Tuesday, March 26, 2013

National Liberation or libation

The division of the global population into entities called “nations” is overwhelmingly taken for granted. For the vast majority of people it is taken for granted that they are members of a nation-state; they take pride in its alleged accomplishments; they suffer when their nation is embarrassed or humiliated (and for Scottish football’s Tartan Army that is indeed a common occurance!) It rarely if ever occurs to them that the nation-state system is a recent creation in human history, that most human societies have had no concept of the nation whatsoever, and that the rise of the nation-state system corresponds to the international development of capitalism, a particular political form that regulates, controls and disciplines people in a way that facilitates their exploitation by capital. capitalism has stamped our sense of belonging, our need for community with others, with national state forms. In truth, the countryside, the culture and the language with which we are brought up is part of us. Love of these things is inevitable and universal, but it is not the same thing as nationalism. Capitalism constructed nations organised around symbols like flags and anthems, built largely upon artifical myths and histories.


Nationalism in the past centuries has been responsible for unprecedented barbarity and it has been crucial in preventing the victory of socialism. Nationalism upholds loyalty to a particular nation and support for it when there is a conflict with another nation, regardless of circumstance. Nationalism opposes international working class solidarity, where loyalty to ones class above that of national origin. Nationalist movements, under the banner of national liberation have failed. Countries which overthrew their colonial overlord have new symbols and can use their own languages in schools and on TV but life for the ordinary peasant or worker is little different and often harder while the local elites enriched themselves and established strict control over the population. National liberation struggles can be seen as attempts of sections of the native ruling classes to appropriate a larger share of the value generated in 'their own' countries.

The experience of the working class throughout the world is that national liberation is no solution. In the 19th century some liberation struggles led to the creation of new nation states which played a needed role in the development of world capitalism. This is no longer true of today where new rulers may perhaps achieve a measure of political independence from the great powers but they can never free their country from the grip of the world economy. For the working class in these countries "liberation" simply means exchanging one set of bosses for another - the new ones as violently opposed to working class struggle as the old ones. The nation state is the political organisation of capitalism. Socialists oppose every attempt to rally the working class to the cause of nationalism regardless if it is in the name of "national liberation”

Amazingly, much of the Left has supported these national liberation movements, resorting to distorting the truth through so-called solidarity committees, often long after it was clear that they were liberating only their own elite class and having usually wiped out their left opposition. The Leftist groups spend much of their time defending movements which have been as exploitative and oppressive, albeit in different forms, as the regimes that they overthrew. The fact that the majority of peoples obtained little or nothing from an apparent “victory” has to be driven home. The Left cannot forget that for the many the standard of living has gone down after the removal of the colonial overlord. Indeed in many countries it is even worse in that post-colonial wars have led to mass slaughter. However in some new countries higher consumption levels and welfare programmes may temporarily be established by these regimes. Those who can see no further than economistic steps to “socialism” usually quote this. But what is ‘gained’ at home is lost abroad. Castro supported the 1968 Russian Invasion of Czechoslovakia, as Ho Chi Minh earlier endorsed the tanks rolling into Budapest in 1956. Hugo Chavez gave his approval to Mugabe, Gaddaffi, Assad and the Ayatollahs. Even today we witness members of the Left supporting various Islamists such as Hezbullah. They ought to be denouncing them as reactionaries. The fact that they are opposing the foreign policy of the USA is neither here nor there.

 The Leftist myth that a successful national liberation will later unleash 'the real class struggle' is false. It is a rationalisation for the defence of new ruling classes in the process of formation. As historical evidence shows, those new elites usually become appendages of another existing capitalist/imperialist bloc. Class interests of the new emerging capitalist class never bring a break with the capitalist system. They simply seek for their rights of sovereignty to be recognized by the powerful ones. So, it is downright class collaboration to reduce opposition of the working class to imperialism to opposition to policies of this or that imperialist state or to the level of supporting the rights of sovereignty of “its own” bourgeoisie. Dominant capitalist countries (or if you prefer imperialist nations) dictate the economic terms on weaker capitalist countries. This situation is a general law of capitalist order. Under capitalism, he who pays the piper calls the tune! No matter how much the bourgeoisie of various capitalist states complain about unequal relations or interference with their “internal affairs,” this is their capitalist system as a whole. Why should the working class be concerned with their complaints? Sharing the grievance of the weaker bourgeoisie or preaching a fully independent and national order within capitalism to the working class suits only the national ruling class. In fact, the burning problem of the proletariat in all capitalist countries, no matter big or small, is not economic independence(!) of its “own” bourgeoisie, but emancipation from the capitalist order of exploitation. In short, the goal of the working class struggle against imperialism is to put an end to the bourgeois order, to seize political power, i.e. the proletarian revolution.

“The workers have no country,” declared Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. In this spirit, the International Workingmen’s Association ( the First International) was later launched to reflect the form of organization that fit this outlook: an international political movement of the working class. Yet almost 150 years later labour movements are still almost entirely national in organisation, with little thought for their fellow workers elsewhere. They are dominated by nationalist ideology and tend to support import controls (or other forms of protectionism) to protect “our jobs” and “our” way of life. Rosa Luxemburg claimed with the full internationalising of capitalism and so powerful had the world economy become national struggles were out-moded and that the idea of an economically independent nation-state had become ridiculous. She declared national struggles can serve only as a means of deception, of duping the masses and it was reactionary to support the creation of new nation-states. The task was to mobilise the international working class against world capitalism.

It is this desire to belong to a community and identify with others with some sense of common purpose that a world-wide socialist movement of the future will have to help develop. A truly internationalist feeling of community that connect with both local and global experiences, solidarity that go beyond the nation-state. A potent, united global workers’ movement makes nationalism and separatism unnecessary. We must never lose sight of one of the vital features of socialism: its commitment to a world community without nations and without capitalism. The international working class is one class.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lots Of Potential

Another politician we are expected to revere, as he is a potential Prime Minister after all, is colourful Mayor of London Boris Johnson. He was exposed recently on TV by the interviewer Eddie Mair. '"You're a nasty piece of work, aren't you?" asked Mr Mair. Mr Johnson looked surprised and distinctly uncomfortable as the presenter asked him about his being fired by The Times newspaper for making up a quotation; being sacked from the Tory frontbench for telling "a bare-faced lie" to the party leader Michael Howard about his affair with the journalist Petronella Wyatt and the claim that he agreed to provide a reporter's address to his friend Darius Guppy, a convicted fraudster, so the journalist could be beaten up.' (Independent, 25 March) None of this was directly denied by Johnson. Lying, making up quotes and assisting in an assault threat? Sounds like good Prime Minister material to us. RD

His Lordship's Expertise

The media love to stress how complicated modern society is and how we need the expertise of the statesmen and politicians to guide us through its complexities. Lord Heseltine is a case in point, one of the Government's senior advisers, has been consulting with George Osborne on regenerating British cities. The majority of Lord Heseltine's recommendations in his regional growth report were accepted by the Chancellor in last week's budget. Listen to this "expert". 'Complacent British may not have 'national will' to secure economic recovery, Lord Heseltine suggests. British people may be so rich that they do not have the "national will" needed to lift the country out of the economic downturn, Lord Heseltine has suggested.' (Daily Telegraph, 25 March) All of you "rich" British surviving on dole money, pensions and minimum wages are considered by the wealthy peer too rich to care. Some expert! RD

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Facts are chiels that winna ding

Poverty


630,000 individuals are in households experiencing absolute poverty
970,000 are living in households that are in “relative poverty”
160,000 children live in absolute poverty
260,000 children live in relative poverty
658,000 households livie in fuel poverty (defined as people using more than 10% of the family income to pay their energy bills)
2,000 more deaths of people aged 65 in Winter 2008/09 compared to the summer months (The Poverty Site)
143,000 Scottish people are claiming Job Seekers Allowance, 215,000 are officially unemployed; while 1.573m Scots are classified as ‘economically inactive’ (ONS, June 2012).

Results

 Poor health, poor education, bad housing, reduced social opportunities, higher rate of alcoholism, addiction and mental illness. Men living in the most deprived areas have 18.8 years lower life expectancy and women 17.1 years than for those in the least deprived areas. In Tayside 2011 saw a significant increase in malnutrition, with 182 reported cases.

'But facts are fellows that will not be overturned, And cannot be disputed.'

- Robert Burns, A Dream




















Thursday, March 21, 2013

the Independence Referendum


Nationalism and the referendum increasingly dominates Scottish politics and its newspapers. We now have the date of the referendum which will be the 18th September 2014when Scot voters will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"


By re-drawing the map the nationalists promise economic prosperity. The unionists prophesise economic catastrophe. Socialists say experience shows that either way, the working class will lose out.

