Monday, May 31, 2010

the real depression

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Depression and mental illness will increase as millions struggle to cope with debts and money problems during the economic downturn, according to a study. People who owe money are more likely to suffer from psychological problems, the study from the Nottingham School of Economics found.

Professor Richard Disney, who carried out the study with Dr Sarah Bridges said "The credit crunch has undoubtedly increased the risk of debt problems, as figures on mortgage arrears and repossessions show. In such circumstances it's no surprise that the incidence of mental health problems and psychological stress has also increased...."

A recent report by mental health charity Mind has also shown the risk of unemployment and hardship has led to a sharp rise in depressive illness.


“rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.”

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In “The Casualty Gap: The Causes and Consequences of American Wartime Inequalities.” , authors Douglas L. Kriner an assistant professor of political science at Boston University and Francis X. Shen a fellow in the MacArthur Foundation Law & Neuroscience Project and a visiting scholar at Vanderbilt Law School describe how disadvantaged communities have suffered a disproportionate share of the America’s wartime casualties, while richer communities have been more insulated from the costs of war.
Furthermore, the data suggest that this “casualty gap” between rich and poor communities has reached its widest proportions in the ongoing conflict in Iraq.

Moreover, they show for the first time that when Americans are explicitly confronted with evidence of this inequality, they become markedly less supportive of the nation's war efforts.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gaza capitalist economics

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On route to Gaza is presently a fleet of ships carrying humanitarian aid for the near-besieged Palestinians. The convoy of eight ships named Freedom Flotilla belongs to Insani Yardim Vakfi (Humanitarian Aid Association), a Turkish NGO. Around 500 activists are travelling with the ships.

Israel denies existence of any humanitarian crisis in Gaza. However, a UN Food and Agricultural Organization official stated that “Sixty-one percent of the Gaza population is food insecure”. The World Health Organization is concerned by rising malnutrition indicators - increased cases of stunting, wasting and underweight children - and continuing high rates of anaemia among children and pregnant women.

Yet even in Gaza the rules of capitalism reigns. Sarah Leppert, FAO’s communications adviser for the West Bank and Gaza Strip explained “There is a diverse range of foods available in Gaza; the problem is people do not have the means to purchase the food..."

Protein-rich foods such as meat and poultry are especially difficult for Gazans to afford. Families have resorted to coping mechanisms including borrowing money. A poverty survey conducted by the UN Relief and Works Agency shows that the number of Palestine refugees unable to access food and lacking the means to purchase even the most basic items has tripled since the imposition of the blockade in June 2007. Goods coming through the tunnels from Egypt sell at inflated prices and inaccessible to most Gazans.

Once more Capitalism's "Can't pay , can't have" prevails - even in the Gaza - and we can be rest assured that the wealthy Palestinians and Hamas high officials suffer little deprivation as they will have the necessary wherewithal.

rubbing salt on the wound

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Our previous post highlighted an industry that makes money from a product that is directly linked to causing early death. Yet this report demonstrates that other capitalists equally place profits over the health of their customers .

US government health experts estimate that cuts in salt consumption could save 150,000 lives a year in America. Since processed foods account for most of the salt in the American diet , national health officials, Mayor Bloomberg of New York and Michelle Obama urging food companies to greatly reduce their use of salt. Last month, the Institute of Medicine went further, urging the government to force companies to do so.

But the industry is working overtly and behind the scenes to fend off these attacks, using a shifting set of tactics that have defeated similar efforts for 30 years, records and interviews show. Industry insiders call the strategy “delay and divert” and say companies have a powerful incentive to fight back: they crave salt as a low-cost way to create tastes and textures. Doing without it risks losing customers, and replacing it with more expensive ingredients risks losing profits.

When health advocates first petitioned the federal government to regulate salt in 1978, food companies sponsored research aimed at casting doubt on the link between salt and hypertension. Two decades later, when federal officials tried to cut the salt in products labeled “healthy,” companies argued that foods already low in sugar and fat would not sell with less salt.

SOYMB is well aware that market forces always value profits above human welfare. Whatever remedial measures are taken are usually too little and too late.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Cancer of Capitalism

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According to World Health Organisation, there are more than one billion smokers worldwide today, and 200 million of them are women. In half of the 151 countries where surveys have been done on tobacco use among young people, there are nearly as many girls as boys smoking cigarettes. An estimated eight million people could die from tobacco use by 2030, including 2.5 million women with three quarters of them from poor countries.

WHO chief Margaret Chan has criticised the attitude of the tobacco industry as "ruthless" and "insidious" in its pursuit of markets in developing countries. Advertisements telling smokers they are smarter, more energetic and better lovers than their non-smoking counterparts are a familiar sight across Bangladesh. One ad said that "if a lady smokes, her baby will be smaller and it will be easier to deliver, the labour will be less painful".

The World Health Organisation warns that tobacco companies are targeting women in developing countries as a new growth market. In Bangladesh 43 percent of the adult population - or 41 million people - use tobacco in some form, up from 37 percent in 2004.The country fits a pattern emerging across the region of rising rates of female tobacco use, particularly in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia.It's a trend "...tobacco companies are encouraging ..., viewing women in developing countries as their largest unexploited market ", according to the WHO

"As the number of smokers has declined in the rich countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the tobacco industry has to look to new horizons to market their products... to look for greener pasture...The tobacco industry is like a mutant virus" said Douglas Bettcher, a World Health Organisation expert

A sane society would attempt to tackle the problem now, freed from the constraints of profit and the domination of vested interests. But as we live in a far from sane society it is patently not going to happen. A survey of British medical specialists found that they ranked nicotine higher in the addiction stakes than even heroin. Tobacco actually kills far more people in the world than hard drugs like heroin and cocaine put together. Yet the same newspapers that scream about Britain's sink council housing estates with their heroin junkies, carry on accepting double-page adverts from the tobacco multinationals. Capitalism is a system with no real regard for the health of the mass of the population.The capitalist market is an economy where people really do make money from legalised murder.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Do Leaders Make History ?

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Paul Kennedy , a professor of history and director of International Security Studies at Yale University and author of “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” had this to say about history .

"...was he [ Winston Churchill ]— or, indeed, any of the other Great Men — really all that decisive in altering world affairs? What, after all, changes the course of history? Interestingly, the most important challenge to Carlyle’s great-leader theory came from his fellow Victorian, that émigré, anti-idealist philosopher-historian and political economist, Karl Marx. In the opening paragraphs of his classic “The Eighteenth Brumaire,” he offers those famous lines: “Men make their own History, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

What an astonishing sentence. In it Marx captures not only the agency of human endeavor, but reminds us of how even the most powerful people are constrained by time and space, by geography and history.

And so it was with Churchill....Churchill’s accomplishments were staggering; but he could not alter the larger tides of history, and he had to make his policies within the limits he had inherited, just as Marx observed..."

"...Does the coming of the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition herald a new age in Britain’s long history? One doubts it...Does Putin’s rule in Russia make much of a difference? ...all who watched Obama’s amazing electoral campaign, entered this troubled political and economic field far too deeply influenced by over-large expectations and exaggerated promises. The powers of the president and Congress are huge, and there is much that can sensibly be done to improve national and international affairs. But all those powers are set within limits, and national leaders should be humble about that..."

"...who knows, perhaps the time may be coming when even inward-looking American politicians might read a little of the early Karl Marx, and ponder on his observation that men only “make” history under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. They might then be a bit less glib with their promises to transform the world if only they are elected."

Targetting the vulnerable

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Thousands of sick and disabled people have been pressured to find work because of changes to the benefits system, a report has found.

Citizens Advice Scotland spokesman Matt Lancashire said:
"It was clear from the outset that the system was deeply flawed, and administrative problems have plagued its application throughout. As a result, many thousands of seriously sick and disabled people in Scotland have been put under pressure to find work or lose their benefit. Every CAB in Scotland has reported such cases to us, including clients who are suffering from conditions like Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, bi-polar disorder, heart failure, strokes, severe depression and agoraphobia.The people we are talking about are not scroungers or benefit cheats, they are people who have suffered the tragic bad luck of becoming genuinely too ill to work."
He said, the Employment and Support Allowances do not accept "basic medical evidence", such as reports from GPs. He added:
"Our conclusion is that it has been found to be seriously flawed and is heaping unnecessary misery on thousands of the most vulnerable people in Scotland.We are calling for a full, independent and urgent review of the way this benefit operates."

