Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Paradigm Shift To Eliminate The Pesticide Companies?

Humanity is facing a problem. Our immediate environment is riddled with pesticides. They are making us unhealthy faster than we can study the effects. In addition, these pesticides play large roles in the massive bee deaths and decline of soil health. The companies that profit from making these pesticides have made it clear they won’t stop. Our petitions to the EPA and FDA are mostly ignored due to revolving door leadership between pesticide makers and government regulators. Is there an answer? Yes there is!

SMART Pesticides

Paul Stamets, the world’s leading mycologist, filed a patent in 2001 that was purposely given little attention. In the words of pesticide industry executives, this patent represents “The most disruptive technology that we have ever witnessed.” The biopesticides described in the patent reveals a near permanent, safe solution for over 200,000 species of insects and it all comes from a mushroom. After what is called ‘sporulation’ of a select entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that kill insects) the area becomes no longer suitable for any insect(s) the fungi are coded for. In addition, extracts of the entomopathogenic fungi can also steer insects in different directions.

This literally is a paradigm shift away from the entire idea of pesticides. Instead of having an aim to kill all problematic insect, a farmer could simply disperse a solution of pre-sporulation fungi amongst the crops. The insects would then simply live their lives around the crops paying no attention to them. This simple idea flies in the face of the current, poorly thought-out, practice of spraying ever increasing amounts of pesticides on resistant bugs. Going further, this biopesticide would also eliminate the need for round-up ready GMO seeds and BT seeds that grow the pesticides in the crop needlessly endangering us, the consumer. Perhaps the most enticing element of this biopesticide fungi is that it’s essentially free. According to the patent, it can be “cultivated on agricultural waste.” We are looking at a 100% safe, natural technology that literally can end all GMO and pesticide manufacturers overnight with a new class of SMART Pesticides.
The matrix of pre-sporulating fungi can optionally be dried, freeze-dried, cooled and/or pelletized and packaged and reactivated for use as an effective insect attractant and/or biopesticide.” –Paul Stamets Patent for Mycoattractants and mycopesticides

Optimism Empowers

Even if we stop pesticide spraying now, scores of new research is confirming that our environment, food, soil, and bodies already carry traces of the chemicals. If the chemicals are so bad for us, there would be signs by now right? These are two common rebuttals from pesticide companies and individuals that don’t care to do their research. It’s okay, there just happens to be a patent to help with those issues as well. The US patent filed in 2003, once again from Paul Stamets, describes the utilization of a fungal delivery system for the purpose of
“ecological rehabilitation and restoration, preservation and improvement of habitats, bioremediation of toxic wastes and polluted sites, filtration of agricultural, mine and urban runoff, improvement of agricultural yields and control of biological organisms.”
In addition, there are many out there currently providing solutions to remove/detox any potential pesticide chemicals from the human body. Strategies like community gardens, urban forests, and the resurgence of permaculture are springing up rapidly to pave the way towards a steadily growing number of pesticide free dinner tables and families.

Time to Make History

On a bigger scale, GMO food and pesticides are merely symptoms of an opposite consciousness that is rapidly changing. Put another way, these symptoms are the unwanted gifts from out of control corporations that, by definition, have no empathy towards the needs, health, or life of The People. As Neil Young mentioned in his Starbucks Boycott, pesticide companies like Monsanto are, for the most part, not public-facing companies. As we are witnessing now with GMO brands, a boycott can severely damage their bottom line (lifeblood) but will not eliminate their business model. Due to the fact that they spend untold millions lobbying (purchasing) our politicians and regularly operate revolving doors between public and private positions means that only a paradigm shift will eliminate the entire industry. At that moment, which is approaching, pesticide manufacturers can decide if they would like to cease being the problem and assist in the solution.

The good news is that whatever decision they choose won’t matter. A shift in consciousness around pesticide and GMO use eliminates their influence and knocks them off their fictitious monetary pedestals they believe to be sitting on.

from here

Via Campesina Meets Expo Milano To Defend Peoples' Rights

The international peasant’s movement La Via Campesina will take part in People’s Expo in Milan, at the Fabbrica del Vapore, from the 3rd to the 5th of June 2015. The People’s Expo is the international forum of the civil society and farmers’ movements organised to defend the principles of Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice, to fight against the commodification of the right to food promoted by Expo 2015 and to state aloud, once again, that it is the peasant agriculture that feeds the world, not the multinationals or the agribusiness.
La Via Campesina denounces the Milan Expo as a great "world showcase" that deliberately chose to hide one of the largest ongoing world conflict:  hunger, land and energy grabbing at a global level.

From the 1st of May to the 31st of October 31 2015, Milan is hosting the Universal Exposition with the theme ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’. Expo 2015 has been described by the organizers as ‘the biggest event ever organized on Food and Nutrition [with intent to] give a concrete answer to a vital need: being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium’.

However, Expo 2015 is sponsored and financed by some of the most important multinationals of food and agriculture, such as McDonald’s and Coca Cola. According to Andrea Ferrantes of La Via Campesina Europe: ‘Expo 2015 is hiding behind a  green-washed façade that doesn’t show us the violent face of the corporate interests which are controlling the whole food chain,  grabbing the land , controlling seeds and patenting life. The narrative of Expo 2015 does not speak of the stories of farmers and peasants starving because they being expulsed from their land, of the indigenous people expulsed from their territories, of the fishermen and fisherwomen who are being denied access to the seas in which they have always fished, of the nomadic pastoralists forced to live a sedentary life or of the consumers forced to eat junk food’.

Expo Milano 2015 is not a neutral event, as some would have liked us to believe. On the contrary, it is an event promoting the industrialisation of agriculture and the financialisation of agricultural markets. Agribusiness concentrates food production and distribution in the hands of the few big companies, regardless of the producers and consumers’ needs.

Expo 2015 goes in the opposite direction from the path on which food producers and citizens march together, claiming their right to food sovereignty through agroecological models of production and consumption.

To propose real alternatives to the agro-industrial model supported by Expo 2015 and to give voice to those who cannot tell their own story in its “showcase”, a delegation of Via Campesina farmers from around the world will be present at the People’s Expo in Milan, along with other international networks and many non-profit Italian associations that defend peoples’ rights.

from here

Memorial Day Is A Hoax


Memorial Day (US, this year May 25th) commemorates soldiers killed in war. We are told that the war dead died for us and our freedom. US Marine General Smedley Butler challenged this view. He said that our soldiers died for the profits of the bankers, Wall Street, Standard Oil, and the United Fruit Company. Here is an excerpt from a speech that he gave in 1933:

War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.
I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we’ll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.
I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.
There isn’t a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its “finger men” to point out enemies, its “muscle men” to destroy enemies, its “brain men” to plan war preparations, and a “Big Boss” Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.
It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.
I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.
I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

Most American soldiers died fighting foes who posed no threat to the United States. Our soldiers died for secret agendas of which they knew nothing. Capitalists hid their self-interests behind the flag, and our boys died for the One Percent’s bottom line.
Jade Helm, an exercise that pits the US military against the US public, is scheduled to run July 15 through September 15. What is the secret agenda behind Jade Helm?
The Soviet Union was a partial check on capitalist looting in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. However, with the Soviet collapse capitalist looting intensified during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama regimes.
Neoliberal Globalization is now looting its own constituent parts and the planet itself. Americans, Greeks, Irish, British, Italians, Ukrainians, Iraqis, Libyans, Argentinians, the Spanish and Portuguese are being looted of their savings, pensions, social services, and job opportunities, and the planet is being turned into a wasteland by capitalists sucking the last penny out of the environment. 

We need a memorial day to commemorate the victims of neoliberal globalization. All of us are its victims, and in the end the capitalists also.

 By Paul Craig Roberts from here

Is GMO the world's salvation?

The World Socialist Movement sits on the fence when it comes to the claims and counter-claims about the safety and benefits of GMO foods. Like other controversial technology such as nuclear energy or fracking, we believe that it has to be an informed choice of people in a socialist society whether these developments are deemed useful or not. We do however think that current debates on those topics can be unduly influenced by vested business interests.

