Tuesday, February 07, 2012


From time to time society is hit by unpredictable natural disasters such as earthquakes and we all sympathise with the victims. Sometimes though the governments concerned know about the prospects of a coming disaster, but keep quiet because they are reluctant to spend money.The ramshackle neighbourhoods of northeast Delhi are home to 2.2 million people packed along narrow alleys. If a major earthquake were to strike India's seismically vulnerable capital, these neighbourhoods- India's most crowded- would collapse into an apocalyptic nightmare. "The Indian government knows this and has done almost nothing about it. An Associated Press examination of government documents spanning five decades reveals a pattern of warnings and recommendations that have been widely disregarded. Successive governments made plans and promises to prepare for a major earthquake in the city of 16.7 million, only to abandon them each time." (CCN News, 20 December) RD


In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers - as well as dozens of other American industries - have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history. However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labour in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. "Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious - sometimes deadly - safety problems. Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk." (New York Times, 25 January) Isn't modern technology marvelous? RD

Monday, February 06, 2012


From time to time we ignorant workers are reminded of our place in society by our betters and an example of this has recently emerged. "A Tory MP has ignited a row after claiming northerners die earlier than those in the south because they smoke too much, drink too much - and 'jump into bed with each other at the drop of a hat'. Public health minister Anne Milton - whose Guildford constituency lies in the Surrey stockbroker belt - argued that 'widespread changes in behaviour' such as stopping smoking and practising 'safe sex' would help lower death rates in the north of England." (Daily Mail, 4 February) A growth of socialist knowledge would soon lead to the demise of such arrogant, ill-formed nonsense as espoused by Ms Milton. How on earth did she become a "public health minister"? RD
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has called for a new body to be set up to protect workers from abuse and exploitation by bosses. In the past two years, Scottish citizens advice bureaux have handled 107,000 cases where people claimed to have been treated unfairly at work. CAS said it feared that could be the tip of the iceberg.

The Fair Employment report said one of the "key features" of the recession had been that "many employers retained staff on less generous terms and conditions rather than making large numbers of employees redundant". While it said this was "usually preferable" to redundancy, it claimed cutting workers' hours and wages could have a significant impact. The report stated: "As a result of the fragmented enforcement regime, our evidence shows that many employees are unable to raise and resolve poor practices that they experience at work. This leaves some employers free to continue inadequate and sometimes illegal employment practices."

CAS head of policy Susan McPhee said "It is time for the government to give exploited workers somewhere to turn, through the creation of a Fair Employment Commission with the legal powers and resources both to secure individual vulnerable workers their rights, and to root out the rogues. As a society we might have hoped that workplace exploitation was a thing of the distant past. Sadly, this report shows that many Scots are still being treated unfairly. Examples include illegal changes to contracts, unfair dismissal, low pay, withheld wages and victimisation of those who have tried to demand their rights."

Such good intentions but the government is the executive committee of the capitalist class and represents their interests, not the workers. A few cosmetic changes may be possible but the balance of power will always favour the employer.

Sunday, February 05, 2012


There are many reason for the world's working class to get rid of capitalism. Here is one of them."Worldwide malaria deaths may be almost twice as high as previously estimated, a study reports. The research, published in the British medical journal the Lancet, suggests 1.24 million people died from the mosquito-borne disease in 2010.This compares to a World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate for 2010 of 655,000 deaths." (BBC News, 3 February) While billions of dollars are spent world-wide in armaments to destroy human lives capitalism refuses to spend a few pennies on mosquito nets that could save over a million people a year. RD

Thursday, February 02, 2012


One of the claims made by supporters of the NHS is that it gives access to the best medical treatment to all irrespective of their circumstances. "A drug that can extend the life of men with advanced prostate cancer by more than three months has provisionally been rejected for NHS use. Draft guidance from the health watchdog for England and Wales says the drug's benefits are not enough to justify the price the NHS has been asked to pay. Cancer charities have been angered by the decision about abiraterone, one of the few drugs available to men in the final stages of prostate cancer." (BBC News, 2 February) Needless to say the wealthy will continue to have access to this life lengthening treatment. That is how capitalism operates. RD


For want of a few pence children are dying of lack of clean water and millions die every year from malaria when all that is needed to prevent it is a mosquito net. Yet millions are spent by parasitic capitalists on their stamp collection. "Printed in Sweden in 1855, the tiny Treskilling Yellow is thought to be the most valuable thing in existence by weight and volume. Weighing just 0.03 grams, the three-shilling stamp is now worth £5m. It is so prized because it was printed in yellow by mistake, and should in fact have been green." (Daily Telegraph, 21 January) It speaks volumes for the values of capitalism when the health of millions is valued less than a scrap of paper. RD