More evidence that the Welfare State is failing and that fighting the rear-guard action to preserve and protect those limited ameliorations to the working class has become the foremost priority for reformers.
The welfare state of the future is likely to be only a shadow of what it was. The message of governments everywhere in this economic slump is that the proportion of national income commandeered by the state must be reduced if profits are to be restored to adequate levels. The hope of those on the Left to pay for services out of sustained economic growth is a forlorn one. Despite this, welfare systems will not be totally dismantled. Their main aim, after all, is to provide some support for workers who are ill or unemployed so that they might return to the labour market at a later date (They also help mitigate against social unrest). But notwithstanding that, we can expect to see many more cutbacks in welfare payments and services on a scale that would have been considered impossible, indeed, politically unacceptable, years ago.

Marx and Engels on the Road to Socialism

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Communist aim
“The Communists turn their attention chiefly to Germany, because that country is on the eve of a bourgeois revolution … the bourgeois revolution in Germany will be but the prelude to an immediately following proletarian revolution …
The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be obtained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”
- Marx and Engels, “The Communist Manifesto” (1848)

Organise Without Leaders
“The emancipation of the working class must be conquered by the working classes themselves.” – Marx, Address and Provisional Rules of the Workingmen’s International Association, 1864.

Into a political party

“Considering, That against the collective power of the propertied classes, the working class cannot act, as a class, except by constituting itself into a political party, distinct from, and opposed to, all old parties formed by the propertied classes. That this constitution of the working class into a political party is indispensable in order to ensure the triumph of the social revolution and its ultimate end – the abolition of classes.” – Resolution IX, London conference of the International, 1871.

Seize political power

“The workers will have to seize political power one day or another in order to construct the new organisation of labour; they will have to overthrow the old politics which bolster up the old institutions, unless they want to share the fate of the early Christians, who lost their chance of heaven on earth because they rejected and neglected such action.
We do not claim, however, that the road leading to this goal is the same everywhere.
We know that heed must be paid to the institutions, customs and traditions of the various countries, and we do not deny that there are countries, such as America and England, and if I was familiar with its institutions, I might add Holland, where the workers may attain their goal by peaceful means. That being the case, we must recognize that in most continental countries the lever of the revolution will have to be force; a resort to force will be necessary one day to set up the rule of labour.”
-Marx, speech in The Hague, 8 September 1872.

Use universal suffrage
“Considering, That the emancipation of the of producers involves all mankind, without distinction of sex or race;
That the producers can only be free when they are in possession of the means of production;
Considering, That collective appropriation can only proceed from a revolutionary action of the class of producers – the proletariat – organised in an independent political party;
That this collective appropriation must be striven for by all means that are available to the proletariat, including the universal suffrage, which thus be transformed from the instrument of fraud that it has been up till now into instrument of emancipation…” – Marx, Introduction to the Programme of the French Workers’ Party, 1880

Full representation of labour in Parliament

In 1881, Engels upheld the Paris Commune Principle – election of delegates via universal suffrage revocable at short notice – as “…a new prospect … The new weapon … scarcely ever unsheathed … For the full representation of labour in Parliament, as well as for the preparation of the abolition of the wages system, organization will become necessary not of separate trades, but of the working class as a body. And the sooner this is done the better.” Engels, "Trade Unions", written on about May 20, 1881, Collected Works, 24, p. 388

Peaceful and legal revolution

“Surely, at such a moment, the voice ought to be heard of a man whose whole theory is the result of a life-long study of the economic history and condition of England, and whom that study led to the conclusion that, at least in Europe, England is the only country where the inevitable social revolution might be effected entirely by peaceful and legal means, he certainly never forgot to add that he hardly expected the English ruling classes to submit, without a ‘pro-slavery rebellion’, to this peaceful and legal revolution”.
-Engels, Preface to the English edition of Capital (1886)

Insight

“Marx, who drew up this programme to the satisfaction of all parties, entirely trusted to the intellectual development of the working class, which was sure to result from combined action and mutual discussion. The very events and vicissitudes of the struggle against Capital, the defeats even more than the victories, could not help bringing home to men’s minds the insufficiency of their various favourite nostrums, and preparing the way for a more complete insight into the true conditions of working-class emancipation”
- Engels, Preface to the English edition of The Communist Manifesto (1888)

You shoot first, messieurs les bourgeois!

"How many times have the bourgeois called on us to renounce the use of revolutionary means for ever, to remain within the law, now that the exceptional law has been dropped and one law has been re-established for all, including the socialists? Unfortunately we are not in a position to oblige messieurs les bourgeois. Be that as it may, for the time being it is not we who are being destroyed by legality. It is working so well for us that we would be mad to spurn it as long as the situation lasts. It remains to be seen whether it will be the bourgeois and their government who will be the first to turn their back on the law in order to crush us by violence. That is what we shall be waiting for. You shoot first, messieurs les bourgeois!

"No doubt they will be the first ones to fire. One fine day the German bourgeois and their government, tired of standing with their arms folded, witnessing the ever increasing advances of socialism, will resort to illegality and violence. To what avail? With force it is possible to crush a small sect, at least in a restricted space but there is no force in the world which can wipe out a party of two million men spread out over the entire surface-area of a large empire. Counter-revolutionary violence will be able to slow down the victory of socialism by a few years; but only in order to make it all the more complete when it comes
Engels (1892), "Socialism in Germany", in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works Vol 27, pp 240-41

What is to be done

“ … there could be no doubt for us, under the circumstances then obtaining, that the great decisive combat had commenced, that it would have to be fought out in a single, long and vicissitudinous period of revolution, but that it could only end in the final victory of the proletariat . . .But history has shown us too to have been wrong, has revealed our point of view of that time to have been an illusion. It has done even more; it has not merely dispelled the erroneous notions we then held; it has completely transformed the conditions under which the proletariat has to fight. The mode of struggle of 1848 is today obsolete in every respect . . .The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions carried through by small conscious minorities at the head of unconscious masses, is past. Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organisation, the masses themselves must also be in it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are going in for, body and soul. The history of the last fifty years has taught us that. But in order that the masses may understand what is to be done, long persistent work is required, and it is just this work that we are now pursuing, and with a success which drives the enemy to despair”.
-Engels, Introduction to Marx’s “The Class Struggles in France 1848 to 1850” (1895)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Debt Set

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In the UK , according to Credit Action, the debtors' charity, people go bankrupt at the rate of one every 3.69 minutes. A property is repossessed in the UK every 11.4 minutes.

The Citizens Advice Bureau handle an estimated 9,500 new debt problems every day.

16,348 individual bankruptcy petitions were made in the first three months of this year, along with 2,177 company winding-up petitions due to financial difficulty.

In Ireland, almost 30,000 people have failed to make a mortgage repayment for three months, according to recent Financial Regulator figures. Another 35,000 people have agreed to have their mortgage debt rescheduled by opting to pay only the interest on the mortgage, by arranging a temporary payment holiday or by extending the term of the home loan. 170,000 people are struggling with negative equity. In Ireland , 300,000 homes lie empty

Ireland has the fourth highest unemployment in the EU (13.4%), with 432,500 people on the dole; one in three of the working population under 30 is unemployed. In this land of mass unemployment, workers are struggling to protect their jobs. An employee of Quinn Insurance, a boom-time success story recently taken into administration, is too scared to give his name because he has joined a union. He has been told his company is looking for 900 redundancies, more than a third of its workforce. "My job is at risk, and I feel I've been intimidated over not joining a union. It's very frustrating. I'd expect a lot more anger right now." He has tried to encourage his depressed, stoical peers to join the union, but can't get the numbers. "Some are scared, and others think they can't do anything," he says.

David Begg, leader of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, has become a vocal critic of the government in recent months explained "The access and influence we had isn't there any more. The reason it collapsed is because the government wouldn't retain the terms of 22 years of social partnership, which was abandoned by government and employers at the first sign of trouble."


