Saturday, July 31, 2010

The New Devouring

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A few years back , the Herald reminded its readers of the estimated 1.5 million Roma murdered in Nazi-occupied Europe, an episode that has come to be known in the Romani language as the Porraimos (the "devouring").
Later, it is reported that "The far right is on the march in Hungary, literally. In recent months, hardly a week has gone by without a rally being held by the Magyar Garda or "Hungarian Guard," their members decked out in black boots and uniforms bearing nationalist symbols last employed by Hungarian fascists during World War II. Their target: Romany (gypsy) criminals and those who want to integrate Romany children into the country's schools. Their rallies usually take place in communities with a large Roma population, where they style themselves as protectors of ethnic Hungarians." (Yahoo News, 13 February 2008)

Now SOYMB reads that Amnesty International said the EU had "turned a blind eye" to what it called a "serious breach of human rights" towards Europe's Roma. "There is a clear and systemic programme of EU governments targeting Roma," said Anneliese Baldaccini, a lawyer at Amnesty's EU office. Campaign groups have accused Brussels of cowardice when it comes to the Roma.

In France Sarkozy announced the "the expulsion of all illegal encampments". France's estimated 400,000 Travellers already have to undergo regular police checks and critics fear they are at risk of becoming the scapegoats of a government in need of a populist boost.Interior minister Brice Hortefeux announced new measures including the dismantling of about 300 encampments and the "quasi-immediate" expulsion to Romania or Bulgaria of Roma with a criminal record.

Copenhagen had requested Danish government assistance to deport up to 400 Roma

Swedish police have expelled Roma in breach of its own and EU laws.

In Belgium a caravan of 700 Roma has been chased out of Flanders and forced to set up camp in French-speaking Wallonia in the south.

Italy, which in 2008 declared a state of emergency due to the presence of Roma, and evicted thousands of them, mainly to Romania and Bulgaria, is continuing to implement the policy to this day.

Germany is in the process of repatriating thousands of Roma children and adolescents to Kosovo, despite warnings they will face discrimination, appalling living conditions, lack of access to education as well as language problems, because many of them were born in Germany and do not speak Serbian or Albanian.

In the UK Gypsy and Roma children were most likely to be excluded from school. Just one square mile of land would be enough to provide all Gypsy and Traveller families in the UK with a place to stay, according to a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. A report by Oxfam found:
"On arrival, Roma without exception find themselves either without employment, or with a temporary 'position', and sharing small flats in conditions of extreme overcrowding and squalor. Having paid weekly 'fees' to 'gangmasters', Roma find they are unable to change their situation. Indeed, to break away from this exploitation puts them at extreme risk, not only of unemployment, but also homelessness and destitution in the absence of benefit entitlement."
EU migrants like the Roma are not entitled to housing benefits. They are also unlikely to satisfy the credit checks expected by most landlords.This means they group together in order to afford rents and accept properties in conditions that others wouldn't.

In eastern European countries that are EU members, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, accounts are rife of widespread discrimination against Roma, including physical attacks. A Unicef report released in 2005 said that 84% of Roma in Bulgaria, 88% in Romania and 91% in Hungary lived below the poverty line.(Economist, 19 June 2008)

The Romanian author Mircea Cartarescu points out that it was the Romanians who forced the Roma into a life of misery and delinquency - by enslaving them, a condition that lasted until the mid-19th Century:
"For centuries they could be bought and sold, families were torn apart, children taken from their mothers, women separated from their men. The young women were generally raped by their owners and the 'flock of crows', as they were called, was the target of general contempt and discrimination. One of the voivodes, or provincial governors, used to have them climb trees and then shot them down with arrows. He called it crow-hunting. Tied to one place and kept like animals, the gypsies multiplied more quickly in the Romanian principalities than anywhere else in Europe. Therefore we only have ourselves to blame for creating the gypsy problem. It is our historical guilt. ... We are appalled when other countries perceive us as a nation of criminals, but we see the gypsies in exactly the same way."

Each year we are counselled to remember the Jewish Holocaust , yet the Roma Devouring stays forgotten.

Friday, July 30, 2010

"Reforming Capitalism Or The Socialist Alternative"

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Reminder for a public meeting tomorrow Saturday at 6.00pm.


"Reforms of capitalism have been going on as long as the system has been in existence. Some of the most significant of these have been the extension of the voting franchise, the introduction of the so-called "welfare state", nationalisation and de-nationalisation, increased regulation by the state and de-regulation.

While the material living conditions at least, of the populations of developed countries have improved since the 19th and early 20th centuries, inequality in the U.K., for example, is now greater than it was 50 years ago, according to a recent government survey. Stress in the workplace and in many other aspects of society has certainly not decreased, rather the reverse.

Such trends can be observed on a global scale. Additionally, rampant poverty in underdeveloped countries is as widespread as it ever was. Wars and environmental degradation continue. All of this clearly confirms the correctness of the socialist assertion that the present system CANNOT be reformed in the interests of the majority of people and of the environment, in any significant way.What we need is a complete alternative. Genuine world socialism, with common ownership, its production for human need and real democratic control is very much that alternative!!

This meeting will examine some of the most important of capitalism's reforms, how and why they have usually NOT achieved what they are supposed to have achieved and even when some very limited success has been gained, these so-called "gains" have often been either very limited, temporary, or partially reversed. The "Welfare State" is an obvious example of this.

In complete contrast to this, it will be shown how and why global socialism can provide a real and lasting solution."

Speaker: Vincent Otter

All welcome.Free entry. Free discussion. Free refreshments.

Head Office 52 Clapham High St. London

usa inequality

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SOYMB produces more on the phantasm of the American Dream.

Americans feel significantly more alienated in 2005, according to a Harris Interactive poll, with three-quarters of US adults saying they feel the "rich get richer and the poor get poorer," up from 68% in 2004.

From 1993 to 2007 average real incomes per family grew at a 2.2% annual rate (implying a growth of 35% over the fourteen year period). However, if one excludes the top 1%, average real income growth falls to 1.3% per year (implying a growth of 20% over the thirteen year period). Top 1% incomes grew at a much faster rate of 5.9% per year (implying a 122% growth over the fourteen year period).This implies that top 1% incomes captured half of the overall economic growth over the period 1993-2007.Professor Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, has produced several studies on inequality in America and says, in the economic expansion of 2002-2007, the top 1% captured two thirds of income growth.The share of wage and salary income has increased sharply from the 1920s to the present, and especially since the 1970s. Therefore, a significant fraction of the surge in top incomes since 1970 is due to an explosion of top wages and salaries. Indeed, Saez says estimates based purely on wages and salaries show that the share of total wages and salaries earned by the top 1% wage income earners has jumped from 5.1% in 1970 to 12.4% in 2007.

In 2007, the top decile includes all families with market income above $109,600. The overall pattern of the top decile share over the century is U-shaped. The share of the top decile is around 45% from the mid-1920s to 1940. It declines substantially to just above 32.5% in four years during World War II and stays fairly stable around 33% until the 1970s. After decades of stability in the post-war period, the top decile share has increased dramatically over the last twenty-five years and has now regained its pre-war level. Indeed, the top decile share in 2007 is equal to 49.7%, a level higher than any other year since 1917 and even surpasses 1928, the peak of stock market bubble in the “roaring” 1920s.

A paper published by the Center for American Progress in Washington in 2006 showed that the chances of Americans remaining in the same bracket as their parents was higher than in every other developed country barring the UK (with which the US was almost level-pegging). Over the last generation, an American child born in the bottom-fifth income group had just a 1% chance of becoming rich - - defined as the top 5% of American earners - - whereas someone born rich had a 22% chance of remaining rich as an adult.

ragged trousered philanthropists

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LIFE at the bottom is nasty, brutish and short. It is assumed that people in the lower social classes will be more self-interested and less inclined to consider the welfare of others than upper-class individuals. A recent study reported this week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggest precisely the opposite. It is the poor, not the rich, who are inclined to charity.

