Monday, October 20, 2014

Fellow Travellers Towards Socialism


 "From space I saw earth - indescribably beautiful - but with the scars of national borders gone." - Mohammad Faris, Astronaut

If we are to save ourselves and each other, we must get out of the twin clutches of both corporations and nation-states. Neither of them are at their core either person- or earth-centered. Instead we must desperately and thankfully reach across the illusory - paranoia fixed in place - borders of nations to find the greater, more fulfilling personhood of our common humanity and of the common interconnected life-purpose of all life on Earth. We must break the state and corporation-manufactured chains which keep us from our true freedom; we must no longer allow murder and ecocide to be perpetrated in our name for the false assurances of security without freedom; we can no longer countenance economic growth for the owners at the expense of both the planet and human communities.
What could be more apparent than that the leaders, government and industry both, bestriding the world and proclaiming themselves wise and knowing, are neither? The great world conflicts, when analyzed, decocted, and boiled down to their essential bones, amount to this: very young children arguing amongst themselves, each one saying, "Mine! Mine! Mine!" and none of them yet having learned the profound simplicity of sharing. We must be the mothers who take their deadly playthings away.

To the corporate leaders, we must say, "Enough is enough, you have too much already, now you must share." To our political leaders who are drunk on their self-importance, we must say, "When you grow up and begin to think about someone besides yourself and your little circle of false friends, you may again be given some small amount of responsibility." As is well understood now, these so-called leaders mostly have the personality characteristics of psychopaths and sociopaths; indeed, the higher they've risen, the more they earn, the more likely they are to be lacking in empathy.

So why then do we allow psychopaths to tell us what we must have in order to be happy? Why do we allow sociopaths to wave their flags and tell us who we are? Surely, if we are anything, we are wonderfully varied life-forms on a planet with many different forms of life, all intimately interrelated and all intricately depending on each other for their very existence. But we are now tearing this fabric of being in twain, turning a teaming miracle planet into a dead zone. Time is very short if we are to save what is left before it all unravels into drought-ridden chaos. Now is the time to escape from psychopathy and sociopathy, and hopefully, humanely, use every means of nonviolent resistance possible for the preservation, creation and sustenance of a community of life on a living earth. For this to be possible, beyond peaceful civic disobedience, we must also remove our funds and personal energies from the psychopathic and sociopathic systems that are destroying us and move them into alternate systems of energy, finance, food, governance and energy and water security. It is sanity, plain and simple.

These are the final paragraphs of an article by a former US Department of State foreign service officer which I have taken unashamedly from here.
Socialists also recognise the need to remove finance from the equation too, but apart from that - - -
- As Stan Parker frequently reminded us 'There are more of us than you think.'

Britain's Inequality


A report from Oxfam shows that the country's five richest families now own more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population. A handful of the super-rich, headed by the Duke of Westminster, have more money and financial assets than 12.6 million Britons put together. In a report, a Tale of Two Britains, Oxfam said the poorest 20% in the UK had wealth totalling £28.1bn – an average of £2,230 each. The latest rich list from Forbes magazine showed that the five top UK entries – the family of the Duke of Westminster, David and Simon Reuben, the Hinduja brothers, the Cadogan family, and Sports Direct retail boss Mike Ashley – between them had property, savings and other assets worth £28.2bn.

The most affluent family in Britain, headed by Major General Gerald Grosvenor, owns 77 hectares (190 acres) of prime real estate in Belgravia, London, and has been a beneficiary of the foreign money flooding in to the capital's soaring property market in recent years. Oxfam said Grosvenor and his family had more wealth (£7.9bn) than the poorest 10% of the UK population (£7.8bn).

Oxfam said the wealth gap in the UK was becoming more entrenched as a result of the ability of the better off to capture the lion's share of the proceeds of growth. Since the mid-1990s, the incomes of the top 0.1% have grown by £461 a week or £24,000 a year. By contrast, the bottom 90% have seen a real terms increase of only £2.82 a week or £147 a year.

The charity said the trends in income had been made even more adverse by increases in the cost of living over the past decade. "Since 2003 the majority of the British public (95%) have seen a 12% real terms drop in their disposable income after housing costs, while the richest 5% of the population have seen their disposable income increase."

Oxfam said that for the first time more working households were in poverty than non-working ones, and predicted that the number of children living below the poverty line could increase by 800,000 by 2020. It said cuts to social security and public services were meshing with falling real incomes and a rising cost of living to create a "deeply damaging situation" in which millions were struggling to get by.

Duke of Westminster (Wealth: £7.9bn)
Gerald Grosvenor and his family owe the bulk of their wealth to owning 77 hectares (190 acres) of Mayfair and Belgravia, adjacent to Buckingham Palace and prime London real estate.
As the value of land rockets in the capital so too does the personal wealth of Grosvenor, formally the sixth Duke of Westminster and one of seven god parents to the new royal baby, Prince George.
The family also own 39,000 hectares in Scotland and 13,000 hectares in Spain, while their privately owned Grosvenor Estate property group has $20bn (£12bn) worth of assets under management including the Liverpool One shopping mall, according to leading US business magazine Forbes.

Reuben brothers (£6.9bn)
Simon and David Reuben made their early money out of metals. Born in India but brought up in London, they started in local scrap metal but branched out into trading tin and aluminium.
Their biggest break was to move into Russia just after the break-up of the Soviet Union, buying up half the country's aluminium production facilities and befriending Oleg Deripaska, the oligarch associate of Nat Rothschild and Peter Mandelson.
The Reuben brothers are still involved in mining and metals but control a widely diversified business empire that includes property, 850 British pubs, and luxury yacht-maker Kristal Waters. They are also donors to the Conservative party.

Hinduja brothers (£6bn)
Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja co-chair the Hinduja Group, a multinational conglomerate with a presence in 37 countries and businesses ranging from trucks and lubricants to banking and healthcare.
They began their careers working in their father's textile and trading businesses in Mumbai and Tehran, Iran but soon branched out by buying truck maker, Ashok Leyland from British Leyland and Gulf Oil from Chevron in the 1980s, while establishing banks in Switzerland and India in the 1990s.
The family's London home is a mansion on Carlton House Terrace, overlooking St James Park and just along from Buckingham Palace, which is potentially worth £300m. They have links with the Labour party.

Cadogan family (£4bn)
The wealth of the Cadogans family is built on 90 acres36 hectares of property and land in Chelsea and Knightsbridge, west London.
Eton-educated Charles is the eighth Earl of Cadogan and ran the family business, Cadogan Estates, until 2012 when he handed it over to his son Edward, Viscount Chelsea.
Charles, who is a first cousin to the Aga Khan, started in the Coldstream Guards before going into the City.
He was briefly chairman of Chelsea Football Club in the early 1980s and his family motto is: "He who envies is the lesser man."

Mike Ashley (£3.3bn)
Ashley owns Newcastle United football club and became a billionaire through his Sports Direct discount clothing chain which he started after leaving school.
He was the sole owner of the fast growing business, which snapped up brands such as Dunlop, Slazenger, Karrimor and Lonsdale, until it floated on the stock market in 2007. He now owns 62%.
Ashley is a regular visitor to London's swankiest casinos but is famously publicity-averse.

The UK study follows an Oxfam report earlier this year which found that the wealth of 85 global billionaires is equivalent to that of half the world's population – or 3.5 billion people.

Global Inequality

Capitalism can't surmount inequality as the system itself creates the curse that humanity struggles to defeat. Crisis not only generates inequality and poverty in capitalism. Crisis also aggravates inequality-situation although the system fattens with profit.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in a recent report. “It is hard not to notice the sharp increase in income inequality experienced by the vast majority of countries from the 1980s. There are very few exceptions to this”, said the report.  Three years ago OECD Secretary-General informed: “Income inequality in OECD countries is at its highest level for the past half century.  The average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10%  across the OECD, up from seven times 25 years ago.” He was presenting Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising , an OECD study report, in December 2011. The Secretary-General said: Inequality increased further in the US , Germany , Denmark , Sweden , Israel . It has “fallen in Chile and Mexico , but in these two countries the incomes of the richest are still more than 25 times those of the poorest.”