 You've probably heard some form of the following statement several times before: "It will be awfully difficult, if not impossible, to feed the world's growing population without genetically modified crops." It’s the line of biotech seed manufacturers such as Monsanto and philanthropists such as Bill Gates. It appears to have its roots in a report issued by the United Nations, which estimated that food production will need to nearly double from 2008 levels by the year 2050 to accommodate at least a couple billion more humans, and singled out genetic modification as one important tool to improve agricultural yields in the coming decades.

In 2014 nearly 94% of corn and 93% of soybean grown in the United States were cultivated from genetically modified varieties. But this is a pretty empty statistic, because it assumes that the only use for corn and soybean harvests is human food. That simply isn't the case. 44% of last year's corn harvest went to animal feed, another 44% became ethanol fuel, and the remaining 12% went to "other" uses that included food and sweeteners. In 1980, well before the ethanol boom of the mid-2000s and commercialization of biotech crops in 1996, the percentage of the nation's annual corn crop that went to "other" uses, such as human foods and sweeteners, was 12% -- exactly the same proportion as in 2014. However, the amount of corn grown overall swelled 142% in the same time period. Since the majority of America's combined corn and soybean harvests don't go to food, we can justifiably assume GMO foods aren't helping to more adequately feed the world.

New Zealand and Child Povery

 In New Zealand there are somewhere from 60,000 to 100,000 children living in "severe deprivation", and in all 240,000 to 260,000 children are living in relative poverty. Every day in New Zealand there are children who go to school hungry. Some reports estimate up to 40,000 children arrive at school without being fed breakfast.

Jonathan Boston from Victoria University, and Simon Chapple from Otago University, have calculated that for families need $100 to $200 a week rather than $25 worth of benefit to raise them above the 60 per cent of median income relative poverty line. "Numerous myths abound," they say. "Some of these have been repeated so often that they are lodged deep in the public consciousness." So entrenched are they that Boston has come to believe that only an event as terrible as  war, or a great depression could get enough of the population to see children in poor families as "our" children, rather than "their" children, and commit to lifting them out of the poverty into which they had the bad fortune to be born.

Claim One: There is little or no real child poverty in New Zealand

Child poverty here is "relative", and while not as debilitating as severe or debilitating malnutrition, it is real, measurable and often leaves "significant and long-lasting scars". "This includes poor educational attainment, higher unemployment, poor health and higher incidence of involvement in crime. For such reasons it matters," Boston and Chapple say. There are generally two ways poverty is measured: income poverty (living in households where the income is 60 per cent or less than the median household income), and material hardship (where children lack things like two pairs of sturdy shoes, or a winter coat, or live in draughty, damp houses). The Ministry of Social Development takes this seriously and tracks child poverty. Depending on the precise measure of income poverty adopted, between 120,000 and 260,000 children are living in this relative poverty.

Claim two: It's the fault of lazy or irresponsible parents.

Undoubtedly, say Chapple and Boston, some parents do make bad choices, and there's growing evidence that being in poverty actually reduces reasoning capacity. But: "It seems unlikely that poverty is primarily due to people's poor choices." Why, they ask are overall poverty rates three times higher in the US than in Scandinavia? Are Americans lazier and stupider? And why are there so few people over age 65 in New Zealand in poverty? Do they stop making bad choices on turning 65, or is it that society chooses to provide them with NZ Super? And was there a sudden outbreak of bad choices in New Zealand in the 1990s after benefits levels were slashed and unemployment rose?

Claim three: The real problem is that poor people have too many children

Some believe strongly that the poor can't afford the luxury of children, and simply shouldn't have them, or at least not so many of them. It is unreasonable for society to pay to raise them. The authors say the concensus has been for societies to share the costs of raising children, and that by investing in those children, society receives a return in the future. The authors say there are major ethical problems associated with the view that the poor should not have children, or that a third, or a fourth child should somehow be abandoned by the state and attract no further support.

Claim four: Assisting poor families will simply encourage them to have more children.

Some believe that having babies is a business, with increased benefits being the reward. But the best international evidence suggests that financial incentives do not have a big effect on fertility levels, the academics say. And, "Current policy settings in New Zealand favour families with only one or two children. Partly as a result, poverty rates are higher amongst families with more than two children."

Claim five: The real problem is poor parenting

There is no need to choose between poor parenting and poverty as being the real problem, the authors say. "Both are real and disturbing." And both poor parenting and poverty cause harm to children, who are powerless against either force. In fact, Boston and Chapple say: "There is good evidence that the stress and anxiety caused by poverty are factors that contribute to poor parenting and harmful outcomes for children."

Claim six: We can't do anything about child poverty

Some believe the "perversity" thesis, that anything you try to do will only make things worse. Some believe the "jeopardy" thesis that spending on alleviating child poverty will put other policy objectives like economic growth at risk. Then there are those who buy into the "futility" myth that nothing can be done. This last often argue that as poverty in New Zealand is relative, it can never be reduced, but Boston and Chapple say that stance is often the result of mixing up median income and average income. Relative poverty can be alleviated even if the median income does not move. And, they say, the evidence is clear that "Child poverty rates are responsive to government policies."

Claim seven: We can't afford to reduce child poverty

This is really a question of whether spending money on child poverty is "worth it", the academics say. The authors say we can't afford not to. "Child poverty imposes significant costs both on the children affected and on wider society. Investing well in children produces positive economic and social returns, and is also likely to save on future fiscal costs." Indeed: "The international and domestic evidence suggest that the scale and severity of child poverty are at least partly matters of societal choice." And, they say: "Since the early 1990s we have chose to tolerate child poverty of significant levels and duration; reducing child poverty has not been a high priority."

Claim eight: Reducing or even eliminating child poverty is relatively easy.

While Government policies have a direct impact on child poverty levels, things like cutting spending in other areas to find the money to pay for it, or lifting taxes are not easy. And, child poverty is not solely about a lack of financial resources. Child poverty continues to exist in countries with comprehensive and relatively generous welfare states, the authors say.

Claim nine: Increasing incomes for the poor won't solve child poverty

"There is no evidence that the majority of poor families are grossly incompetent or wasteful", the academics say. But it is true that providing money alone won't always be the most cost-effective way of achieving outcomes like getting adults into work. "The most recent international evidence suggests that increasing the income level of poor families can certainly generate better outcomes for their children. This is particularly the case if the income boost occurs when the children are young." And, they say: "The claim that "throwing more money at the problem doesn't help" is unfounded."

 Sadly, socialists are skeptical of any lasting long-term success being achieved by capitalist reforms. Under the budget, the government has vowed to boost welfare by NZ$790 million (US$578 million) over the next four years. Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP), which says the government's plan to increase welfare to families with children at the expense of requiring new parents to return to work earlier is “meaningless.” “The promise of (NZ)$25 (US$18) a week extra for beneficiaries with children sounds good, but is too little, too late,” AAAP's Sue Bradford stated.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Middle East Nuclear War Threat

A United Nations conference aimed at stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons has ended without agreement after proposals were blocked to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone. The plan for a nuclear-free Middle East was blocked by USA, the UK and Canada. The proposed Middle East conference would have required Israel to reveal its nuclear weapons arsenal.

Expecting a country to admit possessing nuclear weapons were “unrealistic and unworkable conditions," according to America’s representative Rose Gottemoeller. The Obama administration was reiterating a longstanding secret understanding on Israel's nuclear arsenal, dating back to 1969. That year during a meeting between President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Golda Meir, Israel committed to not testing a nuclear weapon and the United States committed to protect Israel from efforts to force it to sign the nonproliferation treaty or give up nuclear weapons.

 Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for blocking an Egyptian-led drive on a possible Middle East nuclear arms ban at a United Nations conference, an Israeli official said on Saturday. "The United States kept its commitment to Israel by preventing a Middle East resolution that would single out Israel and ignore its security interests and the threats posed to it by an increasingly turbulent Middle East," the official added.