Dr Piff, of the the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that the increased compassion which seems to exist among the poor increases generosity and helpfulness, and promotes a level of trust and co-operation that can prove essential for survival during hard times.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

‘NO MORE CAPITALISM’: A POEM

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No more capitalist exploitation
No more wages expropriation.
No more stagflation or inflation.
No more recessions or depressions
No more hoarding of possessions
No more want of land or bread
We can sleep soundly in our bed

No more Money
No more debt
No more mortgage
No more rents
No more slums
Nor tenements

No more profit
No more loss
No more banking
No more cost
No more marginal revenue

No more equity or debenture shares
For money now – no one cares
and no private property left forsooth
as property is theft, that’s the truth

The future is ours – we the people say
and that will test us every day
the world and its abundance is ours to share
so don't worry citizens of the order new
Our society will be fine and true

From a sympathiser, Kevin Parkin

$18 MILLION - A PITTANCE

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BP's, CEO Tony Hayward is stepping down, but he will be receiving a severance package amounting to an estimated $18 million."That's what he gets for presiding over a record oil disaster and massive losses," commented Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation.Hayes went on to note, however, that "Tony Hayward's $18 million payoff is an absolute pittance compared to the kind of cash top CEO's are raking in." He cited a recent Wall Street Journal story which revealed that over the past decade, the two highest-paid CEOs at public companies each took in over a billion dollars in compensation, while others in the top 25 received compensation in the hundreds of millions.

A study recently released by the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities which shows that if you're in the bottom 20% of earners, "you're making only 16% more today than you would have in 1979." If you're in the middle fifth, you're making 25% more. "But the top fifth of earners in this country -- they're making 95% more." The income of the very richest among us has shot up by 281% since 1979.

"There's a social pyramid in this country," Hayes commented, "and as you climb it, you encounter a smaller and smaller group of people doing better and better, while everyone at the bottom stays where they were...A select group of people are able to completely immunize themselves from the fate of the rest of the society. Our entire social and economic way of life in this country is broken and unfair and inequitable."

from the horses mouth

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Inequality in Britain is so entrenched that "rich, thick kids" achieve more than their "poor, clever" peers even before they start school, the education secretary said.Michael Gove told MPs on the cross-party Commons education committee that a "yawning gap" had formed between the attainment of poor children and their richer peers. He said. "Rich, thick kids do better than poor, clever children before they go to school. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of our society, the situation is getting worse."

The Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, admitted that the basic state pension of £97 a week is "not enough to live on"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Taxation - Dilemma & Deception

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The WSM Discussion Forum's latest topic concerns taxes. The socialist position is that in the long run taxes are a burden on the capitalist class. The essay below by Samuel Leight, taken from 'The Futility of Reformism' (1984), explores this perspective further.

Taxation is a dominating, reformist activity generating an inferred assumption that it possesses similar economic consequences for both the capitalist and working classes, varying only in degree. The socialist attitude contradicts this inference and asserts that the burden of taxation is borne by the capitalist class, that the whole question has become a misleading, dangerous red herring diverting working class away from their true interests. Our proposition may startle the uninitiated; however, we are dealing with a complex system of society, notorious for its deceptions, which invariably favor the rulers and not the ruled.

In order to properly evaluate the taxation process two essential factors must be properly understood: first, the value of labor power and how it is determined; second, the purpose of taxation and the related function of the state machine.

Wages represent the price of labor power and are determined by the cost of production of the worker. Members of the working class receive a sufficiency in the means of subsistence in order that mental and physical energies may be utilized during the working day. In addition, children must be raised, who will eventually become workers replacing those who have either died or gone into retirement, forced or otherwise. Wages attempt to cover the costs of food, clothing, shelter and the various amenities and necessities of life that are needed to maintain the worker and his family. The wages paid to the working class as a whole always approximate to a minimal amount related to their survival costs, adjusted on a continuous basis, through perpetual struggle, to a supposed cost of living figure. Labor power is therefore a commodity containing a use and exchange value, priced in the form of wages. Gross wages are subject to various deductions that result in a "take home pay." This sum, however, does not indicate the true worth of the remuneration until the worker ventures into the market place to make purchases. "Real wages" are equal to the total sum of the various commodities that the worker is able to purchase with the net amount of money received.

Under the taxation facade gross figures are stated from which tax deductions are made. The actual sum deducted as taxes also represents a portion of the gross wages - wages that in actuality the worker never receives except solely as a book-keeping item. This of course he "can't eat," but the euphoria created by the magical appearance of the figure and its swift dernise is tantamount to a colossal deception and a cruel hoax. In reality, and most certainly over the longer term, it does not matter whether taxes are "high," "low," or even non-existent. The worker will eventually still only receive an arnount equal to what is required for himself and his family's maintenance. Laws, for example, could be enacted which at various times might eliminate taxes altogether; convey free rent, free transportation, and health and welfare subsidies. All these "benefits," in the final show-down, would then be reflected in wages adjusted downwards in order to offset the illusory gains. This would not, of course, take place automatically, or immediately upon these measures being passed. The struggle over wages between the workers and their employers, through trade union action and by workers without organized representation, is a continuous one. Wage adjustments take into consideration allowances previously granted by an employing class well protected by efficient accountants and sophisticated managers. It should also be realized that any subsidies or services paid by governments out of taxes make the capitalist class a prime beneficiary, because without them the cost of living of the workers would increase and wages would consequently rise.

And so the paraphernalia of regular income tax deductions takes place together with an annual "settlement sheet" in the form of a Tax Return. The average worker gripes about "all the taxes" he has paid and fantasizes about how much better off he would be if he paid less taxes or if, perchance, he paid none at all. At this juncture, workers would do well to review past history where, for example, prior to World War II in the U.S., less than 5 million people paid federal income taxes. Similarly, large numbers of workers in England paid no taxes until after the war. All the multi-millions of these tax-free workers in by-gone eras endured a relentless poverty that was completely impervious to the tax-exempt status of the majority of the population. Poverty, both past and present, is basically unaffected by the taxation "levied" on the workers through a devious, intricate accounting system. The working class are not poverty stricken because of taxation and their plight cannot be cured by tax adjustments. They are poor because they are property-less in the means of production and distribution - that is the crux of the problem!

The working class are led to believe that they are in fact making real, valid tax contributions which are going either directly or indirectly towards the support of "their country" and "their affairs" - a necessary evil, so to speak. The deception, instigated with superficial deductions and paper-work, has been impressively initiated, reality cunningly disguised. It matters little as to whether the ruling class and their representatives, either individually or collectively, are properly aware of the illusion created - this is beside the point. Obviously the majority of the capitalist class, like their dependent wage-slaves, are completely oblivious to the true nature of the system's economics; possibly just a small minority are fully cognizant of all the ramifications of the tax scam.

From the aspect that all values produced in capitalist society are the result of the efforts of the working class alone, in this sense only workers produce all the wealth from which taxes are paid. Further, inasmuch as the tax forms legally designate the individual worker as the payer superficially, the workers nominally are paying taxes. But this is a graphic example of the deception of appearances. Taxes are payments which the capitalist class are forced to relinquish from the surplus values produced by the working class over and above the wages they receive, in order to pay for the various expenses needed to preserve the system's survival and its administration. This is a necessary burden borne by the capitalist class and camouflaged by fancy form-filing and adroit misrepresentation.

Let us suppose that a worker earning a gross wage of $400.00 per week had taxes of $100.00 deducted, leaving him with a net take home sum of $300.00 (for the purpose of this illustration, we are disregarding all other standard deductions). The capitalist is parting with $400.00 in an actual payment out of which $100.00 goes towards taxes under the name of the employee. Assume, hypothetically, that laws were changed so that the worker no longer was obligated to pay taxes but this item was shifted to the employer. Further, that at this particular time the total amount of taxes required by the Government in its effort to defray expenses remained the same and wage levels were unchanged. Both the monetary position of the capitalist and the worker would remain unaltered. The capitalist would still be paying out, over the long term, the $400.00 out of which a $100.00 would be allocated towards taxes at some future date; and the worker, you can rest assured, would still wind up receiving his $300.00. The only difference would be a transfer of the taxes credited to the employer's name. Although wage levels and taxes do not operate with the rigidity that the foregoing example would imply, nevertheless the theory is sound based upon the determination of the value of wages and the formulation of surplus values produced by the working class over and above wages paid. From this surplus value the capitalist class derive their livelihood and are obligated to sacrifice a percentage, in the form of taxes, in order to protect their holdings.