Independence is nothing but a dead-end. It doesn’t bring us closer to socialism, only farther away from it. Separation is no stepping stone to socialism, despite what phony “Marxist” theoreticians may say. It maintains and reinforces the divisions within the working class – a real boon for the capitalist class which do their best to keep us divided. The people on the Left who are pushing this option fall right into class collaboration. Under capitalism there is necessarily a division between rich and poor, a ruling class and the ruled, the class of capital and the class of wage-workers, and any attempt at uniting them must involve the acceptance of exploitation and oppression. It is glossed over with much talk of the shared culture. The experience of the poor living in a slum council estate is very different from that of the rich living in their country estates. Anyone on the Scottish Left who, therefore, combines the working class with the ruling class, calling on capitalist and worker to unite and fight for independence is not a Marxist or a socialist. Nationalism places the working class under the control of its ruling class and this means that socialism is abandoned. This process has been observed many times resulting in the the conclusion that national feeling is somehow stronger than socialism. The repeated triumph of national consciousness does not however prove that class consciousness is incapable of transcending national consciousness.

Some Scots claim that the Scottish nation has been a victim of English rule but the working class throughout Britain has been the subject of capitalist oppression. Nationalism divides our forces before our common enemy. The fight against the bosses has been a united struggle with workers joining together across all the regions of the UK. Nationalism is about organising and mobilising people on the basis of their national identity. Socialism is about organising and mobilising people on the basis of their class identity. It is class war between employers and employees not Scottish versus English.

Those who say that the main enemy is the English ruling class mislead workers in Scotland into thinking we have less to fear from the Scottish capitalist class. But the truth of the matter is that Scotland’s capitalists have been an integral part of the British bourgeoisie ever since the Union, a union to advance the interests of the aristocratic land-owners and the developing merchant and capitalist class. The Scottish ruling class sold out the rights of the people in Scotland for a hare in the spoils of the Empire. Scottish capitalists, be they big or small, are not any less a part of the British bourgeoisie than English capitalists. Now they simply want a re-division of the pie by re-writing the constitution. Those who would subordinate the class struggle to the struggle for independence, those who counter-pose national unity to class unity, help keep capitalism alive. Independence divides the working class against the international bourgeoisie and it chains workers to the interests of “their” bourgeoisie. No-one seriously considers that the SSP or Sheridan’s Solidarity constitute in any sense an independent political force. They are, in effect, merely propagandists for the Scottish bourgeoisie and its chosen party, the SNP.

An independent parliament has no answers for the working class and would continue to be used by the millionaires and multi-nationals to control and rule.There are no common interests between workers and their exploiters, whatever flag is waved. Nationalism and class struggle are irreconcilably opposed. A nation is simply capitalism with all its exploitation and alienation, parcelled out in a single geographical unit. It doesn't matter whether the nation is 'small, 'colonial', 'semi-colonial' or 'non-imperialist'. In Scotland some businesses has found new roots, hoping to be effective in getting workers to sacrifice themselves for the false goal of “building the national economy” through independence from Whitehall. Multinational interests can just as much thrive on smaller centralised interdependent states, rather than through the old concept of the powerful nation. Separatism only reproduce the same problems on a smaller but no less savage scale.

All nationalisms are reactionary because they inevitably clash with class consciousness and poison it with chauvinism. Working class co-operation, especially in this global age of capital movement across all borders, is necessary for a real defence of our co-workers, neighbours and communities. Socialists have long maintained that people have the right to live, work and travel wherever they choose. As internationalists, socialists oppose national borders, which serve to divide and segregate people. It is important to remember that this view has always been central to the international labour movement from its very beginnings long ago. It is time for labour to remember this vital part of its history.

In the Scottish independence referendum there will be two different forms of nationalism on offer. The British nationalism of a “No” vote. The Scottish nationalism of a “Yes” vote. We will be advocating a third choice - a spoiled ballot with the words “world socialism” written on it. The Socialist Party is committed to destroying the capitalist system, the root cause of all oppression. It aims to unmask the irrationality of nationalism and work to show up the void that is national self-determination. Only by ending capitalism and building a democratic socialist future can we end the nightmare of war, environmental chaos, national and ethnic division, poverty and inequality that capitalism thrives on. The Socialist Party aspires to liberate all humanity, across the boundaries of national identity.

A CRUEL REALITY

Television advertisements delight in showing us the latest domestic electric and gas heaters with all the hi-tech gadgets. Behind this modern and comforting image there lurks a cruel reality however. 'Millions of Britons are facing fuel poverty due to soaring energy bills, experts warned today. More than nine million people will spend more than 10 per cent of their household income on fuel in three years, they said. ........... Annmarie Blomfield, of energy assessment company One Green Place, said fuel poverty kills thousands of people every year.She said almost 8,000 people die from living in cold homes with more than 1.6 million children in households which struggle to keep warm.' (Daily Express, 19 March) Dying in a cold home never features in those slick adverts. RD

Who's scoring?

Money counts as the Championship League last eight shows. It is a reflection of the Deloitte's Football Money League. Real Madrid (1st), Barcelona (2nd) and Bayern (4th). There's Juventus, 10th on the money list and Italy's biggest spenders, Galatasaray enough financial clout to "rent" Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba as short-term "ringers" – and Paris Saint-Germain, have spent more than anyone in football over the past 18 months. The exceptions are Borussia Dortmund founded on low ticket prices and a working man's club ethos and, especially, the fact that, apart from Marco Reus, nobody in the starting eleven cost more than £5 million. This status was somewhat forced upon them by the wild overspending that sent the club into administration a decade ago. Malaga also previously faced unpaid wages and lawsuits.
Football has reached the point where it must choose between becoming an elitist sport, dominated by a handful of rich clubs and leagues, or a universal one, according to former FIFA presidential advisor Jerome Champagne. Champagne said the concentration of wealth meant that competitions such as the Champions League had become predictable. "I remember when I was a teenager and we had the draw for European competition. When we drew a Polish club, when we drew Dundee United or Glasgow Rangers, or CSKA Sofia, we were scared. Now, you have a small group of clubs more or less guaranteed to reach the final stages."
"We tend to misrepresent the game by thinking the game is about the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo," Champagne told Reuters. "In reality, it is about players whose salaries are not paid and clubs who are on the verge of bankruptcy.The majority of football is today facing this crisis while the wealthy are becoming wealthier," added Champagne
Once managed by the Celtic legend Jock Stein, once boasting having had Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson as a player, twice winners of the Scottish Cup, semi-finalists in the European Cup Winners Cup, Dunfermline have just six days to come up with £134,000 or face being wound up after Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs took the 128-year-old club to court over an unpaid tax bill. Dunfermline are also understood to owe around £8 million to directors past and present and have repeatedly failed to pay their players on time this season. It was confirmed earlier this month that Jefferies' squad and other staff received just 20 per cent of their wages.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Food for thought

A report by McMaster University (Hamilton) and the United Way tells us that barely half the adults in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton have full time jobs with benefits and expect to be working for the same employer in one year's time. The rest work either full or part-time with no benefits or job security or in temporary, casual or contract positions. Insecure or precarious' work has increased fifty per cent in the last twenty years. There has been a forty per cent increase in temporary work since 1997 and a forty-five per cent increase in self- employment. This is causing major life decisions like moving in with a partner, having children etc. increasingly difficult. This, of course, is due to the squeeze on workers to make the workforce more 'flexible' to suit the profit makers that is the neo-liberal agenda. We need to educate these people that they do not have to drop living standards to the lowest common denominator and make them class conscious socialists. John Ayers

No Forgiveness for Blair’s Useful Idiots



Making up a reason to invade a country was the easy part for Tony Blair. Sticking to a pretend story for ten years — that is truly the sign of a sociopathic statesman.


Ten years ago, between January and April 2003, it is estimated that an unprecedented 36 million people around the world took to the streets in protest against the Iraq War. 50, 000 of them marched in Glasgow. Scottish Labour Party leader Johann Lamont was not one of them. Instead she was part of those political cheer-leaders who supported Tony Blair and voted for the invasion of Iraq. In her own words she “voted on the grounds of listening to the evidence in front of me and on my conscience.”


