Thursday, September 18, 2014

Referendum - Neither Yes nor No

Our case against Scottish separatism is not an argument in favour of the other nationalism, British unionism. Workers should not have any illusions in a capitalist state of whatever nationality, and instead to fight for their own class interests. Scotland leaving the UK is not going to seriously dent the power of the UK. Workers in an independent Scotland will still get fucked over by their bosses and a Scottish state, in the same way workers are in the rest of the UK. It will be business as usual. The Yes vision of a sovereign Scotland is one that it is not independent and most definitely not socialist. We will still be living under the rules of capitalism so not much will change for the working class. The same old shit. Both Yes and No camps ultimately represent class interests other than our own, no matter how much left nationalists might argue otherwise. Socialists should not feel compelled to take a side just because its a issue many of the Scottish working class feel strongly about. It would just be doing it for the sake of it and would go against an important principle of internationalism, which we have for a reason.

If rule from Holyrood is better for workers in Scotland than rule from Westminister, why is that? If having the seat of political power within the same 'nation'/geographic proximity meant the government was 'more representative', then presumably we'd have seen riots in Penzance, Dover and Carlisle rather than a stone's throw from Westminister in Tottenham, Hackney or Deptford...The obvious answer to that is that states don't represent 'the nation' but the ruling class, and 'nations' don't exploit one another, classes do. Scottish workers do not require national independence but they do urgently need an independent working class movement to counteract the poison of nationalism.

What we want to do is use class unity as a powerful weapon for victory. Today, we got division among workers, instead of solidarity. Instead of workers everywhere uniting more closely in the fight against capitalism, workers have been weakened.

The only legitimate socialist position to the referendum is that of indifference. It disnae matter and we dinnae care because it winnae make a damn little bit difference to our lives. But, nevertheless, take this opportunity to say so by spoiling the referendum voting paper by writing ‘World Socialism’ across it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Real Democracy

Few people know what the word “democracy” means. If asked, they tend to say things like “being able to express your opinions”, “doing what you like”, etc.. Very few people are aware that the literal meaning of the word is ’rule by the people’. If people are asked whether they think that parliamentary democracy actually brings about rule by the people then most are sceptical. They have a healthy contempt for politicians because it is known through long experience that the measures they enact are not usually in the interests of the people. What is very clear is that whoever forms the government they serve the interests of the capitalist ruling class. It is the owners of the means of production who exercise real power. They have power to make the decisions that have a major impact on the lives of the rest of us. Yet most go on voting because they have a vague feeling that the civil liberties we do enjoy are somehow dependent on people voting in elections. Although most of us have serious doubts that it gives us any real power over our lives we go through with the ritual. Somehow it is easier to go along with the crowd than to stand out by abstaining or as we advise, spoiling the voting paper.

“Working Men of all Countries, Unite!” because it is the struggle of workers against the bosses which will propel mankind forward to the socialist society and which will liberate all peoples  from the reign of classes forever. This struggle of the working class takes place on a global scale to defeat the capitalists on a world-wide scale.  This principle simply means the solidarity of one worker with another, irrespective of nationality and support for the struggles of workers in other countries.

The Socialist Party wishes to make it clear that we consider the referendum not from the point of view of nationalism, but from the point of view of socialism and from the desire to find the best method of struggle for socialism.  We do not assert that the struggle for independence is more important than the struggle for socialism. A century or more of experience of reformist, national liberation  governments has amply demonstrated that this neither gives the  people power nor poses any threat to the rule of the capitalist class. On the contrary, the nationalism of  governments has helped perpetuate the rule of capital by taking off some of its sharpest edges and by holding out the false hope of bringing about more fundamental changes within the present capitalist system. Resistance to oppression and exploitation is a constant factor in every country who have acquired their independence. There are many left nationalists in Scotland , people who wish to see Scotland become a “socialist” country. But there is more to the achievement of socialism than that.

 Socialism is the answer to Scotland’s problems and that only through socialism will exploitation and  alienation be done away with. To say this may only be to state a truism, a truism that is equally valid in England, and in every country in the world.

Wage Theft - Employers Guilty

Employers’ theft from Worker Wages 3 times more than all other Theft in US

As the economy slowly recovers, it’s become increasingly clear that it’s not just unemployed Americans who need help from the government. It’s those that are employed as well. That’s the main finding of a new report from the Economic Policy Institute on wage theft.

What is wage theft? It’s when employers refuse to pay their workers their rightful wages and benefits, such as refusing to pay overtime. It’s a major problem across the United States.

One study, which EPI cites, examined three cities (New York, Chicago and Los Angeles) and found that two-thirds of workers in low-wage industries had experienced a pay-related offense in any given week in 2008. Those violations cost workers more than $2,600 a year on average—nearly 15 percent of their total earnings.
 If wage theft is as prevalent in the rest of the United States as it is in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, then it costs workers more than $50 billion a year.”

from here

Socially Responsible Investments - Capitalism With A Conscience

Capitalism with a conscience? That's the idea behind so-called "socially responsible" investments - buying stocks in companies that are screened for criteria like good labor practices, sustainability and whether or not the company is involved in arms manufacturing. The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, an industry association, claimed in its latest report from 2012 that at least $3.74 trillion in the United States is invested with environmental and social impacts in mind.
Some socially responsible investments (SRI) weed out cigarette companies like Philip Morris; others shun companies with poor environmental records, like BP. But whichever investments you choose, there's a good chance you'll be profiting off companies with bad human rights records because the backbone of many SRI funds are consumer technology stocks - companies like Apple and Samsung, which have histories replete with labor and privacy abuses.

China Labor Watch (CLW) is one of the groups that investigates ongoing labor problems; Kevin Slaten is its US-based program coordinator. He spoke to Truthout about the reports his organization has conducted on Apple, which started to be heavily scrutinized around 2010 when activists brought attention to child labor in some of the factories used by the computer giant. Some of these same factories were the subjects of protests over a number of Chinese labor law violations and mass worker suicides.
According to Slaten, "We constantly find these symptoms, but the disease underlying these symptoms has not been properly taken care of for years. The disease is these companies want the most amount of products in the shortest amount of time."

(* At this point the article continues with examples and details of various companies and ways in which they are perceived not to be socially responsible.)
And to conclude:
SRI companies have some catching up to do. As it stands, "socially responsible" funds are saturated with the shares of tech companies like Hewlett-Packard and Apple that make huge profits off of selling surveillance equipment, and off the backs of low-paid laborers who are worked to death, literally.

To actually be "socially responsible," SRI funds would need to utterly change their methods and goals. "We really do believe in the power that responsible investment has to improve companies," said Bennett Freeman, senior vice president for sustainability research and policy at Calvert, an all-SRI investment company that manages over $13.5 billion in assets for half a million US account holders.

"At the end of the day," said Calvert's Freeman, "we're in the asset management business. We're in the business of making solid returns for our account holders."

Profits trump everything else.

from here

 "We constantly find these symptoms, but the disease underlying these symptoms has not been properly taken care of for years. The disease is these companies want the most amount of products in the shortest amount of time."
SOYMB cannot agree with this statement. We believe the diagnosis to be wrong.
Capitalism and its profit motive would be a more accurate, if brief, diagnosis of the disease.

The Gender Gap - Women Are Workers Too!

For the second time this year, Senate Republican have blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act from moving forward.
In a procedural vote on Monday, the Act, which would help women achieve protections from gender-based wage discrimination, failed to earn the 60 votes needed.
Joining all the Republicans in issuing a "no" vote was Senator Angus King (I-Maine), who also helped block the measure in April.

Though enough Republicans voted last week to allow the measure to proceed to debate, Steve Benen writes at the MaddowBlog that it was "not because they supported it, but because they were trying to waste time, eating up the clock on the Senate’s limited pre-election schedule. If the GOP had killed the measure quickly, it would have meant moving on to something else Republicans don’t like, so they dragged out the fight on the Paycheck Fairness Act, simply because they could."