The present arrangement is a clever camouflage, far superior to the example just given, that conveys an impression of higher wages being paid, with workers erroneously assuming that they are actively participating in affairs of state through their tax contributions. Incidentally, as an alternative to reducing wages it is far more subtle to "increase taxes."

The working class are under the mistaken impression that they are joining with their employers on a somewhat comparable footing when they add their names and payments to the tax forms and subsequently learn how the total national tax proceeds are allocated. Taxation is used for the upkeep of the state which covers a vast conglomeration of institutions, functions and services that exist to preserve and protect the capitalist system of society and the interests of the capitalist class -not those of the workers! The armed forces, police, judiciary, tax revenue departments, bureaucracies, welfare and social agencies, armaments, (euphemistically terned "defense") are all part of the intricate state mechanism which is operating at all times for the protection of the status quo. The working class have had bestowed upon them, under the guise of taxation, the dubious honor of associating with their masters, on a superficial basis only, in the upkeep of a modern-day gargantuan monster - an instrument of economic oppression and an acknowlodged legalized killer, with a potential for worldwide destruction.

For the capitalist class taxation is a never-ending dilemma, an irrernovable thorn in their side, that demands national contributions of astronomical proportions to cover the overheads of the system. Although the burden is large, it nevertheless does not infringe up on their ownership rights, still allowing them to live in riches as compared to the poverty of the majority. The capitalist class, through their representatives, wage a constant battle amongst themselves as to which sections of their class should bear the various burdens of direct and indirect taxation. The merchants, real estate operators, manufacturers, bankers, for example, are lobbying continuously over tax matters, attempting to keep their own contributions as low as possible, and caring little should the costs fall upon their class compatriots. Truly a case of legalized robbers squabbling over the costs of the robbery! Much of the time and energies devoted by the main political parties revolve around tax issues; how collections should be accomplished, to what degree, in which areas, and a determination of expenditures.

Government spending receives its income via taxation or through the inflation of currency, which in its turn creates a general rise in prices. Governrnental tax planners and reformists agonize over the theory that tax increases, which are obviously needed to defray budget deficits, will have a negative effect on business activity; that conversely a cut in taxes might act as a stimulant. The so-called policy, absurdly entitled Reaganomics, ironically put forward this approach which was previously espoused by their supposed political opposites, the Democratic Party, during the late President Johnson's administration. The U.S. national debt reached the mathematically incomprehensible figure of $1 Trillion in October, 1981 coupled with an ongoing Budget seemingly impossible to balance. Such facts are presented to the working class as if the problem was theirs and not their masters. Workers who spend the whole of their lives scrimping, saving, and as perennial debtors, who in most instances are unable to keep within their own paltry budget, are apparently expectcd to become concerned in the problems of the ruling class under the false premise that their interests are involved.

The national debt, significantly reported to be about 34 per cent of the Gross National Product, (i.e., the value of goods and services produced by American workers every year) is "underwritten" by the working class. Their physical and mental energies are the tangible resources that represents a labor force which makes feasible all the profits on the one hand while offering future "collateral" for the state's indebtedness on the other.

The ramifications of taxation are so manifold that they provide a livelihood to armies of bureaucrats, accountants and tax attorneys. Each year new publications are printed which attempt to unravel and explain a veritable morass of tax laws. In fact, in order to strive for more simplification a U .S. Flat-Rate-Tax is now under consideration which, if adopted, would apply across the board the same percentage rate regardless of the amount of taxable income. The taxing of capital gains, short and long term, and estate taxes, are always being scrutinized and adjusted. The complexities are mindboggliing. The rich and super-rich establish protective trusts, use charities, plus a multitude of devices which, together with the nature of the system itself, substantially protects their holdings both for themselves and their heirs. The tax payments never make the rich poor, nor the poor rich.

Members of the working class who own homes make property tax payments that go towards the upkeep of local governments, services and allied costs. However, a large proportion of this real estate is heavily mortgaged, with the consequence that in reality the Banks, Savings and Loan Associations and Insurance Companies own far greater equities in the properties than the actual tax payers. In effect, therefore, the workers' payments in this instance is related to a creditor's holding that is larger than their own. The funds are being used,just as they are with the Federal Government, to help maintain a system that exploits them. In any event, similar to the sales taxes that are added to commodity prices, in the overall picture these items are factors that are incorporated within the cost of production of the worker and the amount of wages received. This does not imply that wages can be expected at all times to satisfactorily and automatically cover all costs paid by the workers for their survival - far from it. We are dealing here with general economic positions that are subject to the effectiveness of the class struggle, from the working class standpoint, at any given period. Should taxes increase, or the cost of living goes up, without an immediate wage adjustment, then the worker's situation is temporarily worsened. However, assuming that the workers continue their struggle to muintain and increase wages as conditions warrant and allow, it is the longer term outcome that becomes operative. Wages are adjusted on a continuing basis, related to the cost of living, the militancy of the workers, and the existing state of the capitalist economy.

The reformists will never cease in their efforts with tax matters. Taxation, however, is not a working class issue. Energies should be devoted to maintaining and increasing the net wages paid as general circumstances allow, with the understanding that this is in line with working class interests, while campaigning over taxation is a futile waste of time - a mythical non-issue. There is, in fact, only one issue -the establishment of socialism.

 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Just for Profit

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Former Pennsylvania judge Michael Conahan has pleaded guilty to a racketeering for helping put juvenile defendants behind bars in exchange for bribes.He is accused along with former judge Mark Ciavarella of taking $2.8m (£1.8m) from a profit-making detention centre.The two pleaded guilty last year for taking kickbacks from a privately-run detention centre but a federal judge tossed out part of the plea agreement for being too lenient.

Prosecutors said Conahan had closed a county-owned juvenile detention centre in 2002, just before signing an agreement to use a for-profit centre. Prosecutors also say Mr Ciavarella, a former juvenile court judge, then allegedly worked with Mr Conahan to ensure a constant flow of detainees. The two men were originally charged in early 2009 with accepting money from the builder and owner of a for-profit detention centre that housed county juveniles in exchange for giving children longer, harsher sentences.The deal allowed PA Child Care LLC and a sister company to receive extra government funds

A spokeswoman for the Juvenile Law Center alleges that Mr Ciavarella gave excessively harsh sentences to 1,000-2,000 juveniles between 2003 and 2006. Many of the children were first-time offenders. Some of the children were shackled, denied lawyers, and pulled from their homes for offences which included stealing change from cars and failure to appear as witnesses.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bangladesh

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Rising unemployment and food prices and a sluggish economy are taking their toll on Bangladesh, where a growing number of people are struggling to survive. About 40 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people live on less than $1 a day and are food insecure, according to government figures. Such food insecurity severely affects the population’s health, with nearly seven million children under five underweight and three million who are acutely malnourished, according to WFP. Micronutrient malnutrition - the silent hunger - is also at alarming levels in Bangladesh, affecting nearly 30 million women and 12 million children under five years old.

“If I do not get work tomorrow or become ill, all my family members will go hungry,” said Nur Islam, a 45-year-old Dhaka resident who hauls a rickshaw around town for US$3 a day to feed his wife and three children.

Nearly 60 percent of food insecure households said they were going hungry due to insufficient income.
"...Sometimes there is availability of food, but the poor people do not have the purchasing power,” said Quazi Shahabuddin, researcher and former director-general of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.

If there is not the prospect of profit then people who can not pay for food die of hunger. All this in order that a relatively few people can accumulate wealth often far beyond what any human being could require in a thousand lifetimes.

The Oil Curse

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For years the benefit of gold, diamond, cocoa and other mineral export has not brought any seemingly benefit to the majority of African people. Rather the majority still wallow in chronic poverty, with no access to water, healthcare, education, electricity with transport and other infrastructures crumbling. Many Ghanaians are excited about the discovery of crude oil in the country and its expected revenue. The general feeling is that, money is expected to flow to all pockets hence; politicians would be able to fulfill their election promises. For years Ghana has received billions of dollars from its gold export including timber and cocoa yet the living standard and lifestyle of its populace with most African countries has failed to improve.Who then is gaining from its revenue? The politicians and the multi-nationals companies.