The OECD finds, “the distribution of “market income” (gross earnings and capital income) kept widening … Measured by the Gini coefficient (which is 0 when everybody has the same income and 1 when one person has all the income), market income inequality rose by 1 percentage point or more in 20 OECD countries between 2007 and 2011/12.” (OECD 2014)

 “Lower income households”, the OECD finds, “either lost more during the crisis or benefited less from the recovery. Across the OECD countries, real household disposable income stagnated, and the income of the bottom 10% of the population declined from 2007 to 2011 by 1.6% per year. Focusing on the top and bottom 10% of the population in 2007 and in the latest year available shows that, on average across the OECD, the drop in income was twice as large for the bottom 10% compared with the top 10%. Out of the 33 countries where data are available, the top 10% has done better than the poorest 10% in 19 countries.”

In Australia , poverty is on the rise. More than one million Australians are in severe poverty, with access to less than 30 percent of national median income. More than 2.5 million people, and one in six children, are struggling to fulfill their daily basic needs. More than 600,000 children, and one-third of children in single parent families, lived below the poverty line. A significant number of Australians remained in “deep and persistent” poverty for extended periods, often for more than five years. More than 40 percent of all people on social security benefits fell below the poverty line. More than 100,000 persons are homeless. Adult working-age Australians are more likely to be homeless than any other age group, constituting 44% of all homeless persons nationally. Children have the second largest representation among those classified as homeless, with more than 1 in 4 homeless, children. (Cassells, R., Dockery, M., and Duncan , A (2014), Falling through the cracks: Poverty and Disadvantage in Australia , Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and Poverty in Australia 2014 , the Australian Council of Social Services)

The ACSS report cited the Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Income and Expenditure Survey that asked people about their actions because of a shortage of money. Actions taken by the respondents over the last year due to a shortage of money included “Pawned or sold something”, “Sought financial help from friends/family”, “Unable to heat home”, “Went without meals”, “Could not pay gas/electricity/telephone bill on time”.

Australia, it was claimed during the financial crisis, was not facing the crisis as the economy was happily cashing on coal export.

Taken from here 

Fracking - the false hope

Fracking, horizontal drilling and other techniques have led to surging gas production, especially in the US. Global deployment of advanced technology could double or triple global natural gas production by 2050. The widespread use of shale gas continues to attract policymakers. In the UK, a senior Conservative politician, Owen Paterson, former Environment Secretary, is urging more fracking to increase Britain‘s shale gas supplies. Paterson argues against wind power and for “investment in four possible common sense policies: shale gas, combined heat and power, small modular nuclear reactors, and demand management”. Paterson also said that the UK should suspend or scrap its Climate Change Act, which commits it to cutting CO2 emissions by more than 80% on 1990 levels by 2050, unless other countries follow suit.

The journal Nature recognises that technologies such as fracking have triggered a boom in natural gas. But the authors say this will not lead to a reduction of overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Although natural gas produces only half the CO2 emissions of coal for each unit of energy, its growing availability will make it cheaper, they say, so it will add to total energy supply and only partly replace coal. Their study, based on what they say is “an unprecedented international comparison of computer simulations”, shows that this market effect nullifies the advantage offered by the lower pollution content of the gas. This might eventually mean not lower CO2 emissions, but emissions by the middle of the century up to 10% higher than they would otherwise be. Not only could this lead to an overall increase in energy consumption and in emissions, but increased gas production would mean higher emissions of methane from drilling leakages and pipelines.

 Haewon McJeon, staff scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership between the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the University of Maryland, said: “The upshot is that abundant natural gas alone will not rescue us from climate change.”

One of the co-authors, Nico Bauer, a sustainable solutions expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany, said : “The high hopes that natural gas will help reduce global warming because of technical superiority to coal turn out to be misguided because market effects are dominating. The main factor here is that an abundance of natural gas leads to a price drop and expansion of total primary energy supply.”

The research groups projected what the world might be like in 2050, both with and without a natural gas boom. They used five different computer models, which included not just energy use and production, but also the broader economy and the climate system.

“When we first saw little change in greenhouse gas emissions in our model, we thought we had made a mistake, because we were fully expecting to see a significant reduction in emissions,” said James Edmonds, chief scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute. “But when we saw all five teams reporting little difference in climate change, we knew we were on to something.”

From here

Notes on India


1) India generates 1,27,486 metric tonnes of waste every day
2) 13 of the world’s top 20 dirtiest cities are in India, according to the World Health Organisation’s statistics
3) Only 12 of 497 cities with a 1,00,000-plus population have anything like adequate infrastructure to deal with garbage and human and organic waste
4) Two out of every three rural households have no access to toilets. Less than 12 per cent homes have latrines connected to a piped sewer system.
5) Nearly 20,000 people die every year due to diseases spread by rodents and stray dogs feeding off garbage dumps.

 India is on the cusp of an urban revolution with as many as 337 million Indians already living in cities and the number projected to increase to 600 million in the next decade-and-a-half. Now forget waste management and recycling, imagine finding the land-fills to handle the garbage generated by such cities put together with unregulated construction boom.

In India diabetes is a growing problem. Insulin, discovered in 1922, is still not available to hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, including in India. In India most people with Type 1 diabetes die because they can't afford insulin. In many remote areas in India 80 percent of children with Type 1 diabetes do not reach their 18th birthday.

A 23-year-old woman arrived. She had Type 1 diabetes since the age of 5 and already had numerous diabetes complications, including the inability to straighten her fingers. Under the care of her previous doctor, for almost 20 years, she'd been sent to a lab once a month to have her blood sugar checked. Why did he not tell her to get a home glucose meter where she could check her blood sugar multiple times a day, as is the recommendation for Type 1 diabetes? Because her doctor received a kickback from the lab every month.

 29 year old, Reghunath Varma, a young man, could afford insulin yet died for lack of it. He was told by an acupuncturist to stop taking his insulin -- the medicine that keeps people with Type 1 diabetes alive -- because the acupuncturist's treatment would cure him. Reghunath Varma was a "Young Leader in Diabetes." He was working to raise diabetes awareness and education in his country. Yet cultural forces persuaded him to listen to a quack who said he didn't need his insulin.

Is Australia a good neighbour?

Climate Change Warriors from 12 Pacific Island nations including Fiji, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Micronesia, Vanuatu, The Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Niue paddled canoes into the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle, Australia.

“We want the Australian community, especially the Australian leaders, to think about more than their pockets, to really think about humanity not just for the Australian people, but for everyone,” Mikaele Maiava from Tokelau said. “We’re aware that this fight is not just for the Pacific. We are very well aware that the whole world is standing up in solidarity for this. The message that we want to give, especially to the leaders, is that we are humans, this fight is not just about our land, this fight is for survival.”

On Oct. 13, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that “coal is good for humanity.”

Mikaele questioned Abbott’s position, asking, “If you are talking about humanity: Is humanity really for people to lose land? Is humanity really for people to lose their culture and identity? Is humanity to live in fear for our future generations to live in a beautiful island and have homes to go to? Is that really humanity? Is that really the answer for us to live in peace and harmony? Is that really the answer for the future?”

Mikaele said “We are educated people, we are smart people, we know what’s going on, the days of the indigenous people and local people not having the information and the knowledge about what’s going on is over. We are the generation of today, the leaders of tomorrow and we are not blinded by the problem. We can see it with our own eyes, we feel it in our own hearts, and we want the Australian government to realise that. We are not blinded by money we just want to live as peacefully and fight for what matters the most, which is our homes.”

The Pacific Islands Forum describes climate change as the “single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific.” Pacific Island leaders have recently stepped up their language, challenging the Australian government to stop delaying action on climate change.

Brief History of Anti-Chinese Racism

 Because very few white men were willing to engage in the grueling work of the railroad and instead, preferred working in the hills mining for gold, at least 50 percent of the labor was performed by Chinese immigrants. By 1865, the rail-roads realized they had a major labor problem. When it called for 5,000 construction workers, few Californians answered the call. Most white men were unwilling to work in the snows at $35 per month and preferred mining.