"The Senate’s continued failure to give the Paycheck Fairness Act an up or down vote lets down millions of American workers," stated Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU senior legislative counsel and co-chair of the National Paycheck Fairness Act Coalition.
"Pay equity is not a partisan issue, and paying women what they have already rightfully earned is good for them, for the nation’s economy, and for American businesses’ bottom lines," she said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid criticized the outcome as well, saying, "In 2014, more than 50 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, it is simply unacceptable that American women take home on average 77 cents for every dollar their male colleagues earn for doing the same work. But Republicans do not see this as a problem."
“Not only is the wage gap in our country unfair, but it also hurts our economy. Pay inequality will cost the average working woman $464,320 over her lifetime," Reid stated.

from here

Same the whole world over? - It's the system, of course. Women have been trying and waiting for equal pay for decades and at this rate it could take a hundred years or more. Why wait any longer? Go for the real answer - join with the workers of the world whatever their gender or ethnicity and fight for the abolition of the wages system in favour of a world of common ownership, our ownership.

Independence is the status quo

Judge by the friends they keep
Are nationalist movements revolutionary in and of themselves? The question we must ask ourselves is, do national movements strengthen or weaken capitalism. Since 1945 the number of nations has soared from about 60 to more than 180. The first wave of new sovereign states came with the decolonisation movement of the 1960s and 1970s; the second in the early 1990s with the break-up of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc. If Scotland votes for independence it may spark a third wave.  Dozens of would-be nations are waiting in the wings. There is no “Great British.” What we find are the various English regions, Scots, Irish, Cornish, and Welsh. In Italy, we find the Lombards, Tyroleans, Venetians, Sicilians, or Romans. In Germany we find Bavarians, Saxons, Hessians, Prussians, Rhinelanders, or Brandenburgers. And in France, we find Normans, Catalans, Alsatians, Basques, or Burgundians. Similarly with Spain and many other “nations”.

Marxists must stand firmly for world socialism. The problems of the Scottish workers arise not from being linked to England and Wales, as the nationalists argue, but because of the repeated crises of capitalism which burden workers and their families north and south of the border. The oppression and exploitation of working people is a product of capitalist society and can only be removed by the socialist transformation of society. This requires the unity of all workers, irrespective of nationality, colour or gender.

 The Scottish nationalists may have jettisoned their "Tartan Tory" image but they are by no means a socialist party and the fact that they have certain ‘radical' policies compared to the Labour Party is neither here nor there. The SNP aim is not the overthrow of capitalism, but of working within the confines of capitalism and blame all the workers’ problems upon control from London.

 Capitalism created the world market and to which all national states, no matter how big and powerful, are subordinate. These are the times of multinationals and the global economy. If Scotland does become sovereign it will quickly discover that that sovereignty has been severely restricted by those increasingly dominant global corporations. Nations may be getting smaller, but corporations are getting larger. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, more than half are global corporations. The top 200 corporations' combined sales represent over one quarter of the world’s GDP. The power of corporations is usually sufficient to cow small countries and corporations have bribed or intimidated governments to put into practice rules that severely circumscribe their authority to express the will of their people. Today corporations can buy a PO Box number in the Cayman Islands to avoid tax in Scotland. Trade agreements grant extraordinary rights and privileges to foreign corporations and investors that formally give corporate rights precedence over the right of governments to govern their own affairs. If there is a dispute, foreign corporations can skirt domestic courts and directly challenge any policy or action of a sovereign government in often secret proceedings presided over not by judges, but by arbitrators, often corporate lawyers themselves.  Dozens of corporate challenges are currently winding their way through these “courts”. US tobacco giant Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia over their anti-smoking laws. US company Lone Pine Resources Inc. is demanding $250 million in compensation from Canada because of lost potential profits from Quebec’s moratorium on “fracking”. The Swedish energy giant Vatterfall has sued Germany for its decision to phase out nuclear power, demanding billions in compensation.

Nationalism is a powerful and poisonous force.  Socialists should make no attempt to accommodate any form of nationalism which threatens the unity of the working class.  Nationalism, no matter how it is dressed up up with pseudo-socialist phrases does not represent a way forward for the working people. Class unity should be our starting point in the struggle for socialism. Only by class solidarity, can we hope to combat the poison of nationalism. Workers' unity must be in the fore-front not  an afterthought. It is the task of socialists to sweep away  national boundaries, not erect new ones.

We are endeavouring to show working people the plain facts of the position, regardless of whether these facts are palatable or not. People’s views are, in the main, the product of their particular social environment—they see the world from the point of view of the class into which they are born and with which their interests are bound up. Consequently small local enterprises (aspiring to be another giant conglomerate) struggle to break the bonds that interfere with the expansion of their business. They demand liberty yet the freedom they desire is commercial freedom—to exploit nature and the worker to the fullest extent possible. The mainspring of the nationalist movement is the desire for power and expansion on the part of some Scottish capitalists. We, who are workers, however, should concern ourselves with the bonds that bind us to the cogs of capital—that doom us forever to the toil and sweat of slavery.  The continuance of the private property system is the central idea in the nationalist movement, and so long as private property remains the miseries that necessarily flow therefrom will remain also and continue to afflict the workers under an independent Scotland. So long as private property is the order of the day it matters little to the propertyless Scottish worker who rules Scotland. It works out the same — we, the workers, are always the bottom dogs. Members of the Socialist Party have long since turned a deaf ear to the empty phrases of nationalism and patriotism, and look forward with hope to world socialism. This object, we claim, is far more worthy of the attention and support of Scottish workers than the chimeras of the SNP and their left nationalist allies. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

IRAQ! (part2)- poem


IRAQ! (Part 2 of 2)

The West’s invasion of Iraq,
In every way gung-ho;
Was both a means of saving face,
And also just another case,
Of braggadocio.

The Sainted Blair and Burning Bush,
Invoked the leave of God;
And both ensured their deity,
(With some help from the laity)
In no way spared the rod.

Saddam their one-time minion,
Had ceased to be of use;
And for his rebuff had to pay,
And so for his removal, they
Both needed no excuse.

The ‘mission was accomplished’ but,
As to what next to do;
The Burning Bush and Sainted Blair,
(Who thought they didn’t have a care)
Both didn’t have a clue.

Iraq fell into anarchy,
The casualties increased;
As almost every day went by
With people being blown sky-high,
Increasing the deceased.

Now Blair and Bush both can’t admit,
The error of their ways;
Both claiming God will judge their acts,    
According to the truth and facts,            
At this world’s ‘End of Days’.

The West’s invasion of Iraq,      
Was thought to be a breeze;
But this was somewhat premature,
As both the treatment and the cure,
Were worse than the disease.

© Richard Layton

BP's All-Round Negligence Includes Treatment Of Retirees

 BP's code of conduct as it is outlined on the company website states,

 "We say what is true" and "We do what is right."

In early September US District Judge Carl Barbier found BP guilty of gross negligence, or "more reckless and extreme behavior" for their 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, which was the single largest marine oil spill in US history.
Barbier, who is based in New Orleans, wrote that the oil giant had taken measures to cut costs despite obvious safety risks, and mentioned that some of BP's decisions "evince an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks."

BP now faces a penalty of as much as $4,300 for each barrel of oil spilled, exposing the oil company to an additional $18 billion in fines. That is nearly quadruple the maximum civil fine had the finding been simple negligence.
Barbier's decision prompted the UK government to tell US Supreme Court judges that decisions to authorize payments to people who were not injured by the spill raises "grave international comity concerns by undermining confidence in the vigorous and fair resolution of disputes."

Given the number of UK citizens, government employees or otherwise, who have a massive financial stake in BP's financial well-being, the UK government's interest in the outcome of BP's US court case is obvious.
In a court brief dated September 4, the UK government said, "The lower courts' rulings have dramatically expanded" BP's "scope of liability far beyond anything that would seem to be appropriate under our shared common-law traditions or that anyone would reasonably expect."