The case of the Niger-Delta region in Nigeria a region of predominantly fishermen who have been rendered jobless without alternative due to crude oil extraction by government and multi-nationals companies sets a real example. Nigeria, a country with abundant crude oil and gas resources that has received over $400 billion from the sale of crude oil has over 80 million of its population living on less than two dollar daily. More frightening is the Niger-Delta region which produces 90% of the country foreign earnings has a very large pool of young able-bodied men unemployed. Nigeria used to be major cocoa and other cash crop producing hub but the discovery of oil has led to the collapse of other industries. Such dependence on has lead to severe consequences such as rising food prices, job and revenue losses.When oil prices fluctuates in the world market there is nothing to cushion the effects making the economy unstable and bringing untold hardship.

The oil producing and exporting countries of Angola, Gabon, Algeria, Libya and Equatorial Guinea are not any better. Millions of people in these countries live in abject poverty and in squalor conditions while the leaders live in opulence with luxury villas and numerous fat bank accounts in France, Switzerland, United States, Britain and their colonies of safe haven centers in Caymans Islands, The Channel Islands and the rest.The Late President Bongo of Gabon was suspected of having 59 plush posh apartments in France.The President of Congo Sassou-Nguesso fares no better he is believed to have 18 apartments and have 112 bank account and several luxury cars all bought from stolen crude oil revenues. President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea is believed to use of the country oil revenue to enrich himself, family members and close associates.

There is nothing to show in any of the above mentioned countries that majority of the population has benefited from oil revenue. It's a fact that citizens of these countries have fared worst off. Gabon has a population of 1.4 million people yet it was ranked 124 out of 177 countries in 2007 by the UNDP report on human development. According to the United Nations Development Program only 14 percent of Gabonese can afford a doctor's consultation. Gabon's total debt in 2007 stood at $2.5 billion including $ 1.1 billion owed to France, while the country imported more than 60 percent of its food with more than 30 percent of the population living on less than a dollar a day.In Angola there are reports that over three million Angolans are on the verge of famine. President Eduardo dos Santos, has appealed for international help, pleading that his government is broke. This from a country that the oil revenue is expected to rival that of Nigeria any time soon.

Almost all big oil companies operating on the continent share the blame because they have along history of helping corrupt leaders launder their loot in foreign countries. Elf executives admitted paying late President Bongo of Gabon close to $55 million dollars through almighty Swiss banks, every ready to do a dis-favour to the troubled continent. There has also being allegation by some senior company executive admitting to paying massive bribes to the following leaders Cameroon's Paul Biya and his counterparts in Congo, Angola and Equatorial Guinea. In 2004 Royal Dutch Shell of Netherlands admitted fuelling corruption, poverty and violence in Nigeria and toady June 9, 2009 has agreed to pay $15.5 million to the family of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni eight for her complicity in their execution by the corrupt Abacha regime. Their secretive and non-transparent dealings with corrupt governments are no secret. In Angola, Western oil companies such as BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron stand accused of refusing to reveal their annual payments to the Angolan government a charge similar to those in Nigeria, Gabon, Congo, Algeria and Equatorial Guinea. These are the very same companies that are lining up to exploit Ghana's oil and there is nothing that shows they will operate any differently in the country.Oil corporations have a way of dealing with poor countries for example they can block credit.

The fear now is that like Ghana's neighbours in the region there is a high probability that the flow of oil money may encourage unscrupulous army officers and unelected Ghanaian leaders to take over the administration of the nation by force and drown democracy, breach human rights and suppress all dissent as happened during gold and diamond discoveries where army officers seized power overnight, stole as much as they could and mismanaged what remained of their loot with Ghanaians ultimately paying the price.
The above mostly extracted from this article

Questions

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Akash Das is only 13. Yet he has a huge responsibility on his young shoulders. At 13, he is the main breadwinner for his family.

"Ma got me employed at a roadside food stall. I have been working there for the last three years. I earn about Rs 70 per day [10 hour day]. Since my employer buys me clothes twice a year, I give my entire salary to Ma. At times, I feel God is unfair and unjust. Ever since childhood, I have seen poverty, misery and tears. Why didn't I see any improvement in our lives over the past few years. My employer often sends me to deliver food to several homes in the locality. There I see children of my age enjoying themselves -- they go to school, watch television, play football, study and lead a comfortable life. Why can't I have a life like them? What have I done to deserve this life of poverty and hard labour? Who can provide me with an answer?" he asks, tears rolling down his eyes.

India has the distinction of being home to the largest child labour force in the world, with an estimated 30 per cent of the world's working kids living there.

The health inequality gap

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Despite the continued rise in life expectancy, it is well documented that the gap between richest and poorest has actually been widening in recent years.The health inequality gap in Britain is greater than it was during the Great Depression. Researchers from Sheffield and Bristol looked at early death rates since 1921. They found the current gap was greater than it was in the 1920s and 1930s. These decades cover probably the toughest economic and social period of the 20th century.Living standards had been driven down by low wages and high unemployment. At one point a fifth of the workforce was unemployed.

Health inequalities had started narrowing until the 1970s but since then the gap has widened, particularly during the last 20 years.The pledge by the previous Labour government to reduce the inequality gap between 1997 and 2010 is almost certain to be missed.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, a leading health inequalities expert said:"Over the last decade, life expectancy for the bottom quarter of the population increased significantly, but their health did not catch up with the average, because of persisting social and economic inequalities."

While lead researcher Professor Danny Dorling said "Health and wealth are directly linked... we could well see life expectancy actually starting to fall for the first time in the poorest areas."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spending More - Earning Less

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The average household bill in Britain is now higher than the typical salary, it has emerged.

Households spend £1,542 every month on utility bills, rent or mortgage payments, the weekly shop and other bills. It equates to annual bill of £24,100.
However, the typical Briton earns an annual salary of £23,244, which after tax only leaves them with £1,497 each month.
It means the average household is left with no money to pay for any other living expenses, such as petrol and clothing.

A spokesman for Confused.com said: “Times have been tough for a few years and people are really noticing the difference in their bank balances. With many people still feeling the effects of the recession, paying the bills is yet another money worry. And unfortunately, essentials such as food and rent or mortgage payments have gone up and up over the past 12 months. Things may only become harder..."

Charities warned that the squeeze on household budgets was only worsen despite the end of the recession.
Frances Walker, a spokesman for the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, said: “Increasingly not only do people not have enough money to repay their debts but they don’t have enough money to pay their basic household expenses. Although debt levels are down, household incomes are lower with more people being forced to work less hours and part time despite wanting to work full time, and we know the situation is only going to get worse over the next year.”

Malcolm Tyndall, of the charity Elizabeth Finn Care, said: “We have seen first hand that over the past 18 months there has been a substantial rise in the cost of living, but that few people have had their salary rise at anything like that rate. Huge rises in food, fuel and household utilities have left many people struggling financially."

The number of part-time workers rose by 148,000 in the quarter to hit 7.82 million, the highest level since records began in 1992, according to the Office for National Statistics.

wealth before health

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SOYMB has previous posted on the disregard for workers health in the pursuit of profit and we make no apologies for doing so again. We read on the BBC website that Canada sent nearly 153,000 tonnes of chrysotile - or white asbestos - abroad, more than half went to India.

Despite still being mined in Quebec, Canada, white asbestos is now banned or restricted in some 52 countries, on the grounds that any form of asbestos can cause devastating illnesses. Countries like Russia, China, Brazil, and India - although not Canada - use it widely as a cheap and effective building material.
The Word Health Organisation says white asbestos "is a known cause of human cancer," including mesothelioma. The WHO says 125 million people encounter white asbestos in the workplace, and the International Labour Organization estimates that 100,000 workers die each year from all asbestos-related diseases. The president of the Quebec asbestos mine stated he did not believe these figures were true.

Dr Vincent Cogliano, of the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer says: "My own personal view is that these risks are extremely high. They are as high as just about any known carcinogen that we have seen, except, perhaps, for tobacco smoke. Any exposure is going to prolong the asbestos epidemic - continued export and continued use of chrysotile will increase the incidence of lung cancer and mesothelioma for many decades to come" .

Defenders of chrysotile insist safe use can prevent any ill effects including cancer - and some argue there's no link to mesothelioma at all. The asbestos lobby's strategy is one borrowed from the tobacco industry: create doubt, contest litigation, and delay regulation. Some industry-funded researchers have published hundreds of scientific papers saying that chrysotile can be used safely.