Charles Crocker who headed the construction part of the Central Pacific tried an experiment and used Chinese workers on the heaviest of the work, finding that they worked quickly, tirelessly, accepted less money (between 60 to 90 percent what the whites were offered), and were willing to accept a lower standard of living in terms of housing and food. By the end of the year, the Chinese composed two-thirds of the Central Pacific's labor force. Somewhere between 10,000-12,000 were eventually employed to build the RR - many of whom were recruited directly from China. When their task was completed, many moved to San Francisco and established a Chinatown within the city limits. Chinatown was a small square block between F and E Streets, bounded by 3rd and 4th Streets. It was located in the heart of what is now the business and tourist district of Old Town Eureka. The Chinese did not give up their customs or religion. They celebrated their holidays and interacted with each other within their distinct community. For the most part, they kept to themselves. There, they clustered in relative safety from the anti-Chinese sentiment that was growing across the nation and the state.

War Profiteers

The respected war correspondent, Robert Fisk, writes that share prices are soaring in America for those who produce the coalition bombs and missiles and drones and aircraft participating in the latest war in Syria and Iraq.

Shares in Lockheed Martin – maker of the Hellfire missiles – are up 9.3 per cent in the past three months. Lockheed Martin makes the rockets carried by the Reaper drones, famous for destroying wedding parties over Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by Iraqi aircraft.

Raytheon – which has a big Israeli arm – has gone up 3.8 per cent. When the Americans decided to extend their bombing into Syria in September – to attack President Assad’s enemies scarcely a year after they first proposed to bomb President Assad himself – Raytheon was awarded a $251m (£156m) contract to supply the US navy with more Tomahawk cruise missiles. On 23 September, American warships fired 47 Tomahawk missiles. Each one costs about $1.4m.

Northrop Grumman shares swooped up the same 3.8 per cent. And General Dynamics shares have risen 4.3 per cent.

Dan De Luce’s dispatch on arms sales for the French news agency,Agence France-Presse . “The war promises to generate more business not just from US government contracts but other countries in a growing coalition, including European and Arab states… Apart from fighter jets, the air campaign [sic] is expected to boost the appetite for aerial refuelling tankers, surveillance aircraft such as the U-2 and P-8 spy planes, and robotic drones… Private security contractors, which profited heavily from the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, also are optimistic the conflict will produce new contracts to advise Iraqi troops.”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Capitalism's Failed Agricultural Policies

Much of agricultural policy is rooted in a view that considers small farms as inefficient. Efficiency and productivity in agriculture, it is argued, can only be delivered by consolidating land, using advanced technology, investing in large-scale irrigation and massive fertilization, and encouraging monoculture in big-scale farms.

After 50 years of applying these practices globally, however, this dictum of conventional wisdom on agriculture is being questioned more than ever before. Simply adding to the pile of food and promoting monocultural crops will not end hunger or malnutrition. Efficiency and quantity-based agricultural policy alone might solve acute hunger for a while, but cannot eradicate chronic and hidden hunger forever, let alone move towards sustainable resource use, food security, and social and economic equity in a dramatically unequal world.

The world is increasingly hungry and malnourished because small farmers are losing access to farmland. According to a new report by GRAIN, Hungry for Land, small farmers produce most of the world’s food but are now squeezed onto less than 25 percent of the world’s farmland: “The overwhelming majority of farming families today have less than two hectares to cultivate and that share is shrinking. Corporate and commercial farms, big biofuel operations and land speculators are pushing millions off their land.”

The report claims that small farmers could feed all nine billion people expected to be on the planet in 2050, provided they have the land, support, participation in decision making, financial, and technological power. But the current global food system is not set up to support them or designed to feed the most people, but rather to provide fuels and food for western markets.
Fortunately in recent years the important role of small farmers in relation to food security is finally being acknowledged in the US and Europe. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) celebrated the year of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming.

Even in the US – where global agroindustries dominate - the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has undertaken several initiatives to support local and regional food systems. “Know Your Farmers, Know Your Food Initiative” coordinates government policy, resources, and outreach efforts related to local and regional food systems.
Besides high nutritious value and reduced fossil fuel use, the “local food” movement from Oregon to Vermont is creating an exciting new laboratory for agricultural innovation. Small farming is even becoming profitable, with recent financial crises prompting many young Americans to return to rural life as they faced difficulty in finding jobs and housing in cities. The rural sector provides food.
 In a sustainable world, the rural and urban sectors must support each other. With modernity and industrialization, urban areas experienced unprecedented growth, while rural communities, dependent on agriculture, were left behind. A large portion of the rural population migrated to cities, which overwhelmed the infrastructures of many cities. Especially in developing world rapid urbanization poses huge environmental challenges.
To reverse such a trend, governments and civil society should encourage rural life. Young farmers should be given subsidies to enable their return to the countryside. Although, it is difficult for most governments to oppose the logic of competitive markets skewed to favour the big agroindustries, it is clear that a food policy based on everyone – except the most powerful – becoming food importers is neither just, effective nor sustainable. It is time to break with failed practices and refocus agricultural policy towards supporting those who produce the majority of world’s food, the small-scale farmers.

from here

'Breaking with failed practices' in all areas is the call from The World Socialist Movement and SOYMB. In reality this means breaking with the capitalist system totally in order to bring democracy to the population of the world. SOYMB and Africa's Socialist Banner posts frequently on matters related to 'small', 'peasant' farmers, family farmers and land holders and the many associated problems with land grabbing, transnational corporations, environmental degradation, poverty and disenfranchisement. Food, being one of our most basic needs, is recognised within the capitalist system as an area ripe for exploitation for profit, at whatever cost to the environment, the producers and the consumers alike. A socialist system, on the other hand, will celebrate the achievement of sufficient, healthy food for all produced by farmers freed from the monetary yoke.

Homeless In America

Three True Stories

Renee Delisle was one of over 3500 homeless people in Santa Cruz when she found out she was pregnant.  The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported she was turned away from a shelter because they did not have space for her.  While other homeless people slept in cars or under culverts, Renee ended up living in an abandoned elevator shaft until her water broke.

Jerome Murdough, 56, a homeless former Marine, was arrested for trespass in New York because he was found sleeping in a public housing stairwell on a cold night.  The New York Times reported that one week later, Jerome died of hypothermia in a jail cell heated to over 100 degrees.

Paula Corb and her two daughters lost their home and have lived in their minivan for four years.  They did laundry in a church annex, went to the bathroom at gas stations, and did their studies under street lamps, according to America Tonight.

Ten Facts about the homeless

  Over half a million people are homeless

  One quarter of homeless people are children

  Tens of thousands of veterans are homeless
  Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness in women
  Many people are homeless because they cannot afford rent 
  There are fewer places for poor people to rent than before

  In the last few years millions have lost their homes

  The Government does not help as much as you think

  One in five homeless people suffer from untreated severe mental illness

 Cities are increasingly making homelessness a crime

For more information on these facts and related issues see here

It's That 1% Again - Confirmed

The top one percent of the wealthiest people on the planet own nearly fifty percent of the world's assets while the bottom fifty percent of the global population combined own less than one percent of the world's wealth.

"These figures give more evidence that inequality is extreme and growing, and that economic recovery following the financial crisis has been skewed in favour of the wealthiest. In poor countries, rising inequality means the difference between children getting the chance to go to school and sick people getting life saving medicines." —Emma Seery, Oxfam International

Those are the findings of an annual report by the investment firm Credit Suisse released Tuesday—the 2014 Global Wealth Report (pdf)—which shows that global economic inequality has surged since the financial collapse of 2008.
According to the report, "global wealth has grown to a new record, rising by $20.1 trillion between mid-2013 and mid-2014, an increase of 8.3%, to reach $263 trillion – more than twice the $117 trillion recorded for the year 2000."

Though the rate of this  wealth creation has been particularly fast over the last year—the fastest annual growth recorded since the pre-crisis year of 2007—the report notes that the benefits of this overall growth have flowed disproportionately to the already wealthy. And the report reveals that as of mid-2014, "the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets.”

Campaigners at Oxfam International, which earlier this put out their own report on global inequality (pdf), said the Credit Suisse report, though generally serving separate aims, confirms what they also found in terms of global inequality.
These figures give more evidence that inequality is extreme and growing, and that economic recovery following the financial crisis has been skewed in favour of the wealthiest. In poor countries, rising inequality means the difference between children getting the chance to go to school and sick people getting life saving medicines,” Oxfam’s head of inequality Emma Seery, told the Guardian in response to the latest study.