Yet several long-term senior BP "SOHIO" employees who are incensed at what they believe is BP's attempt to short-change them on their pensions are enraged by the company's willingness to engage the UK government's assistance in avoiding fines in the United States, whilst ignoring the pleas of US-based senior employees for the company to honor their pension plans.
For more than half a year, at least 450 BP America employees have described BP as a company that is reneging on their pension plans by up to 75 percent, lying about it, and actively working against them in order not to pay them retirement benefits that were promised.

Russel Stauffer worked for BP in Houston for 32 years, but left in 2012 in "disgust."
"I quit the company as 'head of finance for the Gulf of Mexico,' I had a sweet job, but I could no longer stand the injustice and lies at work."
Fritz Guenther, a BP employee and United Steelworkers Union member working in Alaska, who has worked for BP for 35 years, said he and his colleagues are "currently fighting to get back the pension plans that BP promised us in writing in 1989."

But now the UK government's decision has him "severely pissed off."
"Where was the UK government in 1989 when BP stole, yes stole, over half of its American workers pensions," Guenther told Truthout. "Yeah, it's all well and good to screw your American workers but when the shoe is on the other foot the UK government feels the need to step in? Hey UK government, where were you when your beloved BP was putting the boots to its American workers?"

Guenther said he and his colleagues are "currently fighting back to get the pension plans that BP promised us in writing in 1989."
Guenther, Stauffer and other previous and current BP employees are frustrated because they all belonged to Standard Oil of Ohio (SOHIO), a company BP bought outright in 1987 and made the cornerstone of its new national operation, BP America. At the time, BP promised these new employees in writing that their pension plan would maintain equal value to the old plan, or would even increase in value.
According to Guenther and several other current and former long-standing BP employees, in 1989 BP converted its US-based workers to a "new and improved" retirement plan.
"But four years ago we realized that over half of our pensions were missing," Guenther said. "When we brought this to BP's attention they quit talking to their own long-term employees."

According to these BP employees to date over 450 BP America US employees have filed "code of conduct and ethics complaints" with the BP Ombudsman Judge Stan Sporkin.
Following a two year investigation, in which, according to the employees, BP repeatedly lied to the judge and even hired two of the ombudsman's investigators to stop the investigation, Sporkin concluded that what BP did to their pensions was, according to Guenther, "wrong on every level and BP 'needs to take bold action' to correct this for some of their longest serving, most loyal employees."

Regarding BP's consistent claims that the company has done everything possible to compensate those impacted by its disaster in the Gulf, coupled with the company enlisting the UK government to come to its aid regarding the recent court ruling against it, Guenther had strong words.
"I am so damn sick and tired of hearing about poor, poor BP everyone is after them," he said. "How about you guys in the media do a report on how BP stole its US workers' pensions and has continued to ignore them?"

Article by Dahr Jamail from here with more information from BP workers, both current and retired.

How easy these mega-corporations find it to set one section of workers against another while they, the company, wiggle and squirm their way around what affects them negatively. And, not surprisingly, one government can turn a blind eye to another's workers' grievances. This is capitalism. Only profits matter. The only way to overcome such inequity is to see the system for what it is from its roots to its branches and be prepared to work together across the world to overturn the system in its entirety.

Millions Subject To Wage Seizure For Consumer Debt

Back in 2009, Kevin Evans was one of millions of Americans blindsided by the recession. His 25-year career selling office furniture collapsed. He shed the nice home he could no longer afford, but not a $7,000 credit card debt.

After years of spotty employment, Evans, 58, thought he'd finally recovered last year when he found a better-paying, full-time customer service job in Springfield, Mo. But early this year, he opened his paycheck and found a quarter of it missing. His credit card lender, Capital One, had garnished his wages. Twice a month, whether he could afford it or not, 25 percent of his pay — the legal limit — would go to his debt, which had ballooned with interest and fees to over $15,000.

The recession and its aftermath have fueled an explosion of cases like Evans'. Creditors and collectors have pursued struggling cardholders and other debtors in court, securing judgments that allow them to seize a chunk of even meager earnings. The financial blow can be devastating — more than half of U.S. states allow creditors to take a quarter of after-tax wages.

At the request of ProPublica, ADP, the nation's largest payroll services provider, undertook a study of 2013 payroll records for 13 million employees. ADP's report, released today, shows that more than one in 10 employees in the prime working ages of 35 to 44 had their wages garnished in 2013.
Roughly half of these debtors, unsurprisingly, owed child support. But a sizeable number had their earnings docked for consumer debts, such as credit cards, medical bills and student loans.
Extended to the entire population of U.S. employees, ADP's findings indicate that 4 million workers — about 3 percent of all employees — had wages taken for a consumer debt in 2013.

 ADP's study, the first large-scale look at how many employees are having their wages garnished and why, reveals what has been a hidden burden for working-class families. Wage seizures were most common among middle-aged, blue-collar workers and lower-income employees. Nearly 5 percent of those earning between $25,000 and $40,000 per year had a portion of their wages diverted to pay down consumer debts in 2013, ADP found.

 Even if a Debt is Years Old, a Debtor Can Be Hit With a Garnishment
When a creditor or debt collector files a lawsuit and wins a court judgment against a debtor, their power to garnish the debtor's wages or bank account lasts as long as the debt is outstanding — even a decade later. This chart shows the age of the original lawsuit for garnishments filed in Missouri in 2013.


more here

UK's Inequality

To be in the top 1% of earners in Britain today, a couple with no children would need a minimum income of £160,000. A single person can enter the 1% with a little less, while a couple with children would need more. If the national minimum wage had kept pace with FTSE 100 CEO salaries since 1999, it would now be £18.89 per hour instead of £6.50.

Per head, there are more so-called ultra-high net-worth individuals (UHNWI) in London than anywhere else on the planet. These are defined as people with $30m (£21m) or more in assets apart from their main home. The estate agents Frank Knight recently reported that 4,224 “Ultra” families were living in London, with the number expected to reach 5,000 by 2024.

 A study from Princeton University in which MRI scans were taken of several university students’ active brains while they viewed images of different people. Researchers saw that photographs of homeless people and drug addicts failed to stimulate areas of the brain that usually activate whenever people think about other people, or themselves. Instead, the more affluent students reacted to the images as if they “had stumbled on a pile of trash”. Social psychologists from Berkeley and Amsterdam have studied strangers in situations where one told the other of a difficult personal experience, such as a death in the family. The larger the social gap, the less compassion was shown. Such behaviour, and the acceptance of it as normal, becomes much more prevalent in those places where the 1% have taken the most.

The UK coalition government has already reduced the top rate of tax to 45%. Now it plans tougher benefit cuts for the poor. Under current financial plans, it will reward the top 1% even more in future, by cutting income taxes further. The rest of the top 20% can expect slight increases in their net income in the years up to 2016, while everyone else is impoverished. These figures are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s own projections. The tax, benefit and spending changes now underway will hit households with children hardest. These make up a third of households, according to the children’s commissioner for England, but will suffer around two thirds of the cuts. On average, couples with no children will lose 4%, couples with children 9%, and lone parents 14% of their net income. Yet the 1% with children face no net cuts. Their loss of child benefit is more than outweighed by what they gain from tax cuts.

In spring this year, Oxfam revealed that some 85 of the world’s richest people now had as much wealth as the poorest half of all humanity. A few weeks later, Forbes magazine updated that estimate  to just 66 people.

Full article can be read here

Parking For The Privileged

Developers in Manhattan have just placed ten underground parking spaces at a new condo complex up for sale.

At $1 million each.

The spaces may well sell out. Just this past May, another Manhattan developer listed 25 parking spaces for sale at $500,000. The 25 spots all quickly found buyers. That didn’t surprise the developer. The adjacent apartments, the developer explained to the New York Times, were selling for $47 million.

“Another $500,000 for the luxury of not walking a block or two and having your own spot,” the developer observed, “I guess it becomes a rounding error.

Wealth concentration so extreme that some people of 'privilege' are spending over four times more for a parking space than most Americans spend on a home.

taken from here

Is this land our land?

