Saturday, October 01, 2016

Doing Porridge, US-Style

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The soaring US prison and jail population – which has hit a record 2.2 million and is the highest per capita in the world – is putting a huge strain on state and federal budgets, costing more than $8.5bn a year. Wardens and prison managers are under intense pressure to cut costs across the board, including the food provided to inmates, some of whom are thought to be fed for less than $1.20 a day. In many prisons across the US, inmates only rarely receive eggs, dairy or meat and fresh fruit and vegetables are sometimes banned altogether.

Many prisons’ food service has been outsourced to private companies offering big cost savings and making big profits for their shareholders. One of the biggest, Philadelphia-based Aramark, a company with annual sales of $14.3bn, continues to serve up 380m meals a year as the sole food provider to more than 600 prisons and other correctional institutions despite repeated fines over scandals including serving food tainted by maggots and rats. Riots have erupted at several prisons with Aramark-provided food leading the company to lose contracts in Michigan and Florida. Aramark, which also supplies hospitals, schools and event arenas around the world, made a $236m profit last year, a 56% increase on 2014, on sales of $14.3bn. The company’s chief executive, Eric Foss, was paid $21m last year and $32.4m in 2014.

Tom Roy, Minnesota’s commissioner for corrections, said in an interview. “Being in prison is punishment enough, they don’t have to be tortured by bad food.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/30/prison-food-spending-budget-cuts-minnesota


How Should Socialists Organise?

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Workers self-emancipation and leadership contradict each other, and this has caused much Leninist ink to be spilt on the dangers of "substitutionalism" — the party substituting its own wishes for those of the masses because the party knows best. This totalitarian strategy can be avoided if the majority of workers know what they are doing before the socialist revolution takes place, in which case leadership becomes irrelevant. Democratic centralism has become a cornerstone of numerous Leninist parties, a  concept entailing being more centralist than democratic. To a certain extent centralism is compatible with democracy, indeed is often necessary to make it effective. But often the problem arises that it didn’t give the leadership a free enough hand since, at least on paper, it is still subject to some degree of membership control. Democratic centralism is a structure which institutionalises the principle of leadership. Most existing political parties and trade unions do operate on this basis, where those at the top make all the keys decisions and generally control the organisation instead of being controlled by their members Leninism makes a virtue of this by not accepting that it is desirable that a political organisation of the sort they want should be organised on the basis of democratic control, and maximum participation in decision-making, by the membership.

Many left-wing political parties are unashamedly leadership organisations, not just in the sense that they seeks to lead the working class but also in the sense that it is organised internally on a leadership basis; in fact on a hierarchical basis where each layer of leadership has power over the levels below it, with the party’s national leadership – the members of its central committee – at the top. The national leadership decides everything important and then seeks to get the membership to follow their lead. This is not necessarily a difficult task since the membership, who also believe in the organisational principle of ‘democratic centralism’, accept the leading role of the leadership and are generally prepared to follow. So Lenin’s ‘democratic centralism’ places an enormous power in the hands of the leaders and in practice reduces the rank-and-file members to a merely consultative role. In Lenin’s scheme, the supreme policy-making body is the Party Congress; this decides the general line which the Central Committee has to follow until the next Congress. This is the theory; the practice is that the Central Committee completely dominates the Conference. The main item on the agenda is a report by the Central Committee on the political ‘perspectives’ which is usually a document of pamphlet-length. The Central Committee also submits other reports – on work in special areas of activity (industry, students, women), internal organisation, finance – for the Conference to discuss. What this means is that it is the Central Committee – the leadership – which quite literally sets the agenda for the Conference. The branch delegates meet, therefore, to discuss only what is put before them by the Central Committee. Not that the delegates are delegates in the proper sense of the term as instructed representatives of the branches sending them. Within the Socialist Workers Party, for instance, Delegates should not be mandated. Voting on motions submitted by branches is dismissed as a ‘trade union practice. Another open to manipulation by the leadership, is operated by the SWP:
‘At the end of each session of conference commissions are elected to draw up a report on the session detailing the points made. In the event of disagreement two or more commissions can be elected by the opposing delegates. The reports are submitted to conference and delegates then vote in favour of one of the commissions. The advantage of this procedure is that conference does not have to proceed by resolution like a trade union conference.’
No branch motions, no mandated delegates, No ballots of the entire membership.
In fact, no official of the SWP above branch level is directly elected by a vote of the members. One power that the branches do retain is the right to nominate members for election, by the Conference delegates, to the National Committee, but, as over presenting motions, they are discouraged from nominating people who do not accept the “perspectives” espoused by the Central Committee. So elections do take place to the National Committee but on the basis of personalities rather than politics. However, it is the way that the Central Committee is elected that is really novel: the nominations for election to new central committee are proposed not by branches but . . . by the outgoing central committee! Once again, in theory, branches can present other names but they never do.

It is easy to see how this means that the central committee – the supreme leadership of the organisation – is a self-perpetuating body renewed in effect only by co-optation. This is justified on the grounds of continuity and efficiency – it takes a time to gain the experience necessary to become a good leader so that it would be a waste of the experience gained if some leader were to be voted off by the vagaries of a democratic vote. Choosing the leadership by a competitive vote is evidently something else ‘with no place in a revolutionary party’ any more than in an army. The fact remains that “democratic centralism” can allow dictators to rise to power and all openly pro-capitalist political parties have a similar structure which can allow the leadership to act undemocratically.

It is not much different with other Trotskyist groups. Take Socialist Unity. In their version of democratic centralism, conference delegates elect a central committee (on a slate, that is for or against the entire committee, not a vote for individual members, this slate is normally put forward by the outgoing committee).  The central committee can put motions to conference as well (whereas our Executive Committee may not). Subject to the sovereignty of Conference, decisions taken by the Central Committee (CC), National Committee (NC) and Party Council are binding on caucuses, districts and branches, and individual party members. Branches and/or district select delegates to Conference on a basis proportional to their membership, as determined by the Central Committee. The CC appoints the full-time organisers. Again the difference with ourselves is that our principle officers are directly elected (Gen Sec, treasurer, organiser). Our EC is directly elected. All our EC can only do is appoint people to a committee on the nomination of a branch.  So there is at most just one layer between members and functionaries of the party.