In addition to giving an overall view of trends in global wealth, the authors of the Credit Suisse  gave special attention to the issue of inequality in this year's report, noting the increasing level of concern surrounding the topic. "The changing distribution of wealth is now one of the most widely discussed and controversial of topics," they write, "Not least owing to [French economist] Thomas Piketty’s recent account of long-term trends around inequality. We are confident that the depth of our data will make a valuable contribution to the inequality debate."

According to the report:
In almost all countries, the mean wealth of the top decile (i.e. the wealthiest 10% of adults) is more than ten times median wealth. For the top percentile (i.e. the wealthiest 1% of adults), mean wealth exceeds 100 times the median wealth in many countries and can approach 1000 times the median in the most unequal nations. This has been the case throughout most of human history, with wealth ownership often equating with land holdings, and wealth more often acquired via inheritance or conquest rather than talent or hard work. However, a combination of factors caused wealth inequality to trend downwards in high income countries during much of the 20th century, suggesting that a new era had emerged. That downward trend now appears to have stalled, and posssibly gone into reverse.

from here

Peacekeeper Obama

In his September 2009 address to the UN General Assembly, President Obama candidly admitted  “on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others.” He promised to rectify this and declared that “we will strengthen our support for effective peacekeeping, while energizing our efforts to prevent conflicts before they take hold.” It was apparent that emphasis was going to be given to international peacekeeping in accordance with the UN Charter.

When he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, President Obama declared that “we must strengthen UN and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries.”

 123 countries have 84,743 troops (plus some 12,000 police and 1,700 observers) in the 16 missions, which is admirable.  Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, and Pakistan contribute around 7,000 each, with South Africa, China and others at 2,000 and even tiny Honduras helping out with 38.  And how many armed services’ personnel do you think the United States provides to the United Nations in the cause of international peacekeeping.

 How many of the million and a quarter in America’s armed forces are serving in UN Peacekeeping Operations? -  32.

Obama’s statements about improving international peacekeeping were humbug. There has been no intention on the part of the United States to embrace peacekeeping under the UN Charter. 

The US Poor

16% of American children are among more than 48 million who live in poverty, shows a report by the US Census Bureau. The Census Bureau’s special report, titled the Supplemental Poverty Measure, incorporates items such as tax payments and work expenses in family resource estimates in addition to an individual's cash income.

The report shows that there is a higher poverty level in major metropolitan areas, as much as $30,000 or even higher, as the people have to pay more for food, shelter, and transportation.

Under the supplemental measure, California has a poverty rate of 23.4 percent compared to the official 16 percent last year, which means poverty outweighs any government benefits the poor receive there.

About 11 million people are also being pushed to poverty by medical expenses, according to the Census Bureau.

Robert Doar, a fellow of poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. said that the US government policies do not help people “work more and at higher wages so that they can escape poverty."

The truth about immigration

People’s worries about immigration are real and legitimate; new arrivals inevitably create challenges for a society that faces rationed public services. The numbers of eastern Europeans able to come freely to Britain because of EU freedom of labour mobility has driven the issue of immigration up the list of things that cause people most worry. It is now number two across the country (health and the NHS is the number one worry). One time, the target of immigration fears were Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans – all rolled together in the derogatory label “Paki” . It was they who were stretching public services, taking up housing and causing problems in schools. Earlier it had been West Indians, Jews and the Irish. The contempt directed against immigrants from poorer EU member states for "leeching off the state" and burdening our economy is misplaced. According to a recent European Commission report, immigrants from EU countries to Britain paid more in tax than they received in benefits. Poles have made a net contribution to the UK in economic terms and have been readily absorbed into Britain's labour market.

Jonathan Portes director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research answers some of the myths on EU migrants.

What were the impacts of immigration on jobs and wages? Research seems to say not much.Wages are generally higher and jobs easier to come by in areas of high immigration like London While Clacton, for example, where the immigrant population is less than half the national average – wages are 20% below the national average, while the proportion of people on benefit is far higher.

 A government summary of the evidence concluded that there was “little evidence in the literature of a statistically significant impact from EU migration on native employment outcomes”. So it doesn’t appear that they take our jobs. On wages, the picture is more mixed, with some evidence immigration actually pushes wages up overall, while exerting downward pressure on wages for low-skilled workers. But as yet the impacts seem pretty small – certainly compared to other factors such as technological change, employers’ increasing demand for skilled workers and the positive impact of the national minimum wage.

Many will ask how can this be and say isn’t it just the economics of supply and demand – if you increase supply of workers, wages will fall and if an immigrant takes a job, then a British worker can’t.  What people who say this (and many do) usually don’t understand is more immigrant workers does increase the supply of labour but, because immigrants earn money, spend money, set up businesses and so on, it also increases the demand for labour. And it’s true that, if an immigrant takes a job, then a British worker can’t take that job – but it doesn’t meant he or she won’t find another one that may have been created, directly or indirectly, as a result of immigration. So immigration may have a negative or positive impact on jobs and wages for British workers; so far, the evidence suggests that the direct impacts have been rather small. Over the longer run, however, the indirect impacts are likely to be larger, and here the evidence suggests that the impact is likely to be positive. Immigrants have different skills and experiences to native workers, so they complement rather than substitute for natives, helping raise wages and productivity for everybody.  It can hardly be claimed that unemployment at 6% constitutes an emergency when it’s close to twice that in the eurozone. With trade unions too weak to check the local wage effects felt in some sectors, immigration continues to stir unease.

Some immigrants do abuse the benefit system – as do a lot more Britons. But the evidence that a significant number of people come here just to claim benefits is very thin. When the government was asked by the European commission to substantiate its claim that this was a real problem, its response was that the commission was placing too much emphasis on “quantitative evidence” (that is, numbers and facts). The government’s own figures show that migrants are about half as likely to be in receipt of a DWP out-of-work benefit as people born here. Many migrants from the EU, however, are in low-paid work (including self-employment) and so receive tax credits; as the numbers settling here permanently have grown, and they start having kids, this has become quite a significant phenomenon. But it’s not benefit tourism.

Recent immigrants from the EU are disproportionately healthy and below pensionable age and considerably more likely to be in work, than the average Briton. And since most public spending goes on pensions, health care for older people and education, it is hardly surprising the overall impact is likely to be positive in the short term, so long as they are not driven underground and remain within the tax-paying economy. .Without EU migrants, the deficit would certainly be bigger than it is now. Research here at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggests that, if the prime minister were actually to meet his target of reducing net migration to tens of thousands, the very long-term impact (looking out to 2060) would be significantly higher taxes (or lower public spending) of about £30bn a year in today’s money. The Office of Budget Responsibility has produced very similar projections.

It is accepted that immigration increases demand for the main public services – health, education, etc. But since these are funded by taxation, it’s the net costs and benefits that matter; overall, stopping EU migration would cost public services more in lost tax revenue than it would save in reduced demand. And migrants often work in public services, especially the NHS.  There are significant local pressures, particularly where funding is slow to respond to population growth, as it has been for schools.  Despite the pressures of a growing population and a very large number of children for whom English is not the first language, London schools significantly outperform the rest of the country, especially for more disadvantaged children. And recent research suggests that the presence of children from eastern Europe actually improved the educational attainment of kids here already. The pressure of increasing population on housing, public services and transport, especially in London. These are problems of success, not failure, (but none the less real.) At present the unease is answered not through new homes or new schools and hospitals but instead by hollow promises that will ultimately disappoint.

And what about the alternative - increased border controls. Would any limit apply on a country-by-country basis, which would seem arbitrary and potentially unfair? Or would they apply to all EU nationals, so if we let in more Lithuanians then we’d have to let in fewer Germans? What about Brits living elsewhere in the EU, or moving there in future? What about the two million or more EU citizens currently living here? Would they be entitled to go home and then return here, or would they have to apply for a work permit next time? What about “mixed” families, an ever growing number? Would those married to a British citizen, or with a British child, be exempt? The EU is not the US, but you only have to imagine how Americans would react if they were asked to forgo their constitutional right to move and settle without hindrance between states. With firms free to seek out returns for their capital anywhere, it is in the interests of European workers to be able to go where they can command a better wage.