“Your land, eh?”, asks the miner.
“Yes”, replies the laird, “and my grouse and my deer.”
“And who did you get this land from?”
“Well, I inherited it from my father.”
“And who did he get it from?” the miner insists.
“He inherited it from his father, of course. And he from his father. The land has been in my family for over 400 years,” the laird proudly declared .
“OK, so how did your family come to own this land 400 years ago?” the miner asks.
“Well....actually.... they fought for it!”
“Fine,” replies the miner. “Take your jacket off and I’ll fight you now for it.

Scotland 19,068,631 acres - 100%
Urban 585,627 acres - 3%
Rural 18,483,004 acres - 97%

Of the rural land, 2, 275,768 acres are in the ownership of public bodies
and 16,207,236 are in the ownership of private bodies.
Of this privately-owned rural land:
One quarter is owned by 66 landowners in estates of 30,700 acres and larger
One third is owned by 120 landowners in estates of 21,000 acres and larger
One half is owned by 343 landowners in estates of 7,500 acres and larger
Two thirds is owned by 1252 landowners in estates of 1 ,200 acres and larger

Two thirds of Scotland is owned by one four thousandth (0.025%) of the people!

Top 20 aristocratic landowners in Scotland 1995
Owner Acres
Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry 261600
Capt AAC Farquharson of Invercauld 120500
Earl of Seafield 101000
Duke of Westminster 95100
Crown Estate Commissioners 94015
Countess of Sutherland 83239
Viscount Cowdray 76600
Sir Donald Cameron of Locheil 76000
Duke of Roxburghe 65600
Baroness Willoughby de Eresby 63200
Duke of Argyll 60800
John A Mackenzie of Gairloch 56900
Earl of Cawdor 56800
The Queen 55270
Marquess of Bute 53990
Sir Ivar Colquhoun of Luss 50000
Lord Burton 48000
Earl of Dalhousie 47200
Lady Anne Bentinck 45000
Earl of Stair 43674
Total 1,554,488

8.01% of Scotland - owned by the top 20 aristocratic estates
Total Acreage above 5000 acres owned by aristocracy 2,554,399. As a % of Scotland's total land mass, 13.16%

Monday, September 15, 2014

Deciding a nation

 Bangladesh announced that it will send back 2,415 Muslim Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. A similar attempt in 2011 failed. The Rohingyas have long faced persecution and discrimination, including being stateless in the eyes of Burmese law. Myanmar's government claims that historically they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and labels them 'Bengalis', vehemently denying the existence of any people called 'Rohingya'. Myanmar Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs U Thant Kyaw explained in a statement that Myanmar was prepared to receive the 2,415 Burmese citizens after the joint committee was formed, but asserted: "We have never had ethnic nationals called 'Rohingya', according to official list of indigenous ethnic groups of Myanmar as well as our historical records."  The 800,000-strong population of Muslims in western Myanmar now faces increasing efforts to eradicate the very word they use to identify themselves as a group. Under pressure from Myanmar’s nominally-civilian government, the international community sometimes appears complicit in the airbrushing of “Rohingya” from official discourse yet a 1799 study lists an identity called “Rooinga” in what is now Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh greeted the announcement with mixed emotions. Life as a refugee in Bangladesh is difficult; but the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State, which Rohingyas call home, has worsened in recent months as some aid agencies have withdrawn following attacks on facilities in March over perceived pro-Rohingya bias. Aid workers fled Rakhine State after being targeted by Buddhist mobs who threw rocks at homes and offices in Sittwe (Rakhine's capital.) For years, Rohingyas have had their rights - from movement to reproduction to citizenship - restricted by what a human rights organization called deliberate state-designed "policies of persecution." An international observer report called the census process in Rohingya areas “a complete failure”, explaining that Rohingyas “very much wanted to participate in the census but were prevented from doing so by the census field staff and the Department of Population officials.” Anyone who asked to be recorded as “Rohingya” went uncounted.

Mohammad Islam, a Rohingya refugee who lives at the Noyapara Rohingya Camp in Cox's Bazar, told IRIN:
"Our biggest concern is if we will be safe back in Burma? We don't have any rights in Burma. We don't have any dignity as human beings there. We are not entitled to our identity. Our properties and religious institutions are damaged. How we can be assured that we would be safe out there?"

 Mohammad Zubair,  another Rohingya refugee at Noyapara Camp, explained:
"Now under these circumstances, if we go back, who will ensure that we will be safe there?

Aid Is Not The Solution

In 1970, the world’s rich countries agreed to give 0.7% of their gross national income as official international development aid, annually.
Since that time, billions have certainly been given each year, but rarely have the rich nations actually met their promised target.
For example, the US is often the largest donor in dollar terms, but ranks amongst the lowest in terms of meeting the stated 0.7% target.

Net ODA in dollars and percent of GNI

  Furthermore, aid has often come with a price of its own for the developing nations. Common criticisms, for many years, of foreign aid, have included the following:
  • Aid is often wasted on conditions that the recipient must use overpriced goods and services from donor countries
  • Most aid does not actually go to the poorest who would need it the most
  • Aid amounts are dwarfed by rich country protectionism that denies market access for poor country products while rich nations use aid as a lever to open poor country markets to their products
  • Large projects or massive grand strategies often fail to help the vulnerable; money can often be embezzled away.

from here

Aid is commonly claimed to be helping poorer countries in different ways to 'develop' whilst generally helping to line pockets of companies, contractors and pay aid workers from donating countries. Much of the aid finds its way back to the host countries. If aid is honestly intended to assist these countries then a socialist system would be the far better way to proceed, putting resources and production directly into the hands of the people, that is common ownership and democratic control in the interest of the whole community.


What Training?

The Welsh government claims to be "delivering one of the most successful apprenticeship programmes in Europe" yet budget cuts to the apprenticeship programme coincide with a national media campaign by the Welsh government promoting apprenticeships.

The National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) which represents more than 100 firms and outlets providing work-based learning in Wales said almost 9,000 fewer work schemes will be available for young people by next April.  The ministers cut the budget by £7m and now the organisation said it fears "even worse news is on the way" after being told ministers are planning a further £20m cut in apprenticeship programmes in March.

Profit In 'The War Against ISIS'

Obama pledged that the war against ISIS won’t be fought with U.S. ground troops. He didn’t say anything about contractors, who see this as “the next big meal ticket.” 
America’s rapidly-expanding war against ISIS won’t involve large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground, President Obama is promising. And it’s clear that airstrikes alone won’t beat back the extremist group. Which means that if the President wants to have any hope of meeting his far-reaching goal of destroying ISIS, he’s going to have to rely on private military contractors.
At least, that’s what the contractors are hoping.

At the height of the Iraq war, these firms hired hundreds of thousands of people: guns-for-hire, IT geeks, logistics specialists, interrogators, and short order cooks to ladle out the slop at the military cafeteria. Over time, some of those contractors became the symbol for everything that was wrong with the Iraq war: hugely expensive, ineffective, and indifferent to Iraqi life. Contractors were at the middle of the war’s biggest scandals, from Abu Ghraib to Nissour Square. And it was the abductions and murder of Blackwater contractors that sparked one of Iraq's biggest battles.

None of the five current and former contractors who spoke with The Daily Beast expected a replay of last decade’s Iraq war. But they all said a major opportunity was coming—both for them, and for Obama, who could use the private armies as a way to conceal just how many people will be fighting in this new conflict.
“Iraq this time around is not going to be as big as it was before,” said Roger Carstens, a former special operations officer who has served as a contracted military adviser in Somalia and Afghanistan. “That said, this new war will present an opportunity for the companies that have a resident train and advising capability to contribute to this new effort.”

President Obama has asked Congress to authorize $500 million to train a new Syrian opposition out of Saudi Arabia. That money would be part of a $5 billion fund Obama requested this spring from Congress to help train and equip U.S. allies to fight terrorists.