Christy Moore, who are turning to the courts in an attempt to get their home back. Christy worked on building sites during the construction boom, but is now on social welfare. Two of their three children are unemployed; the third has just found work on a 12-week contract. Christy is left battling with the shame of losing his home:
"You should be strong but you feel so low – just finish me off, shoot me, put a bullet in my head," he says. "And all the time you hear you have to tighten your belts, which is an insult to people's intelligence. It's fear – that's why people aren't rising up. But we mustn't fear the corrupt politicians and bankers and developers, because that's what they want."

Fintan O'Toole , author of "Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger" , writes, the question is whether the Irish "have enough constructive anger to kick away a system that has failed them and make a new one for themselves".

SOYMB wonders much the same.

And the rich keep on getting richer....

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Never before in American history has so much wealth been concentrated in the hands of so few. For tens of millions of ordinary Americans, the American Dream has become the American Nightmare. Some statistics .

1) In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to 1 .

2) A USA Today analysis of government data has found that paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of 2010. During the same time period, government benefits (Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, food stamps, etc.) rose to a record high.

3) According to the United Nations, the United States now has the highest level of income inequality of all of the highly industrialized nations.

4) Four of the biggest banks in the United States (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup) had a "perfect quarter" with zero days of trading losses during the first quarter of 2010.

5) According to economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, two-thirds of income increases in the United States between 2002 and 2007 went to the wealthiest 1% of all Americans.

6) 39.68 million Americans are now on food stamps, which represents a new all-time record. But things look like they are going to get even worse. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting that enrollment in the food stamp program will exceed 43 million Americans in 2011.

7) For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.

8) Over just one three day period, approximately 10,000 people showed up to apply for just 90 jobs making washing machines in Kentucky for $27,000 a year.

9) Younger generations of Americans are particularly struggling. For example, according to a National Foundation for Credit Counseling survey, only 58% of those in "Generation Y" pay their monthly bills on time.

10) Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.

11) Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008. Not only that, more Americans filed for bankruptcy in March 2010 than during any month since U.S. bankruptcy law was tightened in October 2005.

12) An analysis of income tax data by the Congressional Budget Office a couple years ago found that the top 1% wealthiest households in the United States now own nearly twice as much of the corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.

13) A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.

14) The bottom 40 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth. So what does that say about America when nearly half the people are dividing up just one percent of the pie?

The truth is that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Workers are working harder and harder for less and less. As long as we allow the rich to dominate, we will have to be content with the crumbs which fall to the floor.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Marie Stopes

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You might after reading the recent rant by Peter Hitchins concerning Marie Stopes be tempted to think that the Orwell Jounalism Prize is awarded with the same carelessness as the Nobel for Peace. Whatever, SOYMB has previously addressed the topic of abortion from a Socialist perspective and now focuses on the subject of Hitchins' ire:

MARIE STOPES, REFORMER

THERE ARE NO good or bad reforms. Some people believe there are bad and good reformers. A prototype of the former might be, say, David Lloyd George. Cynical, ruthless, utterly venal and depraved, be actually told the House of Commons during the first World War that he could have put one million more men in the trenches by 1916 if it bad adopted his Health Insurance Act in its entirety in 1911.

Another such slick operator was the Labour Party's Herbert Morrison, who knew very well what it was all about, but chose to kid the voters that the London Transport Act was "an installment of Socialism". On the other side of the coin, our admiration is often asked for the genuinely sincere and self-sacrificing idealist who, consumed by the justice or logic (apparent) of some proposal, devotes his or her life to its implementation. Such a one was undoubtedly Marie Carmichael Stopes.

Holder of practically every scholarship that could be held by a woman in this country, she went to Munich to qualify as a Doctor of Philosophy. This last was used to whip up feeling against her, exploiting anti-German prejudice in 1919-20, by Dr. Halliday Sutherland, author of the book Birth Control.

After two unsatisfactory attempts at marriage - the first a purely platonic relationship with a Japanese professor of botany, the second with an American botanist who was incapable - she finally met and married Humphrey Verdon Roe, a partner in the Avro aircraft firm (later of Lancaster bomber fame) and therefore a wealthy man.

Marie herself was one of the most highly qualified botanists in the world, the first woman lecturer at Manchester University, and Staff researcher into the origin of coal. In this post she was sent all over the world by the Board of Trade, receiving £600 a year (£200 more than an MP in those days), and was the author of twenty-five volumes of data on her subject. After the second marriage disaster she went to Northumberland, and started in 1914 the first rough draft of the book which four years later outraged the Catholic Church, "startled the world", and precipitated a libel action which lasted six months and went to the House of Lords.

Its title was Married Love. What was the main simple proposition which so upset people, especially men? The idea Marie put up was that women also could, and should, enjoy sexual intercourse; that they couldn't if they were terrified most of the time that it would result in another unwanted baby; that marriages could not be happy under those circumstances and that if women could be protected against incessant pregnancy by contraception, marriages would last and be successful.

The book was a bombshell. Twenty-eight editions, translated into thirteen foreign languages; beautifully written, with a delicacy even her detractors could not deny. Marie rapidly discovered that she had lifted the lid of a seething cauldron. Letters poured in, in thousands, from unhappy wives (and husbands). So much so that a second book Wise Parenthood; dealing more fully with the mechanics of birth control, was issued - with the same success.

Now Marie, with her husband, who supported her ideas quite independently and could finance her, took the step which to the Catholic Church was the last straw. Like all good reformers, they decided to do something "practical". They rented a small house in the slums of Islington in London and opened the first free birth-control clinic. No fees were charged, no inquisitive questions asked. Poor women came in hundreds to be fitted with the rubber check pessary which so upset Halliday Sutherland and his Church. They claimed that it was dangerous and that this woman, with a German degree, was experimenting on poor women like rabbits.

Marie and her husband naively challenged Sutherland to debate, without result. Then, filled with indignation at the downright misrepresentation, she issued a writ for libel against Sutherland on 12th May 1922. The cream of the medical profession was called in witness, dividing itself about evenly for and against the rubber cheek pessary, But what some of the gynecologists' evidence revealed was staggering.

There was the woman who said she was kicked downstairs "every time she announced another baby". The girl of 22 who bad had six children since 16, all aborted by her mother. The two mental defectives who had spawned ten children, all mentally or physically deficient. The dozens of couples who had been married for years without children, due to sheer ignorance of simple physical functions.

Asked by Sir Patrick Hastings what was the object of the Society she had founded, Marie Stopes replied:

"The object of the Society is to counteract the steady evil which has been growing for many years of the reduction of the birth rate on the part of the wise, thrifty, well contented and generally sound members of our community; and the reckless breeding of the C3 end, the semifeeble-minded, the careless, who are proportionately increasing because of the slowing of the birth rate at the other end of the scale. It was in order to try to right that grave social danger that I embarked on this work."

Question:

"Is the reduction of the birth rate any part at all of your campaign?"

Answer::

"Not reduction in the total birth rate, but reduction in the birth rate at the wrong part and increase of the birth rate at the right end of the social scale."

And there you have it! Poor Marie may have been one of the world's greatest experts on coal, but she was a babe unborn in economics. Summed up, her idea was: More kids for the rich, less for the poor.

Now, it is certainly true that the capitalists do not like a falling working-class birth rate. And when it falls they take measures to increase it, the most popular being family allowances. As reference to our pamphlet Family Allowances will show, by the simple expedient of a government grant, the wages of single childless men and women are reduced to pay a premium or bonus to those producing children.

Dictators in the past have dramatized the situation. Stalin, by issuing a medal and a certificate to the fecund - "Mother of the Soviet Union" - while Mussolini gave the fruitful ones a suite of furniture. More practical, of course, because you can put kids to bed on a sofa but they cannot eat medals.

Marie lost her case in the Lords, having won it on appeal. There is evidence that, like so many dedicated reformers, she was obsessed, In 1920 she had written an appeal to the Bishops' Convocation of the Church of England claiming that she was "God's Prophet". Funnily enough, the Bishops craftily adopted most of her points about marriage forty years later; while even today, exponents of the over-population theory still quote her.