Where has ‘democratic centralism’ ever allowed factions for long? Where has ‘democratic centralism’ allowed challenging incumbent leaderships? Where has ‘democratic centralism’ allowed public dissent? Trotsky answered at a Bolshevik party congress in 1924:
 ‘Comrades, none of us wants to be or can be right against the party. In the last analysis, the party is always right, because the party is the sole historical instrument that the working class possesses for the solution of its fundamental tasks. I have already said that nothing would be simpler than to say before the party that all these criticisms, all these declarations, warnings, and protests – all were mistaken from beginning to end. I cannot say so, however, comrades, because I do not think it. I know that no one can be right against the party. It is only possible to be right with the party and through it since history has not created any other way to determine the correct position.’ And ‘We can only be right with and by the Party, for history has provided no other way of being in the right’.

The “black protest”

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Women in Poland are to stage an all-out strike to protest the country’s plan to effectively ban abortions. Female workers across the predominantly Catholic country will take part in the action on Monday, in an effort to disruptively draw attention to attempts to restrict Poland’s severely limited abortion laws even further. Those taking part hope the strike will bring Polish society and the economy to a standstill. Women have been urged to join the strike to protest the move, by refusing to attend work. Protesters are also encouraged to wear black.

A pressure group Stop Abortion has driven calls for a total ban on abortions in Poland. It is supported by the Catholic Church and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo as well as Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki have indicated support for the group. A total of 87 per cent of Polish people identify as Catholic and the church continues to hold considerable influence over society.

Currently, abortion is only permitted in cases of rape or if the woman or foetus’ life is in danger. However, legislators have proposed restricting the laws further still to eliminate even these exceptions. Women who break the law could face up to five years in prison. A government committee is currently considering the changes.

Official strikes will be taking place in over 60 different Polish cities. In an act of solidarity, a number of businesses and corporations have reportedly pledged to shut their doors as part of the strike.

A leaflet states: “Black protest in defence of the right to life and health of women in Poland. We demand access to reliable sex education, contraception and effective in vitro procedures. We oppose the further tightening of abortion laws. What can you do? Rather than go to work, go [to] a demonstration. If you have to be at work or at home: Dress in black, take a picture and post on social media with the hashtag #BlackProtest #CzarnyProtest to show solidarity. Talk to your mother, sister, cousin, friend, colleague. Tell them about the strike and the situation in Poland.”

According to official figures, around 1,000 legal abortions are performed in Poland every year. However, it is estimated that a considerably higher number also take place illegally, with up to 150,000 women each year performing abortions on themselves often with pills bought online.

In the UK, it is a criminal offence to have an abortion in Northern Ireland, where women face up to life in prison for having an abortion, including in instances of rape, incest or if the foetus is so severely disabled that it will not survive birth.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/polish-women-strike-abortion-laws-restrictions-changes-economy-a7339141.html


Friday, September 30, 2016

Socialist Standard No. 1346 October 2016

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Only 1% of homes promised after Typhoon Haiyan

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As the third anniversary of the typhoon Haiyan disaster approaches on 8 November, hundreds of thousands of people in the Philippines continue to live in areas the government has designated as “no dwelling zones”. The archipelago nation is regularly rocked by storms that are predicted to get stronger and more frequent due to climate change.

After Haiyan – one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, and one that destroyed more than a million homes and killed more than 6,000 people – the government promised to “build back better”. The strategy included relocating people away from coastal areas that are almost sure to be hit again. The plan has so far been a failure.

The then president Bignino Aquino III committed to building 205,000 homes to accommodate around one million people living in coastal danger zones. Only 25,000 have been completed. Only 2,500 are occupied. A one percent achievement.

Joyce Sierra, advocacy officer at Social Watch Philippines, said many survivors of Typhoon Haiyan – known locally as Yolanda – had to rebuild their lives with little or no assistance, which pushed them deeper into poverty. “They are even poorer and even more vulnerable now, even three years after Yolanda,” she told IRIN. Residents rebuilt their homes after the storm. They are shacks made from what could be found in the wreckage or was donated by charities – plywood, sacking, and corrugated iron. Some jut out into the sea, supported on stilts, and are connected to the land by single wooden boards.

Tomorrow looks bad on the weather front

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The world could hit two degrees Celsius of warming – the point at which many scientists believe climate change will become dangerous – as early as 2050, a group of leading experts has warned in a report called The Truth About Climate Change.

They said many people seemed to think of global warming as “abstract, distant and even controversial”. But the planet is now heating up “much faster” than anticipated. It means the majority of people alive today will experience what it is like to live on a dangerously overheated planet. Droughts, floods, wildfires and storms are all set to increase as the world warms, threatening crops and causing the extinction of species. Weather-related events due to climate change have doubled in number since 1990.

At the Paris Climate Summit last year, world leaders agreed to try to limit global warming to as close to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels as possible – amid concerns the 2C target may not be safe enough. In the same year the level of warming reached 1C after an astonishing 0.15C rise in just three years. The new report warned the 1.5C target had “almost certainly already been missed”.  Even if all the pledges to cut emissions made by countries at Paris are fulfilled, the average temperature is set to reach that level in the early 2030s and then 2C by 2050, they said.

