Saturday, May 25, 2019

"Made it ma, Top of the world"

What we said:

"...These matters were not unrelated to the fact that marketing the opportunity for people to climb Everest emerged as another investment, essentially no different from all the other degrading examples of the commodity demands of capitalism..."
https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2013/2010s/no-1306-june-2013/mount-everest-top-whose-world/

"...Mount Everest, once regarded on one side as holy ground side and on the other as a supreme test of moral fortitude, has deteriorated into just another sideshow in capitalism’s commodity culture..."
https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2013/2010s/no-1307-july-2013/postcard-peaks/

Nepal is facing scrutiny for issuing a record 381 permits, at $11,000 (£8,600) each, for this year's Spring season.
A British man died on Saturday on Mount Everest - bringing to 10 the total death toll this season on the world's largest peak.  The number has already eclipsed the total for 2018 as the summit became overcrowded with queuing climbers. The British man reportedly fell ill while descending from the summit. Another, from Ireland, died on Friday. 




CEOs rich as ever


CEOs of some of the wealthiest companies in the U.S. are seeing their pay rise at about twice the rate of the workers who make the day-to-day operations of their businesses run. Workers would need to work 158 consecutive years to earn what their bosses make in one year.

A study of compensation for 340 executives at S&P 500 companies which revealed that the CEOs earned raises averaging $800,000 in 2018—a seven percent increase over the previous year.  The median increase for workers was just 3%.

CEOs at companies including Tesla, Oracle, and T-Mobile saw their pay increase by an average of $1.1 million in 2018, bringing their median compansation to $18.6 million.

American workers were given a raise of just 84 cents on average, reported the NY Times. Reporter Peter Eavis wrote many companies are paying their leaders millions above their base salary just "to do the basics" of their jobs.




Finding the Facts

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair

Most reporters are hacks, undeserving of any praise. However there some, few in number, that we consider worthy to describe as genuine journalists. Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn, for example and the SOYMB blog would also include Jonathan Cook. He has produced a treasure trove of valued observation on the conflicts in the Middle East, exposing the cant and hypocrisy of the mainstream media. 

Jonathan Cook's latest piece can be read in full on Dissident Voice where he explains how the details of how the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) provided the belated justification of the American missile attack on Syria in the wake of a supposed chemical attack by its military and relating this 2018 incident to more threats against Syria from the United States.

In March the OPCW produced a report into a chemical weapons attack the Syrian government allegedly carried out in Douma in April 2018. Several dozen civilians, many of them children, died as a result. The OPCW report joined the US and Europe in placing culpability on the Assad regime. An unprovoked attack on another sovereign country is a war-crime so the OPCW’s conclusion provided an albeit flimsy humanitarian pretext for volleys of cruise missiles.

Cook draws our attention to unreported sources within the OPCW itself which questioned the complicity of the Syrian government and added to the suspicion that the chemical attack was staged by Islamists in a false flag black-ops. The Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media – a group of academics who have grown increasingly sceptical of the western narratives told about Syria – published an internal, leaked OPCW document by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW expert, of the engineering data gathered by the OPCW’s fact-finding mission that attended the scene of the Douma attack, and which has been confirmed as genuine. The assessment contradicts the conclusion of the final OPCW report that the two chemical cylinders were dropped from the air and crashed through building roofs. It argues instead that the cylinders were more likely placed at the locations they were found. This analysis by one of its own experts on the ground is entirely ignored, given no mention in the OPCW report not even as a passing caveat in a foot-note. It is as if this dissenting interpretation doesn't exist, erased from the official record, in a deception of lying by omission.

While the OPCW condemnation of the Assad government in the attack was widely circulated, this blog challenges you to find media references to these serious doubts on the reliability of the OPCW findings.

Jonathan Cook reminds us of the past failings of the lap-dog media in accepting government press-releases as the truth.

A responsible media, a media interested in the facts, in evidence, in truth-telling, in holding the powerful to account, would be duty bound to frame this latest, unsubstantiated claim in the context of the new doubts raised about the OPCW report into last year’s chemical attack blamed on Assad...the corporate media had a professional and moral obligation to raise the matter of the leaked document.” Cook highlights the salient fact that the “...media are so committed to propagandising on behalf of the western powers that they have reported the denials of official wrongdoing even though they have never reported the actual wrongdoing...to reject accusations against the OPCW that the media themselves have never publicly raised.”