Had Marie studied economics with the avidity she displayed in botany, she might have discovered that whether the "right end" of the social scale, the wealthy, have large or small families is immaterial. What is decisive is that they have large bank balances. Nevertheless, we can remember Marie Stopes with regard for the fact that she chucked away comfort, affluence and status to fight for what she thought right, suffering abuse and punishment, She exposed the sexual subjection of working-class women, spread an enormous amount of knowledge previously proscribed; and if today millions of working-class girls are no longer as ignorant as Mum was, a certain amount of credit must go to Marie Stopes.

HORATIO

Socialist Standard October 1973

Monday, May 24, 2010

Second time as farce?

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February 28, 1974; a general election called by the Conservative Prime Minister Ted Heath took place. The Conservatives, 297 seats; Harold Wilson’s Labour Party, 301 seats; Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberals, 14 seats. Following unsuccessful attempts to persuade the Liberals to take part in a coalition government Heath resigned on March 4 and a minority Labour government took power with Wilson becoming Prime Minister for the second time. October 10, 1974, another election. The Labour Party’s parliamentary majority was three votes. May 6, 2010, no political party reaches the 326 seat target required to form a government and ‘run’ British capitalism.

History repeats itself, said Marx, first as tragedy, then as farce. On this occasion, why then are we not laughing?

As I drive along Oystermouth Road toward Swansea University I pass Swansea prison. Each time I imagine what is happening behind those walls and what it must be like for the individuals there. Try as I might the following words always fly into my mind: “Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court, and it is now my duty to pass sentence. You are an habitual criminal, who accepts arrest as an occupational hazard, and presumably accepts imprisonment in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences – you will go to prison for five years.” I do not for one moment think that reality is anything like Ronnie Barker’s humorous television portrayal of incarceration, ‘Porridge’. Five years is now a fixed parliamentary term too apparently. Metaphorically speaking we are all still ‘banged up’ by capitalism until the majority gain socialist understanding and decide to set everyone free.

The majority may not have declared decisively in favour of one or three of the political parties which aspire to run capitalism on behalf of Great Britain plc but certainly, in May 2010, they chose not to vote for themselves. So what were they voting for? Both Ken Livingstone, an ex-Labour politician and ex-London mayor, and Emma Goldman, an American anarchist, are credited with suggesting that if voting actually achieved anything it would be made illegal or abolished – unless you keep on voting for the continuation of the present social system. The Socialist Standard of May 1974 provides an explanation:
“On a superficial view the electors who voted … wanted different policies, Tory, Labour, Liberal; or Scottish, Welsh and Irish Nationalism. What in fact they voted for is capitalism with small variations of no importance. Capitalism with a face lift; capitalism inside or outside Europe; capitalism with a degree of autonomy in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The voters wanted capitalism not Socialism. They have got what they voted for.”

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” as the French say. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The shenanigans and contortions engaged in by the three capitalist parties may have been of interest as an exercise in the lengths to which professional politicians are prepared to go to grab power for themselves. After all, if you have got to be a wage slave that’s not a bad little number to have, is it? These manoeuvres reminded me of Lewis Carroll’s Lobster Quadrille: “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?’‘... but he would not join the dance. Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join the dance.”

“YOU HAVE GOT YOU HAVE GOT WHAT YOU VOTED FOR” proclaimed the front page of the Socialist Standard in May 1974.
“In the last few weeks the politicians and commentators have been disputing about what the electors wanted, what the new Government will do, what will be in its next budget, will the polices work …They are wasting their time and yours. The main outlines of your future in the next few years are already determined, and it would be just the same with a Tory Government, a Tory-Lib coalition, or a three-party government – a little more there, a little less here but nothing essentially different.”

With this sort of prescience if you let the Socialist Party pick your lottery tickets we would all be rich. Better idea: abolition of the wages system.

The previous month’s Socialist Standard in April 1974 could have been writing about any of the capitalism supporting parties. Just substitute any other name for ‘Labour’ in the text and it is appropriate for them all.

‘The Labour Party is anti-working-class, but let the position be clearly understood. Intentions good or bad do not come into it; indeed they are determined by capitalism. Some Labour politicians know what they are doing, others do not. Some begin with ideals, others with the desire for a parliamentary career. The forming factor, however, is that Labour sets out to be a governing party – that is, to take on running the capitalist system. Given that, all the failures and ‘regrettable necessities’ follow. Because there is no way capitalism will run except its own way, and whoever tries to direct it is directed by it instead.’

Oh, the humanity!” the radio commentator cried on May 6, 1937 as the airship Hindenburg burst into flames as it tried to land in America. “Vote for change!” the candidates cried as they went round soliciting your votes. One thing can be stated with certainty – the capitalist system does not work for the benefit of humanity. Don’t you wish you could turn the clock back and vote for real change?

DAVE COGGAN

Saturday, May 22, 2010

On your Marx

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The Dalai Lama said once again said on Thursday that he is a Marxist . Marxism has "moral ethics, whereas capitalism is only how to make profits" the Dalai Lama explained .

However, he credited China's embrace of market economics for breaking communism's grip over the world's most populous country and forcing the ruling Communist Party to "represent all sorts of classes." Capitalism "brought a lot of positive to China. Millions of people's living standards improved" he said.

SOYMB can only be reminded of Karl Marx's own words commenting on those who claimed to be his adherents "All I know is that I am not a Marxist."

Working harder - getting poorer - down under

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SOYMB previously posted statistics that Canadians are working longer hours for a smaller share of the wealth. Australia is not exempt from the same trend of inequality

There's no shortage of evidence that most of Australia's new prosperity has trickled up, not down.

According to a study by the Australian National University economist Andrew Leigh, the top 0.1 per cent of earners have more than tripled their share of the total household income pool since 1980.
Between 1993 and 2009, top-100 CEO salaries rose twice as fast as those of their workers, going from about $1 million to around $3 million.

An Australia Institute study in 2004 showed Australians were working the longest hours of the 31 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and there's has been no evidence any subsequent drops.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Capitalism's Contradictions

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We see the major problems of today stemming primarily from the basic contradictions of capitalism. By this we mean that the social relationships of production conflict with the technical relationships.

In modern society where wealth takes the form of "a vast accumulation of commodities", production is "socialised". This means that no commodity is the result of one person’s work, but that it takes the productive apparatus of the world to produce the commodity.

For example, take the simple match. Someone has to know which trees to cut, how to cut them, how to make the saws to saw them, how to make the right steel to make the saws, how to make the lorries that convey the logs, how to obtain and process the rubber to make the tyres for the lorries, how to extract and process the petroleum to provide the power for them, to indicate only some of the basic processes involved. And of course all these materials and people have to be transported from place to place by air, land and sea with the assistance and support of administrative and agricultural workers. Modern capitalism (including Russia, China, etc.), which is the dominant economic mode, has brought into being a world based on the socialised production of wealth. But (and this is the biggest "but" in history) the wealth when produced is not the property of the producers, i.e. the working population of the world. It is appropriated by a relatively tiny section of society which monopolises the means of production, for reasons of his­tory either in private or in state forms of possession. Furthermore this minority section or class is divided up, generally on a national basis, into particular ruling classes. These can only maintain them­selves as the ruling classes in their own sector (given the acquiescence of the working population) and realise the wealth which the commodities represent by selling them, profitably, on the world market.

The ensuing conflict entails bitter struggles over markets, energy-yielding products, sources of cheap materials and labour, and the strategically important areas, bases and trade routes associated with them. The minor and major wars, together with the criminal stupidities, social and environmental, with which we are confronted are primarily caused by or are traceable to this contradiction.

Our social and political systems derive from this basic mode of organisation and it is absolutely impossible to eliminate these problems, which are specific to capitalism. unless the social relationships of production are brought into harmony with the technical ones. That is, as well as having socialised produc­tion. the means of production and the wealth produced must be the property of the whole of society and simply used by society in a rational. democratic manner in line with the precept: "from each according to his ability. to each according to his need". This does not require governments, armed forces and so on. It does require knowledge and a common understanding of aim, purpose and method. It does entail organisation and administration but not permanent organisers and administrators (as individuals).

Education for this kind of world is important but it is not simply a matter of formal education (which is socially derivative anyway), but of social educa­tion, i.e.. experience, as well. Men learn and modify their behaviour. Our environment is dominated by capitalist competition and this forces the ruling groups to revolutionise continually the techniques of production, including those of communication.