How can Israel avoid being singled out since it is the one and only Middle Eastern nation to have nuclear weapons even if Israel does allege Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons programme is the real regional threat and which it is in the midst of negotiations to ensure it does not develop one. Iran has been forced by stringent economic sanctions to agree to far-reaching restrictions on its nuclear program, including unprecedented international supervision and monitoring of its nuclear facilities. Apparently, in the eyes of the British, Canadian and American diplomatic corps, what is good for the gander is not good enough for the goose. If Israel has been singled out, it has been for exemption from obligations.

 Mordechai Vanunu is still prevented from leaving his country and subjected to extraordinary restrictions for blowing the whistle on Israel’s nuclear weapons in 1986. Vanunu was jailed for 18 years, including 11 years in solitary confinement, for revealing the secrets of Dimona’s nuclear plant. His movements are monitored. He is permitted only chance conversations with foreigners, as long as it is a one-time conversation, which takes place face to face and is not planned in advance, is held in a public place open to the general public, and takes place for a period no longer than 30 minutes.

The US knew about Israel’s secret nuclear programme in 1960, twenty six years before Vanunu’s disclosures. In 1959, there was a secret deal between Israel and Norway providing for the sale of Norwegian heavy water to Israel, through Britain. During the 1973 War Golda Meir overruled Moshe Dayan when he urged dropping a nuclear bomb in the desert as a warning to the Arab enemy states.

A total of 162 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) participant states were in attendance but it takes only the objection of one nation to scupper the policy of agreement by consensus.

The failure of this conference means the next one can only be held in 2020. That has disappointed countries without nuclear weapons, who are increasingly frustrated by what they see as the slow pace of nuclear-armed countries to disarm. Despite lofty high-sounding rhetoric, all the nuclear armed states are pursuing billions of dollars’ worth of nuclear arsenal modernisation.

South American Sweat Shops

The children – aged seven and ten – were unable to escape the basement where they were sleeping when the fire began. Two adults, thought to be the parents of at least one of the children, were treated in hospital for smoke inhalation and burns. All four came from Bolivia. The house was among several illegal workshops producing clothing in the vicinity. In Buenos Aires city there are an estimated 25,000 illegal immigrants.

Too often sweatshops are associated with Asia but Argentine possesses what they call talleres clandestinos or clandestine workshops. Gustavo Vera, a Buenos Aires city deputy, said: “We're talking about 68 percent of the Argentine clothing industry being conducted in sweatshops," he said. "Informal work, forced labour, people who work more than 12 hours a day without any rights and even slave labour with workers living and working in the same place without being able to leave."

Olga, from Sucre in south Bolivia, recalls the conditions in the clandestine workshops. “We lived and worked in the factory and were only allowed to leave occasionally as the factory owner didn’t want us to be seen too much around the neighbourhood.” These micro-sweatshops are conspicuously set up in houses and flats. They are small, overcrowded and as concealed as possible from the public eye. “All the workers and their families slept and ate together amongst the machines,” says Olga. The worker has no contract and no standard employment practices are adhered to. Sometimes workers receive pay, sometimes not. The only contract they may be forced to sign states that they will stick around for a minimum time, usually three years, and will not talk to the police. The workers are isolated and victimised and have little option of escaping. Their documents are often taken away from them when they arrive; they are illegal immigrants with limited rights in Argentina. “We just kept silent about the workshop, as we knew we didn’t have any documents and we didn’t know where to go for help.” Workshop owners bribe policemen to keep quiet. Olga describes how bribes were carried out in front of her and fellow workers. Seeing that the police were also against them made them realise the hopelessness of their situation.

A hundred well known national and international brands, (including the Spanish firm Zara and the sports giants Puma and Adidas) have been named in legal proceedings as alleged sweatshop customers.

The clothing is sold on the pavements around Buenos Aires and at La Salada - a huge site on the outskirts of Buenos Aires that has been described as the biggest counterfeit clothing market in South America. While immigrants work 16 or more hours a day, in cramped and insanitary conditions, for a few cents or nothing at all, the profit margins for the owners are mouth-watering.
Gustavo Vera, a school teacher who runs the activities of the Alameda, a community organization, explains that the government has knowingly tolerated the operation of clandestine workshops for years. “The government is capitalist, classist and bourgeoisie, therefore their interests lie in protecting the big labels who are making huge profit margins by fabricating their clothes in these workshops. Besides, the state wants to keep production of Argentine textiles inside the country, and clamping down on micro-sweatshops in Buenos Aires will undoubtedly mean fabrication moves to cheaper neighbouring countries. There are two myths concerning micro-sweatshops, both supported by the media who also act favourably to large labels which they rely on for advertising. The first is that sweatshop production is associated with fakes, which are unfair competition to the real designers. And the second is that price reflects the fabrication process of clothes. However, in reality it is the big well-known labels that use sweatshops, and the price a consumer pays has no correlation to the wage the worker in a factory receives.”

According to statistics published by the Alameda, if an item of clothing is sold in a shop for $100, the workshop receives $3.12, of which $1.87 goes to the worker, $0.30 is profit for the workshop owner and $0.95 covers the workshop’s costs. $10 cover the shop’s expenses and $22 are lost to tax. The clothes label takes a profit of $64.88.

Bolivia’s consul Jose Alberto González also explains about a new programme, ‘Buenos Aires Produce’, aimed at legitimising the factories. Workshop owners should participate ‘voluntarily’ (if they chose not to participate in the programme their workshop will be closed down) and will be given a year to bring health and safety standards up to scratch and create separate spaces for working and living.
“‘Buenos Aires Produce’, along with other state initiatives to combat the problem, presents the workshop owner as the only baddy. As I understand it, the big labels – who fix the prices taking the greatest slice of the profit for themselves and leaving the workshops, owners and workers, the crumbs – are the real baddies. Of course, the workshop owners treat the workers badly and even subject them to slavery, but that is just one side of the reality. If ‘Buenos Aires Produce’ goes ahead, the factory owners won’t be able to afford to make the necessary changes to their workshops. They will either be closed down or will move out to the province where the law does not apply.”

UK Post-2015: No Capitalist Government Can Be Kind


Why One of the Wealthiest Countries in the World Is Failing to Feed Its People

On May 8 2015 I awoke to discover that not only were we not looking forward to a new coalition government in the UK, but that the overall collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party had given the Conservative government a mandate. At an individual level I'm likely to see some benefits from the strong neo-liberalism that underpins this government's ideology, but I'm concerned about a further deepening of the division between those who have and those who have not.
This will mean the continued exponential growth in the numbers of people requiring emergency food assistance and increased numbers of children and elderly with inadequate food supply. This will also translate into higher rates of obesity, diet-related illness and malnutrition.

The Most Vulnerable
In the United Kingdom there are nearly 5m people today living as food insecure. Wendy Wills, an expert in food and public health, defines this as those who are unable to acquire or consume an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food made available in socially acceptable ways, or who have the (regular) uncertainty that they will be able to do so.
In 2014, more than 20m meals were provided to people unable to provide for themselves. Since 2010 there has been an exponential growth in the number of households relying on emergency food aid. In 2009-10 nearly 50,000 households received three days of emergency food aid but by 2014-15 the number had increased to more than a million. Oxfam UK has estimated that: "36% of the UK population are just one heating bill or broken washing machine away from hardship".

Poor Distribution
Looking at these figures one might think the UK is not a wealthy nation. But this is not the case. Credit Suisse put the UK fifth in a ranking of nations by wealth, behind the US, Japan, China, and France. Based on 2010 UK Census figures, per capita wealth in the UK is about US$182,825, but this wealth is not distributed evenly across the population. While the wealthiest fifth of the population controls nearly 41% of the income, the poorest fifth have just 8%. And while rates of employment have increased over the last few years, pay growth has not kept up.