As an insightful political commentator, Cook concludes that “... the corporate media are not what they claim. They are not a watchdog on power, or a fourth estate. The media are actually the public relations wing of a handful of giant corporations – and states – that are pursuing two key goals in the Middle East. First, they want to control its oil...Second, with the Middle East awash with oil money, western corporations have a chance to sell more of the lucrative weapons that get used in overt and covert wars...”

Cook ends with the explanation “...The corporations that run our media and our governments have simply conflated in their own minds – and ours – the idea that their narrow corporate interests are synonymous with “western interests”. The false narratives they generate are there to serve a system of power...Everything else – truth, evidence, justice, human rights, love, compassion – must take a back seat. It is this same system that paradoxically is determined to preserve itself even if it means destroying the planet, ravaging our economies, and starting and maintaining endlessly destructive wars. It is a system that will drag us all into the abyss, unless we stop it.?

There is a ditty which we should always keep in mind.

"You cannot hope 
to bribe or twist, 
thank God! the 
British journalist.
But seeing what 
the man will do 
unbribed, there
no occasion to."

We are very fortunate that Jonathan Cook is not such a career journalist.




United Nations Failing to Protect

Despite the United Nations Security Council’s task of protecting civilians, millions around the world are still being displaced and killed with little to no accountability for perpetrators.
Marking 20 years since the UN Security Council included the protection of civilians in its agenda, the group convened for an open debate on the subject.
Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan urged the Security Council to end its “catastrophic failure,” stating: “World leaders have all but abandoned civilians to the ravages of war. This week’s open debate in the Security Council must yield more than just posturing and empty promises. Concrete action is needed to reverse course, effectively protect civilians, stop war crimes and end impunity...The great military powers cynically boast about ‘precision’ warfare and ‘surgical’ strikes that distinguish between fighters and civilians. But the reality on the ground is that civilians are routinely targeted where they live, work, study, worship and seek medical care. Parties to armed conflict unlawfully kill, maim and forcibly displace millions of civilians while world leaders shirk their responsibility and turn their backs on war crimes and immense suffering,” Hassan said.
According to the UN, more than 22,8000 civilians were killed or injured in 2018 alone across just six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen.All five permanent Security Council members are parties to many of these conflicts, and are thus responsible for the failure to protect civilians. For instance, the United States-led coalition killed more than 1,600 civilians in the Syrian city of Raqqa over four months in 2017. The Saudi-led coalition, supported by Western arms from the United States, United Kingdom, and France, have also injured and killed thousands of civilians and deliberately blocked food assistance in Yemen, contributing to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. 
“Grave human suffering is still being caused by armed conflicts and lack of compliance with international humanitarian law…we have the rules and laws of war. We all now need to work to enhance compliance,” said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the council. The UN Secretary-General particularly pointed to the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in populated areas and its devastating impact as 90 percent of those killed and injured are civilians.Many of those civilians are too often children. Guterres pointed to the need to enhance compliance with international humanitarian law as well as greater and more even progress on accountability.
“For the Security Council, this means being more consistent in how it addresses protection concerns within and across different conflicts, and being more comprehensive in terms of, for example, grappling with the protection challenges of urban warfare. And it means keeping today’s conversation going,” he told the council.
Such decisions are crucial for the peace, security, and protection of civilians worldwide.
Beyond the deaths and injuries of civilians, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer noted the long-term impacts of such conflict on communities, stating: “We see damaged infrastructure leading to the collapse of essential health, water systems, and more. It is not only civilian infrastructure that is harmed – the environmental consequences of conflict are often overlooked. This includes vital natural resources which, if damaged can have implications not only for the survival of civilian populations but also for environmental risks.”
Since September 2014, a coalition led by the U.S. has conducted air strikes targeting many oil installations in Syria.
Dutch non-profit PAX found that such damage can generate significant air pollution and soil and water contamination, producing further long-term negative health consequences, including respiratory disorders and cancer. A collapse in waste management services, often disrupted due to fighting, can also lead to contamination and health risks, posing a challenge not only for civilians still living in Syria but also for those who wish to return. Maurer highlighted the need for the Security Council to protect displaced communities or at the very least to let them protect themselves. 
“Too often do we see that in addition to being exposed to war and violence, populations are stopped from reaching safer spaces, are constrained by bureaucratic obstacles and are limited in their free movement,” he said. “These decisions can save lives or end them; they can create hope or misery; and they can bolster or break the norms that protect universal humanitarian laws and principles…not only are the decisions of all UN Member States and especially the Security Council important, the absence of decisions by the Council also takes its toll on civilians,” Maurer said. 
http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/05/un-failed-civilians/



Friday, May 24, 2019

All belongs to all

Organisers said over 1.8 million people took part in over 2,000 actions in 125 countries with chants including "Save our planet, save our future." In London, thousands gathered in the sunshine in Parliament Square chanting, “Where the fuck is the government”, and “This is what democracy looks like”, before staging a sit-down protest outside the department of education. In Cambridge about 2,000 school students demonstrated and there were big protests in cities from Leeds to Bristol, Manchester to Cardiff.