She was one of many “useful idiots,” who willfully played along with preposterous WMD claims and allowed themselves to get carried away with the imperialistic fervor surrounding a new call to war, abdicating their responsibilities to humanity. How can we believe her pleas of ignorance when millions of us screamed the facts until our voices were hoarse? Why should we place our trust in someone who failed to accurately analyse “the evidence” placed before her? She abdicated her responsibility to ask basic questions to verify the truth of WMD claims. Those politicians who voted for the Iraq War should be held accountable for their decision. In our own day-to-day lives, if we were a party to such horrifically wrong and deliberately destructive decisions, we would face punishing consequences, especially if we still tried to justify ourselves. We would face public scorn and humiliation. We would probably get demoted or fired. We might even face criminal prosecution. Why is the same standard not applied to Johann Lamont?

Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD), say there is 1.1 million other Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq today. UNHCR estimates show that the greatest number of IDP’s to be in the Baghdad governorate, and puts the number at 200,000 Iraqis.

Nevertheless some stil argue it was a price worth paying to remove a dictator.
An Amnesty International report refers to as "a grim cycle of human rights abuses" in Iraq today. The report exposes a long chronology of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees committed by Iraqi security forces, as well as by foreign troops, in the wake of the US-led 2003 invasion. "Death sentences and executions are being used on a horrendous scale," Amnesty International's Hadj Sahraoui said in the groups recent report. "It is particularly abhorrent that many prisoners have been sentenced to death after unfair trials and on the basis of confessions they say they were forced to make under torture."

“We have no future, and neither does Iraq have a future. My children have no future. We are only living day by day.” said Marwa Ali,  mother of two.


 Johann Lamont could have joined the millions of people in the UK and across the world denouncing Blair for waging a needless, illegal and immoral war of aggression without even the fig leaf of United Nations support. Lamont instead voted with her conscience - the blood of innocent millions are on Lamont’s conscience. Shame on her.

One or None

It is 200 years since the birth of David Livingstone, perhaps the most famous of missionaries. One biography describes David Livingstone as "Africa's Greatest Missionary".

An interesting claim considering that estimates of the number of people he converted in the course of his 30-year career vary between one and none. Livingstone himself later wrote off his sole convert as a backslider within months of his baptism.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Preaching revolution

The only reasonable position to adopt towards any religion is one of unbelief. For secular humanists, criticism of religion is a process towards the eventual "triumph of reason". But they ignore the material circumstances which give rise to superstition. The socialist analysis of religion derives from our basic materialism that traces how religions have evolved, from their possible beginnings in ancestor worship in primitive societies to established social institutions. Under capitalism people feel, rightly, that they are governed by forces they can't control but attribute this, wrongly, to forces operating from outside the world of experience. Churches of all types are then at hand for the sustaining of fear and superstition. For the socialist alternative to our lives being controlled by impersonal forces we must bring about a society in which humans consciously control the forces of production.
Humans made God in their image and attributed to him the powers which they collectively possessed, and then bowed down and worshiped this figment of their imagination. The first premise of historical materialism is that all man's thinking is social thinking; that there is no idea that man discusses, no interest that he fights for, and no ideal that he aspires to, that is not derived from social origins. If humans were to realise this and take their own destiny in hand there would be no need for God or religion. Where the working class accepts allegiance to religion, to royalty or the nation-state, or accepts a false ideology or economic subservience to the capitalist class, it denies itself the realisation of its own interests. The poverty of the modern proletariat still results from the fact that its labour operates in commodity form, is bought for wages and exploited by capitalists with a view to profit. To buy a man's labour power and set him to work is to reduce his existence to a commercial transaction and alienate his individuality.
Despite the attempts by churchmen to modify the image of the Church and alter its social role, it will retain one enduring characteristic, that of an anti-working class institution. The Church supports the present method of producing and distributing wealth--capitalism. The ideas that it disseminates, its concepts about society, and the universe it trades in, are either irrelevant or hostile to the ideas that the working class requires to achieve its economic emancipation. Socialists seek the universal brotherhood of men, but for the Church to sloganise ideals and in practice support a system that precludes their realisation, is worse than hollow gesture, it erects a barrier to their practical achievement. Churches arrogated to themselves the role of arbiter in things appertaining not only to matters of what it called ‘morality’ but to all forms of human behaviour and even juridical practice. If the Church genuinely aspires to social harmony on a world scale what it should do is relate to specific social situations within actual experience and explain the reasons why men now behave in a manner contrary to their mutual interests. It should argue a valid social theory and advocate a practical course for political action that offer the sure prospect of the unity of all men based on relations of genuine social equality. Only Socialists do this.
Many anti-religious writers see themselves as defenders of the Enlightenment tradition of reason against its traditional foe, religion. But they see nothing wrong in capitalism. Socialists recognise that the main source of irrationality in the modern world is to be found in the capitalist system of society. For socialists, therefore, the struggle against religion cannot be separated from the struggle for socialism. We fight religious superstition whenever it is an obstacle to socialism that keeps the gaze of the masses fixed upon the sky where they cannot investigate the real material world and see how they are robbed and oppressed.

The Preacher and the Slave
Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:
CHORUS:

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

The starvation army they play,
They sing and they clap and they pray
Till they get all your coin on the drum
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum:
Holy Rollers and jumpers come out,
They holler, they jump and they shout.
Give your money to Jesus they say,
He will cure all diseases today.
If you fight hard for children and wife -
Try to get something good in this life -
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.

Workingmen of all countries, unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight;
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:

FINAL CHORUS:

You will eat, bye and bye,
When you've learned how to cook and to fry.
Chop some wood, 'twill do you good,
And you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye

Joe Hill



Monday, March 18, 2013

Food for thought

According to Canada's finance minister, Jim Flaherty, leaders from the G20 nations have made progress in balancing fiscal discipline and economic growth in their Moscow meeting. He said, "Refrain from competitive devaluation and resist all forms of protectionism and keep our markets open." That should make capitalism work. However, some fear that some are deliberately trying to weaken their currencies to appear more competitive starting a currency war that could derail the global recovery. Japan, the world's third largest economy, has been accused of trying to lower the yen to stimulate its economy. Doesn't it make more sense to abolish the system that requires currencies at all? John Ayers

MODERNITY AND OLD PROBLEMS

 
If any area in the world seemed to sum up modernity and progress it would probably be Silicon Valley in California with its high technology industries, but behind that modernity lurks an old problem - poverty and homelessness. 'A shanty town of tents and shacks stretches over 28 acres near the airport at San Jose, the area's second city, and one Silicone Valley chief executive said he had seen advertisements in San Francisco for people to rent floor space on the condition that they brought their own sleeping bags.' (Times, 16 March) RD

Nationalism - where does it end?

Socialist Courier has already drawn attention to the unintended consequences for the nationalists in that where does separation stop in this post and here too.

The Guardian now reports, that politicians in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles have begun talks among themselves about their own "home rule". The councils are investigating plans to model themselves on the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands or the Falklands, which are crown dependencies and largely independent from the UK government, or to mimic the self-rule deal struck by the Faroe Islands with Denmark in 1948. Other less radical options include pressing for control over all their local fisheries, merging local health and social services, and taking control of the sea bed from the Crown Estates in London to help the islands profit from the boom in windfarms, on land and offshore, and marine energy projects about to start off northern and western Scotland. The three island groups are poised for a huge growth in investment by global energy companies: major tidal and wave energy parks are planned around their shorelines, while Shetland and Orkney are already seeing hundreds of millions of pounds spent on extra oil and gas terminals to service new fields being opened up in the Atlantic and North Sea.

Shetland council officials have drafted a detailed strategy on how to investigate Shetland's constitutional options. Shetland Council recently held a seminar to discuss the continuing loss of powers to Holyrood, the council tax freeze and various remedies including a bid for self-governing crown dependency status as currently enjoyed by the Isle of Man.Orkney council officials have compiled a 300-page briefing paper on the constitutional and political options which is being discussed by councillors.

Their alliance conjures up parallels with a campaign by rebellious Shetland islanders in the 1970s, when the Shetland Movement was formed to demand much greater autonomy for the islands as oil companies set up bases for the first wave of North Sea oil rigs.

Malcolm Bell, the convenor of Shetland Islands council, said the independence referendum offered an opportunity for the islands to carve out a new political settlement. "There's no point in Westminster devolving powers to Edinburgh if they are going to stop in Edinburgh. When you're 300 miles from Edinburgh, or 700 from London, at those kind of distances, Edinburgh feels as remote as London."

Central-belt Scots have relatively little contact with Orcadians and Shetlanders

Steven Heddle, Orkney's council leader, said: "We need to do this on a proactive basis because, if we don't do something ourselves, we're going to find the nationalists and the unionists pursue their aspirations, which don't necessarily tally with what we want."