Sir Robert Watson, a former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and one of the authors of the report, a chemist who has worked for Nasa, the World Bank, the US president and now at the renowned Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Norwich, said: “Climate change is happening now and much faster than anticipated… what is needed is a doubling or tripling of efforts.”

the pledges made at Paris would require wealthy countries to give a total of $100bn a year – as promised at the summit – to poor countries to help them transition to a zero-carbon economy.
“About 80 per cent of the pledges are subject to the condition that financial and technological support is available from developed countries,” Professor Watson said. “These conditions may not be met, which means that these pledges may not be realized.” The UK has already indicated its share of this total will come from the foreign aid budget, meaning poor countries will actually not get any more cash than they do at present. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. As the number of weather-related events due to climate change continues to rise, their impact on water resources, food production, human health, services and infrastructure in urban and rural areas, among other sectors, will be more frequent and intense.


Mark Lynas, in his award-winning book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, described the report’s findings as “extremely worrying”.

“If we hit 2C by 2050 then we will be well on the way to a really terrifying 3C-plus scenario by the end of the century,” Mr Lynas said. “The world’s ice-caps will be in full-scale meltdown, and large areas of what are now breadbaskets could become deserts, threatening serious global food shortages… And we would be condemning our children and grandchildren to multi-metre sea level rise, and the eventual evacuation of major coastal cities.”

Holloway Street Stall (North London)

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

  •  to 

Nag's Head Shopping Centre

  • 402 Holloway Road, London N7 6PZ 
  • near Burger King
  • Organised by North London Branch 

Rewarding billionaires and aristocrats

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The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) accounts for around 40 per cent of everything the EU spends.

Single area payments are paid to landowners, proportionate to the area of land they own. So the payments are not subsidising food production or stewardship, but land ownership. Therefore, the person who owns the most land gets the most subsidy.

The top 100 recipients get more in subsidies than the bottom 55,000 put together. And of those top 100: 16 are on the Sunday Times Rich List, one in five are members of the British aristocracy, including high-profile figures such as the late Duke of Westminster (who was one of the wealthiest men in Britain), the Queen and Lord Iveagh of the Guinness family, and many others are multi-millionaires who use the land in ways that simply can’t be described as producing a public good



'Where Will I Get My Apples?' (Public Meeting, Manchester)

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'Where Will I Get My Apples?' 

  • The Unicorn

    26 Church Street, Manchester M4 1PW 
  • About 13 minutes walk from Manchester Piccadilly rail station
  • In a moneyless democracy would we work gladly, freed from wage labour, or would everything be done by robots? Would we live in a world of frugality or luxury? Would democracy be in committees, or would it be automatic? And where would I get my apples?
    To get the discussion started, Peter Rigg makes a rash guess at how things might be.
    All welcome 

What to eat?

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According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, in 2015, we consumed a global average of 41.3 kilos of meat per capita, which is almost twice the amount we were eating 50 years ago. If we break it down, the geographical differences in our eating habits are self-evident. Last year in the developing world, the average person ate 31.6 kilos of meat a year, compared to 95.7 kilos in the industrialized world.

To generate a single kilo of beef, it takes 15.415 liters of water. A kilo of pork requires almost 6,000 liters. Potato, by contrast, requires just under 300 liters of water for a kilo of food, while rice comes in at a ratio of almost 2500 liters to the kilo. And that's only water.

According to the Worldwatch Institute: "Roughly two out of every five tons of grain produced in the world is fed to livestock, poultry, or fish; decreasing consumption of these products, especially of beef, could free up massive quantities of grain and reduce pressure on land." Growing food for animals is a major contributor to deforestation. Trees are felled to create grazing space and land on which livestock feed can be grown. Fewer trees not only leads to habitat and biodiversity loss, but also fuels global warming. The sheer volume of land needed to grow the crops that feed the animals we like to eat, implies an exaggerated use of pesticides. That, in turn, leads to pollution of land, rivers and ultimately oceans and the fish within.


Farming is responsible for between 11 and 15 percent of global emissions. In part, that is due to ruminant animals such as cattle whose burping and flatulence produces methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

We need more say Cambodian worker

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Cambodia’s estimated 700,000 garment workers are to get a rise in their minimum wage. But some union representatives have criticised the latest raise, saying it falls short of a fair minimum wage.

The government agreed to raise wages for garment workers by 9.2 percent by the beginning of next year. The minimum wage of garment factory workers for 2017 has been officially set at $153 (136 euros) per month.

However, many union representatives said the latest increase of $13 monthly fell drastically short of a fair minimum wage.


"All the workers' union leaders and I, myself, are not happy with this new increased wage," said Ath Thorn, president of one of the unions that took part in negotiations. "Due to the general expenses of the workers being too high, especially the prices of goods that keep increasing day by day, I think the fair minimum wage for the workers should $171 per month," he added.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Poorer than before

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Children of Thatcher era have half the wealth of the previous generation. People born in the early 1980s are the first post-war generation to reach their thirties with smaller incomes than those born a decade earlier. Amid the broader stagnation of working-age incomes, the deep recession that followed the 2008 crash had a major impact – hitting the pay and employment of young adults harder than anyone else’s.

The report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies concludes people born in the early 1980s are the first post-war generation to suffer smaller incomes in early adulthood than those born 10 years before, half as much wealth as the previous generation. The report sets out in intricate detail how people born in the early 1980s, as Margaret Thatcher set about transforming the British economy, have median net household wealth of £27,000 per adult, including housing, financial and private pension wealth. Yet this is about half of the £53,000 that those born in the 1970s had at the same age.

IFS research economist and the report’s author Andrew Hood said: “By the time they hit their early thirties, those born in the early 1980s had about half as much wealth as those born in the 1970s did at the same age. Sharp falls in home-ownership rates and in access to generous company pension schemes, alongside historically low interest rates, will make it much harder for today’s young adults to build up wealth in future than it was for previous generations.” 

Fact of the Day (Argentine's poverty)

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Nearly one-third (8.8 million people) of Argentina’s population lives in poverty, the government said. 

Nothing in the bank

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More than 16 million people in the UK have savings of less than £100, a study has found. 