In 2008 there were 242,558 contractors working in the countries for U.S. Central Command, the area that includes Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen, three countries where the United States has helped train local forces and conducted air strikes, according to the Pentagon’s official estimate.
That was during the height of the last round of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By this July, that number had shrunk to 66,123, according to the Pentagon’s latest estimate of military contractors working in the countries covered by Central Command, with only 14,634 contractors operating outside of Afghanistan.
But that’s only a fraction of America’s privatized security apparatus operating overseas. The State Department also offers billions of dollars to conduct security for diplomats and other officials.  In 2011, the State Department awarded Triple Canopy a four year deal worth up to $1.5 billion to provide security for the airport in Baghdad, U.S. diplomats and other Americans in the country. A State Department audit of the contract (PDF) found that at a minimum the State Department overpaid for those services by millions.

One reason why the new war on ISIS won’t be like the old one against al Qaeda is because for now Obama has promised not to send ground forces to Iraq or Syria. The presence of U.S. forces overseas presents a number of opportunities for military contractors in providing everything from the dining facilities to the logistical transport for U.S. soldiers at war.

Iraq recently promised immunity for U.S. troops—and it’s likely Baghdad will do the same for contractors too. After all, Iraq’s government has also formally requested U.S. assistance in fighting ISIS and that help was clearly going to include military contractors.
They are looking for the next big meal ticket and this could be it,” said Sean McFate, a former military contractor for Dyncorp. “The things they will provide are logistical support, training or retraining security forces.”
McFate said contractors gave Obama the opportunity to accomplish tasks normally associated with the U.S. military without sending boots on the ground. He said the training missions in particular “would look like Iraqi military boots on the ground and not the U.S. military.” But he said, “It’s a political disguise. This is an industry that is a proxy, it is creating the environment of security and protection without too many U.S. soldiers on the ground.”

full article here 


The Socialist Standard and Red Clyde


The First World War saw Clydeside gain its Red reputation, and the Socialist Standard at the time supported them but cautioned that their militant actions were not sufficent. It should be noted that "patriotic" printers refused to re-produce a Socialist Standard article about Lloyd George and the Clyde.

The Socialist Standard challenged the engineer union workers' faith in their leaders writing it was those:
"... trusted and prominent men, both parliamentarians and trade union officials, [who] were associated with every piece of legislation that fettered the workers more... too slowly, the workers are finding out their true friends and true principles, their cunning enemies and their delusive ways...Instead of abandoning the political machine to ambitious wiseacres and unscrupulous plotters, and letting them, in the secrecy of Cabinet conclaves, everlastingly scheme to set the social changes on you, see to it that those who are now proven the enemies of your class are no longer sent to represent you. Fill their places with class-conscious men of your own ranks, controlled and guaranteed by the political organisation of your own class." The biggest danger that confronted them, in the opinion of the Socialist Standard, – the biggest mistake they could make – " to place power in the hands of “leaders” under any pretext whatever. It is at once putting those “leaders” in a position to bargain with the master class for the purpose of selling out the workers. It allows the master class to retain control of the political machinery which is the essential instrument for governing Society. All the other blunders and mistakes the workers may make will be as dust in the balance compared with this one, and not until they realise this fact will they be on the road to socialism."

At first, outbreaks of industrial unrest were only spasmodic they were easily over-ridden by the ruling class. The Clyde trouble of Christmas 1915 is perhaps the best specimen of these sectional and local revolts. The principle of the men was strong, but they were driven down by lies, hunger, victimisation, deportation of their leaders, and, what is more important still, because the strike was local. The Socialist Standard advised the strikers to escalate and spread the strikes:
 "It is the mass of engineers only, and not a locality of engineers, who can successfully fight. Ten thousand engineers on strike in a town may gain something in a month for that town's men—or they may not; fifty thousand spread over one industrial area may force amendments to an objectionable Bill from a reluctant Cabinet, while one hundred and fifty thousand men who leave their engines, with all their force concentrated on one particular principle, striking at a vitally important time, stand a good chance of getting what they ask for."

Conscription by the military authorities, usually referred to under the misleading but catchy title of the “Man Power Bill.” One reason why the ASE. officials were not so ready to follow their old methods of persuading their members to accept the changes without trouble or friction is the growth of the “Shop Stewards Movement" up and down the country. This movement has helped to undermine the influence of the “official” cliques in the trade unions, as shown by the numerous “unauthorised” strikes, and with the loss of this influence over the rank and file the officials realised that their chance of bargaining for jobs with the master class would be gone.

An anti-war movement was spreading and strikes were not only in progress, but many more were threatened.

Resolutions in the following terms:
“That the British Government should enter into immediate negotiations with the other belligerent Powers for an armistice on all fronts, with a view to a general peace on the basis of self-determination of all nations and no annexations and no indemnities. Should such action demonstrate that German Imperialism was the only obstacle to peace they would co-operate in the prosecution of the war until the objects mentioned in the first part of the resolution were achieved. Failing this they would continue their opposition to the man-power proposals” had been passed in various meetings. The Socialist Standard was critical of the wording. "Does their claim for “self-determination” apply to Ireland, India and Egypt? If so, do they really imagine the British capitalist Government will agree to such application? Certainly they must be simple if they believe a threat to strike would bring such a result."

A resolution moved at Glasgow struck a firmer note in the following terms:
“That having heard the case of the Government, as stated by Sir Auckland Geddes, this meeting pledges itself to oppose to the very uttermost the Government in its call for more men. We insist and pledge ourselves to take action to enforce the declaration of an immediate armistice on all fronts; and that the expressed opinion of the workers of Glasgow is that from now on, and so far as this business is concerned our attitude all the time and every time is to do nothing in support of carrying on the war, but to bring the war to a conclusion.”

The Socialist Standard concludes:
"Read our Declaration of Principles; earnestly consider them; join with us and help to establish them. Then will slave and master be abolished, and a real peace come, to all"

That same message applies today for Scottish workers. With the independence referendum nothing changes. Only socialism will offer workers and the world real hope. The unity of labour is the hope of the world.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reduced Social Security For Over 65s Defaulting On Student Loans

The Education Department is demanding so much money from seniors with defaulted student loans that it’s forcing tens of thousands of them into poverty, according to a government audit.

At least 22,000 Americans aged 65 and older had a part of their Social Security benefits garnered last year to the point that their monthly benefits were below federal poverty thresholds, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Education Department-initiated collections on defaulted federal student loans left at least another 83,000 Americans aged 64 and younger with poverty-level Social Security payments, GAO data show. Federal auditors cautioned that the number of Americans forced to accept poverty-level benefits because of past defaults on federal student loans are surely higher.

More than half, or 54 percent, of federal student loans held by borrowers at least 75 years old are in default, according to the federal watchdog. About 27 percent of loans held by borrowers aged 65 to 74 are in default. Among borrowers aged 50 to 64, 19 percent of their loans are in default.

taken from here

What Happened To The American Dream?

A strong middle class has been at the core of what has been promoted as the American Dream.  How would America look like if the middle class simply vanished?  We may not need to wait too long at the current rate since we are quickly siphoning people off the middle class and throwing them into lower income brackets.  The vast majority of Americans do not buy into the propaganda promoted on the tightly controlled media outlets.  In fact, the latest Congressional job approval numbers are at a record low of 10 percent according to Gallup.  To put this low figure in perspective 16 percent of Americans approved of how BP handled the catastrophic Gulf oil spill at the peak of the blowout.  This low Congressional approval is all coming during a supposed economic recovery where 46,000,000 Americans receive a monthly charge to their debit card for food assistance.  Even government figures show the big job growth sectors of the next decade to be in low paying fields.  What would America look like without a middle class?

The recession has hit all groups hard but the deepest impact has been on young Americans.  Take a look at wages for young high school graduates:

young wage high school earners
Source:  Economic Policy Institute

The path is rather clear.  High school only graduates since the 1970s have seen their wages go steadily down.  Since the bulk of the workforce comes from this sector, it makes total sense that the average per capita income would be $25,000:


This seems rather stunning that in the most prosperous nation in the world wages are actually going down or sideways for most Americans.  So many young Americans have caught onto the trend.  A high school diploma isn’t enough to be competitive.  Many decided to take on massive debt and go to college - - (more statistics at link)

from here, with more

 For those fighting the class war there are only two classes - the working class and the capitalists. Your income may be anywhere on the pay scale but if you are obliged to work for a living then you are part of the working class of the world.
'Middle class' in this study means middle income or above, a fairly comfortable, secure standard of living, which is becoming ever rarer.