The SNP’s Angus Brendan MacNeil, the MP for the Hebrides, said last year the islands might remain part of the UK “if there was a big enough drive for self-determination among their residents”,

Tavish Scott, the MSP for Shetland and former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader said there had been a "remorseless pattern of centralisation" under Salmond's Scottish National party government. "For me, this is about home rule; our islands being able to assert their natural and local identity, their distinctiveness, and get the powers and responsibilities they need to make the best of the modern world. If we don't set out our position, we will be subsumed into Greater Grampian or Greater Highlands. As night follows day, both Labour and the Scottish National party are centralising parties. They won't talk about public sector reform, but we know discussions are going on behind the scenes that Scotland is too big infrastructurally."

If more autonomy for Orkney and Shetland is a good thing, isn’t it a good thing for every community?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

CITY OF LUXURY AND SLUMS

 
Capitalism is a social system that cruelly contrasts wealth and poverty but probably no city in the world illustrates that conflict more than Mumbai in India. The world's tallest block of flats entitled World One, a 117-storey complex offering flats at £10 million has recently been completed there. 'On the streets below, about 4 million of Bombay's inhabitants defecate in the open because they have no lavatory. ....... Mumbai has the seventh largest number of billionaires of any city but by 2025 the World Bank predicts they will share it with 22.5 million slum-dwellers.' (Times, 16 March) RD

DEATH AND THE NHS

Many supporters of the National Health Service in the UK argue that the NHS is envied throughout the world. If so it doesn't say much for how those countries treat their workers when they are sick.'More than 20,000 hospital deaths could have been prevented if warnings about high mortality rates had been acted on quickly, a government adviser has said. Professor Sir Brian Jarman has accused ministers and officials of ignoring data on high death rates for a decade. Sir Brian is working on the government review of 14 hospital trusts with higher-than-average death rates in the wake of the Stafford Hospital inquiry.' (BBC News, 16 March) RD

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Food for thought

In Guatemala City, cemetery space is so scarce that mummified bodies are exhumed over unpaid cemetery rents. Should a relative come to claim them, they are placed in a mass grave. Even dead, you can be evicted! What a system!
Recent flooding in Bangladesh and the eastern coast of the US has hammered home to many what we face in the years to come, unless we act on climate change now (don't hold your breath). Experts expect about 250 million people will be forced to move by 2015. Think of the problems that will cause. Why not prevent it now?
Ontario's new premier, Kathleen Wynne (Liberal) said she hopes for cooperation from her rivals Tim Hudak (Conservative) and Andrea Horvath (NDP) in her attempts to solve problems in running the province. She said, "I believe that there is a lot of common ground with the Tories and the NDP..." Sure, the common ground they are all committed to is running the day to day affairs of the capitalist system in the interests of the owning class so no matter who is elected it still spells disaster for the working class, unless it's the Socialist Party. John Ayers

The Blair Legacy

As the 10th anniversary of the Iraq Invasion approaches what was the cost?
In dollars and cents it is estimated that the war cost the United States $1.7 trillion (£1.1tn). Its involvement in Iraq according to other sources has so far cost the US $810 billion (625 billion euros) and could eventually reach $3 trillion.
But in the cost of lives the war killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have led to the deaths of four times that number, said the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

Another estimate quoted is at least 116,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 4,800 coalition troops died in Iraq between the outbreak of war in 2003 and the US withdrawal in 2011 (31,000 US military personnel were injured).

About five million Iraqis were displaced.
In 2006, estimates by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, published in The Lancet, said 655,000 people had died in the first 40 months of the war.
In 2008, a study by the Iraqi government and World Health Organisation (WHO), published in The New England Journal of Medicine, said between 104,000 and 223,000 Iraqis had died violent deaths between March 2003 and June 2006.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Walking Dead

The Orange Order endeavours to dismiss any suggestion of class struggle as the following ditty demonstrates:


"Let not the poor man hate the rich
Nor rich on poor look down
But each join each true Orange Order
For God and the Crown."

Food for thought After thought

Speaking of television, another SPCer read Sid Caesar's autobiography. Originally, Admiral Television sponsored his, "Your Show of Shows" and, because it was a smash, the demand for Admiral TV sets skyrocketed. So Admiral dropped its sponsorship as they needed the money to pay for the production of more TV sets. That's what I like about capitalism; it's so sane! John Ayers

Food for thought

Defenders of capitalism argue that competition results in improvements in products and certainly one can point to many examples. However there is another side to capitalism's tarnished medal. An SPCer recently found his television set had broken down and it was cheaper to buy a new one than get it fixed. Here again, it can be said that improvements have been made. Today, for a price, one can buy TV sets that do just about anything except cook meals. The problem is that the TV had only lasted ten years, which is average these days. TV, like cars and many other products, are not made to last, so one will be compelled to buy a new one; in other words, planned obsolescence. In fact, competition drives the manufacturers to cheapen any product as far as possible in order to compete and we wind up with advanced technology made out of garbage. If you want quality, go for socialism! John Ayers

Nationalism? No change

One of our companion blogs, Patience and Perseverance, writes:


“ It seems as if Salmond & Co are losing their enthusiasm for Independence? They intend to continue to use the £ sterling, hang on to the coat tails of the Windsors as head of state, and now: dual citizenship, what next? Given the foregoing, it would seem that the pursuit of Scottish Independence is going to be a pointless exercise” [we can add also the continued membership of the EU and Nato]

Indeed, the blog highlights how its alleged radicalism has become more and more watered down by the day as the SNP become more and more desperate for a “yes” vote.
The nationalisms that divide the world at present are the byproducts of fairly recent historical developments. Usually, they grew up as a particular section of the capitalist class sought to establish its dominance over the economic activities of the territory it inhabited. To do so successfully, it had to subordinate the state power to its own ‘national’ interests. The Scottish wealthy swung behind support for the 1707 union after a colonial adventure of their own failed and they prospered during the hey-days of the Empire. Today, many sectors of industry have experienced a decline so the notion of an independent Scottish parliament has arisen among sections of the Scottish bourgeoisie. North Sea oil has given this some credibility and is offered up as the panacea to the problems of the people of Scotland without any need for class war against capitalist interests. Scottish workers are led to identify with Scottish landowners and capitalists on the basis of a ‘shared nationality’ and through them with Scottish capitalism.

Some on the Left argue that the Scottish people are more advanced in political consciousness than their English equivalents, therefore there would be a ‘leftist’ majority in a Scottish parliament and moves towards socialism would be easier. Even accepting such a questionable premise, it is simply delusional and ignores the realities of power under modern capitalism. The ruling class has at its disposal massive economic wealth, which is concentrated on an all-Britain and on an international, scale. A Scottish parliament as envisaged by its ‘left-wing’ proponents would have no means of breaking either sort of power.  ‘Socialism in one country’ was impossible in Russia; it will not be any more possible in Scotland.  A Scottish parliament would represent no more than a bit of tartan frill to one part of the state machine of British and world capitalism. Certainly it would not be able to impede the real workings of the major capitalist institutions.The struggle to wrest the means of production from the ruling class is of necessity a global struggle.

Nationalism does not strengthen the real force for socialism, a united, class-conscious working class, but fragments and weakens it. The social revolution is a global event. Glasgow and Edinburgh branches of the Socialist Party give no support to encouraging separatist trends in Scotland. There is only one real alternative to the present capitalist state – a united and determined revolutionary workers’ movement organising for socialism.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

HARSH REALITY

Politicians love to paint a picture of a Britain of steadily improving standards of living and a gradually more equitable society, but recent statistics show that this is a complete fraud. 'Millions of families will be no better off in 2015 than they were in 2000 due to a devastating attack on household finances, according to Britain's leading think tank. The average worker will have suffered the worst squeeze on incomes in memory by the time of the next General Election, warns the Institute for Fiscal Studies.' (Daily Mail, 14 March) RD

A new Pope

Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping was named president Thursday after a vote at its parliamentary meeting in Beijing.






Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Food for thought

Last year the government announced that those Canadians born after March, 1958, will have a longer wait for Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). Instead of collecting at 65, it will be at 67 years of age (even guaranteed pensions are not guaranteed in capitalism!) The government said the changes are necessary because the number of seniors will almost double by 2030 to 9.4 million. So, if you are in a low-income bracket and coming up
for retirement in ten years, you may have to work a little longer. Another example of a reform disappearing. John Ayers


RIP SWP?

The  resignation statement of 71 SWPers with many others expected to follow. One now ex-SWP prominent member wrote .

