasing each job, TUC analysis has revealed.

"Dozens of towns and cities have more than 10 dole claimants chasing every vacancy and areas on their doorstep are not faring much better. It's not good enough for ministers to brand those out of work as feckless and claim that there are plenty of jobs out there. The reality is very different." TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said

It doesn't matter where you live, deprivation is a world problem.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Who owns the North Pole - Part 29

Greenland is an autonomous territory belonging to Denmark. But the U.S. believes Greenland is headed for independence, presenting “a unique opportunity” for American gas and oil companies to make money.

With Arctic ice receding due to global warming, American officials have been cozying up to Greenland, where future oil and mineral deposits may become available to exploration. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that the U.S. and other industrial nations are jockeying to “carve up” Arctic resources in the coming years. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates Greenland territory may sit atop oil reserves as large as those in the North Sea. The Arctic Circle could contain 90 billion barrels of oil, about 1,700 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. In addition to oil and natural gas, mining companies also have their eyes on aluminum, iron ore, gold and rubies.

One diplomatic dispatch states: “Our intensified outreach to the Greenlanders will encourage them to resist any false choice between the United States and Europe. It will also strengthen our relationship with Greenland vis-a-vis the Chinese, who have shown increasing interest in Greenland's natural resource.”

Tensions within NATO are also exposed, as Canadian leaders privately express disquiet over the alliance’s mooted plans to project military force in the Arctic in the face of perceived Russian aggression. Recently re-elected Canadian PM Stephen Harper is quoted by diplomats as saying that a NATO presence in the region would give non-Arctic members of the Western alliance too much influence in an area where “they don’t belong”.
Another cable quotes Danish foreign minister Moeller’s opinion that “new shipping routes and natural resource discoveries would eventually place the region at the center of world politics.” The head of the Russian navy is quoted as saying “one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention.” A 2010 cable quotes Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitriy Rogozin saying: "The twenty-first century will see a fight for resources, and Russia should not be defeated in this fight ... NATO has sensed where the wind comes from. It comes from the North."

Greenpeace campaigner Ben Ayliffe reacting to the release of the new cables, said “These latest Wikileaks revelations expose something profoundly concerning. Instead of seeing the melting of the Arctic ice cap as a spur to action on climate change, the leaders of the Arctic nations are instead investing in military hardware to fight for the oil beneath it. They’re preparing to fight to extract the very fossil fuels that caused the melting in the first place. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.” Ayliffe of Greenpeace continued: “As so often before, this new military build-up is all about oil."

FINE WORDS AND HARSH REALITY

Politicians are wonderful at coining words at election times but a little less wonderful on delivering on electoral promises. Mr. Cameron has promised us all a wonderful future in his "Big Society", but we should be aware of the outcome of Mrs. Thatcher's promised "Property-owning democracy". "The number of homes repossessed in Britain increased by 15 per cent in the first quarter of the year as unemployment and the cost of living continued to rise. The Council of Mortgage Lenders said that 9,000 homes were repossessed in the first three months of this year compared with 7,000 in the final quarter of last year." (Times, 13 May) Rising unemployment and homelessness - a strange sort of property-owning democracy. RD

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Food for thought

A rally of several thousand turned out to oppose the new hard right mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, who came to power with the usual 'reduce taxes, no cuts in services' platform. He started with the Toronto Transit Commission with an attempt to get the Provincial government to declare the workers as 'essential' and therefore unable to strike. Privatising garbage collection is next, and so on, a la Wisconsin. Only supporting and getting socialism will put the boots to these capitalist puppets.
More government waste and incompetence. No, not the $30 billion, and counting, short  range fighter planes in the second biggest country in the world. I'm talking about the 1998 purchase of four British submarines that were fitted to fire, guess what? British torpedoes. They are still incapable of firing our own MK-48 torpedoes, and that's just fine by me!

John Ayers

losing homes

Repossession numbers began to rise again during the early part of 2011, jumping by 15%. A total of 9,100 properties were taken over by lenders during the three months to the end of March, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

The group has predicted that a total of 40,000 people will lose their homes this year, up from 36,300 in 2010, due to the squeeze on household incomes as a result of the combination of rising taxes and living costs and slow wage growth. Around 166,900 people were in arrears of at least 2.5% of their outstanding loan at the end of March.