The Endies Trend

The "Endies" – Employed but with No Disposable Income or Savings.

"Endies" are struggling to make ends meet and few are managing to save. London has now about a million such workers.

A report from the Centre for London, “Hollow Promise: How London is Failing its Modest Earners and What Can Be Done About it”, notes:
 "While 'endies' don't complain, they are increasingly disenchanted with the political system. Unless London does better by them, the city's politics could easily turn sour...They feel they are overlooked and betrayed. There is an underbelly of quiet resentment building up."

In the capital because rents are around 50% higher than in the rest of the UK. For households with incomes between £20,800 and £28,500 a year, rental costs have risen 4% in real terms over the last decade. Rent now accounts for about 41% of their incomes. "Endies" who do not own a home have almost no chance of buying one. "There are now only three boroughs – Tower Hamlets, Newham and Barking and Dagenham – where home ownership is potentially affordable for two people earning that borough's median wage," the report says.

Between 2008 and 2014 trips using pay-as-you-go Oyster cards rose in price by 61% for bus journeys and 47% for the underground. A zone four resident on an annual salary of £22,000 spends the first 55 minutes of their working day just paying for their commute to and from work.

Between 2001 and 2011, the average London fuel bill rose by more than 50% above inflation.

Nursery care for a child under the age of two is 25% more expensive in London than elsewhere in Britain. A London couple with one child need a second earner with wages of at least £17,000 to make full-time childcare cost-neutral.

Charles Leadbeater, the report's author, said few "endies" could leave the capital. "The vicious combination of very flexible and competitive labour markets and a very distorted housing market means they're not just under pressure but trapped....Zone 1 inside the Circle Line will become like Dubai. It will be inhabited only by cosmopolitan people who come to London to spend money."

from here

Whose Land?

Scotland as a whole has one of the most concentrated patterns of land ownership in Western Europe. Some 50 percent of the country’s land area is controlled by just 600 (or even 343, depending on source) owners. In the Highlands, this pattern of ownership is even more extreme with some 85 privately owned estates accounting for about a third of the total land area. This results in various barriers and obstacles being placed in the way of development. Examples of these include difficulties in obtaining land for housing, industrial use, community facilities and recreational access to river, woodland, moor and hill. Only when land is commonly owned by the people who inhabit and work it, as opposed to private ownership, leasing or renting, can a community master its own destiny.

Under the clan system of land tenure, the land within the area occupied by a clan, belonged to the clan as a whole collectively, romantically described by some such as John McLean as "celtic communism". The clan chief had no exclusive rights in the clan lands. He was given nominal control of the land for administration purposes, on behalf of the clan. The clan chief’s position was not hereditary but by the consent of the clan, and there was nothing to stop the clan from replacing their chief at any time, if necessary. The clan system was  a communal social system albeit organised on military lines. The old social order in the Highlands disintegrated and the clan chieftains were encouraged to assume control of the clan lands as private landowners. Then they proceeded to oppress their own clansmen. The real philosophy behind these events was the unrestricted accumulation of wealth in the hands of the privileged few, by exploiting the land as well as any other basic resource available. These changes in Highland society introduced a new class division of privileged and servile. Gone forever was the sense of kinship and loyalty to a patriarchal leader. But an emotional attachment to territory – an attachment stemming ultimately back to the clan land of the ancient kin-based society of the Highlands – continues to be prevalent among crofters.

The social ownership sector can trace its history back to the first organised efforts of crofters and land re-settlement schemes just over a 150 years ago. Only with the creation a people’s organisation representing the aspirations of community organisations across the country can there be the necessary counter-power to that of the existing landed establishment and which can challenge the dominant position in Scottish society of the Scottish Landowners Federation, that has for almost 90 years exercised power on behalf of the landed elite and other powerful rural interests.

The ILP Poodle

The Independent Labour Party in 1922 returned several MPs, among them James Maxton, David Kirkwood, John Wheatley and John McGovern, who had provided Clydeside with the nick-name “Red Clydeside”. They were sent to Westminster in a wave of left-wing enthusiasm. Some had been imprisoned either, like Maxton, for sedition (interfering with army recruitment in wartime) or for involvement what became known as “The Battle of George’s Square”. They had taken part in some of the most bitter class struggles experienced by Britain in the early20th century and they had garnered a credible working class following.

However, they were dominated by ideas of the reform of capitalism rather than by the determination to destroy capitalism. We need not accept Engels overly enthusiastic optimism of the founding of the ILP that it was “the very party which the old members of the International desired to see formed” (Workmans Times, 25 March 1893)

The I.L.P. may have used the language of radicals but instead of calling workers to revolutionary indignation, it frequently appealed to the good sense and kindness of the ruling class. Lacking as it did any real position of principle, the ILP could accommodate practically any demand. Socialism was, of course, variously interpreted, but to most it meant state control and planning in varying proportions with import and export boards, investment committees, public corporations and the rest. The I.L.P. M.P.s. rarely missed an opportunity to try and “reason” with the capitalists, showing them the “folly” of their ways. Maxton and McGovern and their friends were wasting their time. The ruling class understood the position better than they did. It should not be the work of the socialist to warn the capitalists about the inadvisability of their actions but to prepare the workers.

David Kirkwood, explained:
“We were going to do big things. The people believed that. We believed that. At our onslaught, the grinding poverty which existed in the midst of plenty was to be wiped out. We were going to scare away the grim spectre of unemployment ... Alas, that we were able to do so little!”

Unlike the Clydeside Reds of the ILP, whose ghosts still haunt the Scottish Left-wing, the Socialist Party are not reformers but revolutionaries. We do not propose to change forms. We care little for forms. We want a fundamental change of society. The Post Office is the “public" property of the people (at least for the moment), and yet the workers in that industry are mere wage slaves. In itself, the question of ownership affects only external forms. The socialist fights for the abolition of the system of wage slavery under which the proletariat is working. We are not duped by those who demand nationalisation. We seek the emancipation of the working class and the abolition of all exploitation.

The overthrow of capitalism, that is our DEMAND. Reforms are non-demands and are legion in their number and variety. A political party with a list of “immediate demands” blurs its goal and it is goals that determine methods. The presence of these palliatives invites compromise and concession, collaboration and corruption. It is for our trade unions to improved conditions and seek amelioration but the political party should strive not for temporary respite but permanent solutions. While many one-issue reform organisations and philanthropic charity organisations possess within their programmes the highest humanitarian hopes socialism alone supplies the basis for any permanent improvement in the condition of humanity. Socialism is not the establishment of environmental regulation, not the abolition of sweat-shop labour, nor the enforcement minimum wage laws. None of these, nor all of them together, is socialism. They might all be done by the government tomorrow, and still we would not have socialism. They are merely reforms of the present system.

The one demand of the Socialist Party is socialism. While not opposing any reforms or improvements which may be secured under capitalism, the Socialist Party steadfastly sets itself against taking time away from its main battle, for revolution, in order to carry on the struggle for reform. It refuses to be maneuvered into abandoning its main demand with campaigns for palliatives.

No matter how you clip and trim a poodle it always stays a poodle and regardless of how much you re-shape and re-fashion capitalism, it remains capitalism.

James Maxton - Wasted Years 

James Maxton appeared to be Keir Hardie's natural successor. Maxton is remembered as one of the leading figures of the Red Clydeside era. Religion in Glasgow at this time was all-pervasive. Maxton, a supporter of Celtic was seen by many as pro-Catholic and he did indeed seek and receive the endorsement of the Catholic Church in Bridgeton, but, in return for their political sponsorship Maxton acquiesced to Catholic dogma on subjects such as birth control and denominational schools. Maxton could not be seen in favour of ILP moves to abolish religious instruction for a more secular educational system and he often acted counter to ILP policy on those issues. In regard to birth control he advocated "the intelligent control of the appetites and desires." Maxton opposed the ILP policy to remove the Ministry of Health's ban on giving advice on birth control at maternity clinics. Losing the Catholic vote was too big a risk for a principled socialist stand on family life!