"One is simply astounded by how inadequate, corrupt, stupid, narrow-mindedly bureaucratic and delusional the leadership of the SWP has proven to be."  Members of the Socialist Party could have told them that years ago. He goes on to say "It is not just that having covered up serious sexual allegations, and so disastrously failed at least two female comrades, they can admit no fault. It is not just the absurd, scholastic, apolitical explanations they give for doing so, or the tragic retreat into bunkered dogma that has accompanied this. It is not just that they lie with impunity. It is not just that they ducked a real debate, with their absurd rules limiting faction speakers at aggregates, and their gerrymandering of conference. It is not just that even now many of them are desperate to get the accused back into the leadership as soon as can conveniently be arranged. It is not just that their response to the most recent allegations by a female ex-member was to effectively dismiss her as a liar, without investigating further. It is that, having done a Jonestown, they think they’ve just triumphed."

Rather than learn the real lessons of undemocratic centralism it seems another party is in the offing - the International Socialist Network. There is already an International Socialist Group  and in Scotland there is the International Socialism Group  not to be confused with this International Socialism Group created in the mid-90s from a previous split from the SWP. And of course there still exists Counterfire, yet another breakaway from the SWP when its leadership fell out with one another.

Should the Socialist Party take pleasure, a feeling of schadenfreude from our political enemies difficulties? Perhaps not, since they masquerade to be proponents of socialism and purport to be socialists therefore it offers a disservice to socialists in a socialist party where genuine internal democracy is valued and does not have a leaders to betray its principles. Also some sincere but misinformed, misguided members of the SWP are just as likely to reject the whole idea of socialism prevailing as a new system of society.  It  makes the problem of persuading workers of the need for socialism a little bit harder.

Semantics

EU legislation to protect the marine environment which bans the dumping of waste at sea.

Minutes from an internal Ministry of Defence committee - released as part of a Freedom of Information request - note a discussion on the interpretation of the OSPAR convention on waste dumping. Members concluded that they could avoid breaching the legislation by saying that Depleted Uranium cannon shells were "placed" not "dumped" in the sea. 6,700 shells have been fired from the range, containing nearly 30 tonnes of DU whih is toxic and radioactive and has been linked to increases in cancers and birth defects in Iraq, where it has been used as a weapon. It has also been linked to health concerns among members of UK armed forces exposed to the shells.

Its not what you say but how you say it !!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Food for thought

On January 30th. Employees at several "Best Buy" stores in Ontario, showed up for work at the usual time, to find the doors shut and notices on them informing them that they were unemployed. Rapid developments in the means of communication have meant that companies that sell electronics are losing out to the 'net', where goods can be purchased cheaper. As to why the workers were not informed of the impending lay-offs sooner, we can only surmise that the owners feared that they would not work so conscientiously if they knew of their fate. No doubt, the laid-off felt they had been treated unfairly, as indeed they had. But where is it written that life under capitalism is supposed to be fair? John Ayers

Monday, March 11, 2013

THE ROOTS OF WAR

The first world war was supposed to be the war to end all wars. 1939 showed the nonsense of that notion, but some claimed the second world war was a war to end fascism and to protect democracy. That now looks like an equally stupid idea. 'As Austria prepares to mark the anniversary of its annexation by Nazi Germany, an opinion poll has shown that more than half of the population think it highly likely that the Nazis would be elected if they were readmitted as a party. A further 42 per cent agreed with the view that life "wasn't all bad under the Nazis", and 39 per cent said they thought a recurrence of anti-Semitic persecution was likely in Austria.' (Independent, 10 March) Wars are not fought for splendid humane principles they are fought for markets, sources of raw materials and political and geographical reasons. Foolishly workers today are still conned by the nonsense of nationalism and capitalism. RD

Only the Red Flag

A country’s flag is a commercial asset, said the proponent of the British Empire, Cecil Rhodes. It represents the economic and political interests of the capitalist class. The ruling class praise love of country in order to beguile the proletariat, so that it should sacrifice itself in defence of the wealth hich the ruling-class has stolen from them. Capitalists are always nationalist, since they must exploit the proletariat of its own nation, but at a certain times of the economic development it must assume a certain international character, in order that the surplus of goods which it has captured from the wage-earners may be sold.

The rising capitalist class of the eighteenth century was only able to overthrow the aristocracy and seize power by proclaiming the brotherhood of nations and by calling on them to make common cause against tyrants; to be a patriot meant for bourgeois revolutionists not to love France, Germany or Italy, but to love the revolution. When the revolution was over they became once again nationalist in order to organise nationally its class oppression and exploitation.

In the age of globalization,  the nation state has retreated as the locus of world power. Free trade agreements, supra-national financial institutions, and multinational corporations ensure that capital can float between nations with ease . Labour, on the other hand, remains under the restrictions of border-obsessed states.

The proletariat of a nation, in order to throw off the yoke of the governing class, must be organised nationally and rise nationally, yet it will be unable to attain its final emancipation until they too join together with the proletariats of other capitalist nations. The revolutionary proletariat will neither need to keep its ancient nationalities nor to constitute new ones, because by becoming free it will abolish classes: the world will be its fatherland/motherland.

Abdullah Ocalan, an imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has explained  why he no longer supports the creation of an independent Kurdistan:
"When you said nation there absolutely had to be a state! If Kurds were a nation they certainly needed a state! However as social conditions intensified, as I understood that nations themselves were the most meaningless reality, shaped under the influence of capitalism, and as I understood that the nation-state model was an iron cage for societies, I realized that freedom and community were more important concepts. Realizing that to fight for nation states was to fight for capitalism, a big transformation in my political philosophy took place. I realized I had been a victim of capitalist modernity."

The Left state-capitalists and the Right libertarian propertarians  both propose in their own ways to re-nationalize capital, (which is a complete impossibility). It is for socialists to argue for the globalizing labor; that is, eliminating borders.

Our goal is a society without classes. In a classless society where man's exploitation of man is abolished, there will not be some kind of oppression of the smaller ethnic groups, but each people group’s free development is prerequisite for all people’s free development. Our political object is universalist: It is for all human beings.

“In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” - Communist Manifesto

Sunday, March 10, 2013

hot rocks

Geo-thermal energy could be a triple win for the world: clean, reliable, locally-produced power. Iceland's energy needs are  presently met by 40% geotherm but you need not be a volcanic island like Iceland to access the geotherm potential.

Recently, scientists have stated that 40% of Glasgow’s heating needs could come from geothermal power located in local abandoned coal mine shafts. There are many such mines throughout the country, and some of them are located deep enough below ground level that they have accumulated water. This water is warm enough it can be pumped up to heat buildings and homes.

Glenalmond Street in Shettleston, uses a combination of solar and geothermal energy to heat 16 houses. Water in a coal mine 100 metres (328 ft) below ground level is heated by geothermal energy and maintained at a temperature of about 12 °C (54 °F) throughout the year. The warmed water is raised and passed through a heat pump, boosting the temperature to 55 °C (131 °F), and is then distributed to the houses providing heating to radiators.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Food for thought

In "The conscience of a Corporation" (Bill Keller, New York Times,) tells us about a corporation led by a Christian, David Green, who founded "Hobby Lobby" stores in the US. It remains closed on Sundays, and promotes faith in all markets. It sticks decals over Botticelli's naked Venus in its art books and in-house health insurance does not cover contraceptives. Obama's Affordable Care Act requires companies with more than fifty employees to offer health insurance, including birth control. In a legal case on the matter, in which Hobby Lobby argues exemption on religious grounds, opposition counsel states that it is not a matter of 'does the corporation pray? Or does the corporation go to heaven?' Such is life in a religious state! Maybe it would just be better to get health care for all those who need it. John Ayers

Friday, March 08, 2013

HUNGER IN THE USA

Whenever one hears of children going hungry it is assumed this is a reference to some backward country in Asia or Africa, but recent events show that it applies to even advanced countries like the USA. 'Child poverty in the US has reached record levels, with almost 17 million children now affected. A growing number are also going hungry on a daily basis. Food is never far from the thoughts of 10-year-old Kaylie Haywood and her older brother Tyler, 12. At a food bank in Stockton, Iowa, they are arguing with their mother over the 15 items they are allowed to take with them. .......... The family are among the 47 million Americans now thought to depend on food banks. One in five children receives food aid.' (BBC News, 6 March) It speaks volumes about the nature of capitalism when even the most advanced country in the world has hungry kids. RD

Where now Venezuela?

The eulogies for Chavez keep coming, "one of the greatest revolutionaries in the history of mankind" .

There was certainly a campaign by his many enemies to discredit and distort Chavez, and indeed the misrepresentations of what he stood for come also from his friends.

