Sunday, February 17, 2019

Kashmir Again

After the terrorist attack on Indian troops, the eyes of the world have once again turned to Kashmir and the ongoing antagonism between India and Pakistan over who should control it. Three times gone to war (1948, 1961 and 1971.) In 1998 Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged artillery fire, described as heavier than that of the 1948 and 1965 wars put together. An estimated 50,000 rounds of ammunition were expended and a large number of soldiers and civilians killed. This round could very rapidly result in a nuclear exchange with the loss of an estimated 25 million lives.

The conflict between Pakistan and India and their religions is being made to serve the interests of the respective ruling class groups just as British capitalism made use of communal rivalry. What could be more useful to the Pakistan ruling class in persuading peasants and workers to be content with their lot than to be able to distract their attention away from bread and butter questions towards the iniquities of Hindus and the greed and aggression of the Indian Government? And how convenient for the latter to be able to rally the masses to the need for patriotism and to defend the country against Pakistan cruelty and trouble making. 

Pay Cuts for Millions

Millions of workers could see their take-home pay fall in six weeks' time when the amount they have to pay into their pension pot increases.
Since 2012, 10 million eligible workers have been automatically signed up to workplace pensions.From April, their contribution will rise from 3% of their salary to 5%.
The annual take-home pay of someone earning £15,000 will typically be £49 lower, if they pay contributions on their entire salary. Someone on £30,000 will take home £253 less according to the calculations. The hit to net pay could have been bigger but a tax cut for most earners will soften the blow of higher auto-enrolment contributions.The personal allowance is due to increase to £12,500 from April.

West London Branch Meeting

8pm, Tuesday, 19th February

Committee Room, 
Chiswick Town Hall, 
Heathfield Terrace, 
London W4 4JN

Our enemy is capitalism.  In order to fight the enemy and win, we have to understand the enemy.  Capitalism dominates our economic system.  Under capitalism, a handful who own the factories, the mines, corporate farms, and the banks control the wealth that the majority of the people produce.  It is this system that we are fighting. Workers cannot rely on the capitalist system, capitalist governments or any piece of legislation propose by politicians to solve the evils of the private profit system. Capitalism has already proved itself unable to give the people either economic prosperity or peace. The struggle for a livable planet is a life-and-death issue.  Corporate greed has polluted our air, destroyed the environment, poisoned our waters, and filled our food with dangerous chemicals.  Our survival necessitates the common ownership of production and the elimination of the blind consumerism that causes us to squander so many of the world's resources needlessly.

The salient feature of capitalism is that the means of production are in the hands of the capitalists. In producing the social product of society labour only receives a portion of the product in wages, the remainder becomes, as Marx said, surplus value expropriated by the capitalists. Workers sell their labour power in exchange for wages. Capitalists must ensure that the labour power they buy creates more exchange value than they first paid for it in order to make surplus value. Owners of the means of production turn themselves into capitalists by consuming labour power in the process of production. This is the origin of all property under capitalism. Capital is brought into being in the unequal exchange on the market between the owners of money and the sellers of labour power. Workers can only live by selling their labour power, by being exploited. If there is no exploitation there is no capitalism. There can be no profit without exploitation and hence no capitalism, Profits are the only incentive to produce. Thus, production ls only undertaken to continue the accumulation of capital. The entire labour process is directed not primarily for human need but for profits. Capitalism is a system which has a compulsion to expand production and raise productivity - but only for profit.

The Socialist Party understands that capitalism is a system centered on accumulation and profit, a system of inequality, injustice, and war. We want a social system where social wealth is not in the hands of a few billionaires, but is controlled by the people. We seek economic and political democracy. Human needs cannot replace profit as the driving force of society unless the people control their workplaces and their communities. The world working class shares an objective interest in ending capitalism. To combat exploitation, the working class needs to struggle for its own interests. Capitalism organises globally. Capital competes intensely for growth and profits. Under capitalism you either destroy the competition, or are destroyed yourself.  This drive sends businesses around the world, seeking cheaper raw materials and friendlier investment opportunities. Capitalism continuously seeks cheaper labour costs.  This is why we see so many factories closing down, out-sourcing or and moving off-shore. The State – the government and the legal system – were set up and developed to serve the interests of capitalism, to uphold the rights of property over of the people. Capitalist politics is a system of coercion. Poverty and inequality is built into its operation.