In an Independent on Sunday poll today, support for free movement of labour has risen from 23 per cent to 36 per cent since last year, although more people, 46 per cent, are still opposed to it. In the long view, the tide of opinion on Europe may be turning.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Low pay and unemployment for young workers

Under-30s in particular are being priced out of owning their own homes, paid lower wages and left with diminishing job prospects. Those without the benefits of wealthy parents are condemned to languish on “the wrong side of the divide that is opening up in British society”, according to Alan Milburn, the former Labour cabinet minister who chairs the government’s Commission on Social Mobility.

Milburn said: “It is depressing. The current generation of young people are educated better and for longer than any previous one. But young people are losing out on jobs, earnings and housing.
“This recession has been particularly hard on young people. The ratio of youth to adult unemployment rates was just over two to one in 1996, compared to just under three to one today. On any definition we are nowhere near the chancellor’s objective of “full employment” for young people. Young people are the losers in the recovery to date.”

The median pay of a 22- to 29-year-old, £9.73 an hour, was more than 10% lower today than it was in 2006, according to Milburn. The pay of 18- to 21-year-olds, £6.73, is 8.8% lower. Both are at the same wage level as they were in 1998.  The Institute for Fiscal Studies has highlighted that for those aged between 22 and 30, median earnings are 15% lower than before the recession, driven by a combination of lower hourly pay and fewer hours of work. This decrease is roughly twice the size as earnings decreases for the 30-59 age group.

The proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds in work fell from 65% at the start of 2007 to 56% at the end of 2012 and has only now recovered to 60.8%, despite some consistent economic growth in the last two years. He said: “Youth unemployment is still higher than before the recession and by the time of the next election around half a million young people will still be without work, enough to fill Wembley stadium five times over.

Milburn notes that even the Saturday job has become a thing of the past. The proportion of 16- to 17-year-olds in full-time education who also work has fallen from 37% to 18% in a decade.

The struggle for democracy

In the past weeks parts of central Hong Kong were brought to a complete standstill as huge crowds in the tens of thousands gathered protesting at China's plans to vet candidates when Hong Kong holds elections in 2017. They were demanding that the central government in Beijing allow a fully free vote for the territory's leader. A policy of non-violence and the absence of any weapons beyond primitive gas masks and the occasional makeshift barricade have been common.  When faced with lines of riot police the tactic has been to talk and reason, giving ground if necessary before surging back. The use of tear gas by police backfired.  Demonstrators in Hong Kong have re-taken streets in the Mong Kok district, just hours after they were cleared by the authorities. The police responded by using batons and pepper spray but they were overwhelmed by the sheer number of demonstrators. Protest group Occupy Central issued a statement saying that the clearance operations ordered by the government had "triggered a new wave of occupations and worsened relations between police and citizens".

The mass demonstrations managed to galvanise public opinion on the importance of having genuine choices in elections. And many observers now find Hong Kong people more willing to take to the streets in support of other democratic causes. The Hong Kong protests are being seen as China's biggest political challenge since the Tiananmen democracy movement of 1989.

The World Socialist Movement applauds those workers around the world who fight at massive risk to themselves for basic civil liberties and trade union rights, for the freedom to hold meetings and participate in free elections. We challenge the notion that revolution cannot at the same time be democratic and planned, cannot be participative and structured. The fight for a measure of democracy world-wide is an essential part of the struggle for world socialism. After all, if workers are not able to fight for something as basic as the vote, they are unlikely to be able to work for the transformation of society from one based on production for profit to one based on production for human need.  We are, however, under no illusion about the nature of democracy inside capitalism. We confront the myth that capitalism and democracy are interdependent. Where it is available to workers we take the viewpoint that capitalist democracy can and should be used. But not in order to chase the ever diminishing returns of reforming capitalism. Instead we see democracy as an important instrument available to class-conscious workers for making a genuine and democratic revolution. The realisation that genuine democracy cannot exist in capitalist society does not alter the fact that the elbow room already secured by struggle can be turned against our masters. The right to vote, for instance, can become a powerful instrument to end our servitude and to achieve genuine democracy and freedom.

If democracy is to mean more than one vote nationally and another regionally every few years, an arrangement that most will agree displays a huge deficit of democracy and does little to represent public opinion, then an alternative system must be devised. An alternative system involving the general public in all decisions which impact upon them, their communities and local environments, one which embraces the notion that all are entitled to be active participants in the local and global community. Not just socialists, but large numbers of people sense the lack of democracy in present society. Huge and ever increasing sections of the electorate, not only in Britain, but globally, feel, and by now know, that with the prevailing political ideas, the outcome of elections is not going to make any real difference to their way of life.

Even now, many people realise that there is something seriously wrong with the present system. However, it is the awareness of an alternative to this which is missing. The task of socialists is to get people to think for themselves, without the need for leaders. When more people consider the genuine socialist, democratic alternative to capitalism, those who give it support, will swell the size of the already existing world socialist movement. As the number of socialists grows, the ideas will spread among the people they come into contact with, particularly in a world where those ideas can be communicated so much more quickly than in the past. A series of political, democratic acts will be needed to establish the truly democratic society of socialism. People with a socialist consciousness will unite and upon achieving a majority, measured by voting, will be in a position to establish the new society.

 Working people with an understanding of socialism can utilise their vote to signify that the overwhelming majority demand change and to bring about social revolution. For while democracy cannot exist outside of socialism, socialism cannot be achieved without the overwhelming majority of working people demanding it.

Democracy will have real meaning: a society of production of goods and services for human need, with ownership and control of the means of production and distribution by all the people. Since the division into rich and poor will have been abolished, it will be a classless society. The precise, day-to-day details of the running of this future society will be up to the people at the time, but what we can be sure of is that just as there will be free access to goods and services for everyone, without any need for money, so there will be open access to the administration of society for those interested in particular issues, such as food production, health, education, building of houses, the environment and local matters. Probably, there will be local administrations, perhaps in the form of councils, which will be reflected at wider levels, such as regional and global. The new democratic society will most likely involve participation of delegates in these councils. The consequence of this is that certain delegates could be subject to recall, if the electorate were dissatisfied with their activities. These factors would emphasise the genuine democracy and choice available to everyone.

These are enormously exciting times because the internet opens up new possibilities for political discussion and participation in democracy. This would not be just a matter of e-voting but of true e-participation, an online civic commons, a democratically-moderated space that is nobody’s property. The process of making a revolution means reinventing a democracy fit for society on a human scale. A genuine democracy can flourish only in socialist society. The democratic organisation of socialist society will necessarily require the full participation of all free and equal people, without leaders, to vote and decide on the issues that determine how the welfare of all can best be served. It will end forever the degradation of wage slavery, hierarchy and coercion and provide the economic basis for free people to become creative, unfettered to express their diverse and individual talents and be fulfilled as human beings.

Burning up the planet

Oxfam describes as a “toxic triangle” the “political inertia, financial short-termism and vested fossil fuel interests,” which must be dismantled if climate change is to be controlled. Fossil fuel advocates policies threaten to raise global temperatures, leaving 400 million people in jeopardy of hunger and drought by 2060, Oxfam UK warned in its report ‘Food, Fossil Fuels and Filthy Finance’. A powerful and lucrative fossil fuel industry, spends up to €44 million a year on lobbying EU governments in pursuit of policies that bolster its profits.

Oxfam’s Chief Executive, Mark Goldring, warned the fossil fuel industry, with the help of EU governments and investors, is effectively “trapping us into a warming world.”  EU governments and profit-driven investors are empowering the industry to recklessly pursue myopic profit-centered interests at the expense of ordinary citizens. “The world’s poorest are already being hit hardest and millions more will be made hungry by climate change,” he added.

 $674 billion was spent on fossil fuel energy in 2012. The NGO’s report revealed investment in the industry was bolstered by convenient tax breaks, incentives brokered by governments and approximately $1.9 trillion in subsidies each year.  $6 trillion will be spent in further developing the industry over the next 10 years.

Fossil fuels are responsible for 80 percent of CO2 emissions – the primary contributor to rising temperatures, which threaten well-being, economies and food security. Profit comes before everything, even people and the planet.

From here 

Free the Wage Slaves (2)

In every action of resistance by the workers against their exploitation the Socialist Party of Great Britain is on the side of the workers.  When workers are lock in combat with their employer, through strike action, socialists as an organised group should assist their fellow workers in whatever way they can, such as writing articles and leaflets from the workers point of view, speaking on pertinent working class issues when invited to do so at union meetings; even offering our party headquarters to strike committees if need be. Members of the Socialist Party are involved in supporting and encouraging industrial organisation and action to improve wages and working conditions. Socialists are active at all levels of the trade union movement - branch officers, shop stewards, works conveners, organisers, committee men, conference delegates, regular branch attenders - and in many unions and industries. Socialists are active unionists because they are class conscious workers; they know that there is an irreconcilable conflict of interest between workers and capitalists and  that all governments have to act as agents of the capitalists.