In his own words Chavez explained that:
  "I don’t believe in the dogmatic postulates of Marxist revolution. I don’t accept that we are living in a period of proletarian revolutions. All that must be revised. Reality is telling us that every day. Are we aiming in Venezuela today for the abolition of private property or a classless society? I don’t think so. But if I’m told that because of that reality you can’t do anything to help the poor, the people who have made this country rich through their labour – and never forget that some of it was slave labour – then I say: ‘We part company.’ I will never accept that there can be no redistribution of wealth in society. Our upper classes don’t even like paying taxes. That’s one reason they hate me. We said: ‘You must pay your taxes.’ I believe it’s better to die in battle, rather than hold aloft a very revolutionary and very pure banner, and do nothing … That position often strikes me as very convenient, a good excuse … Try and make your revolution, go into combat, advance a little, even if it’s only a millimetre, in the right direction, instead of dreaming about utopias."

Chavez cannot be called a socialist in the proper sense of the term. He was a populist (and he was indeed popular) nationalist leader who tried to improve the lot of the poor but circumstances meant that he could not go beyond state capitalism and social reforms. Chavism represented a new form of resistance to global capitalism promoting participation from below but faced with a hostile capitalist world.  What happens if a radical leader comes to power before the rest of the world is ready for socialism? Engels answer in his history of the German Peasant Wars was that he would be "irrevocably lost" and that has certainly been the case in every instance since. However, it would be churlish of ourselves to not concede that Chavez has done better than most in this impossible situation. If you can't abolish capitalism what's the least you can do?

His reign saw an improvement for some of Venezuela's poor, even if the right claim it was all squandered petro-dollars. One such critic wrote  :
"Chavez invested Venezuela's oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world's tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi." (That's right. Chavez would have been better investing oil revenue in skyscrapers and museums rather than schools and hospitals for the poor!)

While under the Chavez government, the Venezuelan workers movement has flourished with a level of democracy in workplaces rarely seen elsewhere and there now exists a working class with the desire not only to defend but expand this concept.

Nor should it be forgotten how Chavez had learned from his own failed coup attempt the power of elections and legitimacy of the ballot box was stronger than the gun. He put himself and his policies to the vote on no less than a dozen occasions. And in the attempted coup against him the power of the people was once again demonstrated when it was thwarted.

There's still abject poverty in the slums of Caracas, with one of the highest homicide rates of any city in the world, a corrupt prison system and probably plenty more very bad stuff yet there are few social democrats who were more successful than Chavez in ameliorating the conditions of the poor. It will be interesting to see if anything survives him personally, and if a democratic movement without a charismatic head can continue onwards. One thing we know is, though, he wasn't building socialism, just state-run capitalism.

Fact of the Day

Although there are 50,000 edible plant species, we are only eating between 15 and 50 of them explained Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture

We are indeed all Jock Tamson's bairns


With every generation you (nearly) double your number of ancestors because every individual has two parents – going back just 10 generations (200-300 years) you are likely to have around a thousand ancestors.

"When genetics researchers talk about common ancestry between people they usually mean that they are tracing the inheritance of particular sections of DNA or genes.And we know that different sections of our DNA have different patterns of genetic ancestry. This means that researchers can get very different estimates of how recently we share ancestors, depending on what they are looking at...
...look at mtDNA to follow ancestry passed along the female line. For mtDNA, everyone alive today shares a common ancestor who lived between 160,000 and 200,000 years ago.everyone alive today shares a common ancestor who lived between 160,000 and 200,000 years ago....
...look at Y chromosome DNA to follow ancestry through the male line, the most recent estimate is of a common ancestor who lived between 240,000 and 580,000 years ago...
...If, however, you look for the most recent person that everyone alive today is descended from, the best current estimate is that the individual lived only 3,500 years ago"

"Genetic ancestry testing presents a simplified view of the world where everyone belongs to a group with a label, such as ‘Viking’ or ‘Zulu’. But people’s genetics don’t reflect discrete groups. Even strong cultural boundaries, such as between the Germanic and Romance language groups in Europe, do not have very noticeable genetic differences. The more remote and less-populated parts of the UK, such as the Scottish Highlands, do have some genetic differences from the bulk of the population, but they are not big. There is no such thing as a ‘Scottish gene’. Instead groups show a story of gradual genetic change and mixing...
...Researchers use the genetic differences between Y chromosomes or mtDNA among a set of individuals to infer possible trees of relatedness. We can estimate the times of common ancestors on those trees, although these estimates lack precision. But it is not reasonable to make a leap from these DNA trees to mapping your ancestors onto geographical locations or past migrations. For example, a man in Scotland might have a type of Y chromosome that has been found more often in North Africa than elsewhere. However, this is based on populations in North Africa now, not in the past, and people have moved over the centuries. And, the same Y type may be found in other parts of the world – he could equally have inherited it from one of these. And even if some of his ancestors did come from North Africa, it does not show when they came to Scotland or how many of his millions of ancestors came from that region."

Prof Steve Jones, from University College London and author of some of the seminal books on genetics and evolution, said: "On a long trudge through history - two parents, four great-grandparents, and so on - very soon everyone runs out of ancestors and has to share them. "As a result, almost every Briton is a descendant of Viking hordes, Roman legions, African migrants, Indian Brahmins, or anyone else they fancy."

Thursday, March 07, 2013

BEHIND THE FACADE

At election times local councillors address the voters as "my fellow citizens" and generally butter them up to get their votes, but occasionally this veil of pleasantry drops and they reveal what they really think of the working class 'A Conservative councillor is being urged to resign after he branded coffee shop staff 'bone idle b------' who 'needed a good beating'. Peter Chapman took to social networking site Facebook to complain after he received slow service in a Costa Coffee. He posted a message slating the members of staff at the branch in Dorchester, Dorset. His message read: "Terminally slow (and bad) service from the bone idle b------ at Costa Dorchester today, they all need a good beating."' (Daily Telegraph, 6 March) Needless to say Mr Chapman won't be using such phraseology on his next election address. RD

ANOTHER PHONEY SOCIALIST

The BBC have described him as a revolutionary and most media coverage has referred to him as a socialist. 'Venezuela has announced seven days of mourning for Hugo Chavez, who has died aged 58 after 14 years as president. Thousands of Mr Chavez's supporters took to the streets of Caracas to express their grief. ..... A self-proclaimed revolutionary, he was a controversial figure in Venezuela and on the world stage. A staunch critic of the US, he inspired a left-wing revival across Latin America.' (BBC News, 6 March) In fact Chavez was no socialist. Like other phoney revolutionaries he introduced whole-scale programmes of nationalisation that have nothing to do with socialism. Socialism means production solely for use. It is a classless, propertyless society. RD

Real Freedom

Some of our critics never miss an opportunity to sneer at the Socialist Party with the accusation of how we can claim to be socialist when we do not support the cause of "freedom" for the Scots. Our credentials for being a Marxist party are questioned as they point out that Marx himself supported nationalist causes.

 Marxism is a method of assessing what, at any particular time, is in the best interest of the working class and should be done to hasten the establishment of socialism. The  victory of capitalist production was a progressive aspiration in Marx's day. With the triumph of capitalism came political democracy, the numerical growth of the working class and its concentration in large enterprises, trade unions, workers' parties. In other words, the triumph of capitalism opened the way for the struggle for socialism. National movements were to be supported as a means to an end, NOT as an end in themselves. The fact that Marx supported campaigns (but also opposed them in respect of the Czechs and Slav nationalism )such as to establish independence for Ireland in order to weaken the power of the English landed aristocracy, who were an obstacle to the development of political democracy in Britain, and Polish independence in order to set up a buffer state between Tsarist Russia and the rest of Europe so as to give political democracy a chance to develop there does not mean that in the changed circumstance of the 21st Century it is still necessary to assist the development of capitalism with support for nationalism to prepare the way for socialism. Once capitalism had performed its historically progressive function, nationalism became reactionary. By 1871, Marx argued this point had been reached in western Europe: "Class rule is no longer able to disguise itself in a national uniform; the national governments are one as against the proletariat!"

 It is futile to think that creation of new states will solve the crises of our society which is essentially based on our economic structure. Nevertheless, some of the Scottish nationalists even go as far as to say when independence comes all our problems would get resolved. Nationalism needs to be challenged everywhere. Nationalism is in fact an obstacle to the human progress towards socialism.The reality is that the nationalists have become prisoner of an imaginary past. We need to erase political boundaries of the mind and  geographic boundaries to enjoy our great shared history and culture so that the conflict created by economic interests are buried forever and we all feel proud of our togetherness. With nationalism real world problems do not vanish but become confused with muddled national solutions. The answer to cqpitalist crises is not nationalism, it is social revolution. Unlike those on the Left we have learnt from our history !