The new government has little in its manifesto to indicate relief, instead there are promises to cut public spending by a further £55bn by 2019 (on top of the £35bn cut during the coalition government). We have already seen cuts in work programmes that support those with disabilities in their first week in office. In the firing line are Sure Start programmes and programmes for refugees and migrants while reduced funding for local authorities will mean not only cuts to programmes that support the most vulnerable but also cuts to other services providing things such as road repairs, parks and libraries.

On top of the loss of services and support programmes, cuts also translate into bodies out of employment. So this new round of austerity will reach higher up the ladder for those living in the UK because a large proportion of the costs associated with these services is the wages for those who deliver them. The Office for Budget Responsibility indicates that by 2020 there will be a further loss of a million government jobs (compared to the loss of 400,000 government jobs over the course of the last parliament). One can only conclude that income inequality will widen, a state that already has one of the highest divisions between wealthy and poor in Europe (only lower than Turkey and Portugal in 2010).

Disposable Income
For those living in poverty in the UK today the amount of disposable income for the poorest fifth of households is about £156 per week. This is income after taxes and transfer payments and includes spending on clothing, getting to work, childcare, keeping warm, washing, communicating with others, paying for housing, celebrating birthdays, holidays, paying for school trips, uniforms and supplies, socialising and cooking (including not just the food but also the fuel to run the cooker, microwave, and refrigerator).

For many households (not just the poorest), the most flexible item in their budget is food expenditure. Families in this position are not concerned with the environmental or social implications associated with the food that they buy, but instead concentrate on "getting fed". Because it is now less expensive to feed ones family on processed food (with higher salt, sugar, and fat content) than fresh food and as the cost of food is predicted to continue to rise, we can expect to see not just increases in the numbers of people going hungry and relying on emergency food aid, but also increases in the rates of dietary-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and malnutrition. These health implications will, in turn, continue to place greater pressure on an already-struggling NHS.

Obligations Made
The government has an obligation to ensure that the right for all human beings to be free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, as specified in a UN covenant to which the UK is a signatory, is upheld. The UK is also a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which specifies a duty to provide "material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition."
At present the rolling back of social services, the decline in real wages, increases in food costs coupled with an emphasis within the Conservative manifesto to develop food production in this country as an export (as opposed to subsidising it in order to feed the nation), suggests that this obligation is not one that is being taken seriously.

If we cannot look to our national government to uphold these rights and obligations, it seems that there is no recourse but to fill the gap from within, something the Conservatives are banking on. In their manifesto, the only mention of food justice is expressed via the following phrase:
We have always believed that churches, faith groups and other voluntary groups play an important and longstanding role in this country's social fabric, running food banks, helping the homeless and tackling debt and addictions, such as alcoholism and gambling. In the short term it is evident that the public will need to rely on each other to support the most vulnerable, which includes the elderly and children.
Food banks and charity are not a long-term solution, nor are they an adequate solution. We know that food banks are an insecure form of support as they rely on gifts which can be withdrawn at any time. Their coverage is spatially uneven as they are more likely to be located in cities leaving the rural poor in a more precarious position. Donated food also tends to be non-perishable food, as opposed to fresh food free of E numbers, fat, salt, and sugar. Food banks also do not address more structural issues that give rise to food insecurity in the first instance. The Trussel Trust, which runs many food banks, does offer some ancillary support but this still focuses on individuals, not on the wider problems.

No Single Department Is Responsible
As a country we need a better understanding of the resources available to local authorities who bear the burden of addressing the inequalities associated with food and who must deliver services to the poor.
As citizens we also need to demand that the government meet its UN obligations to ensure the right to food and the rights of the child. This cannot happen within existing government departments as the focus of these rights is not embedded within any one single agency. We have the Food Standards Agency, but its remit doesn't address food access. DEFRA's focus is on food production and agriculture. The Department of Health's focus is on nutrition outcomes rather than the root causes of obesity and the structure of food system in the UK. The Department for Work and Pensions similarly only considers those elements that are employment focused.
We currently have subsidies for winter fuel, transportation, and housing, but there is nothing that ensures food affordability. What is called for is a cross-cutting governmental body, with a minister for food, who ensures that policies enacted through these departments deliver access to sufficient, healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food for all of us, not just the wealthy.
by Megan Blake - taken from here where links can be found

No real surprises here, this is capitalism after all. But word needs to get out more widely to those in reasonable comfort who choose to continue living their lives in ignorance of the facts of how so many of their fellow citizens are living lives of constant struggle. Whichever party or parties end up in government they run it in favour of capitalism with a little bit of their own brand of give-aways to appease certain sections of the population. A nicer kind of capitalism does not exist. We don't want charity. We want a system that works for us all - socialism.

This Is What people Want For The Planet

From the tar sands of Alberta to the Port of Seattle to the communities in the blast zone of oil trains, organizers across North America are calling for a "wave of resistance" this fall to "shut down the economic and political systems threatening our survival."
Under the banner of "Flood the System," the announcement was unveiled Wednesday by Rising Tide North America, part of an international climate justice network. The mass actions, slated for September and November, are timed to lead up to the United Nations COP21 climate negotiations to take place in Paris in November and December.
Organizers say they are targeting the international gathering in order to highlight exactly what is not working. "[T]he UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process has been co-opted by elite interests and... any Paris outcomes will be insufficient to meaningfully address the climate crisis and ensure justice for the majority of the world’s people," declares a press statement.

But the real target goes far beyond any one event or body. "We need to wash away the root causes of climate change—capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and colonialism," reads the group's call-to-action. "These systems enable the domination of people and Earth. They place gains for the elite before the well being of our communities."

 So as people from around the world mobilize and demand meaningful change at the talks in Paris, and highlight grassroots solutions, Flood the System will stage direct actions across North America.

Organizers in the U.S. and Canada are having "initial conversations" with groups in Mexico about the coordinated actions.
If past actions are any indication, Flood the System will make a big splash.
Rising Tide Seattle is one of the organizations behind last week's series of direct actions—by land and sea—to protest Shell Oil's arctic drilling fleet in the Port of Seattle.
Furthermore, many of those organizing Flood the System were involved in last year's more than 400,000-strong People's Climate March in New York City, followed by the "Flood Wall Street" demonstration and sit-in attended by thousands in the financial district of lower Manhattan—the hub of global capitalism.

Organizers say Flood the System looks to other movements for inspiration, especially those "led by low-wage workers, immigrants, and communities responding to police brutality," with many Rising Tide organizers "directly involved in, or allying with, these various struggles."
"There is a sense that there is so much happening right now that is powerful and empowering from the grassroots," said Nurse. "People are expressing anger, taking to the streets, not fearful, and very activated in a way that has caught the imagination of the entire country and many places around the world."
 "From Seattle, to Alberta, to Appalachia, people are organized in opposition to extraction, and taking action to uproot the systems driving the crisis."

from here

Business As Usual Continues To Devastate The Planet

As an investigation into an oil spill along the California coast continued on Thursday, environmentalists described a "nightmare" scenario in the area and new details emerged about the pipeline operator's long history of generating similar disasters.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency late Wednesday over the oil spill near Santa Barbara that may have dumped more than 105,000 gallons of crude along the coast on Tuesday morning.
By Thursday afternoon, wildlife in the area, including pelicans, had been found coated in oil, according to ABC News. One bird was found dead on the beach and five have reportedly been sent to rehabilitation centers.
Clean-up crews shoveled pools of black sludge along the shore and towed booms into the water to fence in the two large patches that had spread across nine miles in the Pacific Ocean.
Exactly how much oil has spilled from the pipeline that burst near Refugio State Beach is still unclear. So is the cause. Darren Palmer, the chairman and CEO of Plains All American, which operates the pipeline, told reporters Wednesday evening that the company had experienced "mechanical issues" before the leak, but did not elaborate.