The old live in poverty - the rich get richer

The Age UK charity released a report on Thursday, saying 900,000 of the pensioners live in “severe poverty.” According to the charity, hundreds of thousands of British pensioners are struggling to pay for basic needs such as heating, fresh food, and warm clothes during the winter.

The report said one of the main problems for the affected pensioners is that they do not receive benefits that they are entitled to under government schemes.

“It is nothing short of a scandal that there are still so many vulnerable older people in the UK living in poverty…when billions of pounds in benefits are unclaimed,” said Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director.

The charity’s report comes just days after a separate report showed a rise in financial inequality in the UK, with Britain being the only country among the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations where inequality has grown since 2000.

According to the report by Credit Suisse, the UK’s richest 10 percent control 54.1 percent of the country’s wealth compared to the 51.5 percent in 2000.

US Inequality still widening

Janet Yellen, the US Federal Reserve chairwoman, said at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Economic Conference on Inequality of Economic Opportunity “The wealthiest 5 percent of American households held 54 percent of all wealth reported in the 1989 survey. Their share rose to 61 percent in 2010 and reached 63 percent in 2013,” she said, adding, “By contrast, the rest of those in the top half of the wealth distribution --families that in 2013 had a net worth between $81,000 and $1.9 million -- held 43 percent of wealth in 1989 and only 36 percent in 2013.”

The Fed chair went on to say that the lower half of households by wealth held only three percent of wealth in 1989 and just one percent last year. She said that income and wealth inequality are at their highest levels since the 19th century. “The distribution of income and wealth in the United States has been widening more or less steadily for several decades, to a greater extent than in most advanced countries.”

A study by Harvard University Business School revealed that while large US companies were recovering their competitiveness internationally, workers continue to struggle for better pay and benefits.

Free The Wage Slaves (1)

The capitalist world is rotten to the core and the future looks grim. But the future is in our hands.The Socialist Party rarely calls upon our fellow workers to do anything but think for themselves but today we ask them to do more. We demand that on this day of trade union protest they cease their allegiances to those political parties that have brought them and can only bring them misery and strife. We shall not be identifying with the TUC’s slogan that “Britain needs a pay-rise” because we do not just want to win a better deal for wage-slaves. We want to abolish slavery. We are wage-slavery abolitionists. The unions have been fighting over and over again the same battles they were fighting in the nineteenth century, without ever achieving their aim of "fair wages" and security.

We are also throwing down the gauntlet that trade unionists disassociate themselves with a party of political careerists ho treat the workers with  contempt. Expressions and outbursts of class struggle among the workers can be used as a means of educating workers to the real political struggle - socialism. They should not be used as a means to gain leadership over the workers, or to lead them along a political path they do not understand. We are determined to bring the day closer when the working class no longer any more use for the Labour Party’s double-dealing quackery. What of the TUC, supposedly a co-ordinating body for trade-union struggles? Representing as it does the political leanings of its affiliated big unions, and working hand in glove with the Labour Party leaders, its preoccupations has not been seriously to organize working-class industrial action but to manoeuvre to secure the return of a Labour government at the next election.The Labour Party have never had the interest of the workers at heart.

Trade union action is necessary if the working class are to prevent themselves from being driven into the ground by the never-satisfied demands of profit. We should not deceive ourselves into believing that joining a union will free us from exploitation. This does not mean that the working class should sit back and do nothing. If you accept the logic of capitalism, you play by its rules – and by its rules, savage government spending cuts are just necessary and inevitable. By its rules, to fight against cuts and for higher wages is as senseless as trying to shake fruit from a dead tree. Without a decent anti-capitalist argument, and an idea of what we are for, we¹ve lost before we’ve begun. That’s why socialism is so important. Yes, it is, as we are often told, a ‘nice idea’. But when it takes hold of workers, it could become much more than that.

The inspiring struggles for democracy and against austerity we are seeing around the world have a common cause – they are the divided and isolated battles of workers against the relatively united attack of the world's ruling class in its attempt to resolve its economic crisis. We need to follow the ruling-class example – come together and organise in order to resolve the crisis in our way. That is, by organising a political party dedicated to taking state power out of the hands of the ruling class, and to establishing socialism. And given the extremely serious nature of the ecological catastrophe we are all facing, this is not just a nice idea. Increasingly, it's a matter of survival.  Within capitalism the trade union struggle over wages and conditions must go on but the real struggle is to take over the means of wealth production and distribution. It may seem rather too obvious, to those fetishising "industrial struggle", but what the cause of socialism needs is socialists. The struggles of the working class of the last two hundred years should tell us one thing - that it is futile to seek to fight a rearguard action against capitalism.

Turn Gaza into sweatshops

Tony Blair’s plan for Palestine:
“The potential for growth in light manufacturing hinges on the competitive wages of a young and educated Palestinian workforce, low operating costs and a positive investment climate.
 Geographical proximity to Israel and Arab markets, as well as attractive bilateral trade agreements with major global markets, could provide unique incentives for multinational companies to set up competitive production plants in new Palestinian special economic zones...If Gazan manufacturers were granted access to Israeli and West Bank markets, Gazan manufacturers would likely retain specific “niche” advantages over competitors in Turkey and China, e.g. for high-end designers in Israeli clothing markets requiring relatively small, customized orders not handled well by bulk-order manufacturers, as well as quick delivery of specific inputs (e.g., zippers, buttons) for production”

That is what Blair wants for Gaza. New Bangladesh/Cambodian-type sweatshops based on chep labour to ensure higher profits for Israeli businesses.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dollars and Elections

 The oil giant Chevron has a major refinery in Richmond and has been in a battle with city officials and residents over safety at the facility following a large fire in 2012. The current mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, is an oil company critic who filed suit against the energy company following the 2012 disaster.

Chevron, using its virtually unlimited financial resources, has targeted candidates for city council who who have voiced criticism of the company by backing its own preferred slate of city council  candidates to the tune of $3million. Chevron is trying to buy Richmond City Hall at $120 per voter.

That's called oligarchy, not democracy. That’s capitalism, folks.

from here

Ebola And Private Interests

Sierra Leone has waved the white flag in the face of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Its meager infrastructure has buckled under the onslaught of a disease which could have been curtailed. The announcement that infected patients will be treated at home because there is no longer the capacity to treat them in hospitals is a surrender which did not have to happen. Not only did Europe and the United States turn a blind eye to sick and dying Africans but they did so with the help of an unlikely perpetrator.

The World Health Organization is “the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.” Its very name implies that it takes direction from and serves the needs of people all over the world but the truth is quite different. The largest contributor to the WHO budget is not a government. It is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which provides more funding than either the United States or the United Kingdom. WHO actions and priorities are no longer the result of the consensus of the world’s people but top down decision making from wealthy philanthropists.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation may appear to be a savior when it provides $300 million to the WHO budget, but those dollars come with strings attached. WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan admitted as much when she said, “My budget [is] highly earmarked, so it is driven by what I call donor interests.” Instead of being on the front line when a communicable disease crisis appears, it spends its time administering what Gates and his team have determined is best.

The Ebola horror continues as it has for the last ten months in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The cruelty of the world’s lack of concern for Africa and all Africans in the diaspora was evident by the inaction of nations and organizations that are supposed to respond in times of emergencies. While African governments and aid organizations sounded the alarm the WHO did little because its donor driven process militates against it. The world of private dollars played a role in consigning thousands of people to death.
Critics of the Gates Foundation appeared long before this current Ebola outbreak. In 2008 the WHO’s malaria chief, Dr. Arata Kochi, complained about the conflicts of interest created by the foundation. In an internal memo leaked to the New York Times he complained that the world’s top malaria researchers were “locked up in a 'cartel' with their own research funding being linked to those of others within the group.” In other words, the standards of independent peer reviewed research were cast aside in order to please the funder.