Nationalists argue that people long to have their very own nation state and that their struggle to get it should be supported. This leaves little space for those without a territory. The Roma (gypsies) suffer increased persecution in Romania, Hungary and the Czech and Slovak Republics, with very little complaint from advocates of national liberation. As nationality is the criterion for belonging, a non-national is untrustworthy by definition. Socialists embrace diversity and acknowledge the right of all to choose their own culture, language and beliefs but this can only be achieved by ending the fundamental division of our society, the class division. Nationalism can never deliver freedom to the working class.

The anarchist Rudolf Rocker put it this way "We speak of national interests, national capital, national spheres of interest, national honour, and national spirit; but we forget that behind all this there are hidden merely the selfish interests of power-loving politicians and money-loving business men for whom the nation is a convenient cover to hide their personal greed and their schemes for political power from the eyes of the world...The national flag covers every injustice, every unhumanity, every lie, every outrage, every crime. The collective responsibility of the nation kills the sense of justice of the individual and brings man to the point where he overlooks injustice done; where, indeed, it may appear to him a meritorious act if committed in the interests of the nation."

The Socialist Party of Great Britain strives to turn the principle that the workers have no country into a living reality and to create a genuine human community. The working class come from many countries and speaks many languages but it is one universal class with the historic responsibility to confront the system of capitalist exploitation and oppression.





Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Food for thought

India's economy is on target to grow just five per cent in the year ending in March, a far cry from the nine per cent plus of the last decade. The country's per capita income will grow by 2.9% and the slow down and lack of investment will hurt those struggling to get out of poverty the most, as usual. Nothing really changes.
Due to overfishing of the oceans, humans, at some time this year will, for the first time, begin consuming more farmed fish than wild fish, a sad commentary on the mismanagement of the world's resources. John Ayers

One law for rich , another law for the poor

The son of Stagecoach tycoon Brian Souter who already has convictions for assault and joy-riding escaped a jail sentence for a drunken attack on two men after writing a private letter to a sheriff. He was fined £600 after paying £700 to his victims from a very understanding and sympathetic Sheriff.

 His defence lawyer said a psychiatrist had ruled that "there may well have been a hypoglycaemic episode because of the sheer quantity of alcohol taken".

If only every drunk thug could use the same excuse!

alright for some

David Beckham was applauded when he announced that he would be donating his Paris St Germain salary to a local children's charity.  However while in the city he stays in the £15,000-a-night luxurious Imperial Suite at Le Bristol hotel in a 3,475 sq ft suite, the largest at the hotel. The suite can house up to twelve guests with various bedrooms, a dining area and sitting room, the main bedroom also its own sitting room as well as a large dressing room and a 325 sq ft bathroom.

Who owns the North Pole Part 57

The loss of sea ice in the Arctic will allow ships to navigate freely across the North Pole by the middle of the century and could lead to unprecedented geopolitical tensions between countries that have territorial claims in the region, scientists said. New routes will open up between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans which will allow shipping companies to abandon traditional courses through the Panama and Suez canals. Instead, they will be able to sail unhindered over the top of the world for much of the summer. “We're talking about a future in which open-water vessels will, at least during some years, be able to navigate unescorted through the Arctic , which at the moment is inconceivable,” said the study's co-author, Scott Stephenson of UCLA. “Nobody's ever talked about shipping over the top of the North Pole. This is an entirely unexpected possibility,”

However, long-standing tensions between the Arctic nations, even between traditional allies such as Canada and the US , will surface as nations vie for political and economic control of the new shipping lanes, said Laurance Smith, professor of geography at the University of California at Los Angeles,  co-author of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

http://www.countercurrents.org/cc050313A.htm

Fact of the Day

0.1% of the world population hold 81% of the wealth and the ratio of poverty to wealthy statistic went from 3:1 in 1820 to 35:1 in 1950 to nearly 80:1 today.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

A BILLIONAIRE GETS ANGRY

You would think it would be in the best interests of billionaires to keep quiet about their immense riches, but not a bit of it. 'One of the world's richest men, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has severed ties with the Forbes rich list, claiming it understated his wealth.The Saudi investor, ranked 26th in the billionaires' list released on Monday, accused Forbes of a "flawed" valuation method that undervalued his assets and "seemed designed to disadvantage Middle Eastern investors and institutions".' (Guardian, 5 March) It seems that Forbes have upset this billionaire. They estimated that Alwaleed – a nephew of the Saudi king with investments in everything from News Corp to the Savoy hotel – is worth $20bn (£13bn), putting him behind Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Alwaleed estimates his own wealth at $29.6bn. C'mon why get so upset? What's a mere $9.6bn to the likes of him? RD

THE GREAT DIVIDE

The class division in capitalism is well summed up by the millions trying to survive on less than $2 a day and the following news item. 'Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim has topped Forbes magazine's list of the world's richest billionaires for a fourth year. The magazine estimates that Mr Slim, whose business interests range from telecommunications to construction, is worth $73bn (£49bn). He is followed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates on $67bn.' (BBC News, 4 March) RD

Here to work, here to stay, here to fight !


 As the global crisis reduces living standards and conditions throughout the world the everyday reality for millions of people is to flee its effects by migration. It goes without saying that socialists are opposed to all borders and frontiers. Migration has always been a part of human history and population border controls are relatively new. Only in 1905 did the UK pass an Aliens Act, and only during the First World War were passports first introduced. Immigration controls are by their nature racist in that they always aim to exclude particular distinct groups and in doing so promotes racism. It causes massive human suffering and tragedies. The newspaper headlines that men and women would arduously travel thousands of miles, sometimes risking their lives, pay over every penny they have to the people-smugglers just to "milk" our benefits system hardly merits serious discussion. Immigration, for sure, generates problems and can strain the social services but it isn't the cause of the indigenous population's poverty.

The UK population density is 650 people per square mile, well below Japan (836), Belgium (889), the Netherlands (1259) and utterly dwarfed by places like Hong Kong or Singapore (18,000+). The issue of shortage of housing is a completely red herring. There is already a housing shortage and widespread homelessness, and there always has been, regardless of the population. This is due to housing being constructed largely for profit than for need. It is not profitable to build housing for people who can't afford it! And of course scarcity of housing is vital for the profitability of house building as it pushes prices up.

And what about jobs? The working class is global, so we can't just look at its effect in one country. Immigration is not a one-way system because an immigrant is an emigrant from somewhere else. Immigration cannot be assessed or addressed in terms of merely its impact directly on the host population. Workers in the host countries feel their wages are being devalued by immigrants but it is surely in their interests firstly to argue for full union membership and to fight for equal terms and conditions and also border controls that results in the situation where people can be made "illegal" and subjected to sweatshop conditions. Those who are criminalised in this way are forced to operate in working conditions well below legal requirements. If you threaten to start to organise against this, your employer can sack you and you have no recourse to unfair dismissal. And if you actually got anything organised, a quick call to immigration gets you jailed to await deportation.

People who say they want what's best for the working class are only thinking about the native host working class. When Algeria gained independence in 1962 - 900,000 white settlers moved back to France. Unemployment in Marseille rose to 20% within in months but was back down to 6% within a year and 4% in two years.

It is better to see immigration as a trend or contradiction developed though processes of globalisation. Any attempt to simply curtail those forces leads to a lot of hardship and draconian politics. In todays society we are told its acceptable that investment and goods can pass from poor to rich countries without burden, enriching capitalists but poor foreign people can't do likewise. Capital will move to areas where it can maximise profit. It's always done this and the capitalist of any nation or colour can live wherever they choose so, in practice. immigration is essentially a class issue. If international capital can cross borders, so too should labour.

Capital chooses when it needs one’s labor. The ruling class relies upon immigrant workers, legal and illegal, to fill low paid jobs that are not attractive to native workers, to serve as a reserve army of unemployed and underemployed workers to depress wages for the entire working class and to fill workforce shortages created by aging populations and declining native birth rates. Immigration controls currently are largely set out in the interests of businesses.  In 2011 the OECD calculate that by 2050 the ratio of working people to over 65s will be 2:1 to keep this ratio at its current level of around 4:1 Italy would need 2.2 million immigrants - Germany 3.4 million. But we should not talk about the capitalist economic benefits of immigration, because immigration can indeed have a negative economic impact. It should be about right to migrate and to live where we wish.