This means that whole sections of the community are confronted by changes in their lives and the need to question the existing situation. This does not mean that their tentative attempts to grasp the meaning of events are always constructive but it does open the way for the valid analysis, presented appropriately. The important point, however, is that, time being money for the ruling classes and communications being im­portant militarily, the means of com­munication are improved so rapidly that it is harder and harder for rising gener­ations to see themselves as other than "Earthmen", "world citizens" and so on. This is not simply for reasons of political or moral theory but as something related to experience in a world of short-wave radio, international tele­vision, satellites and space shots . No doubt governments attempt to use these techniques for pernicious ends but the inherent universality of some of these media subverts their efforts.*
J.
(Socialist Standard, September 1970)


* SOYMB would add that now in 2010 , with the developments of the internet and mobile phone technology - the blogs , You Tube-type websites , and the social networks such as Facebook and Twitter - we see repeated attempts by governments to impose censorship or to manipulate them but often with little success as those means of communication and information sharing spread throughout the world , linking peoples of all countries .

poverty and hunger

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Some may tire of socialists pointing out that for the hungry it is not a shortage of food that is the problem , but that they cannot afford to buy the food. It is the economics of capitalism - can't pay, can't have!

It is not only socialists who explain this fact of life but the capitalist class themselves. The American government in a recent policy document says

"More than one billion people—nearly a sixth of the world’s population—suffer from chronic hunger. It is a crisis with devastating and far-reaching effects. Hunger weakens immune systems and stunts child development; half of all child deaths in the developing world are related to under-nutrition. Chronic hunger and under-nutrition primarily results from poverty—people who are poor often simply cannot afford to buy food."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Red or Yellow?

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In Bangkok , 40 people killed and hundreds injured so far in street battles between anti-government protesters and the military.The liklihood is of much more bloodshed. SOYMB reminds readers that events occurring on the opposite side of the globe can prove a challenge for socialists to understand and explain since information is difficult to obtain and what news there is can often be filtered by a bias media thus with that caveat we post the following.

Thais from the north and northeast, who make up the majority of Thailand's population, have suffered economically. Since the mid-1980s Thailand has been significantly more unequal than its main regional neighbors. Statistics, which understate the affluence of the survey-avoiding rich, show that Thailand's inequality has grown steadily worse, dipping only temporarily after the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s. The recent Human Development Report produced by the UNDP shows that eight out of the 10 most disadvantaged provinces in Thailand are in the rural north and northeast, precisely the areas where red-shirt support is strongest.

In 1997 , 2001 and in 2005 Thaksin Shinawatra , a populist politician was elected prime minister. Thaksin was a billionaire telecommunications tycoon, and clearly interested in using government power to foster his own family network of companies.Thaksin was accused of corruption and "cronyism". Some of Thaksin's policies smacked of tokenism, others were much more substantial.
He launched social programs, like inexpensive national health care and start-up loans to villages, redistributive policies, dubbed "Thaksinomics" , and that had an impact. He offered farmers a moratorium on debt payments and loaned 1 million baht—around $29,000 at the time—to every Thai village for development projects. (Private banks had stopped lending to farmers, for the most part, after the 1997 Asian economic collapse.) Some hailed the funds as a miracle that spurred the country's economic boom, while others dismissed the program as baksheesh for village leaders friendly to the prime minister. Thaksin also offered heavy government subsidies to bring rural goods into the national economy and ordered state-owned enterprises to buy up his followers' products. But his signature initiative was the "30 baht treat all" health programme offering cheap access to doctors . Analyses have consistently shown that the programme shifted national health care resources away from urban hospitals and toward the rural poor.

But rather than trying to defeat Thaksin at the ballot box, the anti-Thaksin middle class and elites opted for extraconstitutional means. Protests calling for Thaksin's ouster gave way to calls for the army to intercede; in September 2006 the military obliged, deposing the prime minister in a coup. When Thaksin was in power, opponents wore yellow shirts, the traditional color of Thailand's monarchy. Thaksin's loyalists took to wearing red to distinguish their movement from the royalists. Thaksin fled into exile, and today lives mostly in Dubai. The coup was a major mistake. For all his faults, Thaksin was a democratically elected politician. His overthrow was tacitly condoned by the United States, Thailand's most important foreign partner. (Though George W. Bush's administration officially condemned the coup, it did not cancel the pending joint military exercises with Thailand, and the U.S. has since worked easily with the government installed by the military.)

Today, the "red shirt" protesters organised against the ruling government are demanding that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva - a British-educated technocrat - hold a new election. There are broader demands as well: Many red shirt leaders want the government to speed up programs to boost political and economic power in the provinces. They also want to start a discussion on how to reduce the power of traditional, urban-elite-dominated institutions like the palace and the military. The protestors' main grievances are real and reasonable.

However, perhaps this interpretation of recent events by Philip Cunningham, a freelance journalist who has taught at Chulalongkorn University and Doshisha University in Thailand , reflect more accurately the reality of the the demonstrations and the Bangkok protests:-

"What we see in Thailand, I think, is a sham revolution, and I think it’s something stirred up primarily by the billionaire tycoon in exile... There are real grievances. There are real poor people. There are fault lines, and in sensitive areas in Thailand, which are very easy to provoke. It would sort of be like Rockefeller funding riots in the ghettos, if he had somehow been arrested and sent into exile or something like that. I mean, it’s a really strange situation. It’s a hugely tragic situation. The people are dying. They’re dying for a billionaire tycoon in exile. It doesn’t make sense...I believe the Red Shirts are a fascist movement. I believe the poverty is real. The need, the hunger, for a systemic change, a kind of change in Thailand, is there. It’s in the air. But there is nothing about the Red Shirts—I listen to them every day. I monitor their broadcasts. I’m doing a media study of that. And they insult foreigners. They insult gays. They engage in ridiculous ad hominem attacks. They are playing to the crowd. It’s kind of like a cross between—with Thaksin. And they sing songs in dedication to Thaksin. I mean, it’s sort of like, you know, Mussolini or something like that. Some people compare Thaksin to Berlusconi. I think it’s a little more like Mussolini. It is fascism, and it is a shame, because these people are hijacking the poor people, hijacking the genuine grievances of the poor, to serve a billionaire in exile so he can get back to Thailand and get his money back...It’s nonsense. There is good rhetoric. There’s good drama. This is money from a TV station from Thaksin’s media people. They’ve put together a media show. They’ve put together a sham demonstration, a sham revolution. It’s not the real thing. I was in a Tiananmen in '89. I know what these things look like. I know what a spontaneous uprising looks like. This is not a spontaneous uprising.What has happened—and I will acknowledge this—is that you've kind of had a chain reaction. You have some real spontaneous uprising now. Thailand is in a very brittle state. It’s very delicate. It’s at the kind of end of an era. And anything could happen, and this could be extremely dangerous. I just don’t want to see Thailand go down a fascist road...I just feel like you’re so hungry for the left to do something that you’re seeing a false dawn, and you’re mistaking it for the real thing. This is a false dawn; this is not the real thing."

So where do socialists stand in all of this? The real conflict is yet to be waged — that between the exploited and the master class. The Thai people, regardless of the colour of their shirts remain prey to the manipulations of feuding factions of their master class. There can be no relief for the oppressed in changing one robber for another one. The person of the robber does not matter — it is the fact of the robbery that spells misery. Divisions are a hindrance to working-class unity and action, and jealousies and differences are fostered by the capitalists for their own ends. The workers and farmers , red or yellow shirts, are being used to fight the battles of their oppressors. Let the thieves fight their own battles!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oxbridge -still out of reach for the poor

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Young people from poorer backgrounds are still struggling to get into top universities. The wealthiest 20% of youngsters are seven times more likely than the most disadvantaged 40% to get places at England's most selective universities.Access from those 40% least disadvantaged youngsters has been "almost flat since the mid-1990s".

Talented youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds are still failing to realise their potential. Poorer youngsters are more likely to underperform in exams than their better-off counterparts, which means they might miss out on the grades needed for the most competitive courses. They are also at greater risk of making bad decisions over GCSE choices, which could limit their chances. And even if they have the exam grades in the right subjects, poorer youngsters are less likely to apply to the top universities.