What is known, however, is that Plains All American has a history of wreaking environmental damage. Not including Tuesday's disaster, the company has been responsible for 175 spill incidents nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California—the most recent one in 2014, when 10,000 gallons of oil spilled in the Atwater Village community in Los Angeles.
The company's Canadian branch, Plains Midstream Canada, has also had a slew of ruptures in Alberta.
"This company's disturbing record highlights oil production's toxic threat to California's coast," said Miyoko Sakashita, the oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement on Thursday. "Every new oil project increases the risk of fouled beaches and oil-soaked sea life."

As the Gaviota Coast Conservancy pointed out on Wednesday, the pipeline was the only one in the county to be operating without local oversight.

And the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center posited other unanswered questions, including "why there was no automatic shut-off on this relatively new pipeline, and why the early response was not more successful in halting the flow of crude oil into the fragile waters of the Santa Barbara Channel."

Many environmental organizations connected the spill to the environmental dangers posed by offshore drilling in the Arctic, which recently got federal approval.
"Oil pipelines and offshore fracking and drilling endanger our fragile marine ecosystems," Sakashita said on Thursday. "If [we've] learned anything over the past 50 years, it's that coastal oil production remains inherently dangerous to wildlife, local communities and health of the planet. To protect our coast, we need to stop offshore drilling and fracking and quickly transition to cleaner energy sources."
Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation, added, "Sadly, once the oil is spilled it is too late. As we are again learning in Santa Barbara, once the disaster has occurred we can only try to minimize the damage.... We need a strong public response to combat special interests who are constantly pressing for more drilling along our precious coastlines."

from here

Marx and the Irish Referendum

The Irish Times has chosen to quote Karl Marx in regards to the same-gender marriage referendum.

Humans are not equal in their endowments or talents. Some are stronger physically or mentally, or more experienced emotionally, than others. What they have in common is their differences and their ability to express them individually. If you treat them the same, you will therefore do them an injustice.
This contradictory aspect of equality led Karl Marx to argue, when criticising the Gotha programme adopted by the German Workers Party in 1875, that the equal rights it proclaimed were in fact constrained by their emergence in a capitalist society.
That equal standard or right “
is in fact an unequal right for unequal labour . . . It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every right.”
He went on to say that only in a much more developed phase of communist society would it be possible to cross out this narrow horizon and substitute a principle fully recognising these differentiations: “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs!”
…. If the amendment is passed, we will have moved away from a position in which equal too often meant identical to a more genuinely pluralist one recognising human difference as a foundation stone of political and social equality.

Fact of the Day - Inequality

The OECD said  that income inequality among its 34 members is higher today than it was 30 years ago. In the mid-1980s, the richest 10 percent earned 7 times as much as the poorest 10 percent. Today they earn 9.6 times as much. Not even the financial crisis or the early recession could reverse the trend, the organization noted. On the contrary, disposable income for the rich either suffered less or grew faster than disposable income for the poor. In some countries, including the United States, the rich got richer even as the poor got poorer.

One explanation for rising inequality is the kind of jobs that job creators are creating. The OECD reported that temporary work, part-time jobs and self-employment have accounted for more than half of all positions created since the mid-1990s. Not only do these jobs tend to pay less and experience slower wage growth, they also tend to offer fewer opportunities for training and, by extension, upward mobility. This is why a poor person has a better chance of scraping her or his way into the middle class in Canada, where the rich earn 8.6 times as much as the poor, than in the United States, where the rich earn 18.8 times as much. Inequality in Mexico has surged in recent years, according to new survey, with the incomes of the richest 10 percent of the country 30.5 times greater than the poorest 10 percent.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Big Business, Big Money, Big Blackmail

Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death in England, killing 80,000 people every year. 

British American Tobacco and Philip Morris filed legal objections at the High Court in London. Another company, Imperial Tobacco, said in March that it intended to challenge the law in the UK courts. Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which owns the Winston, Camel and Benson & Hedges brands, also intends to take the government to court.

They claim that the new rules are illegal because they take away their trademark intellectual property. British American Tobacco and Philip Morris say that stopping them from using their trademarks goes against English and EU property law. They also argue that the plain packaging law prevents the free movement of goods. According to Philip Morris, the UK's law should have been postponed until the European Court of Justice had reached its decision on the matter.

Health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said it had commissioned legal advice that indicates the legislation is compatible with European law. The group’s chief executive Deborah Arnott said: 
“The tobacco industry knows it has little or no chance of winning but by threatening legal action it is trying to stop the infection spreading to other countries. Standardised plain packaging threatens the profitability of the industry and they are desperate to prevent other countries from following the example set by Australia, the UK and Ireland.”

No To All Xenophobia

A new criminal offence of illegal working will apply to migrants who have entered the country illegally and also those who came to the country legally but are in breach of their conditions or have overstayed. Wages paid to illegal migrants will be seized as proceeds of crime. Other proposed measures are new powers to punish landlords who provide housing for illegal immigrants and the banks will be instructed to implement further checks on bank accounts. Force people to appeal against deportation after they have been removed from Britain. Cameron  announced moves to reduce “significantly” the number of visas issued to skilled migrants. It will also become an offence for businesses and recruitment agencies to hire abroad without first advertising in the UK - a policy which also featured prominently in Labour's election manifesto. In fact, Labour welcomed the Tory proposals but said it did not go far enough.
"A lot of this will look very familiar to anyone who read Labour's manifesto," shadow immigration minister David Hanson said. 

Labour and the Tories try and out-compete each other in scapegoating immigrants to divert attention from the fact that capitalism caused these problems and their policies exacerbated them.

Don Flynn, of the Migrants' Rights Network, said seizing wages would force some people into "systems of modern slavery without hope of protection from the law".
"Irregular migrants in the UK fit no one's image of a law-breaker living on the proceeds of crime," he said. "Their vulnerable status means they are confined to the most insecure and exploitative forms of employment, usually earning scarcely enough to maintain themselves on a day-to-day basis."

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the measures would do nothing to ease the pressure on public services. The claim that immigration is the cause of the problems with the welfare state is a fallacy. Whichever party has been in power they have sought to break up and privatise the welfare state to keep their big-business friends in profit. This has resulted in the privatisation of council housing, cuts in benefits and pensions, and job losses and closures. Immigration is used by big business and its representatives in government to excuse underinvestment in vital services and try and place the blame on anyone but themselves and their system.

The Socialist Party reasserts that the international class struggle is a fact, that the working and ruling classes of the world have nothing in common, and that every attempt to prevent the working classes of the world from uniting in their own interests requires the unqualified condemnation of all those who profess to speak in the interests of labour, regardless of their assertions and pretenses to the contrary.  For that reason, every attempt to limit, control or manipulate the working classes of the world in the free exercise of that right is meant to serve the interests of the ruling classes of the world and also requires the unqualified condemnation of all those who profess to speak in the interests of labour. Socialists denounce every attempt to conceal the real motives behind these efforts under the guise of such false pretenses as parroted by Cameron of protecting the wages, jobs and the living standards of British workers against “unfair competition” from illegal immigrant labour, or supposedly defending immigrant workers against ruthless exploitation by unscrupulous employers as the Labour Party tries to deceive. There is no such thing as a ‘British interest’. Society is divided into different classes whose interests are at odds to one another. Capitalism’s profits come from exploiting the labour of working-class people. Nationality, immigrant or indigenous, is unimportant to big business – it will pay as little as it can get away with. The debate on immigration in Britain is not about the economic causes and consequences of immigration at all. It is overwhelmingly a ‘debate’ that allows politicians and others such as those in the right-wing media to whip up xenophobia and racism, while posing as being concerned about the interests of workers or the poor.

Those who scapegoat immigrants as the source of stagnant or falling wages, declining living standards and unemployment, and call for punitive measures against them are mistaken. In truth, however, unemployment, and whatever pressure immigrant labour places on wages, is a direct result of the competitive capitalist system itself. It is a by-product of the system of wage slavery, which forces workers to compete for their livelihoods on the basis of the conditions laid down by the capitalist system. Accordingly, efforts to scapegoat immigrants only serve to divide workers against one another, place greater hardships on immigrants and their families, and draw attention away from the capitalist source of these problems. The concern of working-class people in Britain over the state of welfare provision and wage levels is totally legitimate. However, to place the blame on ‘immigrants’ does not address the causes of these problems or advance anything to improve the situation. The problem is the capitalist system itself.