Industry commentators have also warned that Government initiatives to help keep people in their homes may simply be delaying a spike in repossession numbers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Food for thought

"The World's Poor Grow Hungrier" stated The Toronto Star, quoting from a World Bank Report. More than 935 million around the world do not have enough food to eat, and the number is growing every year. Rising food prices have exacerbated the problem mostly driven by diverting corn, cassava, canola, and sugar to the production of ethanol fuel. For example, global maize prices rose 73% in the six months after June, 2010. But wait, isn't this about the same number we have been quoting for years? If there was no ethanol production, would that eliminate the hungry? Of course not, it's the system, stupid!
How government works in the people's interests – the Tory government has spent millions in the courts trying to shut down Vancouver's much-lauded safe injection site for drug addicts, Insite. Our tax dollars have been hard at work in the BC Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeals rather than funding something worthwhile for $500 000 a year. Of course, with the Tories new multi-billion dollar 'get tough on crime' program, they are going to need as many inmates for their new prisons as they can find. The poor, the alcoholics, the indigenous peoples, and the mentally ill don't quite cut the mustard! John Ayers


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A grouse

A group of landowners is calling on the Scottish government to allow them to kill birds of prey to protect stocks of grouse and other game birds.

Every year birds of prey are found trapped, poisoned and shot on the country's hills, despite being protected by law and specialist wildlife crime officers. Landowners say the number of illegal killings is relatively small. The official figures are between 25 and 30 each year. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds believes many other cases of raptor persecution go undiscovered and unreported.

Why would anyone want to kill a bird of prey?

The RSPB believes it's all about money. Shooting, especially grouse shooting is worth £240m a year.

THE WASTEFUL SOCIETY

Socialists often highlight the wastefulness of capitalist society. The waste of human lives with the premature deaths of millions of people from the lack of clean water. The waste of human usefulness with millions forced into unemployment. The waste of the world's natural resources in the mad scramble for profits. The plight of millions of homeless and the inadequately housed should be contrasted with this piece of wastefulness by a member of the useless capitalist class. The property dealer Vincent Tchenguiz has recently put his £25m villa in St Tropez up for sale, and according to one friend . "Vincent bought the villa five years ago but he's spent only one night there". Really, one night? "Really, he always stays on his yacht." So, why have a seven-bedroom pad with extensive staff quarters? "It's for overflow guests. There's not always enough room on the boat so they stay at the house." Of course." (Sunday Times, 8 May) RD

'A Society in Crisis' - Glasgow and Edinburgh Branches' Day School (Glasgow)

Saturday 14 May 2011 1pm to 5pm

















Has Capitalism a Future?: John Cumming (Glasgow Branch)
Most supporters of capitalism, including, most critics, claim that capitalism is the only society which can exist, despite their abhorrence of certain aspects of capitalism, often demand reforms of capitalism as a way of solving social problems.
The Socialist Party has always denied that capitalism could or would collapse spontaneously or that reforms of capitalism are a solution to social problems.
What is the solution then? The Socialist Party is organised for nothing less than the overthrow of capitalism: a complete revolution. Do you agree? If so, join us! If not, tell us why not!

The Rise of Chinese Capitalism:Paul Bennett (Manchester Branch)
China recently overtook Japan to become the world's second largest economy. Like other capitalist countries it has been taking steps to ensure supplies of raw materials and secure export markets as seen by the increasing activities of Chinese companies in Africa. This talk will look at the background to the growth of capitalism in China, the efforts of workers to fight back and the likely impact on the global capitalist system.

The Middle East Powder Keg: Gwynn Thomas (South London Branch)
For over one hundred years the Middle East has been a region of instability, wars and super power rivalries. Modernisation and population growth since the end of Ottoman rule has brought new social and political problems not least of which has been the massive popular uprisings of the Twitter Revolution. Where do the calls for change go from here?

1pm-5pm

All welcome.
Free admission. Free discussion. Free light refreshments provided.



Monday, May 09, 2011

The Scottish Rich

Scotland's richest have increased their fortunes. The Sunday Times Rich List found Highland Spring and Park Hotels owner Mahdi al-Tajir is still the wealthiest Scot, with a fortune of £1,550 million, up £50m in a year. Sir Ian Wood and his family remain at number two, with an increase of £157m from their oil services and fishing business.