Mike Nicholson, in charge of undergraduate admissions at Oxford, says that it is inequality of opportunity at school age that "is one of the major barriers to progression".

The Sutton Trust last month claimed that social mobility was lagging behind in England - and children's achievement was more linked to their family background than in many other countries as indicated by the narrowness of the educational background of the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat cabinet - with two thirds having gone to Oxford or Cambridge.

working harder - getting poorer

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A new report,co-published by Institut de recherche et d'informations socio-economiques (IRIS) and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives ,shows the earnings gap between the rich and the rest of Quebec is at a 30-year high and poised to worsen due to recession.

"Quebeckers worked more and the province's economy grew by 71% during this period but not all Quebec families enjoyed the benefits," says IRIS co-author Bertrand Schepper. "The lion's share of income gains went to the richest 10%, while the majority of Quebec families - the bottom 70% - ended up with a smaller share of the income pie."

Quebec families are working on average 321 hours more a year since 1996, which is the equivalent of an extra eight weeks of full-tim work. Most increased work time was accrued by families in the bottom 50% of the income spectrum but they're earning less than their counterparts a generation ago. The richest 10th of Quebec's families earn more today than a generation ago, without having to put in more time at the workplace.The further up the income ladder you go, the more the gains.

Mansions amid Poverty

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In Kabul , several years after dozens of poor families were evicted from the suburb of Shirpur the new mansions which have taken their place exposing the yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots. Many Afghans mockingly call it “Shirchoor” (lion-grabbing), as it contains many of the city’s most outlandish buildings - generally owned by current and former ministers, warlords and other powerful individuals.
Miloon Kothari, who investigated the Shirpur case in 2003, said in a report: "I expressed the view that the way in which the forced evictions took place, including excessive use of force, amounted to serious human rights violations.”
70 percent of new high-rise buildings in the capital are illegal and built without regard to local laws or regulations by powerful individuals known as the “land mafia”. The Ministry of Agriculture says up to a million hectares of state land has been seized by militia commanders and powerful warlords across the country in the past few years.

Kabir Ranjbar, a representative of Kabul in the lower house of parliament, told IRIN. “The rich are powerful and have manipulated everything to their benefit, while the poor are weak and have been marginalized and deprived of their basic rights,”

Abdul Rahman Ghafoory, director of the Central Statistics Office: “Gaps between rich and poor are widening.”
A National Risks and Vulnerability Assessment report says nine million Afghans (36 percent of the population) live in absolute poverty, and five million “non-poor” live on less than US$2 a day.

“The rich have become richer and more powerful while the majority of poor have been marginalized,” said Sayed Masoud, an economics lecturer at Kabul University,“Social unrest, violence and rebellion against the state are the most likely outcomes in a society where a majority of people live in extreme poverty but small elite groups thrive in affluence,” adding that the aid-inspired GDP growth had been “hijacked by oligarchs”.

“Economic growth...can also exacerbate inequality, with only a few benefiting from newfound wealth. To some extent, this is what we are seeing in Afghanistan. While entrepreneurs and new businesses, particularly those based around the aid industry, have flourished, many - especially the poor and those in rural areas - have seen few positive benefits,” said Ashley Jackson, head of policy and advocacy for Oxfam in Afghanistan.

Destitute in Birmingham

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A new report from the Children’s Society has revealed destitution amongst asylum seeking families in the West Midlands region.The charity said it was shocked at the conditions those fleeing torture and oppression were being forced to live in under what they branded as UK’s “chaotic” asylum system.Families had no means of survival because their parents were unable to access state support or take jobs because of their asylum status.More than 250 children are living in abject poverty with some mothers forced to prostitution on the streets of Birmingham in order to survive.

Andy Jolly, project worker at The Children’s Society, said: “We work with families in Birmingham who have absolutely nothing. We see mothers forced into prostitution simply in order to feed their families.There are families we support who have no food or adequate clothes, let alone toys for the children.Mothers who give birth after they are refused asylum are not entitled to family support. Bureaucracy has been found to be a contributing factor to making families destitute.Many of the families who we work with in Birmingham applied to the UK Border Agency for support, but have been left waiting for several months during which time they were completely destitute.”

The irony is they came to the UK hoping they would find safety and a better future and instead found themselves living in squalor or struggling to survive on the streets.

The True Born Englishman

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SOYMB posts an appropriate poem to commemorate the recent English 20/20 cricket victory and in anticipation of England's South African World Cup jaunt .

The True Born Englishman (excerpt)

...Thus from a mixture of all kinds began,
That het'rogeneous thing, an Englishman:
In eager rapes, and furious lust begot,
Betwixt a painted Britain and a Scot.
Whose gend'ring off-spring quickly learn'd to bow,
And yoke their heifers to the Roman plough:
From whence a mongrel half-bred race there came,
With neither name, nor nation, speech nor fame.
In whose hot veins new mixtures quickly ran,
Infus'd betwixt a Saxon and a Dane.
While their rank daughters, to their parents just,
Receiv'd all nations with promiscuous lust.
This nauseous brood directly did contain
The well-extracted blood of Englishmen.

Which medly canton'd in a heptarchy,
A rhapsody of nations to supply,
Among themselves maintain'd eternal wars,
And still the ladies lov'd the conquerors.

The western Angles all the rest subdu'd;
A bloody nation, barbarous and rude:
Who by the tenure of the sword possest
One part of Britain, and subdu'd the rest
And as great things denominate the small,
The conqu'ring part gave title to the whole.
The Scot, Pict, Britain, Roman, Dane, submit,
And with the English-Saxon all unite:
And these the mixture have so close pursu'd,
The very name and memory's subdu'd:
No Roman now, no Britain does remain;
Wales strove to separate, but strove in vain:
The silent nations undistinguish'd fall,
And Englishman's the common name for all.
Fate jumbled them together, God knows how;
What e'er they were they're true-born English now.

The wonder which remains is at our pride,
To value that which all wise men deride.
For Englishmen to boast of generation,
Cancels their knowledge, and lampoons the nation.
A true-born Englishman's a contradiction,
In speech an irony, in fact a fiction.
A banter made to be a test of fools,
Which those that use it justly ridicules.
A metaphor invented to express
A man a-kin to all the universe.

For as the Scots, as learned men ha' said,
Throughout the world their wand'ring seed ha' spread;
So open-handed England, 'tis believ'd,
Has all the gleanings of the world receiv'd.

Some think of England 'twas our Saviour meant,
The Gospel should to all the world be sent:
Since, when the blessed sound did hither reach,
They to all nations might be said to preach.

'Tis well that virtue gives nobility,
How shall we else the want of birth and blood supply?
Since scarce one family is left alive,
Which does not from some foreigner derive...

Daniel Defoe
(1660 - 1731)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Real Blues

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Socialism Or Your Money Back blog has been posting recently on the detrimental effects of work under capitalism and note that it is being condemned by the fruits its own research and not by socialists.

In a study by the mental health charity Mind, employees were questioned about their levels of anxiety and more than 26% said they felt dread and apprehension the day before they were due to go back to work after a day or weekend off.Nearly 20% of the 2,050 workers surveyed have phoned in sick to avoid work because of unmanageable stress levels, yet almost everyone lied about why they felt ill. Over-stressed workers are much more likely to blame a stomach bug or a headache than admit they are not coping with long hours, excessive work loads or bullying.

Other findings include effects on people's sleep patterns, high rates of illness and reports of extensive low morale. High rates of unpaid overtime were recorded, and almost all the people questioned were unhappy with their work-life balances. Tough times in the workplace, where people are living with the constant fear of redundancy and often taking on extra duties because of a recession-reduced workforce and companies downsizing, could mean years of uncertainty for workers.The numbers of people reporting having left a job due to stress rose from 6% in 2004 to 8% in 2009. Redundancy can come as a relief. 70 million working days are lost every year to mental illness. At any one time an estimated eight million people of working age experience common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, sleep problems or alcohol dependence. Health and Safety Executive research shows stress and mental illness is responsible for more than half of all working days lost every year.