Socialism means many things to many people. Ask someone in the environmentalist movement what socialism means and you'll be answered with various responses - it is government control, state ownership, regulations and legislation, economic intervention by government, redistribution of income, progressive taxation. It’s the welfare state, the mixed economy, or the command economy and central planning. When someone does proclaim that he or she is an “eco-socialist”, they have difficulty defining what that actually means other than they are for a green sustainable economy based on renewable energy with good jobs and full employment for everyone.

 The problem with such “socialisms” is that they all leave capitalism in place. By understanding capitalism and how it works, we come to a clearer understanding of what socialism should mean.

If socialist politics means a radical break from capitalism, then all the premises of capitalism must be fundamentally challenged. Whether it is called ‘the market economy, ‘neo-liberalism’, ‘free enterprise’ (or even ‘mixed’ or ‘state-command’ economy”), the social system under which we live is capitalism. Capitalism is primarily an economic system of competitive capital accumulation out of the surplus value produced by wage labour. As a system it must continually accumulate or go into crisis. Consequently, human needs and the needs of our natural environment take second place to this imperative. The result is waste, pollution, environmental degradation and unmet needs on a global scale. The ecologist’s dream of a sustainable ‘zero growth’ within capitalism will always remain just that, a dream. If human society is to be able to organise its production in an ecologically acceptable way, then it must abolish the capitalist economic mechanism of capital accumulation and gear production instead to the direct satisfaction of needs.

Capitalism is a system of capital creation and accumulation. Capital must not only be created, it must be necessarily accumulated and expanded (and unless accumulated to a great extent the system breaks down resulting in recession and economic crises). The existence of capital presupposes two things - first, a working class which is divorced from does not own the means of production. The only thing that workers really possess is their labour power, their ability to labour which they must sell for a wage or salary. Secondly, the existence of a class which owns or controls capital, which buys the labour power of the workers and uses it for the creation of surplus value, profit. Thus, capitalism is a class-divided society. On the one hand, those who own only their labour power, on the other hand, those who own capital. On the one hand, those who survive by selling their labour power, on the other hand, those who gain their existence by living off the profit (surplus value) created by the other class. The distinguishing feature of capitalism is not that capital/property is privately owned or that production is anarchic, that there is no planning. It is that labour is alienated, exploited.  If the State intervenes or nationalises property and eliminates private capitalists the State itself becomes the single capitalist, its bureaucracy the de facto owners of capital. Capitalism as the ‘system of capital’ remains unchanged. It simply transforms into state-capitalism. The actual existence of capitalism as a ‘system of capital’ imposes limits to what that system can do. In the end, the system cannot work in a way that is detrimental to capital and all action within this system of capital (reforms, taxation, public works, health care, issues of the environment and ecology, etc.) are determined and restricted by the inevitable fact that capital must accumulate. Capital not only limits what one can do it also divides people against each other in an acknowledged ‘Rat Race’ that lays the foundation for the politics of despair, racism, sexism, ethnic division as people compete for the crumbs offered.
People think economics has something to do with bosses, accountants, economists, money, the market, profits, production, the division of labour, work or wage labour. Capitalists claim that all the things listed above like money and the market are natural, and it is impossible to have anything else. Instead, we need to talk of the economic means for the satisfaction of the needs of all human beings with the least possible expenditure of energy and resources to achieve them. To satisfy these needs, we need to re-organise society. We need to have a revolution to abolish all classes and wage-labour.

The Socialist Party rejects the market, money, and profit as both exploitative and unnecessary. Instead, we need a society of common ownership and voluntary labour to meet these shared needs and wants. The first is the taking into possession of all of the wealth of the world, on behalf of the whole of humanity, because that wealth is the collective work of humanity. This requires the abolition of all property and the holding of all resources in common for the well-being of all. The abolition of property requires the abolition of the wage system. The second is organising society around the principle “From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” This means everything should be produced, distributed and exchanged for free according to need. Everyone would be the judge of their own needs and take for free from the common storehouse whatever they needed. If there was scarcity, things would be rationed according to need.