With a combined fortune of £18.257 billion, many of Scotland's richest 100 men and women have seen their fortunes increase in the past year. The top multi-millionaires added a combined £60.2bn to their £395.8bn wealth.

The Daily Record provided lesson on capitalist economics - the rich get richer while the poor get poorer .

This is how it comes about. On a simple level, if you have money, you're earning interest. If you have loans, you're paying interest. The result is that the rich are always moving forwards while the poor are always going backwards - and bear in mind that there are different speeds involved. If the rich are earning five per cent interest on their money, the poor are probably paying around 25 per cent on their loans.

If you are poor, you have lost control. If you're rich, you have it and you use it to spread your money around. If you are poor, you have lost control. If you're rich, you have it and you use it to spread your money around.

This is the first rule of wealth creation - diversify. Sell shares if you think the stock market looks ropey and buy something else - gold or shares in an Indian computer company. People with little money tend to have most of it invested in UK shares and their wealth rises or falls with the market. Not the rich. They spread their money between a wide range of investments to make sure that if one is falling, another is rising.

Our economy may have been feeble for a few years, but there have been plenty of countries that have been powering ahead. If you switched your money from here to Brazil in 2008, you'd be patting yourself on the back. If we in the UK are suffering because of high oil prices, why not buy oil futures that give you a profit as the price goes up? The simple fact is that while one market is weak, another is strong. If you have wealth, you can keep your fingers in as many financial pies as possible. The rich do this with their personal money and businesses. Very few top people have stayed in one small area of the business world. They recognise they have to make money in recessions as well as boom times and diversify accordingly. It's all about swings and roundabouts.

The second way the rich make money in a recession is by switching from buying to selling. Professional investors can make money on falling markets just as they can on rising markets. Buying shares is simply a bet they will go up in price. Professionals can make similar bets that pay out if the market falls.

And they can also insure themselves. If they have a couple of million invested in the stock market, they can pay a premium and if the market does fall, the policy pays out. Heads they win, tails you lose.

There are quite a few bankers in the Rich List, but they've set themselves up so that they can make money no matter what. As long as markets move, there's money to be made. Commodity traders are also there in abundance. The Chinese economy has handed them huge profits as it consumed the world's commodity reserves.

Many have "inheritance" as an explanation for their wealth. The Duke of Westminster has got £7billion and a lot of it from property.

Food for thought

In the Middle East the people continue to demonstrate despite cruel repression by the forces of their own government. The leaders haven't hesitated to open fire on their own people. In Egypt, the taste of victory has soured as new demonstrations were put down by the interim military government, killing two people. Same old… Bahrain, Syria, and other places continue to shoot to kill. On CNN this morning it was reported that a small army of 3 000 well armed Syrian soldiers had closed the border with Jordan and then attacked a city that held anti-government rallies, going door to door and shooting the inhabitants. The dislocation between workers and the ruling owners has never been starker than in this region right now. Let's hope something worthwhile comes out of the death and bravery that we see every night. A chance to elect socialist representatives at least.
The Toronto Star published a piece about the Pope. "For the first time in History, Pope Benedict XVI has answered questions submitted by ordinary people." Obviously, not to be missed! A seven-year-old Japanese girl asked why she had to be afraid and sad. "I'm asking the Pope, who speaks with God, to explain it to me." The Pope-who-speaks-with-god replied, "I also have the same questions; why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease? And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent, and that the true God who is revealed in Jesus is by your side." Oh dear! Let's hope this is the first and last time that 'he who speaks with God', supposedly having the wisdom of the world at his finger tips, gives advice and comfort to a seven-year-old.

John Ayers.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Food for thought

In an article in the Toronto Star newspaper, economist David Olive looks at the economic train wreck of Ireland. Fueled by low corporate taxes and a fake real estate boom, this Celtic Tiger and darling of neocon supporters, collapsed in five years as companies, despite the low taxes, fled to low wage Poland, and the real estate bubble burst. Olive quotes Irish historian, R.F.Foster,
"It appeared like a miraculous beast materializing in a forest clearing, and economists are still not sure why."
So much for the brilliance of vulgar economists. At the time of the Irish boom, our finance minister, Jim Flaherty, was quoted,
"It (Canada) will look more like Ireland. More dynamic, more attractive to investors, brighter, and more positive, outward-looking."
The budget that failed and led to the present federal election contained large corporate tax cuts. Ireland is now on the hook for $369 billion with a GDP of just $164 billion. Guess whose paying the price for such stupidity! John Ayers