Despite the reassuring studies and the million-dollar marketing efforts arguments that white asbestos - more than 90% of all asbestos ever mined - can be safely used are disputed by the majority of scientists and public health officials.

John Hodgson of the UK's Health and Safety Executive said "I would say that we can't say it's safe,"

Alex Burdorf, a public health professor at Rotterdam's Erasmus Medical Centre, said his recent review of earlier epidemiological studies commissioned by the Dutch government, had convinced him that white asbestos was "much more dangerous than previously thought.What we have shown is that chrysotile is as dangerous as crocidolite [blue asbestos] for contracting lung cancer, and is also linked to mesothelioma. I don't think there is safe way of working with asbestos, so I would support a global ban on asbestos purely because of public health risks."


In the Indian city of Ahmedabad, families living in homes with cracked sheets of white asbestos, said they were aware of the dangers but were too poor to move.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Old and Grey in the USA

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From here

Nearly half of those now aged 56 to 62 and some 44% aged 46 to 55 now are at risk of not having sufficient income to pay for basic retirement expenses and uninsured medical expenses, according to the latest Retirement Readiness Rating report released this week by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. The study, which assumed that boomers would retire at age 65 found that lower-income retirees are most likely to run out of money after 10 and certainly 20 years of retirement, while higher-income retirees are least likely to run out of money. 41% of those in those lowest income quartile are likely to run short of money after 10 years of retirement, and 57% after 20 years. Meanwhile, just 5% of those in the highest income quartile will run out of money after 10years, and 13% after 20 years.

In reality, most Americans don't run out of money, they run out of lifestyle. As they age and spend down their assets, they typically reduce their living standard. They take action either to spend less or work more or some combination to forestall running out. After factoring in health-care and long-term-care costs, the National Retirement Risk Index, or NRRI, produced by Boston College's Center for Retirement Research, finds that some 65% of American households are at risk of not having enough money to maintain their living standard in retirement.

According to Sun Life Financial's Unretirement Index the portion of Americans who plan to work past age 67 is higher than ever: a record 55% plan to work full- or part-time, up from 52% one year ago. And the percentage planning to work full-time past age 67 reached a new high of 28%, up from 19% one year ago. Because of the economic crisis, according to Sun Life ,sixty-five percent said they will have to work more than one year longer, compared to 54% in the last index. And 27% said they will have to work more than five years longer, compared to 24% in the last Index.

Why are they working longer? To earn enough money to live well and maintain their standard of living

Life is sweet for the rich

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From MarketWatch.com

Tiffany & Co says sales at its flagship New York store jumped 26% in the first quarter. International luxury goods giant Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy whose brands range from Fendi to Givenchy to Moet & Chandon Champagne, plus, of course, Vuitton bags says U.S. sales boomed 20% in the first quarter, including a remarkable 58% boost for sales of jewelry and expensive watches like Tag Heuer. the Swiss watch federation says exports of luxury watches (those $2,000 "timepieces") to the U.S. rose 12% in May and are now ahead 9% for the year. Super-luxury goods purveyor Richemont which owns such brands as Cartier, Dunhill, and Van Cleef & Arpels says U.S. sales are up. The Sunseeker Club in New York, America's biggest dealership in the multi-million dollar British luxury power boats say business is strong again. Those who have the money to spend, they say, are spending it. The truth is, this is a great time in which to be rich.

According to consultants Cap Gemini, the wealthy saw their net worth bounce back sharply last year. And while those with $1 million or more did pretty well, the real story was the boom among the ultra rich: Those with more than $30 million to invest. "Ultra-HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals) increased their wealth by a striking 21.5% in 2009, far more than the average in the HNWI segment as a whole," Cap Gemini reported, adding: "A disproportionate amount of wealth remained concentrated in the hands of Ultra-HNWIs." There are fewer than 100,000 ultras around the world. A third of those are in the U.S. Ultras make up 1% of the high net worth, according to Cap Gemini, but held 36% of the high net worth's wealth.

The average Fortune 500 chief executive pocketed $10.5 million in 2008, the last year for which data are yet available. That's more than 300 times the average worker's pay. Back in the 1940s through 1980 the ratio was typically about 40 times. From 1979 through 2007, says the Congressional Budget Office , the top 1% saw their average household income skyrocket from $346,000 to $1.3 million in constant, 2007 dollars.

According to an analysis by the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. has one of the most unequal income distributions in the world. The U.S. income distribution is more in line with Zimbabwe, Argentina, and El Salvador. Many think of Russia as the land of oligarchs, but America's inequality is actually slightly greater than Russia's.

Numbers published by the Federal Reserve a few weeks ago show that corporate profit margins have just hit record levels. Indeed. Andrew Smithers, a well-regarded financial consultant and author of "Wall Street Revalued," calculates from the Fed's latest Flow of Funds report that corporate profit margins rocketed to 36% in the first quarter. Since records began in 1947 they have never been this high. The highest they got under Ronald Reagan was 30%.

As for all those millions out of work: Maybe they can get jobs as servants. The official jobless rate, at 9.7%, is a fiction and should be treated as such. It doesn't even count lots of unemployed people. The so-called "underemployment" or U-6 rate is an improvement. For example it counts discouraged job seekers, and those forced to work part-time because they can't get a full-time job. That rate right now is 16.6% .

An analysis of data at the U.S. Labor Department shows that there are 79 million men in America between the ages of 25 and 65. And nearly 18 million of them, or 22%, are out of work completely. (The rate in the 1950s was less than 10%.) And that doesn't even count those who are working part-time because they can't get full-time work. Add those to the mix and about one in four men of prime working age lacks a full-time job. The Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., says the numbers may be even worse than that. Research suggests a growing number of men, especially in deprived, urban and minority neighborhoods, have vanished from the statistical rolls altogether.

The government said for those who do have jobs, average hourly earnings were up 1.9% from a year ago.The government also reported that those workers produced 2.8% more goods and services per hour. So they actually got paid about 1% less for each product they made, TV they sold, or meal they served. Over the same period consumer prices rose 2.2%. So even those lucky enough to be working have gone backwards

Monday, July 19, 2010

speculating in food

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The World Development Movement have said that banks which caused the financial downturn have created volatile food prices. Bankers poured money into commodities like wheat and maize after giving up on failed mortgages.

"Bankers are to blame for price rises in coffee, chocolate and bread," stated the report

Cocoa prices jumped to a 33-year high as it emerged that a London hedge fund had snapped up a large part of the world's stock of beans. On Friday, traders say, Armajaro took delivery of 240,100 tonnes of cocoa – the biggest from London's Liffe exchange in 14 years and equal to about 7% of annual global production, according to the Financial Times. A 150% rise in cocoa prices over the past 18 months has forced many chocolate-makers to raise their prices and often to use less cocoa. Last month there was a sudden 20% jump in coffee prices as hedge funds rushed to cover their positions taken in the hope that prices would fall.

The WDM's Great Hunger Lottery report says "risky and secretive" financial bets on food prices have exacerbated the effect of poor harvests in recent years. It argues that volatility in food prices has made it harder for producers to plan what to grow, pushed up prices for British consumers and in poorer countries risks sparking civil unrest, like the food riots seen in Mexico and Haiti in 2008.The group used figures in Goldman Sachs' annual report to estimate that the bank made a profit of $1bn (£650m) through speculating on food last year.

Deborah Doane, WDM director, said: "Investment banks, like Goldman Sachs, are making huge profits by gambling on the price of everyday foods. But this is leaving people in the UK out of pocket, and risks the poorest people in the world starving.Nobody benefits from this kind of reckless gambling except a few City wheeler-dealers. British consumers suffer because it pushes up inflation, because of unpredictable oil and raw material prices, and the world's poorest people suffer because basic foods become unaffordable."

The World Development Movement, a UK-based anti-poverty campaign group, says it seeks to "establish economic justice", which means "the right of poor communities to determine their own path out of poverty, and an end to harmful policies which put profit before people and the environment".

Unfortunately, for campaigners such as WDM, capitalism cannot be so easily tamed.The answer to the problems that global capitalism engender is not a governemet policies for "ecnomic justice", even if pursued at global level.Those would still leave intact the basic structures and mechanisms of capitalism. It is something much more far-reaching that is required - a rapid and radical change of world society that will make the Earth's resources the common heritage of all humanity. That capitalism is chaotic is evident. That the poor had better abolish it before it kills them needs to be stressed with all possible urgency.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Wobblies

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Wobbly and song writer Joe Hill was sentenced to death on this day in 1915. The essay below, which first appeared in the Socialist Standard of March 1968, looks in some detail at the IWW and concludes with one of Hill's famous songs.