Mind's chief executive, Paul Farmer, said: "Considering how much time we spend at work, it is hardly surprising it can have a huge impact on our mental wellbeing. Working conditions have been incredibly tough and the emotional fallout of the recession doesn't just centre on people who have lost their jobs, but on people who are struggling to cope with the extra demands of working harder, longer hours and under more pressure as their employers battle for survival." [SOYMB would suggest it is the employees not the employers who are the real ones battling for survival]

Having highlighted the problem what is Mind's strategy - Mind is asking all employees to "reclaim their lunch hour" ! Such a shame that those who provide the evidence cannot convict the system.

SUPPORT THE STATUS QUO!

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Are you happy with your life? Is your work fulfilIing? No problems getting up in the morning? No stress? No complaints?

Good. We' re perfectly happy too. But there are a group of dangerous fanatics who say that they're "anti-capitalist". These groups are threatening everything we hold dear. Because we are basically satisfied with our lot, we want to defend the status quo, and we need your help. Here's what YOU can do:

LIMIT YOUR VISION

Ignore the structural causes of your problems. Pretend that psychological disturbance has nothing to do with social conditions. OK, so stress and depression are the second biggest killers in the western world. But let's not imagine that that has ANYTHING to do with how we live our everyday lives. And if you must enquire after causes, only intervene at the individual Ievel. It's fine to help depressed - or, say, homeless - people on a case-by-case basis. But don 't look into the social and economic arrangements that brought about their predicament. That would only serve to invite drastic changes. Treat each example of corporate wrongdoing (illegal dumping of toxic wastes, sweatshop labour, etc) as isolated incidents caused by a few corrupt individuals - believe that those in charge are just "bad", sabotaging what would otherwise be a perfectly all right system.

ADAPT

The best way to support the status quo is to make sure that you adjust yourself to serve its needs. This was once enforced by crude authoritarian means. Today this is hardly necessary. After all, you 've been trained since you were four to get up every morning on time, go to an institution where you surrender all control of your activity, and get asked to perform mostly meaningless and boring toil. So by the time you're asked to do the same for your employer, who hopes to profit from your work, it should come naturally. Should you find such an existence dreary or pointless, dori't worry. A wealth of advice is available on how to become successful, or at least to cope. All such advice proceeds from the premise that you should adjust yourself to conditions as you find thern. This means you must salve your problems within the institutions according to the rules that already exist. lf your principles or needs or desires come up against reality, just abandon them. On no account try to change the reaIity.

ONLY THINK ABOUT YOURSELF

The more you limit your concerns to what you've already been given or offered, the more you help to sustain the larger system. Sure, exercise your limited power as a consumer. But as a producer, as a worker, fit in and do as you 're told. Even therapeutic and spiritual enterprises are useful for preserving the status quo. They encourage you to attend to what you have been told are your own needs - they effectively direct attention away from social structures. Look after yourself, and let the rest of the world ga on its way. Politics is for politicians.

BE REALISTIC

You don't have to defend "capitalism", or the regimes in what were called the "socialist" or "communist" countries. Nor do you need to explicitly support what flows from supporting this system - such as its wars, starvation, or the poverty of your own everyday life. You can even nod in sympathetic agreement with those who condemn such regimes. But accompany this nodding with a shrug. Phrases such as "that's life" and "that's the way the world works" or vague references to "human nature" should be used liberally to emphasise that nothing can be done. (Such protestations of powerlessness are actually very powerful, of course, since they help to make sure that things are left exactly as they are.)

DISMISS "IDEALISTS"

When you come across people who refuse to resign themselves to the way things are or to believe that we are helpless and incapable of making fundamental changes, immediately label them "idealistic" or "utopian". An "idealist" is someone who doesn't understand "the real world" (real world" = "capitalist society" = "as it is" = "as it always will be"). This label calls attention to their fauIty understanding of "human nature" and "economics", and helps to ensure that they are not taken very seriously.

AS A LAST RESORT...

For those who remain concerned about social problems, however, there is a last resort for saving the status quo. You can become a leftie. As a leftie, you can remain "realistic" and condemn "idealistic" schemes while at the same time claiming to be in favour of radical change. You could even call yourself a socialist, or communist, and join one of the political parties on the left wing (of capitalism - the same bird). Go on demonstrations. March people to the top of the hill, then march them back down again. Chant boring, unimaginative, meaningless slogans. Flog a leftie newspaper. Then march all the way to Trafalgar Square just in time for a good beating from the police.

OVER TO YOU

So, it's up to you. We need you to keep supporting this system so we can all keep our jobs, our wars and our democracy (which may end at 9am every moming, but at least we can choose our rulers!) and everything else we love so much about our present social arrangements.

Whatever you do, don't listen to dangerous fanatics who say that instead of producing things for sale and for profit, we should produce things to satisfy our own needs. Don't listen to the extremists who say that we could and should take control of our own lives and collectively make our own decisions about work and play. Especially don't listen to the World Socialist Movement who have been saying this since 1904. They're used to being ignored anyway. Whatever you do, don't think, don't debate, don't look at the world around you, don't question, don't ask 'Why?' That definitely won't change things.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

capitalist circuses

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Tens of millions of dollars have been diverted in India from schemes to fight poverty and used to fund Delhi's Commonwealth Games, the Housing and Land Rights Network pressure group says in its report based on official documents obtained under India's right to information act.

The report's author, Miloon Kothari, a former UN human rights rapporteur, told the BBC that the evidence was clear that tens of millions of dollars have been diverted from funds which are supposed to help raise underprivileged low caste communities out of poverty.

In addition, more than 100,000 poor families have already been evicted due to projects connected with the Games, and up to 40,000 families are likely to be displaced before the Games begin in October. To portray Delhi as a world-class city and an international sports destination, had led the government to lose sight of its legal and moral commitments to its people.

The Waters of the Nile

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SOYMB returns to capitalism's struggle for the control of natural resources and the possibility of imminent water wars . We reported previously on India and Pakistan and now we read that in Africa , the waters of the Nile are being competed for by the different nations along its course. Under colonial-era accords, Egypt and Sudan get 90% of the river's water.Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia say it is unfair and want a new deal but nothing has been agreed in 13 years of talks and have now have signed an agreement in Entebbe to seek more water from the River Nile - a move strongly opposed by Egypt and Sudan.Kenya, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo were represented at the meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, and may sign up later.
For Egypt, water is a matter of national security. Egypt has dismissed the Entebbe agreement, saying it "is in no way binding on Egypt from a legal perspective...Egypt will not join or sign any agreement that affects its share," ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki.

With populations soaring, demand for water increasing and climate change having an impact, there are warnings that wrangling over the world's longest river could be a trigger for conflict.

"If we don't have an agreed co-operative framework, there will be no peace," Kenya's director of water resources John Nyaro told the BBC before the meeting. "Where there is no rule of law, the rule of the jungle does not provide peace."

In 2005 the then Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his government, along with those of Kenya, Uganda Tanzania - who share the White Nile with Egypt - will no longer be intimidated by past threats, principally by the late President Anwar Sadat, to use force to maintain its grip on the Nile.

"I think it is an open secret that the Egyptians have troops that are specialised in jungle warfare. Egypt is not known for its jungles. So if these troops are trained in jungle warfare, they are probably trained to fight in the jungles of the East African countries," Mr Meles said. "And from time to time Egyptian presidents have threatened countries with military action if they move. While I cannot completely discount the sabre-rattling I do not think it is a feasible option. If Egypt were to plan to stop Ethiopia from utilising the Nile waters it would have to occupy Ethiopia and no country on earth has done that in the past."

A socialist society unhampered by national vested interests could use the existing framework of the Nile Basin Initiative to its full potential and develop co-operation on hydro-electric power and irrigation schemes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

REGULATORS REDUNDANT

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Oil giant BP, the mining company Massey Energy, and investors Goldman Sachs all have something in common. They’re all outwardly respectable firms involved in massive and irresponsible plunder in persuit of profit.

BP’s oil spill is already one of the biggest and most damaging in history. Company executives are now engaged in the blame shifting game. Giving testimony before the US Senate a top executive of BP focused on a critical safety device that was supposed to shut off oil flow on the ocean floor in the event of a well blow-out but which "failed to operate."