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

PROGRESSING BACKWARDS

One of the illusions much favoured by politicians is that inequalities are gradually disappearing thanks to their wonderful efforts, but the reality is somewhat different. "After a jarring leap upwards during the industrial collapse of the 1980s. the gap between rich and poor has, with brief interruptions, been trending higher. By the tail-end of Labour's time in office, the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, was at its highest since comparable figures began in 1961. ... Britain still ranks just after the United States among the leading Western economies in terms of the gulf between rich and poor." (Times, 2 May) RD

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

recession news

The typical household will see its disposable income fall by 2 per cent this year, the equivalent of £780, an economist warned today. Roger Bootle, a former government adviser who now works with Deloitte, the accountancy firm, predicted that 2011 would be the worst year for household finances since 1977 – and added that if interest rates were to rise, British families would not have seen conditions deteriorate so badly since 1952.

Said Mr Bootle. "I think this year will see falling real earnings, falling real house prices and rising unemployment."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

SPIRITUAL VALUES?

Religious leaders are fond of stressing the importance of spiritual values as opposed to sordid material concerns. One such leader died recently. He was Sathya Sai Baba one of India's most popular and controversial figures. He was revered as a living god and miracle worker. It was claimed he could make the lame walk and turn water into oil. "Although dogged by allegations of trickery and sexual abuse of some devotees, he amassed a fortune estimated at more than £5.5 billion. A power struggle over the trust has already begun among aides and family members." (Times, 25 April) £5.5 billion should certainly provide some "spiritual" solace for his grieving aides and family.RD

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

George Galloway and life expectancy

"The life expectancy of people in parts of this city is 10 years worse than in Kabul," George Galloway is quoted as saying in The Guardian.

However, once more we find Galloway's flowery rhetoric is somewhat at odds with the known and available facts. The website Full Fact Org explains:-

Direct comparisons of life expectancy that tell a story of lives in some UK communities being shorter than those in war torn and poverty stricken areas of the world clearly have the power to shock. But attempts to make such comparisons have also seen the media and politicians misrepresent statistics in search of the hard hitting headline. So are the comparisons between Scotland's largest city and the Afghan capital valid? The claim seems to be based on the alarmingly low life expectancy in the Calton area of Glasgow. Taking the Calton figure of 54.9 years for men from the 1998 to 2002 figures and comparing these to the most recent Afghanistan figure of between 44 and 45 shows that a difference of 10 years in favour of the Glasgow man from Calton.

But Socialist Courier doubts very much if Galloway will ever permit facts to get in the way of a good soundbite.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

BIG BUCKS AND BIG BANGS

The Sunday Times publishes a science magazine called Eureka which featured a debate on the issue of "Does military funding compromise science?" Arguing the case for the affirmative was Harry Kroto, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1996, who revealed some devastating facts about the extent of the stockpiling of nuclear weapons. "In my Science and Society lectures, I implore future physicists not to make "better" atomic bombs. There are already more than 20,000, enough to destroy the human race many times over. I implore future chemists not to make "better" napalm, and show them the iconic image of the burning Vietnamese girl that shames chemistry. I implore future engineers not to make "better" landmines, and show pictures of African children playing football on crutches because they have lost a leg in a blast." (Sunday Times, 19 April) Mr Kroto we agree with you very much. but unfortunately it is not up to scientists, who are in present day society sponsored by big business to change the world it is up to us the working class RD

Their Scotland or Our World?

Their Scotland or Our World?




That's the issue in this election, says THE SOCIALIST PARTY




On 5 May, you will have your occasional ration of democracy with the opportunity to vote for the glorified regional council known as the Scottish Parliament.




It's all very well having a vote—but are you normally given any real choice? Let's face it, if it wasn't for the politician's head on the front of the election leaflet, could you tell which party was which?




It's tempting—in the absence of any real alternative—to get drawn into the phoney war that is political debate today. Whether Labour or SNP, Lib Dem, Tory, SSP, ,Respect, they all spout the same promises. And it all amounts to the same thing—they offer no alternative to the present way of running society.