It is clear that capitalism with its private/state ownership of the economy and exploitation is responsible for economic hardship and insecurity for all workers; that it compels workers for economic reasons to leave their home countries and seek employment elsewhere; that immigration laws, whether promoted by so-called liberals or conservatives, only serve to benefit the capitalist class. Accordingly, the critical issue facing workers today is the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism. British workers should have unqualified opposition to all efforts to restrict the right to free immigration. The only way to prevent the race to the bottom is a united struggle of all workers to demand decent pay and decent working conditions for all. We have to stand clearly against the racism and nationalism increasingly being spouted by the capitalist politicians. We have to oppose deportations, the splitting up of families, and the many other inhumane acts of an ever-more brutal immigration system. We have to condemn the cynical attempts of capitalist politicians to play on these genuine fears in order to try and secure a social base for their system. Anti-immigration campaigners talk about ‘the threat to the “British way of life” but most of what is good in that life is being destroyed – not by immigration, but by the brutality capitalism and its endless austerity.

The Socialist Party extends a fraternal hand of welcome to all immigrant workers, and invites them to join in our efforts to abolish capitalism and establish a free and democratic socialist society throughout the world.

The future belongs to us, the workers. We know socialism is possible. We know that only the workers can bring socialism about. We need to build a society where we own in common the factories, the lands,—a society where we are guaranteed housing, education, health-care and jobs. A society where there will be no borders for the working class. We must let people know that socialism is the only answer for the working class. Socialists understand the fears of workers about increased immigration. A socialist world would be a world without borders, but also a world without poverty and war forcing people to move. Only by fighting for a socialist world is it possible to overcome the barriers of the nation state and to create a world without countries and borders.

Greece For Sale? Syriza's About-Turn On Selling Strategic Assets

Foreign corporations from countries including Germany, China and Russia are lining up to buy Greek state assets as the country struggles to pay its European creditors.
The sell-off includes major parts of Greece's infrastructure such as airports, ports, motorways and utilities., The website of the agency leading the government's privatisation drive details a host of real estate ready to be sold off, with deals listed as either 'in progress', 'rolling ahead' or 'completed'.
The move marks a U-turn from the ruling Left-wing Syriza party, who had previously resisted the privatisation programme imposed as part of the conditions attached to Greece's €245bn bailout from the so-called troika of the IMF, European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission.

Notable deals on the table as part of the privatisation drive include the purchase of 51% of Greece's largest port to the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) and a slew of airports popular with tourists to German transport company Fraport AG.
Other assets listed include the 670km Egnatia Motorway which crosses over Northern Greece, million dollar properties in New York, Washington and Belgrade, thermal springs, and and a former US Air Force base in Heraklion, Crete.

In late February Syriza announced that they would block the sale of strategic assets. The economy minister George Stathakis said that the government would stop the sale of Greece's largest port, Piraeus Port, while Panagiotis Lafazanis the new energy minister declared that the new government would not proceed with the planned sale of holdings in several gas and electricity companies.
Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis commented at the time: "It's not very clever to sell off the family jewels in the middle of deflationary crisis... It is wiser to develop state property and increase its value using smart financial resources to strengthen our economy."
However, three months on, and with repayment deadlines looming, Syriza has changed its tune on the issue. In April, the government completed their first privatisation deal, selling a 20-year horseracing gambling licence to a subsidiary of Czech-Greek company for €40.5m.
They are now in advanced talks with the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) to buy a 51% stake in Piraeus Port, something which was supposedly a 'red line' for Syriza, while much more of Greece's infrastructure and real estate may soon be up for grabs.

As well as organising the sale of the Piraeus Port, the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, known as Taiped has a range of state assets on their books from electricity and gas suppliers to airports. A spokesperson for the agency says that when Greece reaches a deal with EU, they expect things to advance rapidly. "Things are moving now, and it's expected that things will move much faster with the completion of the negotiations. Once the deal with the EU is completed, many things will happen quickly."
She explained that though Syriza has claimed to have limited the percentage of the Piraeus Port sale from 67% to 51%, this is not necessarily true. There are in fact ongoing discussions which would mean that if Chinese-owned COSCO are successful in their bid, they would be able to buy the remaining 16% in five years time, as long as all the investments promised in the concession agreement have been completed.

Another major sale which is pushing ahead is that 14 of Greece's 37 regional airports which include those on popular holiday islands Kos, Mykonos and Corfu. Fraport AG, a German transport company have offered €1.2 billion for the airports' lease and a sale is expected to go through by the end of this month. Fraport made the offer with Greek energy firm Copelouzos owned by entrepreneur Christos Copelouzos.
Another German company, Deutsche Invest Equity Partners, is in the final eight companies who have qualified for the next phase of the tender process for the acquisition of a 67% stake of Thessaloniki Port, the second largest in Greece. Taiped says that Germany, who are currently leading discussions with Greece for a new deal, are key investors. "With the airports, the most important thing after the price was having experience and Fraport had it," she said.

Among the other seven companies also bidding for the Thessaloniki Port is the billion-dollar British P&O Steam Navigation Company, Russian train operator Russian Railways, and International Container Terminal Services, a port management company established by Filipino businessman Enrique K Razon who has a personal wealth of $5.2 billion.
Three Olympic assets built for the 2004 Games - the Galatsi indoor arena and both the rowing and equestrian centers - are now on offer, perhaps unsurprisingly considering the huge cost of the Games, estimated to be €11bn. Taiped says a Greek real estate developer has shown interest so far.

from here

Slavery, Racist Policies and Real Emancipation

Slavery made the US wealthy, and racist policies since have blocked African American wealth-building. Can we calculate the economic damage?

2015 0518pay

from here

Then there is this article 'The Forgotten origins of Wall Street in Slave Auctions' which covers some of the history of the treatment of slaves and the part they played in building America, of which I include a small portion:
Of all the commodities traded over time on Wall Street, the one that goes discreetly unmentioned in historical markers is human beings — the anxious throngs of kidnapped slaves that the New York City government routinely rented and auctioned off across half a century at the end of Wall Street at the East River.
This omission seems particularly egregious on a street where the excellent Museum of American Finance currently presents all manner of economic history and profit-building commodities, from railroads to cotton [no insight into how cotton was produced as if it flowered from slaveowners' hands...].
But no spotlight at all on slaves, even though they were pioneer Wall Streeters — their labor built much of the city’s infrastructure, including the early City Hall, stretches of Broadway and the signature wall that first defined Wall Street. The city is finally rectifying this with plans for a 16-by-24-inch memorial sign whose wording has not been set but will acknowledge that the city did indeed run a profitable slave market, rivaled only by Charleston, S.C., as a hub for the American slave traffic.

However egregious we may judge the historical record to be socialists worldwide would agree that the ultimate reparations for all African Americans would be, along with all other US citizens of whatever ethnicity, to become citizens of a wholly equitable, colour-blind world society organised by the people for the people, where all have free access to the requirements of life and all contribute according to ability. Socialism for a free world and socialism for freedom.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Poor UK

An OECD’s study 'In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All' revealed the UK is one of the most unequal developed nations in the world, according to a new report warning that such disparity stunts economic growth and damages the fabric of society. Income inequality rose both in times of prosperity, as well as when the economy is performing badly. Growth has disproportionately benefited high income groups, and left lower income households behind.

“Lower income people have been prevented from realising their human capital potential,” the study states. 

More than 2 million children live in families that are cutting back their spending on food, clothing or heating as a result of government decisions to impose cuts in real terms on child-related benefits, anotherpiece of new research finds. Rates of both child benefit and child tax credits have been pegged at less than the cost of living for the past three years, causing one in five families to struggle to provide living essentials, according to the End Child Poverty coalition. 