At the same hearing Transocean, which owned the rig that exploded, suggested work done by subcontractor Halliburton could have been the key factor. Halliburton and BP, meanwhile, say the blow-out preventer that failed on Transocean's rig was critical but "failed to operate."

"That was to be the fail-safe in case of an accident," Lamar McKay, chairman of BP America, said, pointedly noting that the 450-ton blowout preventer — as well as the rig itself — was owned by Transocean Ltd.

Massey’s April 5, 2010 mine disaster near Charleston (West Virginia) which claimed the lives of 29 miners was one of the worst in recent American history. The company had been cited for 515 violations at the same mine in 2009. (L.A. Times 7 April 2010).

Goldman’s alleged fraud is but one of number of swindles in recent years.

All three of these companies are primarily in the business of making money.

Shareholders benefited when BP made big profits extracting oil without paying attention to a possible “blow-out” – the technology involved has not changed in 20 years. Massey Energy increased earnings from its criminally negligent coal mining operations. The judge trying an earlier safety violation case stated that the firm “acted with deliberate intent regarding the unsafe working conditions in its coal mine.”

Goldman Sachs did very well for its own stock holders by allegedly defrauding others.

In fact it was pressure from their shareholders seeking the highest possible returns — and from their executives whose pay was linked to the firms’ share performance — that led all three companies to cut whatever corners they could cut in pursuit of the profits which are the lifeblood of capitalism.

So where were the regulators?

Even where regulations exist, the law has set such low penalties that disregarding the regulations and risking fines have been treated by firms as a cost of doing business. And for years, enforcement budgets have been slashed, with the result that there are rarely enough inspectors to do the job.

The assumption has been that markets and the profit motive know best. And these have been the results.

GT

Free to be a child wage slave

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Asma , 10 years old , usually arrives at work at eight in the morning and leaves at eight in the evening. She often works six days a week and is paid about $2 a day. Asma operates a powerful cutting device in the poorly-lit premises for up to 12 hours a day. There is no first aid in the factory and no lunch break. None of the children know what happens to the safety pins one they have been made and none knows exactly who is employing them.
Asma is one of thousands of Bangladeshi children who work in the informal sector - which includes factories, workshops, home-based businesses and domestic employment. She and others like her are are mostly outside the reach of labour controls, being isolated in the factories and households where they work. This isolation, combined with the child's dependency on their employer, lays the ground for abuse and exploitation for which they are so poorly protected. Employers like to take on children because they can pay them less. The parents like children to work because their earnings can help pay household bills. It's a vicious cycle.

She does not complain of her plight.

"I was not forced to work here," she says shyly. "The trouble is that if I didn't my family would not have enough money to buy vegetables and we cannot live only on rice."

Asma is part of the 1.3 million children in Bangladesh who work full-time to support their family. "For her work is just a way of living - she doesn't know any other kind of life..." UN children's fund spokesman Syeedul Milky says

Heart disease and overtime

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SOYMB has recently posted on the consequences of working in capitalism upon the workers health and now another report has confirmed the risks.

People who regularly put in overtime and work 10 or 11-hour days increase their heart disease risk by nearly two-thirds.The findings come from a study of 6,000 British civil servants.

After accounting for known heart risk factors such as smoking, doctors found those who worked three to four hours of overtime a day ran a 60% higher risk. Researchers said there could be a number of explanations for this. People who spend more time at work have less time to exercise, relax and unwind.They may also be more stressed, anxious, or have depression.

"Employees who work overtime may also be likely to work while ill - that is, be reluctant to be absent from work despite illness," they add.

Cathy Ross, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study raises further questions about how our working lives can influence our risk of heart disease."

Dr John Challenor, from the Society of Occupational Medicine, said: "...work/life balance plays a vital role in well-being."

SOYMB can say with an amount of certainty , that exploitation under capitalism will always fail to provide that much needed balance.

Monday, May 10, 2010

No Borders - One People

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Forty Million Refugees

There are no less than forty million refugees in the world today. Forty million people living in misery and hopelessness. Such is the appalling truth revealed in a little book recently published—Refugees 1960.

The authors fondly hope that in this world refugee year, the camps can be emptied and the conscience of the capitalist world stirred so deeply that every man, woman and child will be resettled. Just listen to this:

“Every country with room to spare should ease open its bureaucratic door and undertake to accept without ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ a percentage of the sick or economically useless human beings, to balance what they have gained from the young, healthy immigrants who will be benefiting their economy without any cost to them in education or training.”

A tall order indeed. It is hopeless to appeal to the conscience of a society which has been directly responsible for such a monstrosity. Far better to have a world where man can be free to travel over its surface without the futile restrictions of nationality, and where he can satisfy his needs from a sufficiency of wealth that only Socialism can make available.

But when all this has been said, it is still worthwhile to read Refugees 1960. Mainly, it is a plain, straightforward statement of very unpalatable facts, and no attempt has been made to grind a political axe. Yet by its very simplicity of style and presentation, this book shouts a condemnation of capitalist society from every page.

From book review by E.T.C., Socialist Standard, June 1960

Indeed, much the same sentiments can be expressed today , 50 years later. Shamefully but totally expectedly that bureaucratic door has not been eased open but frequently slammed shut.Not just here in the UK but recently in the news we have seen that in America , Arizona state laws has been passed to permit please to stop and question anyone who may be an "illegal immigrant" , or should we simply say , who looks "foreign".

For the first time, more people are leaving their homes because of environmental factors than because of war. The world now has 25 million environmental refugees, compared with 21 million war-related refugees. They aren't really genuine refugees, the cry goes up, only "bogus ones", who have the nerve to try to cross the capitalist-ordained boundaries to make themselves a little better off.Who gave the world's rulers the right to tell us which bit of land we should live on? Like many laws enacted by the ruling class, restrictions on the crossing of borders really only hit at members of the working class. The apologists for capitalism who try to foment ill-feeling towards "foreigners" landing here, whether they come to escape persecution, or to obtain slightly higher wages, never attack the upper class who swan about the world as if there were no such thing as state boundaries.

The problems we face are not caused by workers from other parts of the world migrating to this part, but by the capitalist system of class ownership

Its always an "accident"

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“Clearly, what happened on the Deepwater Horizon was a tragic accident,” said BP spokesman John Curry .

Once more a region of the world faces an environmental disaster due to an "accident". Yet , we read , BP, the global oil giant responsible for the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is no stranger to major accidents.

In March 2005, a massive explosion ripped through a tower at BP's refinery in Texas City, Texas, killing 15 workers and injuring 170 others. Investigators later determined that the company had ignored its own protocols on operating the tower, which was filled with gasoline, and that a warning system had been disabled.The company pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and was fined more than $50 million.

In 2006 some 4,800 barrels of oil had leaked into the Alaskan snow through a tiny hole in the company's pipeline in Prudhoe Bay. BP had been warned to check the pipeline in 2002, but hadn't, according to a report in Fortune. When it did inspect it, four years later, it found that a six-mile length of pipeline was corroded.BP faced $12 million in fines for a violation of the federal Water Pollution Control Act. A congressional committee determined that BP had ignored opportunities to prevent the spill and that "draconian" cost-saving measures had led to shortcuts in its operation.

In this oil pollution incident in the Gulf of Mexico there are indications that BP and Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that burned and sank, could have used backup safety gear-- a remote acoustic switch that would stanch the flow of oil from a leaking well 5,000 feet underwater -- to prevent the massive spill now floating like a slow-motion train wreck toward the Mississippi and Louisiana coastline. The switch isn't required under U.S. law, but is well-known in the industry and mandated in other parts of the world where BP operates.

As recently as last year in BP operations had been exempted by the government from an environmental review as required by the National Environmental Policy Act on the assurances by BP that there was no possible danger of any adverse environmental issues, that it is very unlikely a spill will occur and that it’s unlikely a spill will reach shore. The explosion left 11 men presumed dead aboard the rig and caused the massive underwater gusher that the company and the federal government have been trying to cap since late April. An estimated 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) of crude is pouring out from the well every day.

Capitalism, with its emphasis on profit and short-term considerations, provides fertile ground for accidents and disasters of various kinds. It also means that any accidents which do happen are likely to be more serious and harmful than would otherwise be the case. Cutting corners and ignoring safety matters is part and parcel of a profit-oriented system.