Do you really think who wins an election makes any difference to how you live? And do politicians (whether leftwing, nationalist or rightwing) actually have much real power anyway? OK, they get to open supermarkets and factories, but it's capitalism and the market system which closes them down.




Reality Check


Do any of the political parties address any of the real issues:


+ Why is there world hunger in a world of food surpluses?


+ Why are there unemployed nurses, alongside closed-down hospitals and waiting lists?


+ Why are there homeless people in the streets and empty houses with "for sale" signs?


+ Why do some people get stressed working long hours while others get stressed from the boredom of unemployment?




So what's the alternative?


We in THE SOCIALIST PARTY are not standing at this election ourselves but we still are putting forward an alternative to capitalism and the madness of the market—a society of common ownership and democratic control. We call it socialism.




But real socialism. Not the elite-run dictatorships that collapsed a few years ago in Russia and East Europe. And not the various schemes for state control put forward by the old Labour Party. For us socialism means something better than that. We're talking about:




+ A world community without any frontiers.


+ Wealth being produced to meet people's needs and not for sale on a market or for profit


+ Everyone having access to what they require to satisfy their needs, without the rationing system that is money.


+ A society where people freely contribute their skills and experience to produce what is needed, without the compulsion of a wage or salary.




If you don't like present-day society ... if you are fed up with the way you are forced to live ... if you think the root cause of most social problems is the market system, then your ideas echo closely with ours.




We are not promising to deliver socialism to you. We are not putting ourselves forward as leaders. This new society can only be achieved if you join together to strive for it. If you want it, then it is something you have to bring about yourselves.




If you agree with this, you’ll obviously not want to vote for any of the candidates on offer. But you can show you want real socialism by writing WORLD SOCIALISM across your ballot paper.




And if you want to know more about us and our aims in this election, phone Edinburgh (0131 440 0995) or Glasgow (0141 579 4109) Branch of the Socialist Party. Or come to one of our regular meetings at The Quaker Hall, Victoria Terrace (above Victoria Street), Edinburgh.) 1st Thursday of each month . 7-9 pm. All welcome.




Glasgow Branch of the Socialist Party 3rd Wednesday of each month at 8 pm in Community Central Halls, 304 Maryhill Road, Glasgow.




Or send off this reply coupon for further information and for a free 3-month subscription to our journal the Socialist Standard. Website: www.worldsocialism.org/spgb


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or email to spgb@worldsocialism.org




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Printed and published by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, 52 Clapham High St, SW4 7U



Friday, April 22, 2011

THE CLASS DIVISION

It was the sort of news item that would have appealed to "Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells" or some such Daily Mail reader. "Too fat, too drunk, or just too lazy to work - but not to claim benefit. More than 80,000 people are too fat or too dependent on alcohol or drugs to work, according to official figures released today. The first breakdown of medical assessment for more than two million people on long-term sickness benefit shows that 42,360 of claimants are alcoholics while more than 37,000 are drug abusers. A further 1,830 are too obese to hold down a job." (Times, 21 April) No mention is made of the rest of the 2 million that are on long-term sickness benefit, but even more strikingly no mention is made of the capitalist class. Here is a class that has never worked, has no intention of ever working - in some cases for several generations - and whose benefits are somewhat greater than the £94 a week doled out to the working class as sickness benefit. Some of them are depicted in the national press coming out of expensive night clubs stoned out of their minds, but this is reported as the high jinks of the playboys and playgirls. It is all good fun, but it is doubtful if £94 would buy a round of drinks for them and yet that is supposed to be sufficient to keep a chronically ill worker for a whole week.RD

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

THE LOGIC OF CAPITALISM

Capitalism is a very competitive society and the logical outcome of the struggle between competing groups of capitalists over markets, trade routes and natural resources is war. The group with the most advanced weaponry has an enormous advantage, hence the attraction of nuclear weapons. A piece of elementary logic that seems to have escaped this group. "Scotland's Catholic figurehead has urged the UK government to give up its "shameful" nuclear weapon programme. Cardinal Keith O'Brien was addressing a rally against nuclear weapons outside the Faslane naval base on Gare Loch. The head of Scotland's Roman Catholic Church was joined by representatives from churches across Scotland in an Easter witness for peace. Quoting the words of Pope Benedict XVI, he said: "In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims." (BBC News, 17 April) There were certainly plenty of victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki but surely the USA was a victor. RD