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


It comes as no surprise to learn that the Daily Telegraph is a fervent supporter of capitalism, but even by their biased viewpoint the following takes a bit of beating. "There's nothing selfish about capitalism. Like every economic model, it is a matrix within which individual actors can behave morally or immorally. But here's the thing: no one has yet come up with a system that rewards decent behaviour to the same extent. In an open market based on property rights and free contract, you become wealthy by offering an honest service to others." (Daily Telegraph, 19 January) This piece of nonsense was written by Daniel Hannan who has has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999. "Nothing selfish about capitalism" - this is a society wherein millions try to survive on less than $2 a day whilst other luxuriate in billionaire paradise. "Decent behaviour" - in a society where racism, sexism, world hunger and the threat of war is a daily experience. RD


One of the difficulties socialists have experienced when trying to get our fellow workers interested in world socialism is the persistent illusion that there is no such thing as a class division in society. As capitalism develops however this illusion becomes even more indefensible. "Even more than Britain, the United States has experienced the emergence of an arrogant and deracinated overclass of super-rich. Economists say that the super-rich in the United States are now seven times better off than they were 30 years ago. Troublingly, this massive growth of wealth and power has come directly at the expense of ordinary people. Statistics show that the income of the average working male in the United States has flat lined since the 1970s." (Daily Telegraph, 20 January) When even an out and out supporter of capitalism such as the Daily Telegraph exposes this class division our task is made much easier. RD

Buying and selling people

Celtic have the highest player transfer outlay in the last five years, with a spend of just over £35 million, closely followed by Rangers who have spent around £33 million in the same period. Coming in at a poor third is Hearts who spent almost £3 million.

The teams that are making money from selling their players?

Celtic again leading the way with £35,574,000. Rangers have made sales of just over £20 million. Here is where Hibernian really punch above their weight. The Easter Road side have sold just over £16 million of players in five years and Hearts also sold well, £14 million. So the profits for Hibs have been almost £15million and for Hearts £11 million.

Almost every club in the division has turned a modest profit with the wheeling and dealing of player sales. Hibernian's business model is so focused on bringing through youth players and moving them on for healthy fees. It appears that Scottish football is all about the search of young, marketable talent. Celtic’s transfer balance is interesting, given the figures involved, as they seem to spend exactly what they make, reinvesting the money taken from sales into the playing squad. The club transfer policy seems to be to find players with a sell-on value, put them in the metaphorical shop window, sell them on at a profit and then repeat the process with the proceeds.


The aristocracy keep control of Scotland

An earl will take over from a duke as president of one of Scotland’s major conservation charities. The 16th Earl of Lindsay will take on the role at the head of the National Trust for Scotland, which owns some of the nation’s top mountain estates. He will succeed the 10th Duke of Buccleuch.

The earl, James Randolph Lindesay-Bethune, educated at Eton and Edinburgh University, is currently chairman of the Scottish Agricultural College, United Kingdom Accreditation Service and the British Polythene Pension Scheme.

He is also a non-executive director at Scottish Resources Group and BPI, an associate director of the National Non-Food Crops Centre and a member of the advisory board of Business and a Sustainable Environment. From 1995 to 1997, he was the Conservative Scottish Minister with responsibility for agriculture, forestry, environmental protection, countryside, sustainable development and culture. He is also a vice-president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and between 1998 and 2003 was chairman of RSPB Scotland. He is chairman of the Moorland Forum, president of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, vice-president of the International Tree Foundation and the Royal Smithfield Club, and was a recent president of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

Jamie Lindsay, as he is known to his friends, "...combines commercial acumen with direct experience of policy-making and governance..." according to Sir Kenneth Calman, chairman of the National Trust for Scotland

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

class war in India

India factory workers in revolt and kill company president. Workers at the Regency Ceramics factory in India raided the home of their boss, and beat him senseless with lead pipes after a wage dispute turned ugly. The workers were enraged enough to kill Regency’s president K. C. Chandrashekhar after their union leader, M. Murali Mohan, was killed by baton-wielding riot police. Once news of Murali’s death spread, the factory workers destroyed 50 company cars, buses and trucks and lit them on fire. They ransacked the factory.

The workers had been calling for higher pay and reinstatement of previously laid off workers since October. India’s factory workers are the lowest paid within the big four emerging markets. Per capita income in India is under $4,000 a year, making it the poorest country in the BRICs despite its relatively booming economy.