The government has indicated it will seek to freeze the value of working age benefits for two years from April 2016 as part of plans to reduce social security spending by £12bn a year by 2017-18. The freeze hopes to save £1bn. More than 4m households have been affected by below-inflation rises to child benefit and child tax credit, said End Child Poverty. Nearly two-thirds of those hit are working families on low incomes. A typical low-paid working family with two children will lose £513 in 2015.

A separate survey found over a third reported that they had cut back on family outings and trips, 26% spent less on clothes, a fifth cut down on food and a fifth on heating. Those on lower incomes were hardest hit. About 40% of families earning below £15,000 a year said they had cut back on food, and 45% on heating.

David Holmes, the chair of End Child Poverty said: “It is deeply worrying that parents are having to cut back on food, heating and other essentials that their children need in order to develop and thrive.

Defend Our Unions

Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, has announced that any strike affecting public services, such as health, transport, fire services or schools will need to be backed by 40% of eligible union members, and that minimum 50% turnout in strike ballots. Also planned is the repeal of restrictions on using temporary staff to cover for striking workers so that "scab labour" can be used to break strikes.

Have you ever had to go on strike? Many of us have. Sometimes it’s the only way we can win a decent wage. Sometimes it’s to fight back against working conditions that are going from bad to worse. Other times it’s necessary to defend a co-worker who’s been treated unfairly. Whatever the case, there are plenty of problems workers face that can force us out on strike. None of us want to lose money or even risk losing our jobs but a strike is often the only weapon we have to fight for our economic rights. Whenever workers walk out, public opinion is immediately whipped up against the strikers by the media. The employers go to courts to pass injunctions and the police hinder the effectiveness of a picket-line. Indignant politicians make loud demands for tougher antistrike laws. This barrage of anti-strike propaganda shows how many weapons employers have at their disposal. Rarely do the media dare denounce capitalists for refusing to meet workers’ demands. No court injunctions are issued when capitalists “go on strike” and close down factories, or make workers redundant. But the one weapon workers have—the right to strike—is constantly under attack.

If government or local authority workers are involved then the industrial action is described as a “strike against the public.” The striking workers are blamed for every problem that arises. Every citizen is expected to support the government and local officials in their efforts to get the strikers to capitulate. Yet it is those the same politicians and councilors who denounce “strikes against the public”, who’ve been conducting the school and hospital closures, cutting back on the local social and emergency services. They don’t take the blame for “inconveniencing the public.” In fact, they defend hardships they cause as being “in everyone’s interest.” The special attacks constantly being made on the right of government workers to strike are just stepping stones to attacks on all workers. Public sector employees aren’t the only ones who perform vital functions. Every industry and every social service—food, housing, transportation, etc.—is run by workers. The fact that many jobs are important is no reason for denying basic rights to the people who do them. If that excuse can be used against public sector employees, it can soon be used against everyone.

This whole drive to curb the right to strike is a step toward disarming workers in their struggle for economic survival. The overwhelming majority of people have only their labour power to sell and they survive by selling it to the employing class. If they give up the elementary right to withhold that labour or bargain for a better price or better conditions, they become little more than slaves. No one “enjoys” strikes, least of all workers and their families who lose income while capitalists live off past profits and big bank balances. Strikes, at best, are defensive actions. People with empty bellies up against those with fat wallets. To really get to the heart of our economic problems, we have to change the whole economic system that repeatedly forces us to fight for a decent living. This is the goal of the Socialist Party. Factories, mines, mills, offices and farms will be socially owned by all of us in common instead of privately owned by a few or in the hands of the State. All the workplaces are run cooperatively and democratically by the workers themselves.  Production is carried on to meet peoples’ needs instead of for profit. Building a movement for this kind of economy would also provide the best defence of the few rights we have now—like the right to strike. A strong socialist movement would make it impossible for capitalism to take our rights away. Defend the right to strike by helping to build that socialist movement!

Universal Access To Water Impossible In Capitalism


A new report on water for food security and nutrition shows how land, food and water issues are inextricably linked. Ensuring universal access to water is vital in order to address food security and improve nutrition, yet recognition of the links between water and food are too often missed. A major report on water for food security and nutrition, launched on Friday by the high-level panel of experts on food security and nutrition (HLPE), is the first comprehensive effort to bring together access to water, food security and nutrition.

This report goes far beyond the usual focus on water for agriculture. Safe drinking water and sanitation are fundamental to human development and wellbeing. Yet inadequate access to clean water undermines people’s nutrition and health through water-borne diseases and chronic intestinal infections. The landmark report, commissioned by the committee on world food security (CFS), not only focuses on the need for access, it also makes important links between land, water and productivity. It underlines the message that water is integral to human food security and nutrition, as well as the conservation of forests, wetlands and lakes upon which all humans depend. 

Policies and governance issues on land, water and food are usually developed in isolation. Against a backdrop of future uncertainties, including climate change, changing diets and water-demand patterns, there has to be a joined-up approach to addressing these challenges. There are competing demands over water from different sectors such as agriculture, energy and industry. With this in mind, policymakers have to prioritise the rights and interests of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups, with a particular focus on women, when it comes to water access. There is vast inequality in access to water, which is determined by socio-economic, political, gender and power relations. Securing access can be particularly challenging for smallholders, vulnerable and marginalised populations and women.

All around the world, water reform processes as well as large-scale land acquisitions often overlook and threaten the customary and informal rights of poor and marginalised women and men. Moreover, women’s entitlements are often recorded as belonging to the male “head of the household”. Removing this gender bias in farming and water and providing equal access to resources for both male and female farmers would have a big impact on food security and nutrition. 
Smallholder farmers produce more than 70% of the world’s food but often lack recognition of their land and water rights in formal legal systems. Women and girls frequently spend several hours a day collecting water but lack decision-making power when it comes to water management. 
Indigenous people are often displaced from their lands and rivers as a result of large infrastructure projects, and the interests of fisherfolk and pastoralists are rarely advanced in national policies. 

Mechanisms to allocate water need to give adequate priority to water for food production as well as for the basic needs of poorest populations and those pushed to the edges of society. There is increasing corporate interest in water, and states should ensure that investments respect basic rights to water and sanitation as well as food. 

Taking these complexities into account, the report proposes ways to enhance the capacity of poor farmers to manage water and land and to increase water and agricultural productivity in a range of food production systems, improve governance and invest in metrics and knowledge. The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation as well as the right to food are globally recognised. States should ensure the full implementation of these rights and explore how they can be meaningfully joined up. 

The right to water largely focuses on safe drinking water and sanitation and rarely considers the productive uses of water. In Kenya, Colombia and Senegal, 71–75% of households use domestic water supplies for productive activities such as food gardening. Water is integral for sustainable livelihoods. There is no doubt that land, food and water issues are linked. 

The barriers to joined-up national and global policies do not derive from a lack of technology or resources. Rather they are rooted in the absence of human rights, and the failure to recognise that water and food are intertwined. The HLPE report argues for coherence on these issues at all levels of policymaking and management, from local to global. We are calling for a human rights approach to water governance to enhance food security and nutrition. Only this will ensure healthy and productive lives for all. 

Whilst in agreement with much of the findings here we would differ when discussing the reasons for the inequality of access to water, or indeed any of life's necessities. The global economic system which places profit at the pinnacle of decision-making processes repeatedly and deliberately places people at a disadvantage. The cause is capitalism and the only solution is a global system based on equity and self-determination with free access to the common wealth for all. Decisions made democratically by people not leaders and business interests, socialism in fact.


Life At War In America

Somewhere in the ever-flowing river of flotsam that is Twitter, a simple data point offered by a college commencement speaker jumped out at me before being borne away on the tide of immediacy. The speaker was ABC journalist Martha Raddatz, and the point is the key one in the intro: The graduates have spent half their lives with America at war.