The Socialist Party works to develop a new vision of socialism. We believe in a socialism where fulfillment will be found in the relationships among people and not in the consumption of things.  Only conscious socialist planning by all of society can make this a reality.  We intend to build a party which can truly represent the interests and aspirations of the workers of all lands. The Socialist Party represent the conception of socialism of the future. We seek a world in which the exploitation of man by man shall cease, when the evolution of human society to new and higher forms shall become possible to all mankind, when prosperity and peace shall be shared and enjoyed by all. It is the capitalist system which produces disaster and misery. Comrades, in this twenty-first Century we urge that there be no pessimism. Let there be no sense of frustration. The future is ours. And there are those of us who were never more optimistic, never more certain, never more determined to achieve the goal of socialism than we are on this day in the year 2019.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Migrant Hunters

The Home Office is selling the services of its immigration officials to private companies at a rate of almost £60 an hour.
The organisations are offered “real-time” access to information about someone’s immigration status through an “on-site immigration official”, who can be asked to attend interviews and encourage undocumented migrants to leave the country voluntarily. The embedded official can also pass the details of undocumented migrants to immigration enforcement officers. The embedded officers are asked to ensure that migrants are either charged for services or denied access to them should they fail to prove they are in the country legally.
Migrants’ rights experts warned that the service was the latest example of the government “trying to embed immigration checks in every aspect of life in the UK”. They warned that such schemes undermined the trust of the public and risked discouraging migrants from getting services that they desperately needed.
Corey Stoughton, advocacy director for human rights group Liberty, called for the complete separation of migration control from vital services. She accused the Home Office of making “a side business out of seconding immigration officers into local councils and social services”. 
Lucy Jones, director of programmes at Doctors of the World, a charity which offers healthcare to undocumented migrants in the UK, said: “It’s imperative that healthcare services are allowed to be neutral, safe spaces that everyone in need of treatment can go to without the risk being arrested.”

Arms sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful

The UK is on “the wrong side of the law” by sanctioning arms exports to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen and should suspend some of the export licences, an all-party Lords committee has said.

The report by the international relations select committee says ministers are not making independent checks to see if arms supplied by the UK are being used in breach of the law, but is instead relying on inadequate investigations by the Saudis, its allies in the war. It is the first unanimous report from a parliamentary committee describing Saudi arms export sales as unlawful, and comes ahead of an imminent high court appeal by campaigners to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia on the grounds they are in breach of humanitarian law.
The Lords’ international relations committee concludes following a short inquiry: “The government asserts that, in its licensing of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, it is narrowly on the right side of international humanitarian law. Although conclusive evidence is not yet available, we assess that it is narrowly on the wrong side: given the volume and type of arms being exported to the Saudi-led coalition, we believe they are highly likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen, risking the contravention of international humanitarian law.”

The committee also asserts that the UK “should immediately condemn any further violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition, including the blocking of food and medical supplies, and be prepared to suspend some key export licences to members of the coalition”.
It adds it is “deeply concerned that the Saudi-led coalition’s misuse of the weaponry is causing – whether deliberately or accidentally – loss of civilian life.
“Relying on assurances by Saudi Arabia and Saudi-led review processes is not an adequate way of implementing the obligations for a risk-based assessment set out in the arms trade treaty.”
The committee, including senior former diplomats, says: “The government should give much higher priority to resolving – not just mitigating – this situation, particularly in light of the tension between its support for the Saudi-led coalition and its role as a major donor of humanitarian relief to those affected by the conflict.”