The first sign of a workers radical movement of any appreciable size in America follows similar path to the English movement during the thirties of the last century,lt was loose, sweeping, all-embracing, and came to grief when the internal elements sorted themselves out and attempted to express their different ideas in action, Though hazy and ill informed, it was yet fundamentally working class. This movement was the Knights of Labour, founded in 1869. The new movement was secret and hedged about by ritual, grip, sign and password. It both sought to protect the interests of labour against violent and ruthless oppression and, at the same time, advocated a new society, the basis of which was to be the nationalisation of certain public utilities combined with co-operative institutions. It recognised no identity of interest between employer and worker. One of its prominent advocates, Powderley, stated "To point .. out a way to utterly destroy the system [wage system] would be a pleasure to me."

The Knights of Labour made slow progress until 1885 when it fought a successful railway strike against the powerful Jay Gould employers combination, which brought a rush of members. It failed however to secure the adhesion of the skilled workers, the aristocracy of labour at the time, and in due course the struggles between the elements concerned wlth fighting for better wages and conditions of labour, the trade union element, and the theoretical and utopian groups, combined with a number of unsuccessful strikes, reduced the organisation to impotence.

In opposition to the Knights of Labour another organisation entered the field in 1881, the American Federation of Labour, which catered almost entirely for skilled labour. At first its leader, Samuel Gompers, gave lip service to socialist principles. This was soon eclipsed in the work of building up a wealthy and exclusive organisation of skilled workers that received recognition from the employers by adhering to the anti-working class principles of co-operation with the employers, opposition to strikes, and the barring of lower paid workers by the demand for high trade union dues. These skilled workers endeavoured to maintain a closed shop on the ground that the entrance of unskilled labour into their field of labour was a menace and a threat to their standards of living. It was this principle that induced the AF of L as well as other groups of workers, to discriminate against negro workers.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, owing to the feverish industrial expansion, the conditions of the workers, particularly the unskilled and the immigrants grew steadily worse. As one writer put it: "By 1890 the workers were enclosed within the wages system by the exhaustion of the free lands which for generations had served as a refuge for the more rebellious masses of the industrial centres". (O'Neal).

In 1877 the Socialist Labour Party was formed which was to have considerable influence on the first conference of the IWW through its most knowledgeable member, Daniel De Leon, This party advocated the ballot as the best policy for working men but declared that members should "maintain friendly relations with trade unions and promote their formation upon socialist principles,"

At the outset of its career the SLP was affected with the contemporary co-operative and reformist ideas, most of which it gradually shed, particularly under the influence of Daniel De Leon, taking its stand more and more upon the basis of the class struggle. However the divergent views of members on the respective merits of industrial and .political action, and also upon its centralisation of power within the party, led to a split and the formation of the Socialist Party of America at the end of the century.

Up to 1895the SLP had attempted to capture the craft unions by the policy of "boring from within", but their efforts met with such little success that they gave up the job and decided to form their own trade union, the Socialist Trades and Labour Alliance.

In the meantime three militant trade unions had been developing - The Railway Union, the Western Federation of Miners and the National Union of Brewery Workers. Of these the Western Federation of Miners was to be the most influential section in the early development of the IWW.

In January 1905 a secret conference was hold in Chicago attended by members of the Western Federation of Miners, the Brewery Workers, the Socialist Party of America and the SLP. This Conference drafted an invitation to representatives of labour unions and socialist factors in both America and Europe "to help found a revolutionary labour movement on industrial lines." The Manifesto stated that the new movement "must consist of one great Industrial union embracing all industries, providing for craft autonorny locally, industrial autonomy internationally, and working class unity generally." This was in harmony with Father Hagerty's chart, which laid out in a circle, lined up every department of industry, transportation, agriculture leading to an inner circle of controls and a centre of general adrninistration. It is a pity that Patrick Renshaw in his book* has not included this chart arnongst his illustrations as it gives a good picture of what the IWW aimed at.

At the Industrial Union Congress in Chicago, June 1905, the IWW was founded. Those who took part in its foundation held widely divergent views which came into conflict at the Congress and caused internal strife during the following years. The delegates consisted of representatives of anarchism, industrial unionism, Socialist Labour Party and Socialist Party of America members as well as pure and simple trade unionists.

The first bone of contention was political action. After some fierce discussion in which anarchists like Trautmann and Lucy Parsons bitterly opposed any connection with politics De Leon succeeded lin getting included in the Preamble the following clause:

"Between these two classes a struggle must go on until all the toilers come together on the political, as well as on the industrial field, and take hold of that which they produce by their labour through an economic organisation of the working class, without affiliation with any political party."

Two years later, when the SLP left the official party the clause was altered to read:

"Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organise as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production and abolish the wage system."

At least the latter phrase is clear and did not lend itself to the muddled interpretation of the original.

In 1905 and 1906 internal strife was fierce centering upon antagonism to the SP of A members who openly advocated political action. At the 1906 conference the De Leonites united with the anarchists to expel the SP of A members from the IWW. The next year me anarchists and industrial unionists succeeded in removing the SLP which formed a rival IWW which did not last long.

Over the years the IWW carried on its agitation with varying success and against the fierce hostility of employers and governments. There is not space in this review to record its history. The IWW set out to organise in the beginning its unskilled migrant workers who were being harried from one place to another and Iived on starvation pay. The author sums up the position as follows:

"Thus during the twenty years from 1891-1910, more than 8,000,000 of the 12,500,000 foreigners who settled in America came from Italy, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, Slovakia, Croatia, and Greece. These people, from peasant farming or trading stock, were alien by race, religion, language and customs to the American way, The sharp transition bewildered, often angered them, much more than it had the Irish or Germans of an earlier era. So it was among this new, many-tongued nation, called into being to nourish the appetite of industry, that the Wobblies concentrated much of their revolutionary effort."

According to Patrick Renshaw the IWW membership never exceeded 100,000 at any one time in spite of the energy put into the movement and the territory covered. Its statements and even its songs show that its advocates understood the class struggle but unfortunately started off on the wrong foot by holding aloof from political action. In spite of their mistakes and internal strife its advocates were unquestionably sincere and courageous in their pursuit of industrial unionism. They must have been for their organisers and advocates literally took their lives in their hands wherever they went, meeting with persecution and brutality at the hands of local capitalist organisations and, in some instances, like Frank Little and Wesley Everest being savagely done to death. Paul Brisserden describes the attitudes towards them as follows in the 'preface face to his "History", an excellent and sympathetic work on the same subject published in 1919:

"The popular attitude towards the Wobblies among employers, public officials and the public generally corresponds to the popular notion that they are all arch-fiends and the dregs of society. It is the hang-them-all-at-sunrise attitude. A high official of the Federal Department of Justice in one of our Western states gave the writer an instance. On a recent visit to a small town in a distant part of the state he happened upon the Sheriff. That officer, in reply to a question. explained that they were "having no trouble at all with the Wobs" "When a Wobbly comes to town" he explained, "l just knock him over the head with a night stick and throw him in the river. When he comes up he beats it out of town." Incidentally it may be said that in such a situation almost any poor man, jf he be without a job or visible means of support is assumed to be, ipso facto, an IWW. Being a Wobbly, the proper thing for him is pickhandle treatment or - if he is known to be a strike agitator - a little neck - the party."

The influence of the IWW spread to different countries but it was probably at its peak just before the 1914-1918 war. It was opposed to the war and in 1917-1918 over a hundred of its leading members were arrested, charged with sabotage and subversion and given sentences of up to 20 years in jail. This practically put an end to the movement although it still carries on in a small way and publishes the Industrial Worker from Chicago.

In spite of the bitterness of its struggles the members of the IWW had a sense of humour and a grasp of the class position as witness the songs they sang, such as the following, by Joe Hill:

Long-haired preachers come out every night
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat.
They will answer with voices so sweet :

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get fare in the sky when you die.

Working men of all countries, unite
Side by side we for freedom will fight,
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:

You will eat, bye and bye,
When you've learned how to cook and to fry
Chop sorne wood, 'twill do you good,
And you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye.