It's a startling idea, but an incorrect one. The percentage is almost certainly much higher than that.
Using somewhat subjective definitions of "at war" -- Korea counts but Kosovo doesn't in our analysis, for example -- we endeavored to figure out how much of each person's life has been spent with America at war. We used whole years for both the age and the war, so the brief Gulf War is given a full year, and World War II includes 1941. These are estimates.
But the beginning of the conflict in Afghanistan in (late) 2001 means that anyone born in the past 13 years has never known an America that isn't at war. Anyone born after 1984 has likely seen America at war for at least half of his or her life. And that's a lot of Americans.

These figures shift easily. An end to the conflict in Afghanistan (and, if you include it, the overlapping fight against the Islamic State) means that the percentage of time those young people have lived in a state of war will decline quickly.
But that state of war, we are told (I am too young to know better) feels different than America during World War II or, particularly for the college-aged, Vietnam. Moreso than those wars, war today is distant, fought on our behalf.

That's Raddatz's other, perhaps more important point: 
Young Americans have lived in a country at war for almost their whole lives, but they have to be reminded of it.

taken from here

And then there is this:
"The military’s mantra for Afghanistan was “winning hearts and minds.” And a key part of that strategy was cold, hard cash.
During a decade of war, the Pentagon gave more than $2 billion to commanders to spend as they wished on a broadly defined grab bag of  “urgent humanitarian” needs. The goal was to gain support from the locals for both the U.S. military and the nascent Afghan government. It was, the military said: “money as a weapons system.”

 For this article 'Money as a weapons system' giving details of how billions of dollars were spent in Afghanistan go here

Critical Thought Against The Hydra Of Capitalism

Talk by John Holloway presented to the Zapatista Seminar
San Cristóbal de las Casas, May 7, 2015.

An honor, a joy to be here. I feel I want to dance, but I won’t do it, I’ll focus instead on what we were asked to do. I shall talk about critical thought and explain how to kill the hydra of capitalism. That’s what it’s about: we talk of the hydra not to frighten ourselves, but to think about how to defeat it. The myth of the hydra had a happy end and we too must reach a happy end.

By critical thought I understand not thought of catastrophe but the thought that seeks hope in a world where it seems that it no longer exists. Critical thought is the thought that opens that which is closed, that shakes that which is fixed. Critical thought is the attempt to understand the storm and more than that: it is understanding that at the center of the storm is something that opens paths towards other worlds.

The storm is coming, or rather it is already here. It is already here and it is very probable that it will get worse. We have a name for this storm that is already here: Ayotzinapa. Ayotzinapa as horror, and as symbol of so many other horrors. Ayotzinapa as the concentrated expression of the Fourth World War.

Where does the storm come from? Not from the politicians — they do no more than implement the storm. Not from imperialism: it is not the product of states, not even of the most powerful states. The storm arises from the form in which society is organized. It is the expression of the desperation, the fragility, the weakness of a form of social organization that has passed its sell-by date, it is an expression of the crisis of capital.

Capital is in itself a constant aggression. It is an aggression that tells us every day “you have to shape what you do in a certain way, the only activity that has validity in this society is activity that contributes to the expansion of capitalist profit.”

The aggression that is capital has a dynamic. In order to survive, capital has to subordinate our activity more intensely to the logic of profit each day: “today you have to work harder than yesterday, today you have to bow lower than yesterday.”

With that, we can already see the weakness of capital. It depends on us, on our being willing or able to accept what it imposes on us. If we say “sorry, but I am going to tend my garden today,” or “today I am going to play with my children,” or “today I am going to dedicate my time to something that has meaning for me,” or simply “no, we will not bow,” then capital cannot extract the profit it requires, the rate of profit falls and capital is in crisis. In other words, we are the crisis of capital: our lack of subordination, our dignity, our humanity. We, as crisis of capital, as subjects with dignity and not as victims, we are the hope that is sought by critical thought. We are the crisis of capital and proud of it, we are proud to be the crisis of the system that is killing us.

Capital gets desperate in this situation. It searches for all possible ways of imposing the subordination that it requires: authoritarianism, violence, labor reform, educational reform. It also introduces a game, a fiction: if we cannot extract the profit we need, then we shall pretend that it exists, we shall create a monetary representation for value that has not been produced, we are going to expand debt in order to survive and also try to use it to impose the discipline that is necessary. This expansion of debt is at the same time the expansion of finance capital, expression of the violent weakness of capital as a social relation.

But this fiction increases the instability of capital and in any case does not succeed in imposing the necessary discipline. The dangers for capital of this fictitious expansion become clear with the financial collapse of 2008, when it becomes clearer than ever that the only way out for capital is more authoritarianism: the whole negotiation around the Greek debt tells us that there is no possibility of a gentler capitalism, that the only path forward for capital is the path of austerity, of violence. The storm that is here, the storm that is coming.

We are the crisis of capital, we who say No, we who say Enough of capitalism!, we who say that it is time to stop creating capital, time to create another way of living.

Capital depends on us, because if we do not create profit (surplus value) directly or indirectly, then capital cannot exist. We create capital and if capital is in crisis, it is because we are not creating the profit necessary for capital’s existence: that is why they are attacking us with such violence.

In this situation there are really two options of struggle. We can say “Yes, all right, we shall carry on producing capital, we shall continue to promote the accumulation of capital, but we need better living conditions for everybody.” This is the option of the left parties and governments: of Syriza, of Podemos, of the governments in Venezuela and Bolivia. The problem is that, although they can improve living conditions in some respects, the very desperation of capital means that there is very little possibility of a gentler capitalism.

The other possibility is to say “Goodbye, capital, time for you to go, we are going to create other ways of living, other ways of relating to one another, both among humans and between humans and other forms of life, ways of living that are not determined by money and the pursuit of profit, but by our own collective decisions.”

Here in this seminar we are at the very center of this second option. This is the meeting point between Zapatistas and Kurds and thousands of other movements that reject capitalism and are trying to construct something different. All of us are saying “Right, capital, your time is past, now get out, we are building something else.” We express it in many different ways: we are creating cracks in the wall of capital and trying to promote their confluence, we are building the common, we are communizing, we are the movement of doing against labour, we are the movement of use value against value, of dignity against a world based on humiliation. It does not matter very much how we express it, the important thing is that we are creating here and now a world of many worlds.

But do we have strength enough? Do we have enough strength to say that we are not interested in capitalist investment, that we are not interested in capitalist employment? Do we have the strength to reject totally our present dependence on capital to survive? Do we have the strength to say a final goodbye to capital?

Possibly we do not have sufficient strength yet. Many of us who are here have our salaries or our grants that come from the accumulation of capital and, if we do not, then we shall have to go back next week to look for a capitalist job. Our rejection of capital is a schizophrenic rejection: we want to say a sharp goodbye to it, and we are not able to, or find it very difficult. There is no purity in this struggle. The struggle to stop creating capital is also a struggle against our dependence on capital. That is, it is a struggle to emancipate our creative capacities, our force to produce, our productive forces.

That’s what we’re at, that is why we’ve come here. It is a question of organizing ourselves, of course, but not of creating an Organization with a capital O, but of organizing ourselves in many ways to live now the worlds we want to create.

In the morning the comandantes asked us for provocative concepts. I suppose my talk can be summarized in three theoretical provocations:

Critical thought is not the thought that speaks of catastrophe but the thought that looks for hope inside the catastrophe.
     1. We are the crisis of capital and proud of it. All thought about the storm starts from there.
     2. The only way of defeating the Hydra is by ceasing to create capital and dedicating ourselves to the creation of other worlds based not on money and profit but on dignity and self-determination.
     3. It sounds easy, we know that it is not. How do we advance, then, how do we walk? Asking we walk, asking and hugging and organizing.

John Holloway is a professor in the Posgrado de Sociología, Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla

from here

Do whatever you can do to forward the beginning of a world socialist society. Continue the struggle whatever the odds and always remember - there are more of us than you think. We are all over the world and we are growing.
In solidarity with all peoples of the world.