It describes the humanitarian plight of Yemenis as “unconscionable”.
The US Congress voted earlier this week to suspend US arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, but the White House has signalled the president will veto the resolution

World Unemployment

Unemployment around the world fell last year to 5.0 percent – from 5.1 percent in 2017 – for the first time dropping to the level seen before the global financial crisis hit in 2008, the International Labour Organization said. The UN agency said it expected the jobless rate to remain at roughly the same level this year and in 2020, although the number of unemployed people should swell by two million to a total of 174 million next year as a result of the expanding labour force.

The report highlighted the hundreds of millions of people who remain poor despite holding one or more jobs.
In fact, it found that a majority of the 3.3 billion people employed around the globe last year suffered a “lack of material well-being, economic security, equal opportunities or scope for human development.”
“Being in employment does not always guarantee a decent living,” ILO research director Damian Grimshaw said in a statement, pointing out that “a full 700 million people are living in extreme or moderate poverty despite having employment.”
The report found that a full 61 percent of all workers worldwide, or two billion people, are in so-called informal employment, with little to no social and contractual protections.

War Babies

Starvation, disease and a lack of aid are killing 300 babies a day in warzones around the world, with the number of children caught up in conflicts nearing a 30-year high, Save the Children said on Friday. Save the Children said a fifth of all children worldwide - about 420 million - lived in a conflict zone in 2017, 30 million more than the year before and the highest number since 1990.

In all, more than 500,000 babies died during the period from the knock-on effects of conflict - hunger, hospital attacks and reduced aid - according to the data, which excludes those killed in attacks.

"From Yemen to Syria and South Sudan, children are bearing the horror of armed conflict," said Kevin Watkins, head of Save the Children, in a statement. 
"Some are treated as collateral damage in urban bombing. Others are deliberately targeted for killing, abduction and recruitment by armed groups. Millions go hungry because humanitarian aid is obstructed," Watkins said. "The war on children must end, and those who commit crimes against children will be held to account," he added.
Yemen's almost four-year war has killed tens of thousands of people, caused the economy to collapse and brought millions of people to the brink of famine. Children there are at risk of malnutrition, diarrhoea, cholera, and diphtheria - a disease that spreads as easily as the common cold, said Save the Children.

Five million children in Africa have died over the last 20 years because armed conflict deprived them of access to basic healthcare or clean water, the Lancet medical journal said in a report last year.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Anti-Semitism on the Rise in Europe

Antisemitism is rising sharply across Europe, experts have said, as France reported a 74% increase in the number of offences against Jews last year and Germany said the number of violent antisemitic attacks had surged by more than 60%.

France’s interior ministry said this week that recorded incidents of antisemitism rose to 541 last year from 311 in 2017, while the German government said offences motivated by hatred of Jews hit a 10-year high of 1,646 in 2018. Physical attacks rose from 37 to 62, leaving 43 people needing medical treatment.

In the largest ever survey of Jewish antisemitism opinion, addressing more than 16,000 Jewish people in 12 European countries, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency said at the end of last year that antisemitic hate speech, harassment and an increasing fear of being recognised as Jewish were becoming the new normal.