Yes, the Wobblies had a sense of humour and, in spite of the fact that they were on the wrong track, the present writer has always had an admiration for their courage and persistence in the face of persecution.

GILMAC

*THE WOBBLIES. By Patrick Renshaw. Eyre and Spottiswoode.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Feeding the world: profit versus plenty

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"How is it that with the tremendous productive capability associated with capitalism - the amount of food grown is enough to feed the greatly increased population growth - that millions still suffer malnutrition?

Why is it that with the accumulated wealth of knowledge and expertise in every field of food production that so much soil is degraded, the health of oceans and prospects for fishing are under threat, and large areas have lost the biodiversity which is so essential to the health of the planet?

Find out how the change to common ownership and production solely for use could provide the framework to enable the application of scientific and technological knowledge, together with human ingenuity, to the many problems; so that production is sustainable, damaged environment allowed to recover and the food supply ensured for all".

Pat Deutz will speak on "Feeding the world: profit versus plenty".

Head Office, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 on Saturday, 17 July at 6.00pm.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Passing of a Labour Leader

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This month 50 years ago, Labour Party icon, Aneurin "Nye" Bevan died. Those nostalgic for Old Labour may cast a tear over his passing but the Socialist Standard and the Socialist Party of Great Britain held less deference for the Left's idol.

It is not our purpose here to attempt an analysis of the career of Aneurin Bevan, but only to put one or two aspects of his progress from being a working class rebel against the tyranny and sordidness of capitalism to his occupancy of high office in the post-war Labour Government.

In particular we take an observation made by Bevan in an article of appreciation of Winston Churchill, published, after Bevan's death, in the Dairy Mirror (7/7/60). Bevan described Churchill as essentially a romantic, who "in his assessment of realities ... is without the discipline that comes from personal knowledge of industry and of economic affairs." He maintained that Churchill, because of the rank to which he was born, had been sheltered " from intimate insight into the concessions ideas have to make when they come to be transformed into the facts of a highly industrialised society."

Bevan's view of Churchill's limitations is probably well founded, but the thought invariably comes to mind that Bevan was here not only measuring Churchill, but also explaining and defending much that happened in his own activities: throughout the years after he had begun to make a name in the Labour Party he was torn between the desire to be a rebel espousing certain ideals and the necessity of working out concessions to meet the needs of practical politics. Nobody can suppose that Bevan was happy about finding himself supporting war, supporting re-armament and making his belated decision to press for the retention of the H-bomb as a bargaining counter in the Labour Party's plan to work for all-round disarmament.

But was he ever clear about what was happening and why it happened? Did he ever realise that his dilemma is one that necessarily faces all who take on the task of governing a capitalist country in a capitalist world? With or without seeing it clearly he, like the other leaders of the Labour Government, had come down on the side of the belief that as a present practical policy a Labour Government must face the workers as an administration trying to keep the British economy functioning and must face the world as guardian of British interests which necessarily meant in both spheres of action accepting and working within the framework of the capitalist social system. That he did so with some reluctance and occasional rebellious withdrawals show his resentment of the dilemma, but he never succeeded in resolving the problem. He would have argued, no doubt, that there was no alternative, and here we as Socialists insist that there was, and is, the alternative of leaving the running of capitalism to those who believe in it and of devoting efforts to building up an international Socialist working class with the consciously-held aim of putting Socialism in the place of capitalist society.

Socialist Standard, August 1960

Who did win the World Cup

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The 2010 South Africa World Cup now has a winner, Spain, but just who really won the cup? SOYMB reads about the profits generating by this "sporting" event.

What they paid: ESPN paid $100 million for broadcast rights; Univision paid more than three times that amount - $325 million - for the same coverage.
What they get: The advertising dollars that accompany an average of 125 million viewers worldwide per match, and the almost 1 billion people who will watch the final on July 11. 715 million people watched the 2006 championship game and in light of increased viewership this tournament, that number is supposed to be well-surpassed with forecasts that the match will "draw the biggest audience of any sporting final in history."
What it cost them: Adidas signed a whopping $351 million deal with FIFA in 2005.
What they get: Adidas predicts sales of their World Cup-related merchandise to top $1.89 billion; they've already had record sales of $1.9 billion in their soccer category (a 15% increase from soccer-related sales in 2008 and a 26% increase from the 2006 World Cup) and they reported a 26 percent increase in soccer product sales in the first quarter of 2010.
What it cost them: Visa signed a $200 million sponsorship deal with FIFA in 2006.
What they got: No MasterCard allowed! Spending on Visa cards by visitors to South Africa was up by 65 per cent in the first three and half weeks of June, compared with the same period last year. The head of Visa sponsorships worldwide said, “In some markets, it might take a year for us to feel a difference. Inside SA card turnover by foreign visitors has risen 50% already." Leading up to the tournament, Visa registered more than 14,000 independent merchants across 186 malls and street precincts around South Africa.
What it cost them: Coca Cola paid $500m (£290m), for the period from 2007 to 2012.
What they get: Unit case volume up 3% this quarter.
What it cost them: Emirates Airlines were in a $195 million sponsorship deal
What they get: According to the Financial Times, Emirates estimated that its sponsorship deal would allow it to reach 2 billion people. “To get the same kind of exposure online that we get from the World Cup sponsorship... would cost about $3bn,” an Emirates spokesman told Business Day a Johannesburg daily.
What it cost them: $305 million was the price for Sony to sponsor soccer events including the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
What they get: Sony has been able to preview its new 3D technology in fan parks and shopping malls throughout the country, also taking over the centre of Sandton’s Mandela Square, 'where fans can “live” the experience of watching football through its impressive technology.'
What it cost them: Budweiser spent between $10 - 25 million in annual fees for 2007 - 2010
What they get: Official World Cup beer and the only one sold at stadiums and official fan sites. Nielsen data showed Budweiser had a 25 percent jump in online searches in the week ending June 19th, and this number has been increasing weekly. Nielsen also found four main World Cup sponsors, including Budweiser, generated a 55% higher "net likeability" than commercials from other non-official World Cup advertisers, and they also scored 16% higher on brand recall.
What it cost them: Between $10 - $25 million was McDonalds outlay for being sponsors
What they get: McDonald's South African branch expects a revenue growth of 20%, thanks to the World cup publicity. Last month, McDonald's noted a 4.8% increase of sales worldwide.
What it cost them: FIFA costs were $1.2 billion
What they get: The federation predicts revenue of $3.2 billion leading to a “surplus” of a sweet $2 billion for the 2010 World Cup

And for the football teams - What they get: Spain , the winners of the 2010 World Cup will pocket $30 million, and the Dutch runners-up get a check for $24 million. Every team who played in the World Cup finals will receive at least $9 million: $1 million as a contribution to preparation costs, and $8 million even if they're eliminated at the group stage. Total prize money amounts to $420 million - a 60 per cent increase from 2006’s $261 million prize pool, and almost three times as much as the $154 million in 2002.

And finally for the South African people, SOYMB leaves the final words to the Landless People's Movement
"Billions of rands have been spent on stadiums and other costs for this World Cup yet we remain in shacks and without electricity. They said 'Feel it, it is here' but we have not felt anything other than the pain of poverty worsened with the pain of repression. The money that should have been spent on upgrading our communities has been wasted. The tournament will be over on Sunday and we will still be poor."

It didn't take a result predicting octopus to realise that !

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Planning the road to nowhere

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According to the New York Times, Friedrich von Hayek's 'The Road to Serfdom' has been flying off the shelves of late, largely as a result of being popularized by right wing motor-mouth Glenn Beck.

PROFESSOR F.A. HAYEK, in his recent lecture on "The Market Economy" (published in the Listener, 3, 10 & 17 August), performed one useful service, though it was not intentional. Hayek wants to go back to the open competitive market as envisaged by Adam Smith, with a minimum of government interference. In particular he denounces the vogue for government planning of the economy that came to the fore with the acceptance of Keynesian doctrines thirty years ago. He has no difficulty in showing that the attempt has been a failure. Two examples will suffice to show how great the failure has been. When the Labour Party pledged itself to "plan" jobs for all, did it also plan for over a million and a half unemployed? And when Labour (and Tory) Governments planned the investment of hundreds of millions of pounds to expand the steel industry did they also foresee the current plan, reported in the Sunday Telegraph (24 September 1978)?