Thursday, April 14, 2011

BEHIND THE FINE WORDS

The bombing of Gadaffi's forces by the UN has been depicted as a humanitarian action to protect the citizens of that country. In a recent interview the British Foreign Secretary William Hague gave the real reason for the intervention. "Hague insists these actions were humanitarian after the blanket-toting dictator began bombing his own people. But he also concedes a second reason: Libya is a pivotal state for Britain and Europe. Further unrest in north Africa would create a wave of unwanted immigration, new breeding grounds for terrorism and, more importantly, have "terrible economic consequences for the price of oil", he says. "We can't stand aside." (Sunday Times,10 April) The intervention has more to do with the capitalist class's economic interests than for humanitarian reasons. RD

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

FAMILY VALUES

At every election politicians put on their best suit and their most sincere smile and gush on about "family values". If they still have a wife they haven't divorced or been caught with their pants down with someone else's wife they will wax eloquent on the subject. After the election though what will be the result of all that rhetoric? "British families are facing the biggest peacetime squeeze on their finances since 1921, according to a leading economic consultancy. Soaring inflation and weak earning growth will leave the average family £910 worse off than two years ago, according to analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR)." (Sunday Times, 10 April) Politicians will shrug off criticism, blame someone else, pay off their mistresses and lawyers and prepare for the next election's defense of family values. After all it is only members of working class families who have suffered a decline in real income. RD

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

THOSE LAZY WORKERS AGAIN

Readers of the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and other slimy media apologists for capitalism will be aware that the biggest danger to Britain today is lazy overpaid workers, exulting in their pampered useless existence while an over-indulgent welfare state caters for their every indulgence. The following news item may strike such people as a little strange though. "Almost every NHS nurse works more than their contracted hours and one in five does so every shift, a new poll shows. Some 95% of nurses say they work longer hours than they are paid for, according to ICM research for the Royal  College of Nursing. ..Many nurses say they have to skip meals and rarely or never get the breaks at work to which they are entitled..." (Observer, 10 April) RD

Monday, April 11, 2011

ANOTHER REASON TO BE A SOCIALIST

If you have tears to shed then shed then now. "A 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl, Hena, allegedly was ambushed when she went to an outdoor toilet, gagged, beaten and raped by an older man in her village (who was actually her cousin). They were caught by wife of the alleged rapist, and the wife then beat Hena up. An imam at a local mosque issued a fatwa saying that Hena was guilty of adultery and must be punished, and a village makeshift court sentenced Hena to 100 lashes in a public whipping." (New York Times, 30 March)  After 70 lashes she was in such agony that she was taken to hospital where she died. The authorities claimed that she committed suicide because that is what someone who commits adultery must do. Bangladesh is a long way from here but we are all guilty of Hena's death if we don't do something about it. That is why we are socialists.

Who owns the North Pole part 28

Yet another in this seemingly endless Arctic saga to control and dominate the North Pole.

Russia is going to deploy a special motorized infantry brigade in its Arctic sector in 2011, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The brigade will be deployed in the Kola Peninsula in the western part of Arctic but would be responsible for operations in the whole Arctic region. The new Arctic brigade will be created on the grounds of an existing motorized infantry brigade and will be based in the town of Pechenga near Russia-Norway border.

Earlier, Russia's Security Council approved the fundamental principles of the national Arctic policy until 2020. This document envisioned deployment of the armed forces in the region, capable to maintain security in various military-political conditions.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

feeding the world

Lord Rees, the astronomer royal and controversial winner of last week’s equally controversial Templeton Prize, has a much more benign and optimistic vision for 2050.

“A population of nine billion can be supported and fed on the Earth,” he said. “They can’t all live like modern-day Americans, but they can be supported. By applying the best techniques, better transport and refrigeration, it shouldn’t be too difficult to feed nine billion. So one shouldn’t be too alarmist. If there are problems, it will be about mismanagement. Like poverty, it’s more about lack of will than ability to sort it out.”

The caring unpaid over-worked angels

Nurses are "propping up" the health service by consistently working over their contracted hours and providing last-minute shift cover.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland found just one in 10 nurses feel they have good staffing levels where they work. 96% of nurses reported working in excess of their contracted hours, with a quarter saying they did so every shift. One in six said they rarely or never took the breaks to which they were entitled. 29% said they missed their meal time at work at least three times a week. One in five nurses said that in the last six months they had spent a week or more at work despite feeling too ill to be there. Another 29% said they provided last-minute cover for absentee staff at least on a fortnightly basis.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland said there were "serious concerns" for patient care in the NHS

Saturday, April 09, 2011

DOOMED OR SAVED?