“Decades after the Holocaust, shocking and mounting levels of antisemitism continue to plague the EU,” the FRA director, Michael O’Flaherty, said. “Jewish people have a right to live freely, without hate and without fear for their safety.”
In the past two decades, antisemitic attacks in Europe have generally peaked in line with tensions in the Middle East. “They were essentially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, imported,” said Marc Knobel, a historian at the Crif umbrella group for France’s Jewish organisations. “Rather than attacking Israelis, people went for Jews.”
But since early last year, said Frédéric Potier of the French government’s anti-racism and antisemitism body Dilcrah, more traditional forms of antisemitism have re-emerged. “We are witnessing the resurgence of a virulent, far-right identity politics that does not hesitate to put its beliefs into action,” Potier told Le Monde.
Experts describe a “perfect storm” for antisemitic attacks combining the increasing influence of far-right groups and governments; the rise of conspiracy theories about a supposed global Zionist plot (and the scale on which they circulate on social media); and a general increase in the violence of public discourse.
A recent poll suggested nearly half of yellow vest protesters believed in a “Zionist plot”.
In Germany the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party has been widely accused of fomenting hate against refugees, Muslims and Jews. The party’s co-leader, Alexander Gauland, described the Holocaust as a “small bird dropping in over 1,000 years of successful German history”, while another senior AfD politician, Björn Höcke, called the Holocaust memorial in Berlin a “monument of shame”. A large influx of mostly Muslim refugees and migrants to Germany from 2015 has also led to a rise in antisemitic attacks by migrants from Arab states, although figures show an overwhelming majority of violence against Jews is perpetrated by far-right supporters. “Militant rightwing extremists are now openly calling for the desecration of Jewish institutions and attacks against Jewish people,” Pau said.
Hungary’s far-right Fidesz party, led by prime minister Viktor Orbán, has run vitriolic campaigns against migrants and demonising George Soros, the Hungarian-born Jewish financier. In CNN’s recent survey, 42% of Hungarians polled said they thought Jews held too much sway over the worlds of finance and international affairs.

Capitalism is to blame

"Climate change is not the creation of the mere existence of billions of humans who inhabit the planet, but is wrought by the few who control the means of production and make the central decisions about energy use, argues Andreas Malm. In what is more Capitalocene than Anthropocene, a head-on confrontation with fossil capital is imperative if we are to prevent extreme climate events like the hurricanes that have devastated Dominica."  Andreas Malm
In academia, media and policy-making circles over the past decade or so, a storyline has taken hold. It says that the problem has been created by all of us. Global warming is the fault of the human species as a whole. We live in the Anthropocene, the epoch when our particular species has overtaken the natural forces in determining the trajectory of this planet, most obviously in the realm of climate – and so humans in general are responsible for the ensuing catastrophes.
It is exceedingly difficult to see what scientific grounds there could be for such a view, but a multitude of intellectuals expounding on the Anthropocene have made similar statements. On this view, it is a case of the chickens coming home to roost.
 The Anthropocene narrative is flawed because it distorts and obfuscates that reality – not by saying that human actions have caused climate change, which is an incontrovertible fact, but by sliding from that observation into the depiction of the human species as a unified protagonist. It is anything but. For the past few thousands of years, as long as class societies have existed, Homo sapiens has been a deeply fractured entity, and never more so than in this rapidly warming world – where the world’s eight richest men own as much wealth ($426 billion) as the poorest half of the world’s population combined ($409 billion), according to Oxfam (link is external), the charity (January 2017). Wealth is known to correlate closely with carbon dioxide emissions. It is the sign of profits from business-as-usual and the best proof against its consequences. Soaked in fossil fuels, it is the engine of the storm.
We are being told that climate change is created by an anonymous mass of millions and billions of humans, when, as American geographer Matt Huber (link is external) has recently argued, it is in reality, a very narrow segment of the species that controls the means of production and makes the central decisions about energy use. That segment operates with one goal in sight – expanding its riches further. The process is known as capital accumulation, and it grinds on relentlessly, with no regard for the fate of humanity or the ever more desperate alarms from climate science.
in December 2017, The Guardian (link is external) newspaper reported that the production of plastics in the United States is set to increase by forty per cent in the next decade – since ExxonMobil, Shell and other fossil fuel corporations have used the ongoing shale gas boom to invest massively in new plastic plants. They will lock the American – and by extension, the global – economy, even deeper into its addiction to plastic products. These will eventually make their way to beaches around the world, and to fossil fuels, the heat from which will find new islands to devastate. From the standpoint of capital, that is exactly the right thing to do: invest in the production and consumption of fossil fuels to generate profit. It is this process that has fuelled global warming from the very start.
Taken from here

Paying for the wall

In an economy where one in five jobs are held by contract workers, the federal government’s turn toward privatization translates to unstable wages, lack of benefits and temporary employment for the workers who clean, serve food and guard government buildings.