In five areas of the country, Northern Ireland, the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, North East England and Wales, more than half the adult population has savings below that level.

"These figures show the millions put at risk by the saving gaps in the UK," said Nick Hill, money expert at the service. "For some on low incomes, saving is a real challenge as they may simply lack the income needed to save at all."

This is a good index on poverty, since having no savings, no capacity to live beyond your next pay cheque is pretty much the definition of poverty.

Thoughts on Labour

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John McDonnell told the Labour Party Conference that they should no longer be afraid to use the word "socialism". Of course all he means is more government interference in the workings of the capitalist economy and government subsidies to get manufacturing industry going again. Sadly, the vast majority of the population think that what McDonnel has outlined IS socialism. The fact that some Labour leaders are now talking again about "socialism" works both ways. It confuses what "socialism" is but, like Bernie Sanders in America, allows us to get in on the debate by saying what socialism means or should mean. There's some mileage in us saying "oh no, McDonnell doesn't stand for socialism but state capitalism. Here's what socialism really means".

John McDonnell went on to say: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine. Imagine the society that we can create. It's a society that's radically transformed, radically fairer, more equal and more democratic. Yes, based upon a prosperous economy but an economy that's economically and environmentally sustainable and where that prosperity is shared by all. That's our vision to rebuild and transform Britain.”
The trouble he has a rather limited imagination, along with his leader, Corbyn, who said:
“We want to see a genuinely mixed economy of public and social enterprise along with long-term private business commitment…”

Tom Watson, Labour's deputy leader, proclaimed, “Capitalism, comrades, is not the enemy.”

That's a more accurate and honest statement of the Labour Party's position.

Corbyn and McDonnell still adhere to the old Labour Party policy of the gradualist, parliamentary, reformist road to "socialism" (actually, state capitalism). Whereas most of the anti-Corbyn plotters identify with managed capitalism, "responsible" capitalism. It is quite possible for real socialists to have discussions with Corbyn’s and McDonnell’s supporters as to the best strategy and tactics to get to socialism.  But we cannot imagine discussions with most Labour MPs any more than we could with a Tory MP.

Given the current level of political understanding (or, rather, ignorance), Labour under Corbyn has little chance of winning a general election, certainly not one where the issue will be who is the best party to lead Britain out of the current economic and political crisis provoked by the Brexit vote.  Sad and cruel perhaps, but the truth. Which shows the need not to engage in the politics of leadership as Corbyn's supporters are doing, but to do what we do: encouraging the spread of socialist understanding.

For the Labour Party’s hangers on, a hotchpotch of Trots, this commentator was spot-on: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/11/trotskyists-on-the-march-chaos-ahead
“ The practice of Trotskyist politics has long been built around the idea of the “transitional demand”, a rather cynical manoeuvre whereby you encourage people to agitate for this or that – a hugely increased minimum wage, perhaps, or the end of all immigration controls – knowing full well it is unattainable within the current order of things, but that when the impossibility becomes apparent, the workers will belatedly wake up. In other words, the herd gets whipped up into a frenzy about something you know it won’t get, while you smugly sit things out, hoping that if everything aligns correctly, another crack will appear in the great bourgeois edifice.”



"Fair” elections don't occur under capitalism. All political parties which have leaders can be ruled out. True, in the UK we have one-person-one-vote, but it's not an informed vote. Workers only get to hear the case for continuing to support capitalism. Our socialist voice is swamped out. While the socialist voice is a small one, workers will continue to support capitalism. Every day Corbyn is smeared by the mdedia but so too is our interpretation of socialism. In reality, Corbyn is only a harmless reformist advocating what Harold Wilson did 60 years ago. 

The 0.004%

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There are 212,615 Ultra High Net Worth individuals (UHNW is defined as those with $30 million and above in net assets) globally, according to Wealth-X's report.


UHNW individuals, who account for just 0.004 percent of the world's adult population, still control 12 percent of its wealth.- - accumulated $175 billion of new wealth in 2015, according to a report from research company Wealth-X.

Life is tougher for poor women

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One million women living in poverty in Britain have experienced extensive violence and abuse, a report said, which makes them more likely to attempt suicide, face homelessness and have mental health disorders. Poverty and violence take a heavy toll on the victims’ lives, the report said.

“The link between violence and poverty in women’s lives is not surprising,” said Katharine Sacks-Jones, director of Agenda, an alliance of more than 60 groups focused on girls and women at risk. “What’s really shocking is how difficult the lives of women who experience both can be.” She went on to explain, “Poor women have fewer resources to avoid violence and abuse,” Sacks-Jones said, calling for a cross-government approach to support women. “Experience of violence and abuse can keep women in poverty. Poverty and violence feed each other.”

14 percent of women in poverty have faced the most extensive violence and abuse, such as being victims of extensive coercive control and physical violence from a partner, or facing both physical and sexual violence. This rate is more than twice as high as the rate for women not in poverty. More than a third of women who faced both tried to commit suicide, compared to four percent of poor women who have not been abused while more than one in two had anxiety, depression or other common mental disorders. A fifth have been homeless. 


Quote of the Day

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Malnutrition continues to afflict one in nine people globally

‘’It is unacceptable that in a world of plenty that nearly 800 million people still suffer from hunger, this represents a collective moral and political failure,’’ UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. 

Shimon Peres is dead - Who remembers Qana?

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The respected Middle East reporter, Robert Fisk, attempts to wipe the media gloss from a war-criminal.

In 1996, Peres, standing for election as Israel’s prime decided to increase his military credentials before polling day by assaulting Lebanon. The joint Nobel Peace Prize holder used as an excuse the firing of Katyusha rockets over the Lebanese border by the Hezbollah. In fact, their rockets were retaliation for the killing of a small Lebanese boy by a booby-trap bomb they suspected had been left by an Israeli patrol. It mattered not. A few days later, Israeli troops inside Lebanon came under attack close to Qana and retaliated by opening fire into the village. Their first shells hit a cemetery used by Hezbollah; the rest flew directly into the UN Fijian army camp where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. 106 bodies – half of them children – now lie beneath the UN camp where they were torn to pieces by Israeli shells.