 Maxton's whole political life was devoted to the Independent Labour Party. Maxton was chairman of the ILP from 1926 to 1931, and from 1934 to 1939. He was generally seen as the symbol of the ILP after its break from Labour in 1932. At the 1926 annual conference a series of policy documents were adopted under the title "Socialism in our Time" The "Living Wage Plan" called for a minimum wage for every citizen to be a priority. This was to be combined with expanded social services and a national system of family allowances to be paid for by heavier taxation on high incomes, much the same as the reforms demanded to-day by the Commonweal organisation. There is little that is revolutionary about these demands.  If the ILP was to win over the the workers to socialism, who was to win over the ILP membership and its leaders to socialism as a first step? Despite the ILP publishing works by Marx and Engels, and while Maxton could declare his support for their conception of socialism, their own publications and election programmes were full of proposals for reforming capitalism. ILP members had been recruited, not on the demand for socialism, but attracted by its reforms. The ILP consistently misled the workers with its description of nationalisation as socialism.

When Maxton first won the seat in 1929 he got over 21,000 votes yet when the ILP put up a candidate there at the 1955 election his vote was 2619 and he lost his deposit. The ILP has vanished and Maxton has become almost forgotten. Having devoted all his political life in the service of the ILP James Maxton's efforts achieved nothing for socialism.

Against All Immigration Discrimination

Vast numbers of people around the world find life so unbearable in their countries that they leave everything behind to make a dangerous journey in search of work. Native workers see this inflow of immigrants as a threat and fear losing the thing most vital to them: work. For most of the people of the world, work is the their only source of income. But as much as they are dependent on work, it is not up to them whether they work or not – that’s as true for immigrants as for those who are native-born.

The argument that “ They steal our jobs!” signifies a staunch nationalist attitude, and has nothing to do with the truth: Jobs do not belong to those who talk this way. And illegal immigrants can’t take away anything they don’t possess. The decision on what jobs exist is made by a completely different authority: a business which must be willing to make money off those who offer their ability to work for sale. Whether a person has a job or not is the result of one condition: they must find a businessman or woman who lets them work for him or her – which they only do if their work increases the private wealth of the owners of that business. Only profitable work matters; it is not a matter of just doing the work that is needed to provide for oneself and one’s family, but working for the wealth of others.  If immigrants did not get these jobs because they were sent back to where they came from, these jobs would either be eliminated or offered under the same conditions as they were before, at wages close to or under the minimum wage – because only then are they profitable. This principle applies equally to the xenophobic indigenous worker as much as the immigrants they are so hostile towards.

The reason is capitalism: People are dependent on earning money because everything they need is the private property of somebody else. And they are not only excluded from the means of consumption, but also from the means of producing them. The means of labour also belong to somebody else – the rich. Because wages are paid if and only if they contribute to the wealth of the owners of capital. Whether they are native or foreign nationality is irrelevant. That interest, making profit, is served only by paying low wages and having people work hard and long – that’s why the poor stay poor when they work for business. The criterion for profitable work which presupposes poverty and perpetuates poverty is the same worldwide.

The criterion of profitable labour – work is only done and workers only employed if it pays off for capitalist businessmen and women – leads to high rates of unemployment and emigration. This is also the criterion which rules the labor market. Local people also need to earn money, but aren’t allowed to do this work unless there is demand for them. The only reason business hires them is the economic interest in the costs of employment being justified by the additional money wealth they create by working long and hard with little pay. The simple truth is: in a capitalist society, people can only live if they live for capital. Especially in a crisis but even in normal business times, the unemployed are made responsible for their own plight – not the criterion under which their labour is worthless. “They didn’t try hard enough to find a job!” is what people usually say when complaining about high rates of unemployment and the tax money spent feeding the unemployed. The view that people without work in general – and illegal immigrants arriving in particular – are an unbearable burden is what ruling governments and their official oppositions have in common. They diverge only on the details and share the same functionalist logic: that immigrants are human resources, raw materials, and if proving to be a ‘hinderance’ – send them back!

International competition is tougher and the economic crisis is not over so the need for human material has shifted. Many nations have has become more choosy and selective. Immigrants with education and money are always welcome because a country wants investors, scientists and professionals to be competitive against other nations. If there is a demand for their labour, they should be here. If not their numbers must be controlled and restricted.

If immigration is a problem, people should ask: why and for whom? If work would simply be treated as the toil necessary for producing the goods that provide a good life for everyone, an additional labor force would make work and life much easier.  Under the criterion of capitalist labor, however, more labor is not a source of wealth for those who work but for those who let other people work for them. To have a job then becomes a privilege because it is not granted that people who need to earn money will be hired, and if they are hired it is not assured that they will earn enough to live on, because that is not what they are paid for. They are paid to enrich other people.

All workers, native or immigrant, are subordinated to profit making. According to Peter Sutherland, the UN’s special representative for migration “Anti-immigrant sentiment stems largely from misinformation, not entrenched animus [animosity]”

A survey split respondents into two groups and asked them subtly different questions about the number of immigrants in their countries. In one, people were simply asked whether they thought there were “too many” immigrants; in the other, the question was the same but prefaced with the actual share of migrants in their country. Nearly 40% of Americans said that they thought there are too many immigrants, but this fell to 21% for those who were first given an estimate. It followed a similar pattern in Europe, with 32% saying there are too many, but also only 21% when respondents were told the actual figure first. The gaps were particularly pronounced in Greece, Italy, and the UK. In the United Kingdom, 54% of respondents said that there were too many immigrants; that number fell to 31% among those who were given the facts about foreigners. In Greece, 58% became 27%; Italy went from 44% to 22%; and so on. The average Briton believes that 34% of UK residents are foreigners; the true number is just 11%.

Adapted from an article by Geoffrey McDonald and also from here

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Wealthy Benefit - The Majority Must Revolt

The labor force participation rate has declined from 66.5% in 2007 prior to the last downturn to 62.7% today.  This decline in the participation rate is difficult to reconcile with the alleged economic recovery that began in June 2009 and supposedly continues today.  Normally a recovery from recession results in a rise in the labor force participation rate.

The Obama regime, economists, and the financial presstitutes have explained this decline in the participation rate as the result of retirements by the baby boomers, those 55 and older.

It is not retirees who are pushing down the participation rate, but those in the 16-19 age group whose participation rate has fallen by 10.4%, those in the 22-14 age group whose participation rate has fallen by 5.4%, and those in the 24-54 age group whose participation rate is down 2.5%.

The offshoring of US manufacturing and tradable professional service jobs has resulted in an economy that can only create new jobs in lowly paid, increasingly part-time non-tradable domestic service jobs, such as waitresses, bartenders, retail clerks, and ambulatory health care workers.  These are not jobs that can support an independent existence.  However, these jobs can supplement retirement incomes that have been hurt by many years of the Federal Reserve’s policy of zero or negative interest rates. Those who were counting on interest earnings on their savings to supplement their retirement and Social Security incomes have reentered the labor force in order to fill the gaps in their budgets created by the Fed’s policy.  Unlike the young who lack savings and retirement incomes, the baby boomers’ economic lives are not totally dependent on the lowly-paid, part-time, no-benefits domestic service jobs.

Lies are told in order to make the system look acceptable so that the status quo can be continued.  Offshoring America’s jobs benefits the wealthy. The lower labor costs raise corporate profits, and shareholders’ capital gains and performance bonuses of corporate executives rise with the profits.  The wealthy are benefitting from the fact that the US economy no longer can create enough livable jobs to keep up with the growth in the working age population.
The clear hard fact is that the US economy is being run for the sole benefit of a few rich people.

from here 

Yes, things are bad for America's workers and let's not forget, for the whole world's workers - a fact impossible not to notice.
The big question is, how many workers whether employed, unemployed or underemployed can see through the gloom to the reality? Forget hope! Nothing will change, except maybe for the worse, unless and until we act together to cause this change. The abolition of this egregious world system called capitalism will happen when enough of us decide it will - when we decide and work for a socialist revolution to bring about a system in which, at last, people and planet will come first.