The problem for a great number of people in the environmental movement is that they want to retain the market system in which goods are distributed through sales at a profit and people’s access to goods depends upon their incomes. The market, however, can only function with a constant pressure to renew its capacity for sales; and if it fails to do this production breaks down, people are out of employment and suffer a reduced income. It is a fundamental flaw and an insoluble contradiction in the green capitalist argument that they want to retain the market system, which can only be sustained by continuous sales and continuous incomes, and at the same time they want a conservation society with reduced productive activity. These aims are totally incompatible with each other. Also what many green thinkers advocate in their version of a “steady-state” market economy, is that the surplus would be used not to reinvest in expanding production, nor in maintaining a privileged class in luxury but in improving public services while maintaining a sustainable balance with the natural environment. It’s the old reformist dream of a tamed capitalism, minus the controlled expansion of the means of production an earlier generation of reformists used to envisage.

UK in poverty denial

Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, whose warning of deepening poverty in Britain was this week dismissed as “barely believable” by ministers, has said the government’s denial is as worrying as the poverty itself.

Alston, an eminent New York-based human rights lawyer, said the government response amounted to “a total denial of a set of uncontested facts” and that when he first read its public comment “I thought it might actually be a spoof”. He said he feared it showed ministers were not willing to debate official figures that showed 14 million people were living in relative poverty and therefore consider what he believes are essential changes to the welfare system.

Ministers responded that it was “a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty” and instead claimed the UK was among the happiest countries in the world.  It appeared to be a study that placed the UK 15th behind 12 other European countries including Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the whole of Scandinavia.


“That takes the denial on the part of the government to new heights,” Alston said. “The government is proceeding as if the problems I have reported don’t exist. Is it the case that 14 million people do not live in poverty? Do they contest the child poverty predictions? That is what it seems to be.”
Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, said she felt it was politically biased and alleged that Alston did not do enough research, only visiting the UK for 11 days. 
But far from backing down, Alston, has pushed his argument harder.

“The statement is as troubling as the situation,” he said. “There is nothing that indicates any willingness to debate over issues which have generated endless very detailed, totally reputable reports across the political spectrum in the UK. All of these are dismissed...I think breaking rocks has some similarity to the 35 hours of job search [required per week to receive universal credit] for people who have been out of work for months or years,” he said. “They have to go through the motions but it is completely useless. That seems to me to be very similar to the approach in the old-style workhouse. The underlying mentality is that we are going to make the place sufficiently unpleasant that you really won’t want to be here.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/may/24/un-poverty-expert-hits-back-over-uk-ministers-denial-of-facts-philip-alston

The Iniquity America's Inequality

The bottom half of Americans combined have a negative net worth," Ben Steverman wrote in a recent Bloomberg article.
This statement is based on the research of economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, who study wealth inequality. Zucman is a "wealth detective" who spends hours combing through spreadsheets of tax tables, macroeconomic datasets, and international money flow calculations to find the secret money stashes of the world's richest people.
Saez and Zucman's research on wealth inequality also found that 20% of American wealth is controlled by the top 0.1% of taxpayers - or about 170,000 families. The top 1% control about 39% of the country's wealth, and the bottom 90% hold only 26%, despite years of economic growth in the US overall.
"The pie has not become bigger" in the US, Zucman told Bloomberg. "It's just that a bigger slice is going to the top." 
French economist Thomas Piketty, one of Zucman's former professors, has been spotlighting findings from the 2018 World Inequality Report, which he coauthored. 
The authors found that while the income of the top 1% of American taxpayers made up 11% of the national income in 1980, it now makes up more than 20% of the country's income.
And the income of the bottom half of Americans, which was 20% of the national income in 1980, has fallen to just 12%.
In other words, the country's rich have been getting increasingly richer while the middle class and the poor get poorer. 
Millennials are saddled with more than $1 trillion of student loan debt. ore than 3 million Americans aged 60 and older are still paying off their student loans.

Credit card debt is also on the rise. More than 40% of US households carry credit card debt, and the average debt balance is $5,700, according to a 2018 report. 

And about one fifth of Americans don't have any money saved up.

No "green" capitalism! We champion green socialism!