“When I reached the UN gates, blood was pouring through them in torrents. I could smell it. It washed over our shoes and stuck to them like glue. There were legs and arms, babies without heads, old men’s heads without bodies. A man’s body was hanging in two pieces in a burning tree. What was left of him was on fire. On the steps of the barracks, a girl sat holding a man with grey hair, her arm round his shoulder, rocking the corpse back and forth in her arms. His eyes were staring at her. She was keening and weeping and crying, over and over: “My father, my father.” If she is still alive – and there was to be another Qana massacre in the years to come, this time from the Israeli air force – I doubt if the word “peacemaker” will be crossing her lips.”

A UN enquiry which stated in its bland way that it did not believe the slaughter was an accident. The UN report was accused of being anti-Semitic. Much later, a brave Israeli magazine published an interview with the artillery soldiers who fired at Qana. An officer had referred to the villagers as “just a bunch of Arabs”. “A few Arabushim die, there is no harm in that,” he was quoted as saying.

They also claimed that Ariel Sharon – whose soldiers watched the massacre at Sabra and Chatila camps in 1982 by their Lebanese Christian allies – was also a “peacemaker” when he died.

Common Sense about Population

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Capitalism very often causes workers to blame themselves for their own suffering. People face rotten conditions where they live and work. They endure low pay, long hours, increasing unemployment, rising food prices, and poor housing.  Capitalism diverts workers’ anger, to get people to view themselves rather than the system as the source of their problems. All sorts of theories have been used by intellectuals to justify oppression and repression of the working class. Over-population and population control are among these spurious scientific theories. The size of the population is held to be an important factor in the misery of workers. With socialism, population levels will no longer be a vital issue. The solution to the population “problem” is to overthrow capitalism and establish production for the needs of the people and not to add to the profits of wealthy individuals.
As Engels says:
“There is of course the abstract possibility that the number of people will become so great that the limits will have to be set to their increase. But if at some stage communist society finds itself obliged to regulate the production of human beings, just as it has already to come to regulate the production of things, it will precisely be this society, and this society alone, which can carry this out without difficulty. At any rate, it is for the people in the communist society themselves to decide whether, when and how this is to be done, and what means they wish to employ for the purpose. I do not feel called upon to make proposals or give them advice about it. These people, in any case, will surely not be any less intelligent than we are.”

The ruling class, the government, and the media the ruling class have undertaken to promote the idea of population control and that the many problems people face are caused by overpopulation. For example; hunger and food insecurity in India is not attributed to the operation of the capitalist market but is due, rather, to the Indian’s propensity to over-reproduce; the shortage of adequate housing in British cities is not due to the fact that building houses are based on profit, but, rather, because the population is growing too quickly with the arrival of immigrants. Many of the suppositions now dominate the environmentalist movement who should be involved in fighting the real social problems of pollution and poverty problems that have their roots, not over-population but capitalism itself. Many eco-activists are unconcerned by the racist undertones and implications of the over-population argument and the policies for population controls. Get rid of some of the people, stop allowing so many in, and then there will be enough jobs we can share out. If it works for jobs, what’s more, it can apply to hospital beds, class-rooms and houses and so on. These are the “rational” arguments with which racists spread their prejudices. And isn’t it funny how often ‘too many people’ always means too many foreigners, especially black and brown ones

Can folk not make the connection between the Rockerfeller Foundation and the Bill Gates Foundation advocacy for population control in the developing world?  Can’t people recognise the reason there is an  over-whelming concern of the rich for the problem of overpopulation, in sharp contrast to their lack of concern for the other pressing issues which the ruling class cannot solve and has no intention of attacking: economic exploitation and inequality? The population scare is an attempt to explain these conditions in a way which takes the blame off the ruling class, preserving their position in society. The idea is to blame the people for breeding too much, for consuming too much, for polluting the environment. The movements and the ideas they push have nothing to do with what’s good for humanity. Humanity is the people of the world. And their interests and those of the ruling class are miles apart.

Even if after the Revolution, our population should continue to grow, we can still have a great future with every additional precious member of the world’s population adding something special and unique toward building that future. People are not just consumers. They are also producers. The problem is not too many people. If people could decide what they produce, there would be more than enough food and accommodation for three times the world’s population. The problem is that only a minority decide – a minority who want to organise production for their own benefit and for no one else’s. That’s why the rich and wealthy promote the over-population myth and call for population controls – to prove that hunger and poverty is not the fault of the capitalist system for deciding not to produce what people need, but the fault of the poor and hungry for being too many.

Hunger or socialism ahead?

The media constantly spews out the propaganda that pollution and overpopulation are the cause of the problems of the world’s people. The media continually presents the view that the planet is destined to be overpopulated and unable to provide for its people. The very same corporate pirates who are daily carrying out global plunder and pillage blame the environmental destruction upon mankind generally. The mass hunger in many regions of the globe and appalling destitution in many cities is that these countries suffer from ‘overpopulation’. There are simply too many mouths to feed, or so they keep telling us. These arguments cannot withstand the slightest fact-check. An examination of the evidence shows that there is absolutely no causal connection between high population and poverty. People are not having more children – the birth rate around the world is falling. For the world’s ruling classes supposed population explosion is the perfect alibi.