Private philanthropy is inherently undemocratic. It is a top down driven process in which the wealthy individual tells the recipient what they will and will not do. This is a problematic system for charities of all kinds and is disastrous where the health of world’s people is concerned. Health care should be a human right, not a charity, and the world’s governments should determine how funds to protect that right are spent. One critic put it very pointedly. “…the Gates Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates, do not believe in the public sector, they do not believe in a democratic, publically owned, publically accountable system.”
There is little wonder why the Ebola outbreak caught the WHO so flat footed as they spent months making mealy mouthed statements but never coordinating an effective response. The Gates foundation is the WHO boss, not governments, and if they weren’t demanding action, then the desperate people affected by Ebola weren’t going to get any.

Privatization of public resources is a worldwide scourge. Education, pensions, water, and transportation are being taken out of the hands of the public and given to rich people and corporations. The Ebola crisis is symptomatic of so many others which go unaddressed or improperly addressed because no one wants to bite the hands that do the feeding.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged an additional $50 million to fight the current Ebola epidemic but that too is problematic, as Director General Chan describes. “When there’s an event, we have money. Then after that, the money stops coming in, then all the staff you recruited to do the response, you have to terminate their contracts.” The WHO should not be lurching from crisis to crisis, SARS, MERS, or H1N1 influenza based on the whims of philanthropy. The principles of public health should be carried out by knowledgeable medical professionals who are not dependent upon rich people for their jobs.

The Gates are not alone in using their deep pockets to confound what should be publicly held responsibilities. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was contributing $25 million to fight Ebola. His donation will go to the Centers for Disease Control Foundation. Most Americans are probably unaware that such a foundation even exists. Yet there it is, run by a mostly corporate board which will inevitably interfere with the public good. The WHO and its inability to coordinate the fight against Ebola tells us that public health is just that, public. If the CDC response to Ebola in the United States fails it may be because it falls prey to the false siren song of giving private interests control of the people’s resources and responsibilities.

from here

Orwell Irony - Big Brother


HAITI? Humanitarianism Or Imperialist Occupation?

This week the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH. This deployment is not based on any principles of humanitarianism, but rather is an imperialist occupation which seeks to make sure that the island’s government can implement and maintain repressive policies favourable to international investors. The occupation force must be withdrawn. EDITOR'S NOTE

This article was written just days before the U.N. Security Council announced a renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for another year.

On 15 October, the United Nations Security Council will meet to “debate” the extension of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) which has acted as an occupying force in the country since the summer of 2004. MINUSTAH was created to put an end to the Multinational Interim Force (primarily made up of U.S., French, Canadian and Chilean troops) which occupied Haiti after an internationally backed coup d’état ousted the democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas party from power on 29 February 2004.

During these ten years, MINUSTAH has compiled a horrific record of human rights abuses, including but not limited to extrajudicial murder, an epidemic of sexual assault against Haitian men, women and children, the repression of peaceful political protests, in addition to unleashing cholera through criminal negligence which has caused the death of over 9,000 people and infecting nearly a million more. Despite these well-documented abuses, the historical record has shown that the Security Council will mostly likely renew MINUSTAH for another year without any thought to damage being done to Haiti. As evidence of how little resistance there is to the renewal of MINUSTAH’s mandate in the United Nations, on August 21, MINUSTAH’s budget was extended to June 2015 – clearly signalling that the occupation is certain to continue.

whole article here

People from countries around the world whose troops are stationed in Haiti under a UN mandate ought to wake up to the reality that this is an occupation force, serving imperialist interests and deeply hated by the Haitian people on account of serious, well-known human rights abuses over the past decade EDITOR'S NOTE

The UN Security Council extended the MINUSTAH mandate for a year on Tuesday.

Most people across the Americas are probably unaware of the fact that the people of Haiti live today under an occupation. They are more likely to be aware of the recent passing of the infamous dictator and president-for-life than to know about the military force imposed on Haitian soil.

Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, erstwhile dictator of Haiti, died of a heart attack on 4 October 2014. He had been ousted by a popular movement in 1986, but retained wealth and cronies until his death. News emerged from the capital Port-au-Prince on 10 October that the Duvalierist regime in Haiti would not provide a state funeral to its favoured son – in deference to popular sentiment that still runs deep.

One week after Baby Doc’s last breath, the Campaign to End the Occupation of Haiti (based in Toronto) held an informational picket to highlight the abusive role MINUSTAH – the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, charged with ensuring a compliant and neoliberal Haiti – plays on the island.

MINUSTAH was charged with keeping order in Haiti, following the coup that removed democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. The coup had its origin in a meeting just outside of Ottawa with officials from the United States, Canada and France plotting a post-Aristide Haiti.

The abuses this international force has directed against Haitians are legion: sexual assault of minors (which resulted in, among others, 111 Sri Lankan soldiers and three officers being returned to their country of origin), political repression directed against entire neighbourhoods, and extrajudicial murders. Children were shot at and others killed during violent MINUSTAH suppression of protests in 2005, where 41 armored carriers transported personnel into a pro-Aristide neighbourhood. During this operation, these UN troops used over 22,000 rounds of ammunition.

To add base insult to the injuries, a cholera outbreak – originating in October 2010 at a MINUSTAH base – has thus far killed 9,200 people and infected over 750,000. In other words, MINUSTAH personnel evidently saw fit to dump untreated, contaminated sewage into the Artibonite River, an important source of water for domestic and agricultural purposes for Haitians.

These infuriating truths are symptoms of an underlying power imbalance between Haiti and the rest of the world. Wikileaks reports that a classified cable from US ambassador to Haiti, Janet Sanderson, stated on 1 October 2008 that “a premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government…vulnerable to…resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces – reversing gains of the last two years.” In spite of a part of MINUSTAH’s mandate being “to support the constitutional and political processes; to assist in organizing, monitoring, and carrying out free and fair municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections,” Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular political and electoral organization in Haiti, has been barred from all elections since the 2004 coup. Aristide once led the party.

One aim of the Aristide government, which Sanderson’s cable refers to by innuendo, was to seek repayment of the 90 million gold francs (now worth over $22 billion) paid out to France between 1825 and 1947, as compensation for the slaveholders’ loss of property in enslaved Afrikans land resulting from the Haitian Revolution. Aristide’s claim for compensation infuriated France. His demand that France repay the extracted independence ransom is widely seen as a factor that country’s role in engineering the 2004 coup.

And so Aristide was removed, and MINUSTAH moved in. The UN’s façade of political neutrality here is unmasked. Duvalier is dead, but his role has been recast in the current regime of President Martelly, with his Duvalierist ministers and administrative approach.

whole article here

It is the poor who gives alms

Americans, on average, donate 3 percent of their income to charities, a number that has not changed much over the years.

Between 2006 and 2012, the country’s wealthiest reduced the percentage of their income that they donated to charities by 4.6 percent., despite  the wealthiest of Americans received 95 percent of income increases since 2009.

Over the same period, middle- and lower-income Americans increased their charitable giving by 4.5 percent and that after only having an average of 0.1 percent increase in income.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy website editor Stacey Palmer explained  “Lower- and middle-income people know people who lost their jobs or are homeless, and they worry that they themselves are a day away from losing their jobs. They’re very sensitive to the needs of other people and recognize that these years have been hard.”


The British launderette

Some 19 British firms are at the center of an investigation into in a mammoth global money-laundering operation. The scheme was allegedly contrived to make $20bn (£12.5bn) worth of ill-gotten gains appear legitimate. The illicit funds are thought to have originated from criminal gangs and corrupt officials across the globe, attempting to make their dirty money appear 'clean' so it can be spent free of suspicion. Vital to the process of money laundering, is the creation of an impression the funds have been earned legitimately. As a result, criminals often work to cultivate documentation that indicates their tainted funds stem from honourable origins. In past cases, criminals have often taken over legitimate firms for the purpose of laundering dirty money. But when illicit funds generated from criminal activity amount to billions, such straightforward schemes become impractical, and more complex laundering operations are required.

An investigation carried out by The Independent and UK NGO the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) uncovered a complex international web of companies, which are implicated in the scheme.  Britain’s lax regulatory architecture has made the UK a particularly alluring destination for global organized crime syndicates looking to launder ill-gotten gains. Because directors of British firms are afforded a high degree of financial secrecy under UK law, the identities of the scam's primary architects are extremely difficult to determine.