Capitalist development has dragged humanity down to so low a level that it no longer knows, and can no longer know, other than one incentive: money. Money has become the prime mover, the alpha and omega of all human action.Paul Lafargue

Greta Thunberg and other youth strikers for climate action from across the world are hoping for adults to join a global general strike on 20 September. Thunberg issued the call for a general strike in an article in the Guardian.
We’re asking adults to step up alongside us … today, so many of our parents are busy discussing whether our grades are good, or a new diet or the Game of Thrones finale – whilst the planet burns,” they write. “But to change everything, we need everyone. It is time for all of us to unleash mass resistance … if we demand change in numbers we have a chance.”
We’re asking adults to step up alongside us,” the youth strikers write. “Step out of your comfort zone to make this a turning point in our history. This is about crossing lines – it’s about rebelling wherever one can rebel.”

We are well aware of the fact that the majority in the environmentalist movement are not acquainted, for the most part, with what the socialist case is all about. One of the reasons has always been the alleged urgency of the climate crisis that seem to be of a greater priority. It is difficult for those of us in the Socialist Party not to feel irritated at times because the urgency is exactly the clue to the lack of comprehension of what the problem is about. To save the environment has become the great discovery of the past decade. The words ecology, climate change, global warming and carbon emissions have become household terms. The end of the world is at hand unless we do something about the environment has become a common refrain. A planet fit for human beings to inhabit has become the question of ultimate survival. The Socialist Party maintains that as long as we hold the relationships of a market economy, that is, the pro­duction of commodities to be sold for a profit — the environment be damned, profits come first. The prime concern of business is to keep the costs of production as low as possible. Profits have to be of paramount priority. The Socialist Party's case boils down to this simple premise: Let us eliminate the rela­tionships of commodity production — let us produce goods to serve the needs of humanity instead of producing in order to make profits — let us organise our world on a democratically planned base instead of working for the benefit of the stockholders — let us harness the natural wealth of the universe and match it with the trained technology of the workers who live on this planet.

"Green" capitalism is illusory, simple wishful thinking. The destructive "grow or die" imperative of our market-driven system cannot be wished or regulated away. Capitalism is based on the premise of eternal growth. It is not a steady state, but a rapacious system that is never satiated. Under a capitalist system, not growing is not the same as standing still; it is moving backwards. This is the fundamental contradiction in a finite world. Countless studies have documented that limits to growth in such areas as energy, minerals, water and arable land (among others) are fast being reached. The energy corporations are desperately trying to crash through these limits with technological fixes such as fracking, tar sands exploitation and deep-water drilling, which are equally or more environmentally costly than traditional methods. Yet the trends continue. Capitalism has utterly failed us. It has destroyed our communities, our democracy and the planet we live on. As long as people believe that capitalism is sustainable,  they'll focus on reforming it -- smoothing around the edges, re-writing regulations and so on. Some of us though seek a revolution that overthrows the whole system, clearing the way for something entirely new. Maximising accumulation is the force that drives capitalism. Appropriating nature and labour is the cheapest way for maximisation of accumulation. Capitalism is always about the theft of the people's sustenance and the looting of the source of their sustenance – Nature. Capitalists hate any sort of cost. Corporations don’t care much for building environmental costs into their production and spend millions of dollars in political lobbying to thwart such policies. This system where the master class try their best to maximise profit by minimising cost, by appropriating labour, robbing nature, grabbing everything within their reach, creating pollution and destruction of the ecology and causing the ruination of nature are acts of crime - crime against the planet, against posterity, against humanity. It is eco-murder! These are crimes that not only harm present generations but hurt future generations. Vulture environmentalism is vulture capitalism’s hungry and greedy twin. Capitalism is a system that must continually expand, a system that, by its very nature, will eventually come up against the reality of finite natural resources. By its very nature the capitalism system stands against ecology and environment as its only concern is profit, nothing else. Standing up for environment will inescapably lead to questioning this ever greedy hungry economic system. Nobody as yet ever talks about the CAUSE of all these "issues" and underlying reasons but they eventually will arrive at such questions. 

Do we stand upon the brink of the destruction of the whole of mankind? If the catastrophists and those who predict social collapse are correct that ecosystem is in fact in the process of irreversible destruction, then all alternatives, even socialism, would seem to be not only utopian but futile. The popular media presents us with the dystopian vision of a Mad Max scenario rather than off a positive socialist alternative. The Socialist Party explains that we stand upon the threshold of a new age of peace, prosperity and plenty. What is the future of mankind? That is for humanity to decide. It must be decided by the majority of the working people. They must organise and speak with one voice: We demand life with socialism before death under capitalism. The fight for socialism has become the fight for the very existence of humankind. We have always said that the future belongs to socialism.