At present, there are seven billion human inhabitants on the surface of this planet. For the majority of them hunger, malnutrition, are the “normal” human condition. They dwell perpetually on the margin of food insecurity. Yet, under the life-extending impetus of modern preventive medicine increasing longevity and reduced infant mortality, this population cannot but increase to perhaps ten billion by 2050. Despite all efforts to increase the food supply will this exploding population, as the modern disciples of Malthus predict, inevitably push mankind into mass starvation? All too frequently the problem of population is posed in a false debate. A brief but telling survey of the world’s agricultural resources shows that even on the basis of present technology, through raising the productivity of now-cultivated land to the average level of the advanced countries and through extension of cultivation into what are now desert and tundra regions, it is possible to provide a satisfactory diet for a greatly augmented world population. Only too frequently the evaluation of world food resources is both pessimistic and myopic. What is rarely discussed by scientific opinion is a change in the economic system.

Irreplaceable top-soil has been despoiled and is being washed away, water tables lowered, and the very weather changed. For the modern environmental Cassandras, advances in crop and animal breeding, genetic engineering, pest and weed control, application of new technological inventions, and hydroponics, as well as the possibility of now unpredictable discoveries, are all discounted as either impractical or visionary. Socialists refute these main arguments and maintain that we now have both the scientific knowledge necessary to feed twice the present world population, and by the time the population has doubled there would undoubtedly be new discoveries. Land is not the only factor in food production, just as food is not the only factor limiting population growth. Although the situation still is serious in other parts of the world, the conservation pattern has been set and is certainly attainable.  A conservative estimate is that a billion additional acres of arable land could be brought under cultivation. A return to the universal use of “night soil” would not only furnish much additional fertiliser, but also reduce unnecessary pollution. Mankind can greatly increase the carrying capacity of the land through the wise choice of plants to be grown and the proper use of those plants. If with socialism national boundaries were removed and tariffs abolished, the land could always be used for the crops most adaptable or necessary. Shortages of calories, proteins, fats, minerals or vitamins; or agricultural labor; or a combination of any of these could be ironed out through a scientific selection of crops. Some plants produce more calories per acre than others, some produce less calories but more proteins, some produce less units per acre but more units per man. Adequate reserves of food in storage would increase still further our population capacity. The problem may be a formidable one but not overly a complicated one, and certainly not attainable but calls for intense planning on a scale not possible under present world economic organisation – but only through socialist rational production and distribution.  It is no joke to say that most farmers today cannot afford, under our present economic system, to farm as good and as efficiently as they know how to. An examination of the actual facts will give the lie to the Malthusian doom-sayers.

The people of the world demand, and are entitled to, a decent standard of living, not centuries from now but as soon as it can be provided. Our response: the socialist reorganisation of the world economy. Every extra person is not only an extra mouth to feed, but also an extra worker to produce. Population growth, far from being considered a threat to human progress is a positive good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Crazy capitalism - Farmers dump milk

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“The U.S. is on track this year to post the longest stretch of falling food prices in more than 50 years, a streak that is cheering shoppers at the checkout line but putting a financial strain on farmers and grocery stores,” the Wall Street Journal reported last month. “The trend is being fueled by an excess supply of dairy products, meat, grains and other staples…”

In fact, the Journal wrote, “The glut is so severe in some places that dairy farmers have been dumping millions of pounds of excess milk onto fields.”

 The federal government recently bought $20 million worth of cheese to help out dairy farmers. 

The USDA forecast record corn and soybean harvests this fall, a bounty that likely would push down prices even further.

Population growth in the developed world is barely at replacement levels. “By 2025, it is likely that deaths will exceed births in the developed countries, the first time this will have happened in history,” according to the Population Reference Bureau.

“The number of retired workers is projected to double in about 50 years. People are also living longer, and the birth rate is low,” the Social Security Administration writes in Social Security’s Demographic Challenge. “As a result, the Trustees project that the ratio of 2.8 workers paying Social Security taxes to each person collecting benefits in 2015 will fall to 2.1 to 1 in 2037.”


The Economist magazine commissioned a survey in 19 countries and found attitudes in the developing world are increasingly aligning with the developed world. In Peru, Mexico, Indonesia, China and India, parents desire about the same number of children, a bit more than two, as parents in the U.S. Only in more agrarian Africa do parents want more kids than basic replacement levels.

UK Inequality

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Oxfam reports that 634,000 Britons are worth 20 times as much as the poorest 13 million, making the country one of the most unequal in the developed world.

The richest 10 per cent of the UK population own over half of the country's total wealth (54 per cent) with the top one per cent owning nearly a quarter (23 per cent), whilst the poorest 20 per cent share just 0.8 per cent of the country's wealth between them.

 

Capitalists too greedy for capitalism

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Greedy Capitalism

Investors chasing high yields are perpetuating unsustainable dividend practices and in some cases damaging businesses' growth prospects, according to Stephen Bailey, manager of the Liontrust Macro Equity Income fund, a prominent fund manage.  Instead of investing during downturns to increase cashflow in the long run, many companies have instead used up cash reserves and sell off assets to continue paying unsustainable dividends. The true impact of maintaining an unaffordable dividend may become clear only in the long run. There is the potential for a business to stagnate or contract as a result of an over-enthusiastic return of cash to shareholders, he said, particularly if cash-generating assets are sold in order to do so.

He highlighted the oil sector as one example. BP is yielding 6.1pc and Royal Dutch Shell yields 6.3pc, at a time when it is understood that the price of oil remains too low for sustainable operation and both are involved in selling off tens of billions of pounds' worth of assets. The major oil companies are also now operating with double the levels of debt compared with a few years ago. Two years ago mining companies were in a similar position to oil today, cutting back on capital expenditure and selling assets to combat falling demand and prices.

Mr Bailey said: “Because of dividend payments they’re not able to invest at the bottom of the cycle, so are left with the stark choice of having to sell quality assets at unattractive prices. To meet the short term cashflow shortfall that they have, they are selling tomorrow’s cashflow.”

He also highlighted RSA, the insurer, which maintained an “unsustainable yield” for years. He called this “very detrimental to the overall performance”. “The best thing they eventually did was reduce that dividend, which allowed the company to make financial progression.”