The people that benefit from the anti-refugee and anti-migrant campaigns are the same people that benefit from the real causes of bad housing, long hospital waiting-lists and declining education standards. It is the financiers and industrialists. They support running down public services and selling them off . They want to limit and reduce government spending. So they make scapegoats of migrants. They did the same thing in the 1900s when they blamed the Chinese, in the 20s and 30s when they blamed the Jews, in the 1970s when they blamed black and Asian people, and today, they blame asylum seekers and the influx of Eastern Europeans.

From a traditional working-class perspective, workers from another country are little different from female workers or younger and unskilled workers, or even workers from a different area of the same country. In the past, letting women into the workforce was questioned and challenged. They were accused of working for "pin-money" depriving the traditionally male provider of jobs by working for less pay. Younger workers were also accused of undermining pay since they would work for less since they had no family to support. Incomers from the countryside or another region of the country were also accused of stealing locals jobs. The point is, as socalists, we do not set the interests of one part of the working class against another. Socialists try to improve the lot of the working class as a whole. We fight against descrimination and pay differentials based on sex, age and nationality or race. We organise together to fight the bosses for better wages for all and better conditions for all. A united working class is in our own interest as opposed to one that is divided along national/gender/racial lines.

The socialist argument on immigration is always to get together with migrants to fight together for decent working conditions but we must go beyond the demand for the right to work or fair pay, but fight for the right to a decent life. We demand freedom from the market, not a free market.

The slogan is "workers of the world unite!", not "workers of the world unite unless you're a foreigner".

In the directors box

We are all accustomed to stories of over-paid and under-played footballers but recent figures show that SPL directors pay and benefits increased by 16.5%, despite a 6% fall in revenues.

Of course, the way Scottish football is heading, they might as well be funeral directors. 

Dunfermline now joins Hearts as another football club that can't pay its team's wages on time. Players at that level are not highly paid therefore any delay in wages can lead to inconvenience and even hardship. They pay travel costs to training and then put themselves at risk of injury on a weekly basis without being paid.

facts to digest

Bono now considers himself a factivist, boasting of how statistics confirms his approach to combatting poverty and hunger. So be it.

Diarrhoea still kills more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Over 900 million, particularly women and young people, still suffer from chronic hunger. They go hungry not because of insufficient food production, but because they suffer from insufficient social protection. Michel Forst on behalf the group of 72 independent experts charged by the UN Human Rights Council  explained.

Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank said is home to more than 50 percent of the world's uncultivated agriculture land, with as much as 450 million hectares that is not forested, protected or densely populated. The 2008-2009 global food price crisis prompted a scramble for land in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and widespread fears of land grabbing. Madagascar's president was toppled in 2009 after he negotiated a deal with a South Korean company to lease half the island's arable land to grow food and ship it to Asia.

Crime does pay

Despite being fined for money-laundering for drug cartels and paying compensation for cheating customers over payment protection insurance HSBC rewarded shareholders with an increased dividend and its chief executive Stuart Gulliver took £7.4 million in pay. it paid 204 of its staff more than £1m in the year, with 78 of those based in the UK. Underlying profits were up 18 per cent to £10.9bn.

Crime after all does pay.

Monday, March 04, 2013

INFALLIBLE NONSENSE

As children we were always taught to respect maybe even fear the righteousness of our religious teachers. Where are we now though? 'Three priests and a former priest have said that they felt "vindicated" after Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien admitted sexual misconduct. The group had accused the senior Roman Catholic clergyman of "inappropriate behaviour" towards them in the 1980s.' (BBC News, 4 March) This is the Cardinal who earlier decried homosexualism. Where are we now? Growing up we hope. RD

Food for thought

" As hundreds fled the advancing armoured cars of riot police officers, Mohammed Mokbel ran forward. A veteran of two years of violent street protests, he pulled on his gas mask and charred protective gloves for another long night at his current vocation:throwing tear-gas canisters back at the riot police" (New York Times, Feb 17 2013). Such is life after the Arab Spring. Another revolution must be won to get rid of the new dictator who replaced the old one. The Arab Spring was a mighty and brave revolution but these results show that it lacked class-consciousness and a socialist understanding that would have showed the path to take to get rid of all dictators once and for all. John Ayers

A socialist poem

We are the ones who knead and yet we have no bread,
we are the ones who dig for coal and yet we are cold.

We are the ones who have nothing,
 and we are coming to take the world.

  Tassos Livaditis (Greek poet, 1922-1988)

The failure of reformism

50 years of educational reforms have failed to make a significant improvement to the exam results of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, says a major new report.

 An estimated one in five school leavers has few or no qualifications and poor skills in basic literacy and numeracy. No school in a disadvantaged area has ever matched the performance of a school in a more affluent area.

Many children begin to fall behind in early secondary: "This has been apparent for at least 40 years. Yet decisive action has never been taken."

The greedy thieving lying cheats


Four Psychology professors from the University of California at Berkeley and a Business professor from the University of Toronto—conducted two “naturalistic” field studies to determine if the rich were more likely to break the law while driving, and five laboratory studies gauging upper-class attitudes and propensities toward unethical decision-making. In all seven studies, the rich subjects behaved more unethically and harbored positive opinions of greed that helped justify their selfishness.

The results were that the rich are more likely to break traffic laws, to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies, to take things of value from others, to lie in a negotiation, to cheat to win a game, and to endorse unethical behavior at work, than were lower-class individuals. Moreover, the data showed that a positive attitude toward greed was the main driver for the wealthy’s tolerance of and participation in unethical conduct.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Independence - A bosses buy-out


Of the top 100 economies on the planet, 40 are corporations, the wealth of certain corporations dwarf the economies of some nations. Another little known fact is that less than 1% of corporations, mainly banks, control the shares of more than 40% of all global businesses. When it comes to who is big in this corporate world it is oil and gas, 7 out of the top 10 companies in the world are oil and gas.

The Scottish economy is controlled by the same hedge funds the same banks and the same multinational giants as the rest of Britain. Edinburgh is the UK's second financial centre after London and Europe's fourth by equity assets. Glasgow also has the third highest GDP Per capita of any city in the UK (after London and Edinburgh) Glasgow is now one of Europe's sixteen largest financial centres. The Financial Services Sector provides employment for 1 in 10 of the population and the Scottish economy is hugely dependant on it.  Scotland' GDP is £124 billion (excluding revenues from North Sea oil). Prior to the 2008 financial crisis Scotland ranked second only to London in the European league of headquarters locations of the 30 largest banks in Europe as measured by market value. Scotland is one of the world's biggest fund management centres with over £300bn worth of assets directly serviced or managed in the country.


Friday, March 01, 2013

Patents or Patients

When HIV/Aids took hold around the world and antiretroviral (ARV) drugs became available from 1987, the  drug treatments required then cost $15,000 a year, which very clearly limited their use to well-insured or relatively rich western patients. Prices for AZT3 officially started at $25 per pill in South Africa. Although HIV/Aids was the scourge of Africa in the 1980s, its management ad treatment was initially completely out of reach of  those hit by "slim" disease as it was then known as locallywho were just expected to go away and die. And millions, denied medication, did die. An estimated 10 million people perished between 1996 and 2003 thanks to denial of drugs by Big Pharma. And all the while the medicines were just sitting there ... out of the financial reach of the inflicted. Big Pharma was quite happy to see millions of deaths in order to keep patent law - and its profits.

 Thanks to India's 1970 patent law, drugs could be made to the highest technical standards (a fact often denied by a propaganda campaign of the western drugs companies) .The Pfizer patent for fluconazole (used for treating Aids-related fungal infections) in South Africa was deliberately broken by importing it from India. The price per capsule in South Africa stood at $40, while in Asia it was 5 cents. With Africa hosting two-thirds of the world’s HIV/Aids cases, this kind of action made an impact politically. In 2000, Yusuf Hamied’s Cipla generic pharmaceuticals company agreed to produce  a three-ARV combination that would cost patients $1 a day - at $350 a year this was less than a 40th of the cost demanded by western drugs companies.

Big Pharma's argues the expense of its products is due to development costs: in fact, marketing budgets in drugs companies are very much higher than those for research and development, which averages a risory 1.3% of expenditure across top pharmaceutical companies. In fact, 84% of research and development worldwide is carried out by government and public bodies, whereas pharmaceutical companies contribute only 12% and account for only three out of every 10 new drugs invented.

 The Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, Michel SidibĂ©, said “It is outrageous that in 2013, when we have all the tools we need to beat this epidemic, 1.7 million people still die each year because they cannot access treatment.”

Now with India’s government adopted the WTO’s Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) patent regulations it may well be all over for generic medicines. The pharmaceutical companies will be able to continue to grossly overprice its drugs. People are going to die needlessly once again.