 Front companies were created in Britain which conducted fake and fraudulent business deals amongst one another. These ‘shell companies’ subsequently sued one another in Moldovan courts, demanding they be repaid loans amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds.

As part of the scam, a Moldovan judge would issue a ruling in favor of the claimant firm, which subsequently received a large payment from the opposing company. Related judgments resulted in the creation of court documents that legitimised such transactions. But rather than flow from one UK firm to another, the funds were channeled from Russia – an international money laundering hot spot, which attracts gangs and corrupt officials from across the globe looking to ‘clean’ ill-gotten gains. Generally such dirty money stems from political corruption, white collar crime, human trafficking, drug dealing and prostitution.

Once the illicit funds arrived in the accounts of British front companies in Moldova, the money was funneled into a bank in Latvia. Latvia’s banking system is integrated with the EU, and considerably well regulated. As a result, this final phase of the operation bolstered the tainted funds' apparent legitimacy. Because of its lax financial regulation, Britain has become a focal point for money laundering schemes. Front companies can be set up on British soil with little oversight. Multiple money laundering operations, involving swathes of UK companies, are thought to be used by criminal gangs and corrupt officials from places as far-flung as Syria, Japan, and South America. The UK firms under investigation were registered at regular office buildings in London, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Birmingham, according to the Independent. However, their true ownership is obscured by a web of shell companies and nominee directors in offshore tax havens, such as the Seychelles, the Bahamas and the Marshall Islands. Nominee directors are third party individuals officially registered as administrators of offshore companies. This allows true benefactors or managers to remain entirely anonymous. They are often central to aggressive, yet legal, tax avoidance schemes.

 One UK firm under suspicion for involvement in the scam has listed its shareholders as two untraceable firms in Panama and Belize. Another firm, Westburn Enterprises, succeeded in claiming half a billion US dollars from a guarantor in Russia through Moldovan courts. Despite allegedly conducting such vast transactions, the firm is registered as a small accountancy company in Edinburgh called Axiano. Although Westburn Enterprises claims its director is Marios Papntoniou, he is merely the boss of the Edinburgh-based accountancy firm. Axiano is not implicated in any criminality, and ultimately has nothing to do with Westburn’s operations. Rather, the accountancy outfit is but one of many UK firms that legally sets up offshore companies, which are shrouded in secrecy to guarantee their anonymity.  Marios Papntoniou declined to comment on Westburn Enterprises’ activities on the grounds of client confidentially. Papntoniou said he could not speak on behalf of his client unless asked to do so by police officials.

Another UK firm, allegedly being probed, is London-registered Valemont Properties. The address of its director, Damian James Calderbank, is listed in two Dubai office blocks and a London-based office. Calderbank is thought to be a nominee director, and utterly unaware of the firm’s activities. But Valemont Properties' director reportedly holds an additional 21 UK directorships in Britain, has resigned from 333 such positions, and was formally the director of 227 UK firms that have been dissolved. He is also a director of multiple other offshore firms. Two other UK firms under investigation are allegedly registered at addresses that correspond to PO Boxes in Edinburgh, Shepherd Market and London. A further three firms are registered to a space in a Birmingham building, which is estimated to house approximately 1,300 firms. Moldova’s Ministry of Justice reveal one of these Birmingham firms was awarded half a billion dollars in a single court decision.

According to financial regulation experts and campaigners, Britain has long been a favored destination for foreign fraudsters and criminals to hide their ill-gotten cash. Systemic failures make it impossible to pursue the billions laundered directly into onshore British financial organizations. In 2013, Britain’s former chief anti-money laundering officer, David Thomas, cautioned that many investigations into such scams fail to gain momentum. Thomas said the Home Office is to blame for its inadequate responses to foreign requests to track illicit funds.

A reminder of those world leading banks who were caught laundering the funds of the Mexican drug cartels.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

No more servitude


The TUC has organised a mass demonstration in London under the banner of Britain Needs a Pay Rise. It will take place on Saturday, and will begin with a march through central London, culminating in a rally in Hyde Park. This will be the fourth march that the TUC has organised since the coalition came to power. The first – the March for the Alternative – in March 2011 saw 500,000 people attending a huge march and rally in London.

The most striking feature of the wave of unrest sweeping the working class to-day is the contradictory character of the claims put forward. Many people have an unwarranted optimistic view that capitalism can be tamed and controlled.  Enthusiasm and good intentions they may have.  Understanding is what they do not have. Hasten the day when many will make mature socialist demands for a world of free access, common ownership of the world's wealth, and the abolition of the wages system. The reformers are seeking to attract people who do not want capitalism changed but merely changes in capitalism.  Their ideals are not merely hampered but hamstrung. The need for popular support came into conflict with their avowed aims, bartering its beliefs for votes. By accepting this society they are forced to work for it, not against it. In the class struggle it is not only what you are against but what you are for that counts. Workers who advocate capital accumulation and production for profit are in the end just as welcome to the capitalist class as members of the élite itself, provided they realize on which side their bread is buttered.

The market system doesn’t work for the likes of us. It’s for the people who own industry or land and they are doing very well out of it, growing richer and richer through our hard work. For workers the real value of wages has shrunk and  welfare benefits are being cut. Housing is becoming less affordable for many, rents are rising and benefits are being cut. Unemployment is on the rise, especially among young people. The truth is that the system is run in the interests of those who own it. For governments, the  wealthy are more important than us receiving education or health care. So long as we depend on an economy based on the market with the private or state ownership of the means of living we don’t possess much of a future.

In our workplaces we co-operate and work together. If we didn’t need to toil for our employers. and we owned the land and all the places of work ourselves, we could make all the things we need, without buying and selling and without bosses. If we want to go beyond the limits forced upon us by the pressures of the profit system then a vision beyond capitalism has to be on the agenda. While it’s important that we use trade unions to defend ourselves and get the best deals we possibly can under the present system we can also build towards a movement to bring about a better future.  That future we call socialism, a future where we would have common and democratic ownership of the resources of the world. A future that will work if the majority of us want it and are prepared to work for it using democratic struggle to create a world of common wealth.

The word "unity" symbolises an idealist condition that appeals to the gregariousness of human beings. Having this fine appeal, it is continuously used by all sorts of unscrupulous people and bodies as a cloak.  The charm of the "idea" of unity has produced phrases which have become of daily use, such as "there's safety in numbers," "we sink or swim together," and many other common expressions of speech. All this indicates the "social" aspirations of human beings, and challenges the capitalist conception of "it's every person for themselves." The socialist asks this question about unity: Will it help abolish the wages system and establish socialism? If it will not, then it is futile except for political con-artists to dupe workers. So to answer the question  "Why don't you socialists unite?" is that before socialists can unite we must be sure they are socialists. with  a clear conception of fundamental principles. Much time and energy has been continuously wasted in fruitless groupings and re-groupings. The thousand and one stunts, reform measures or immediate demands have not had the slightest unifying effect, but has merely bred bitterness and disillusionment. This does not mean that socialists do not want unity. We do but it must not be chimerical or ephemeral, but solid and lasting. Such unity can only come about on the basis of correctness in theory, which will ensure correctness in practice. In no other way is unity possible. The growth of socialist knowledge is a guarantee of a united working class, therefore spread socialist knowledge.

CAPITALISM is a system of survival of the fittest. A system of exploitation whereby there exists multi-billionaires and the impoverished. A system that encourages selfishness and individual promotion. A system that allows unearned income from profit, interest and rent. A system that creates wars between national states over necessary assets. A system that restricts progress when the interests of the capitalist are not met. Capitalism does NOT stand for freedom of the individual.

SOCIALISM is the system that’s possible and needed NOW. A system of co-operation between people , in a world without money. Every man, woman and child will have free access to all production. A system where all the needs of the human race can be met. A system that is compatible with human nature. SOCIALISM is NOT state control.

Our success rests upon our ability to make the struggle about “all of us.” To adopt an all-encompassing approach which pulls together and builds alliances with the community.  We support, fully and utterly,workers in their efforts to stand up to their employer, a struggle we all share an interest in. We share, though, an even greater interest in getting rid of the wages system all together. Workers are learning by bitter experience and bloody sacrifice for interests not their own. They are learning very slowly. The  job of the Socialist Party is to shorten the time and to speed up the process.