Away back in 1904 a group of men and women organised to bring about a new society based on common ownership. They were members of the working class they worked for a living. Their only income was a wage or a salary. Needless to say their activities and ideas were never reported in the press. They still are not But what about this group of fruitcases? "The end of the world is nigh; 21 May, to be precise. That's the date when Harold Camping, a preacher from Oakland, California, is confidently predicting the Second Coming of the Lord. At about 6pm, he reckons 2 per cent of the world's population will be immediately "raptured" to Heaven; the rest of us will get sent straight to the Other Place." (Independent, 27 March)  This nonsense gets across to people unlike the rational view of those workers because it suits the owning class's interests. It should be noted that the crazy religious mob we refer to have assets of $120 million, we are skint. RD

Friday, April 08, 2011

Don't bet on the GGs

With the endorsement of the Socialist Party Scotland (Committee for a Workers’ International), the Socialist Workers Party and Sheridans's Solidarity, George Galloway will head the Glasgow list under the humbly named ‘George Galloway (Respect) - Coalition Against Cuts’ in the upcoming Scottish parliament elections. Once mor we witness the personality of the cult developing. Charismatic politicians have a propensity to capture public worship either through making articulate speeches or wearing fine suits. Galloway has a gift of making fine speeches and a flair for fashion. This emphasis upon the individual has been an increasing symptom of the emptiness of capitalist politics. The emptier the politics, the bigger the personalities.

The leaders we are asked to support, and sometimes choose between, are a myth, created and maintained by--leaders. They are poor examples of honesty, integrity, even of humanity. They are not interested in truth, justice, or any of the grand notions they spout about. They exist, have always existed, will always exist, for one purpose only: to line their own pockets and empty yours. They are parasites on the social body, unwanted, unnecessary and destructive. To follow leaders is to hand over your heart on a platter, with knife and fork attached.

The Socialist Party has no leaders. Socialism wouldn't operate that way and neither do we. All decisions are made by common vote, all administration is above-board and open to inspection, and all work is voluntary. None of us is perfect, and that's why democracy works better than leadership. Mistakes by one person are not disasters for the many. Private interests don't count. Power doesn't exist. Socialists are their own leaders, and they follow nobody but themselves. Socialism could not work with people unwilling or unable to think for themselves, to take responsibility, or to co-operate, but fortunately it doesn't have to. Human beings are better than that. We can think, and we can co-operate, and we don't need rescuing by some "heroic" and entirely untrustworthy leader of the Left. Galloway is a living confirmation of the Socialist Party’s case of avoiding leadership and leaders in our movement.

To Galloway we say the Socialist Party are unable to support your list of demands. None of them addresses the essential problem of our society - the ownership of the means of production by a tiny number of capitalists and the enforced exploitation of the working class through the wages system. Lacking an honest revolutionary stance for a new society, the reformism of Galloway becomes caught in a pointless and frustrating circular battle with an economic system that is based on exploitation. As long as the accumulation of capital takes precedence, either in the hands of the individual capitalist or state institutions, the primary concern of exploitation of labour and making profit will take precedence over the concerns of human need. So long as the essential resources for living are controlled by their owners - whether as western style private capitalists or monopolist state bureaucrats, like that of the Soviet State-Gangster Capitalism you so venerated - the strife and anguish of the class struggle will remain.

The effect of your election campaign will be to help continue this mystification and confusion of the workers as to their own interests, as well the sullying of the name of socialism. The job of socialists is to bring the class struggle to an end, not to try and accommodate themselves with this system. Once we understand our real interest and begin to consciously organise to get it no leader or deceiver is going to be able to deflect us from our course, and the days of the likes of George Galloway will be numbered.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

MONEY AND MADNESS

It is  said that power and money can turn people mad and their seems to be a couple of recent examples of that notion. First of all we have the Lybian dictator Gaddafi declaring "My people love me" as the the country explodes in a civil war and the following crazy declaration of the balding, ageing and the far from handsome but immensely rich prime minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi. "When asked if they would like to have sex with me, 30% of women said "Yes", while the other 70% replied, "What, again?" (Sunday Times, 3 April) RD