Despite the shutdown’s end, an estimated four million federally contracted workers from private companies have still not received a paycheck for the five weeks of work they lost due to the government’s closing. Federal contractors include support staff in federal buildings and are among the lowest paid federal workers, earning between $450 and $650 per week. While Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to give contract workers back pay, it remains unclear if the bill will pass.

Under normal circumstances, 78 percent of federal workers like Amy Fellows already live paycheck-to-paycheck. During the shutdown, 800,000 federal workers were either furloughed or working without pay. Workers turned to payday lenders and pawn shops to make ends meet. 

Adding insult to injury, Trump slashed payday loan protections days after the shutdown ended, heightening the already severe risks associated with the predatory debt traps, which can boast interest rates as high as 400 percent.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Chaos in Haiti - who cares

SOYMB always wonders why some events get headline news and the attention of foreign political leaders yet others are hidden away by the media and ignored by other countries. 

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world, with three-fifths of the nearly 11 million population living below the national poverty line of $2 a day. Poverty levels have been exacerbated by plummeting economic conditions in recent years.Since 2016, the country has faced a two-digit inflation, the national currency lost half of its value over the course of the last four years. And half of this decline actually happened last year.

According to a United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report in July 2018, some 1.3 million Haitians depend on food assistance. Each year, thousands of young people flee as illegal migrants, including to nearby Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos islands.

 Haiti has been mired in a political crisis since February 7 that has left at least seven people dead and everyday life in the largest towns paralyzed by protests and barricades.

A wave of demonstrations against Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse and his government’s mishandling of development funds has left a seventh protestor dead after a week of violent clashes. A young man died at a crossroads near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince and a  journalist was wounded by .gunshots. Demonstrators, who come mostly from poor neighbourhoods, are demanding Moïse’s resignation over graft scandals and for failing to tackle widespread poverty.

“This government is seen as incapable of tackling the economic crisis or the corruption,” said Jake Johnston, researcher at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and author of its Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog. "It's a popular uprising. Haitians are occupying the streets to make it clear that Jovenel (Moïse) has no choice but to resign," said demonstrator Prophete Hilaire, who was marching across the capital. "A government that cannot give its people nourishment and water must step down," he added.

The current demonstrations kicked off when Moïse found himself at the heart of a corruption scandal over the Petrocaribe fund, under which Venezuela supplied Haiti and other Caribbean and Central American countries with oil for years at cut-rate prices and easy credit terms. Investigations have shown that nearly $2 billion intended for development projects were misused from the program. In January, a report on the case revealed that a company, then headed by Moïse, was a beneficiary of funds from a road construction project. The company never a signed contract, according to the report.

Moïse is not the only Haitian leader to have seen his legitimacy disputed.According to Johnston, “there is a crisis of legitimacy concerning Haitians politicians who weren’t able to respond to the population’s needs”. Moïse’s case is even worse. Haiti’s current president only came into power in 2017 after a second poll, the first one having been cancelled over reports of massive fraud. “When the second election took place, less than 20 percent of the voters showed up. Even though no irregularities were found during the second ballot, such turnout rate could never lead to a stable term,” Johnston adde
Although many protestors have been killed in the current turmoil, Moïse and his prime minister have remained dead silent. Neither has reacted to the latest events, despite the violence sometimes breaking out only a few metres from the presidential palace.

Ignoring once again the people’s legitimate demands is a guarantee that the crisis will last a long time,” Johnston agreed “Authorities seem to blame the turmoil on a political opposition willing to seize power. They presume that it will run short of money and the movement will then cool down and the country will be calm again.”