Workers Of The World - 5


Building Site Workers In Turkey - Life Is Cheap

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government claims credit for most of the growth (in the country since the economic crisis of 2001), having come to power in 2002 immediately after one of Turkey’s worst economic crises. Turkey’s impressive economic recovery after the 2001 crisis, however, has its dark side.
To start with, it did not improve conditions for Turkish workers, who remain the most underprivileged in Europe. It has not resulted in better workplace safety for them either, as attested by the large number of deaths in recent workplace disasters.
The most striking of these was on May 13, when a mining disaster in the town of Soma killed 301 workers, and resulted in a serious headache for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan just as he was preparing to run for president.
Turks woke up to yet another workplace disaster a few days ago when 10 workers were killed at a high-rise residential building site in Istanbul’s Mecidiyekoy district when their elevator plunged 34 stories before hitting the ground at high speed.

According to official statistics, 1,754 workers were killed in building site accidents alone during 2008-12, while 940 were left handicapped. There were 72,963 workplace accidents in 2008, 8% (5,574) of which were in the construction sector, with 297 workers killed. The number increased to 74,871 in 2012, 12% (9,209) of which were in the construction sector with 744 workers losing their lives.
Granted that the number of workers in this sector has increased from 1.2 million in 2008 to over 1.9 million in 2014, but the high number of deaths — seven times higher than the EU average — indicates that worksite safety remains a problem in Turkey. Trade union officials even contend that 90% of workplace accidents are never reported or registered.

Given this overall picture, accusations and recriminations following the Mecidiyekoy disaster were quick to come, especially after accounts by workers that pointed to criminal negligence. The Turkish Chamber of Mechanical Engineers (TMMOB), as well as the main left-wing trade and worker’s union confederations DISK and KESK, and the Union of Turkish Doctors (TTB), are convinced about negligence and blame the government.
In a joint statement issued after the elevator accident, they accused “greedy capitalists and the AKP government that protects them” of being responsible for the deaths of the 10 workers. They said businessmen seeking higher profits were cutting costs at the expense of the safety of their employees.
These accusations ring true for the public, especially after the revelations about the reasons behind the Soma disaster in May.

Many note, however, that despite the 301 deaths in the Soma mine disaster, the government still has not ratified the Safety and Health in Mines Convention of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Union officials say this is because the government, in a desire to achieve high growth rates for the economy, automatically favors business over labor and is reluctant to take steps that will be a disincentive for potential investors.
Aziz Torun, the CEO of the Torun Group building the 42-story skyscraper in Mecidiyekoy, was quick to hold a news conference and defend his company.
He denied claims that the elevator involved — which apparently also carried building materials — had not been inspected, saying the last inspection was in April, and that he had used that elevator recently. Torun did not hold back from accusing his workers of being generally careless.

TTMOB’s Istanbul branch announced later that the last inspection date for the elevator had expired on Aug. 30, after which nothing had been done. Meanwhile, workers from the building site told reporters that the same elevator was involved in a similar accident on Sept. 4, although there were no casualties because no one was in it.
These workers also said another accident involving the elevator had occurred 20 days ago but that precautions had not been taken then either, on the grounds that funds for this were being delayed.
Other employees were reported in the media as saying that a 19-year-old worker for the same group was killed in a building site accident in April, and that the company had paid only 5,600 Turkish lira ($2,600) in compensation, and freed itself from responsibility.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that the workers who were killed in the elevator disaster were receiving a meager daily wage of between 50-70 lira ($23-$32), apart from being provided with food and a dormitory to sleep in.

The only thing that remains definite at this stage is that the life of a worker in Turkey remains cheap, while the government provides friendly members of the business community just about everything they need — even at the expense of ruining Istanbul’s historic skyline — to accumulate vast amounts of capital.

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 The omnibus bill passed in Parliament on Wednesday has led to 4,500 mine workers losing their jobs in Zonguldak province because 22 mine owners decided to shut down operations due to amendments in the bill regulating work hours, which increases production costs.  

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Big Dams - Who Are Really The Beneficiaries?

Africa’s mega-dams have not delivered the rapid development the World Bank and other foreign sponsors promised. Their benefits are concentrated on extractive industries and the urban middle class, leaving out the majority rural poor. Alternative solutions that do not sacrifice one group of people for the benefit of another are available
During this year’s World Water Week, experts from around the world convened in Stockholm where King Carl Gustav presented the city’s Water Prize to John Briscoe, a Harvard professor and former water manager at the World Bank. A native of South Africa, John Briscoe went on a mission to oppose the World Commission on Dams 2000 report that was highly critical of large dams, yet he had been instrumental in the commission’s creation in 1997. After many years spent in the international water bureaucracy, Briscoe says that he is “controversial and proud of it”. Indeed, the jury’s choice raises contentious questions about how best to manage water resources for the shared benefit of all.

Since the turn of the century, John Briscoe has been the world’s pre-eminent crusader for large dams in Africa and other continents. In the 20th century, Europe developed approximately 80 percent of its hydropower potential, while Africa has still only exploited 8 percent of its own. It would be hypocritical, Briscoe contends, to withhold funds for more dam building in Africa now.

Africa has tried to follow Europe’s path to industrial development before. With funding and advice from the World Bank and other institutions, newly independent governments built large dams that were supposed to industrialise and modernise their countries in the 1960s and 1970s. The Kariba Dam on the Zambezi, the Akosombo Dam on the Volta and the Inga 1 and 2 dams on the Congo River are the most prominent examples of this approach.

Mega-dams have not turned out to be a silver bullet, but a big albatross on Africa’s development. Their costs spiraled out of control creating massive debt burdens, while their performance did not live up to the expectations. Their benefits were concentrated on mining companies and urban middle classes, while the rural population has been left high and dry. Africa has become the world region that is most dependent on hydropower. As rainfalls are becoming ever less reliable, this has made the continent highly vulnerable to climate change.

In 2008, mining companies consumed more electricity than the whole population in Sub-Saharan Africa. After tens of billions of dollars in foreign aid have been spent on energy projects, 69 percent of the continent’s population continues to live in the dark. Prioritising the needs of mining companies and big cities over the rural populations, the World Bank’s latest dam projects in Africa will further entrench this energy apartheid.

Meanwhile, the communities which were displaced by the Kariba and Inga dams continue to struggle for just compensation decades after the projects were built. Because poor people pay the price but don’t reap the benefits of these investments, the independent World Commission on Dams has found that dams “can effectively take a resource from one group and allocate it to another”. The Tonga people, who were displaced by the Kariba Dam and suffered starvation as a consequence, have to this date remained without clean water or electricity despite the huge reservoir at their doorsteps.

Luckily solutions that don’t sacrifice one group of people for the benefits of another are available today. Wind, solar and geothermal energy have become competitive with hydropower. Unlike large dams, these energy sources don’t depend on centralised electric grids, but can serve the needs of the rural populations wherever they live. This is why the International Energy Agency recommends that the bulk of foreign energy aid be devoted to decentralised renewable energy sources if the goal of sustainable energy for all by 2030 is to be met. A diverse, decentralised portfolio of renewable energy projects will also make African countries more resilient to climate change than putting all eggs into the basket of a few mega-dams.

Just because Europe developed with large dams in the 20th century doesn’t mean Africa has to do the same today. In the telecom sector, Africa has successfully leapfrogged Europe’s landline model and relied on cell phone companies to provide access to the majority of the population. Like cell phone towers, wind, solar and micro-hydropower projects can be built quickly, close to where people need them, and without major environmental impacts.

Large dams may still make sense in specific situations, but Africa’s future is lit by the sun. We appreciate that John Briscoe has reinvigorated an important debate about large dams. But we hope that in the coming years, the Stockholm Water Prize will celebrate the solutions of the future rather than the past.

* Rudo A. Sanyanga holds a Ph.D. in Aquatic Systems Ecology from Stockholm University. She is the Africa Program Director of International Rivers and is based in Pretoria.

from here