Poverty creates premature aging and less intelligence

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Researchers found a link between low incomes and poorer brain function and say the stress of life with little money could be part of the reason; there is 'little evidence' to suggest falling intelligence pushes people into poverty. Falling into poverty appears to make people become less intelligent and become old before their time, according to a new study. Life on the breadline for 20 years was “strongly associated” with “worse cognitive function” and premature aging. Writing in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, researchers led by Professor Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, of Miami University, said the trend was found even among highly educated people who fell on hard times. This, they argued, means it is unlikely that people who are becoming less intelligent for some other reason are falling into poverty.

They suggest the potential causes of this phenomenon includes the stress of having little money, inadequate housing and sanitation, and an unhealthy lifestyle – a poor diet, smoking, alcohol and too little exercise.

As part of that study, details about their income were recorded and they were also given tests used to detect what is known as “cognitive aging”. What the researchers found was that people who lived continually in poverty “performed significantly worse” than those who had never had to survive on a low income in tests of verbal memory, the brain’s processing speed and its executive function.

They put forward four different possible “pathways” in which poverty could affect people’s brains.

“First, exposure to low income and socioeconomic conditions has been associated with unhealthy behaviours, such as alcohol use, smoking, and inadequate physical activity, which are in turn risk factors for small brain infarcts and poor cognition,” the paper said.

“Second, exposure to low income may influence educational attainment and ultimately shape many of the risk factors of cognition, including adult living environment (inadequate housing and sanitation), health behaviours, and access to resources.

“Third, the stress of exposure to low income has been shown to be associated with dysfunction of the hypothalamic adrenocortical axis [glands inside the brain], which in turn is a pathway leading to worse risk factors of cognition.

“Fourth, income inequality may suggest a lack in public investment and health infrastructure, which then influence health through stress-induced mechanisms and decreased social and physical resources.”


Why do you need leaders?

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“Expect nothing but from your own actions!” – Ernest Jones, Chartist

The attitude of the Socialist Party toward leaders and the following of leaders seems to confuse and confound some of our fellow-workers. We say the success of the socialist revolution depends on the class-consciousness (or knowledge of their class interests) of the working class.  All their strength must be of themselves and in them themselves. Therefore, the need for leaders does not exist. Only those who do not know the way require to be led, and this very fact makes it inevitable that those who are led will be entirely in the hands of those who lead.

The world is obsessed by leaders and leadership. It is often said that the leaders are in advance of the led, but in the broader sense, this is not true. Leading, after all, must be by consent. So it happens that the "leader" can only lead where he is likely to be followed. The leader, far from being in advance of his followers, is only the reflection of it.

Part of the work of a socialist is to point out the divergence between the interests of the workers and those who aspire to lead them and to seize upon every instance and opportunity of illustrating and proving the contention that leaders are, and necessarily, misleaders. A socialist does not place his or her trust in leaders. Our only hope lies in the intelligence and courage and energy of our fellow-workers as a class, and all our hope rests in the working class. Humanity needs to step aside from the deception of leaders. The leaders we are asked to support, and sometimes choose between, are a myth, created and maintained by--leaders. They are poor examples of honesty, integrity, even of humanity. They are not interested in truth, justice, or any of the grand notions they spout about. They exist, have always existed, will always exist, for one purpose only: to line their own pockets and empty yours. They are parasites on the social body, unwanted, unnecessary and destructive. To follow leaders is to hand over your heart on a platter, with knife and fork attached. It is an admission of defeat, acceptance that you are inadequate, in and of yourself. It is an act of submission and indeed an act of cowardice unworthy of the human animal.

The Socialist Party is a structured political organisation. A socialist political party should be organised on the basis that the power to make policy should lie with the membership through delegate conferences and referendums; there should be no party leadership, only an executive or administrative committee charged with arranging for the policies decided by the membership to be implemented. The concept of leadership is foreign to the Socialist Party since all members have a common purpose. The existence of leaders and the led means that only the former have the power to make decisions. When you know what you want to do collectively, you may appoint or elect organisers, but you don't need somebody else to lead you to do it. The Socialist Party has no leaders in fact or theory. Socialism wouldn't operate that way and neither do we. All decisions are made by common vote, all administration is above-board and open to inspection, and all work is voluntary. None of us is perfect, and that's why democracy works better than leadership. Mistakes by one person are not disasters for the many. Private interests don't count. Power doesn't exist. Socialists are their own leaders, and they follow nobody but themselves.

The Greek phrase "an-archon" or "no leader" gave us the word "anarchy". Yet "anarchy" to most people is another name for chaos or disorder. The assumption is that without leaders, there can be no civilisation. Our contention is the opposite. Leaders, and the followers who create them are holding us back from any real global civilisation.

The concept of leadership has emerged with class society and will end when we abolish class society when we abolish the profit system and all that goes with it. The master class has been allowed to lead because of their control over the means of living and by virtue of their control of the education system and their monopoly of the media and other information processes. It won’t be this way. The greatest weapons we possess are our intelligence and our ability to question the status quo. Leaders perceive all of this to be a threat and so will do anything to keep us in a state of oblivion, dejection, and dependency. Our apathy is the victory they celebrate each day. Our unwillingness to unite as a globally exploited class and to confront them on the battlefield of ideas is the subject of their champagne toasts.

Each of us can be our own leader. The greatest command is that over oneself. Our capitalist world, controlled by a few rich people and their minions, has done its level best to school out of us the very things which make us such a great species in the first place--initiative, experimentation, imagination, diversity. To refuse to follow leaders is a liberating step, one which the working class has yet to take. When we realise that the post-scarcity world can be run very efficiently and healthily by democratic co-operation, that our own lives would be vastly better without states, governments, police, and all the trappings of leadership, we will collectively be in a position to make that step. And then we will see a revolution unprecedented in history. Socialism--common ownership in a leaderless global democracy--could not work with people unwilling or unable to think for themselves, to take responsibility, or to co-operate, but fortunately, it doesn't have to. Human beings are better than that. We can think, and we can co-operate. There is nothing in the human brain that inclines it to subservience.