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A THATCHER NIGHTMARE

Margaret Thatcher like all previous, present and future prime ministers of Britain was an enthusiastic supporter of capitalism. She depicted capitalism as a "property owning democracy" as her government rushed to sell off council homes. Today such a boast about capitalism must seem somewhat empty to thousands of workers who find themselves the victims of this "property owning democracy". According to the Centre for Economic and Business Research the statistics would seem to suggest that this particular Thatcher dream about capitalism has turned into a nightmare. "650,000 households are struggling to pay the mortgage. 117,000 people are in arrears." (Sunday Times, 3 April) RD

Monday, April 04, 2011

Food for Thought

In the Obscene and Heard category – as Yemen struggles to get rid of its President/dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was about to hand absolute power to his son, as a king would, The Toronto Star reported (26/March/2011) his speech, " We in leadership, we don't want power, but we need to hand it over to trustful hands, not to sick, hateful, corrupt collaborator hands." Astounding nerve, even for his clique of rogues, thieves, and murderers.
In the UK, angry demonstrators occupied dozens of bank branches in protest of government cuts to people services such as cuts to laundry service for the elderly, to daycares, to libraries, while banks, as in Canada, make incredible profits and pay miniscule taxes. For example, Barclays paid $177CA million against an astonishing year's profit of $18.2 billion. Unfortunately, the group says it is not against taxes, they just want the banks to pay their fair share. They will have to come up with a much better alternative to that solution, say the end of money and finance and the establishment of common ownership!
In contrast to the wealth of the banks, The Toronto Star, in an article on The privatization of Britain's housing, revealed that, in England, 4.5 million people are waiting for public housing, and 100 000 households are officially 'homeless'.
 The Harper government appointed Christiane Ouimet as Integrity Commissioner in 2007 to look into reprisals against whistleblowers. Of 228 cases brought before her, only seven were investigated, and no wrongdoing was found in any of them. She was accused of bullying her staff but apparently, no one blew the whistle. She recently resigned two days before an audit was due to begin. Despite the lack of action in four years, she received a separation allowance of $354 000, $53 100 in lieu of forgone benefits, and twenty-eight weeks' severance pay of $137 000. Most workers are lucky to get twenty-eight weeks' unemployment benefits when capital no longer needs them.
Here comes 1984. Miami-Dade (Florida) police department is set to use drone cameras like those used in Afghanistan against the Taliban, for surveillance purposes.

For socialism, John Ayers

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Food for Thought

Poverty is endemic in the 'Third World", as everyone knows. It is just as evident in the rich First World. According to http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/02/21-5, in the US, the richest nation, six million lost their jobs in the recent recession, 25 million are underemployed, $8 trillion was lost in the housing/mortgage crisis, one quarter of all mortgages are underwater (owe more than the value of the house), 50 million live in poverty, one eighth of the population are on food stamps, one half of all children will be in food stamps sometime in their lifetime.
 In Canada, three million live in poverty and the latest blueprint to reduce the problem produced by the House of Commons, was dismissed outright by Tory minister of Human Resources, Diane Finlay, as the party's strategy of growing the economy will take care of it. A rising tide lifts all boats, trickle down effect etc. etc. etc. and on forever.
In China, that land of endless booming economy, have the boats been lifted? The Toronto Star reported (6/March/2011) that seventy Chinese congressional deputies (out of 2 990) have a combined fortune of $75 billion. Five hundred million Chinese live on less than $2 a day. They must be in a sinking boat!
Meanwhile, Canada's top banks reported first quarter earnings of Toronto-Dominion Bank, $154 billion (taxes $343 million) Royal Bank of Canada, $1.84 billion (taxes $612 million)
CIBC, $799 million (Taxes $268 million) National Bank, $465 million (Taxes $129 million).
That's for a quarter year! They were expecting, and got, big tax concessions in the recent budget. Unfortunately for them, it was defeated and the government fell. Steadily falling corporate tax rates and the used of tax havens (how patriotic these banks are!) has saved billions in unpaid taxes. "That's a lot of schools, a lot of hospitals." Said Toby Sanger, economist for The Canadian Union of Public Employees. Time to wake up! John Ayers