Monday, January 30, 2012


The recent electoral activities in the USA have enraged Mitt Romney because of the issue of economic justice. "Break the news gently to Mitt Romney, who seems apoplectic that the whole "rich get richer, poor get poorer" thing is being discussed out loud. In front of the children, for goodness sake. "You know I think it's fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms," he told the Today show's Matt Lauer last week. "But the president has made this part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It's a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach." (Washington Post, 16 January) Despite Komney's distaste the issue of the class divide in the USA won't go away RD


Everyone loves chocolate. But for thousands of people, chocolate is the reason for their enslavement. The chocolate bar you snack on likely starts at a plant in a West African cocoa plantation, and often the people who harvest it are children. Many are slaves to a system that produces something almost all of us consume and enjoy. "The CNN Freedom Project sent correspondent David McKenzie into the heart of the Ivory Coast - the world's largest cocoa producer - to investigate what's happening to children working in the fields. His work has resulted in a shocking, eye-opening documentary showing that despite all the promises the global chocolate industry made a decade ago, much of the trade remains unchanged. There are still child slaves harvesting cocoa, even though some have never even tasted chocolate and some don't even know what the word "chocolate" means." (CNN, 12 January) RD


Capitalism is a corrupt society with contracts and sales often the subject of under the counter deals. The world of medical treatment is not exempt from this all-pervading practice. "To head off medical conflicts of interest, the Obama administration is poised to require drug companies to disclose the payments they make to doctors for research, consulting, speaking, travel and entertainment. Many researchers have found evidence that such payments can influence doctors' treatment decisions and contribute to higher costs by encouraging the use of more expensive drugs and medical devices. ..... Large numbers of doctors receive payments from drug and device companies every year, sometimes into the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars,in exchange for providing advice and giving lectures." (New York Times, 16 January) Workers in the USA who imagine their medical treatment is untouched by the taint of monetary consideration should think again. RD

Who owns th North Pole - part 44

China, Brazil and India want seats on the Arctic Council as global warming creates new opportunities for shipping and resource extraction in the vast Arctic region. Japan and South Korea have indicated they want observer status as well. Non- Arctic countries want to exert economic and political influence in the region. China already has a research station in Norway's high Arctic.


workers shares - a share in losses

For Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland workers, the chance to buy discounted shares in their employer seemed a no-lose deal. Schemes such as the Sharekicker plan at HBOS, which allowed employees to buy the bank’s shares with their bonuses and get 50 per cent more free shares after three years.

In December 2007, the HBOS share price was 741.5p. A year later, after its takeover by Lloyds, it had plunged by more than 90 per cent to 69p, giving thousands of employees who had taken up the Sharekicker plan not only their jobs to worry about, but their savings.

Many staff were confident of prosperity-laden future of their employer and invested much of their cash back into the very company they worked for. The tragedy is that when things went pear-shaped, many lost both their jobs and their savings.

The Deputy Prime Minister talked of a democratic share ownership culture. A lot of bank workers can be forgiven for feeling cynical towards Nick Clegg’s proposal for employees to have a universal right to ask for company shares.

How much say in the running of HBOS, RBS and Northern Rock did the thousands of employees who owned shares in those firms have? Not even 100 per cent take-up would give a workforce sufficient ownership to earn a voice loud enough to be heard. Groups of individual shareholders can’t come close to the ownership held by pension schemes and other institutional investors, who have been found badly wanting as far as accountability is concerned.


Sunday, January 29, 2012


A popular piece of nonsense that the press are fond of spreading is that all Britain's economic woes arise out of the laziness of the working class. Recent research would seem to give the lie to that view. "Workers who spend long hours at the office are more than twice as likely to develop depression as those who do a standard day, according to a study. British researchers found those who spend more than 11 hours a day - or 55 hours a week - at their desk faced a higher risk." (Daily Mail, 26 January) An 11 hour day hardly seems like the ideal for the work-shy. RD


Government ministers have extremely arduous tasks and from time to time they must make harsh decisions. Thus the education minister has set about the task of cutting expenditure on education and introducing higher university fees. However a sense of priorities must be applied to government expenditure. "The Queen should be given a new royal yacht - likely to cost at least £60m as a way to help overturn Britain's mood of austerity, according to Cabinet minister Michael Gove. The Education Secretary suggested that greater efforts should be made to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year to stop it being overshadowed by the Olympic Games." (Independent, 16 January) Cutting expenditure on working class education is one thing but Her Majesty needs a nice new means of transport. How is my knighthood doing by the way? RD


There are many reasons to detest capitalism. You may detest that millions of children will die from the lack of clean water or your special hatred may be reserved for the millions of preventable deaths caused by malaria, but surely this piece of madness deserves a place in that catalogue of detestations. "For most dogs, a kennel used to comprise a few planks of wood held together with rusty nails to form a rather rudimentary shelter from the wind and rain. But now besotted owners are lavishing up to £3,000 on designer homes for their pets - from a Bauhaus-inspired cube-shaped structure to a pink castle complete with turrets." (Daily Mail, 14 January) A couple of pence for a mosquito net could save a life? Let's spend £3,000 on Rover's kennel. Detestable! RD