WE ARE ALL LEADERS

The Socialist Party has no leaders and argues that the only possible basis for a truly democratic society in which things are produced for need rather than profit, is the voluntary cooperation of free and independent individuals. The Socialist Party has no unaccountable central committees. We have no secret meetings. No Socialist Party meetings are ever closed to non-members and the fullest possible democracy replaces the diktat of a leadership. A socialist party need keep no secrets from its members or from the workers in general.

Although the idea of the benign dictator has always intrigued political writers, the concept of an altruistic leader is clearly contradictory. Power, authority, and privilege - the spoils of leadership - inevitably embrace corruption and it may reasonably be assumed that anyone possessing the integrity to make an honest leader would never seek to become one. At the very least it implies a sense of superiority. As the American writer, H.L. Mencken explained:
"I am strongly in favour of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office."

So pervasive is the myth of the indispensability of leaders that the usual response to never-ending disclosures of duplicity is one of resigned acceptance rather than outrage - it is simply fulfilling expectations. On leadership, the Marquis de Sade had this to say:
 “You can only govern men by deceiving them; one must be hypocritical to deceive them; the enlightened man will never let himself be led, therefore it is necessary to deprive him of enlightenment to lead him as we want ...”

An essential of the leadership theory is the political ignorance of the unlucky people who are to be led. Leadership, in fact, could not exist without blind and ignorant followers. The followers, reason the leaders, cannot be trusted. The working class do not need any more leaders to decide what ideas they may and may not come into contact with. Capitalism is full of leaders, pulling this way and that and all achieving nothing towards the solution of our problems. It is high time for the working class to wake up from their slumbers. It is high time for them to get some knowledge of capitalism. They need to know how capitalism works. Why it can never solve its own problems. Why its leaders are powerless to staunch its course.

The Socialist Party say that workers can come to want and understand socialism (after all, we have and there's nothing special about us) and that socialists should therefore, concentrate on explaining capitalism and socialism (how capitalism can never be made to work in their interests and why common ownership and democratic control of the means of production is the only framework within which the problems workers face can be solved) rather than offering reforms of capitalism. Let us end the rule of leaders and create a society of equals. The task of socialists is to get people to think for themselves, without the need for leaders. Because the Socialist Party has no leaders that does not mean that we are unorganized. Rather, we are organised along democratic lines. Workers can only join the SPGB if they understand what it stands for. Once in their party, their say is as important as the next comrade's view Our Executive Committee is only empowered to carry out the wishes of the membership. The Socialist Party does not just talk about democracy, we practice it.

The activity of the party is carried out by its members, and they are accountable through a whole range of structures.

1) Informal discussion
2) Resolution of a branch
3) resolution to the EC
4) Resolution of the EC
5) Branch poll
6) Floor resolution at ADM
7) Floor resolution at conference
8) Instructed resolution to conference
9) Party poll

No Governments, No Leaders, No Led

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Americans who are piss poor

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Nearly half a million households in the United States lack the basic dignity of hot and cold running water, a bathtub or shower, or a working flush toilet.


About one in five American homes are not on city sewer lines. Many people have failing septic tanks and are too poor to fix them.

Dirty Air Kills

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Nine out of 10 people globally live in places with poor air quality, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said, blaming a worldwide air pollution crisis for being a major factor in millions of deaths per year.

"Indoor air pollution can be just as deadly. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6 percent of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together. Some three million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution," the UN body said.

Almost all of the air pollution-related deaths are due to non-communicable diseases, such cardiovascular illnesses, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. And 90 percent of the deaths reportedly occurred in low and middle-income countries, with nearly two-thirds of them occurring in WHO's Southeast Asia and Western Pacific regions.

"Air pollution continues take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations - women, children and the older adults," said Flavia Bustreo, assistant director general at WHO.


Maria Neira, head of the WHO's department of health and environment, said, "Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cook-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions."

SUFFERING FROM THE TROTS! (weekly poem)

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SUFFERING FROM THE TROTS!

With Corbyn’s win in the leadership contest, there will now be
more who agree with Labour’s Deputy Leader, Tom Watson’s
allegation that the Party has been invaded by Trotskyists.

The body of New Labour’s been,
Infected by the Trots,
Who suffer from verbal diarrhoea,
And tie themselves in knots;
As they’re incapable all round,
Of joining up the dots! 
The Trots are a revolting lot,
Who haven’t got a clue,
And thus they need their ‘Leadership’,
To tell them what to do.
Such leaders who ex-Trots confirm,
Believe that truth’s taboo. (1)

They want a ‘revolution’ to,
Indulge in ‘shock and awe’,
If only they could all decide,
What it was really for.
But in the meantime we can all,
Enjoy a good guffaw!
They’ll, “Nationalise top companies”,
Their theory’s masterpiece,
And then like Trotsky and and his pals, (2)
Bring in the secret police;
In case the wicked bourgeoisie,
Cause a breach of the peace!

‘Transitional demands’ comprise,
Their main strategic quirk,
Two centuries of the big C.,  
Have shown they do not work;
But notwithstanding this, it’s still,
Believed by each Trot berk!
So Comrades! to the barricades!
At last we’re on the brink; 
The revolution’s come at last,
(Too late to start to think!)
Bring Molotov cocktails as you’ll,
Need a Dutch Courage drink!

(1) As in the ‘Comrade Delta’ case.

(2) “Red Terror hastens the destruction of the bourgeoisie”. Quoted by
Trotsky in ’Terrorism and Communism: A Reply to Kaul Kautsky’ p 58.

© Richard Layton