"British Steel Corporation & Department of Industry officials are believed to have reached a private agreement to reduce the State-owned concern's work force by 140,000 ,nearly three-quarters, over the next five years."

This is in addition to the many tens of thousands already made redundant.

Hayek calls this Keynesian fiasco a failure of "socialist" planning, but does not deal at all with the real concept of planning in a socialist society. He does not notice that his open market doctrine and the Keynesian doctrine are both of them attempts to plan the capitalist market, while Socialism is concerned with a non-market society.

Hayek's useful contribution is that he spells out the unforeseeable and uncontrollable factors that dominate the market in both sets of circumstances, his own and the Keynesian.

His arguement, the familiar laissez-faire case of Adam Smith, is that if prices are left to find their own level with no government interference or planning, each worker and capitalist will be guided by changing wage levels in each occupation and by changed selling prices to seek new jobs and change production lines, in harmony with the overall total demands of the market, and that this will minimize unemployment and maximise production. But he candidly admits that nobody knows or can know in advance what the overall result of all these separate judgments is going to be: it can at best be only a question of trial and error, or partially informed guess-work. He says, for example, that "all economic problems are caused by the occurrence of unforeseen events". He calls price (and wage) changes arising out of market forces the "guiding signal" but admits: "even the most perfect market prices do not take into account all the circumstances we would wish to be taken into account"; he lamely adds that "a signal that takes account of most of them is better than none".

So his case for the open market as against the Keynesian planners boils down to the argument that while both of them mean operating largely in ignorance, the government planners, through greater rigidity, are likely to fare worse. His example of the success of the open market is the second half of the 19th century, which included, though he does not mention the fact, the Great Depression of 1875-1895.

The people, especially the Labour Party, who have thought they could plan capitalism have relied on the big increase of statistical material in recent years and the numerous governmental and private bodies engaged in forecasting. The record has been one of almost consistent error. It was population "experts" who forecast for the government in 1956 that by the end of the century the population of this country would be 53 million; but amended it in 1962 to 68 million. Their short term forecasts were equally wrong.

It was a commercial Market Survey in 1939 that,in line with current fashion about population trends, forecast a population for Great Britain of 39 million in 1961: it turned out to be 51 million.

Samuel Brittan in his 'The Treasury under the Tories 1951-1964' has a chapter headed "Crystal gazers in Chief" in which he describes the dismal record of the government's economic advisers in the field of forecasting. A typical comment is:

"Export forecasting has a particularly bad record - even worse than forecasting in general. In the last few years shaking dice might actually have led to better results."

One outstanding failure of the Labour Government was the National Plan of 1965. It planned for a growth of the National Product of 25 per cent between 1964 and 1970. Apart from the problems of coordinating all the separate industry plans into a comprehensive national plan, it overlooked that the products had to be sold at a profit, which depended on uncontrollable world market factors. The actual increase in those years turned out to be 15 per cent. Of course it is a hopeless endeavour. In order to know how British Companies and the whole economy will fare in future years the government would need to know the secret plans of all companies and governments ill the world, to know which harvest would fail, what wars will break out and at what point the world market will lurch into one of its periodic depressions. They can guess but they cannot know.

Looking ahead

Professor Hayek gives the impression that while company market planning is not perfect it is nevertheless pretty accurate. This is not borne out by the forward planning of Royal Dutch-Shell. Mr. Frank S. McFadzean, a managing director of the group, in 'Galbraith & the Planners' not only made scathing criticism of the National Plan, but admitted the limitations of planning by his own company.

"Except in the very short period ahead, we are not really impressed by the detailed results shown by our plans. It will be the sheerest fluke if we ever achieve them Looking back to 1962 and what we then prognosticated ... we were wrong on many counts. We were wrong on volumes, we were wrong on prices, we were particularly wide of the mark on our estimates of the demand for and price of naphtha, we were wrong on our cost projections, we were wrong on the level of investment we would need to make. We did not fully foresee the increase in the size of tankers; we did not foresee the extent of Libya's crude oil production; we did not foresee the dominant role that natural gas would play in Holland ...we did not foresee the closure of the Suez Canal."

(Sunday Telegraph 6 April 1969)

What of planning in a world socialist society? Here the problem is quite different because production will be solely for use, not for sale. There will be no market curtailments of production, such as happen under capitalism, because particular industries have over-produced for their market and can no longer make profit. There will be coordinated planning of production and distribution to meet known human needs. It will have to provide safe margins for growth and to allow for harvest failures and other natural disasters, It will have access to all the world's productive resources not, as under capitalism, have many of these resources not used because there is no profit in their use.

Here also Professor Hayek provides us with the evidence about capitalism, where he condemns "the fatal mistake, frequently made by engineers, to imagine that there are long-lasting, technically determined production methods which are superior to all others". Hayek says that under the guidance of price changes the production method favoured by capitalism may not be the one favoured by the engineers; "This is an academic and not a technological problem", in other words, one determined by profitability.

H

Socialist Standard November 1978

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Nye Bevan and the Conman

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Under the heading "Nye's socialism", the Guardian published a letter by Peter Taaffe. I assume this is the same Peter Taaffe who edited the paper Militant, official journal of the Trotskyist group, the Militant Tendency.

In his letter Taaffe states that Aneurin Bevan was not "the Militant godfather" which is quite true, but he also adds that "he did share with us an admiration of Leon Trotsky" and "a stubborn defence of socialism". Bevan may have been an admirer of Leon ("In Defence of Terrorism") Trotsky, but I would question that Bevan was a socialist. And Leon Trotsky never was, despite Taaffe's beliefs.

He went on: "Despite the lies peddled 25 years ago, Liverpool council, under the influence of Militant (now the Socialist Party of England and Wales) never sacked a single worker". It is, indeed, true that Militant attempted to administer Liverpool council within capitalist Britain (after a fashion); but the remnants of what, 25 years ago, was the Militant Tendency, and at the time claiming 10,000 "supporters", is not today, with fewer than 200 (?) activists, as they and Taaffe claim for the Socialist Party. We pointed that out at the time that they had usurped the name "Socialist Party".

In fact, Taaffe runs an outfit, the so-called Committee for a Workers International, founded in 1974, whose Ukrainian adherents perpetuated a scam, conning socialists and others out of thousands of pounds and dollars. But, then, Taaffe wouldn't know anything about that, would he?

PETER E NEWELL

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

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Around half of all people claiming benefits because of illness have mental health problems. "Proof" of mental health often dificult to obtain. In fact , in the past , the intangibility of mental illness, the lack of a definitive test permitted unmarried mothers, troubled children and homosexuals to be detained in psychiatric hospitals. The lack of objective proof leaves mentally ill people vulnerable.

Now, with the openly stated aim of reducing the benefit bill, the government will employ its own assessors to decide who is worthy of help. NHS psychiatrists, who have the right to deny people liberty and to medicate them against their will, are not to be trusted when it comes to providing a diagnosis upon the requirement for the State to provide for an individual's financial support.

The welfare system is overrun with work-shy benefit cheats. The "allegedly disabled" are living it up on taxpayers' money, claiming benefits to which they are not entitled. We must reassess everyone! Weed out the scroungers! Yet claimants must complete a lengthy and personal form covering everything from toileting needs to suicidal urges. A statement is required from the claimant's doctor as well as someone who knows them well – often, in the case of psychiatric patients, their social worker or community psychiatric nurse. Fewer than half of all claims are successful.It is a fallacy that people with mental health problems do not want to work. According to a report published in 2004 by the Social Exclusion Unit, mentally ill people have the highest "want to work" rate of any disability group.But it found that fewer than four in 10 employers would consider offering a job to someone with a history of mental illness.

Any decent society should be urgently concerned with ensuring those affected by mental health problems should receive the support they need to lead full and rewarding lives. Mental health problems are real. They cannot be bullied or wished away. If support is removed, this doesn't mean support is not required. It means that as a society we have chosen to look away. SOYMB took the above mostly from here

But SOYMB knows that capitalism is not a society concerned about the well-being of its members. SOYMB has repeatedly posted evidence that poverty is a major contributor to mental health problems and to alcohol and drug mis-use. There appears no real escape. Only escapism – and that has a price. Madness and illness are the last refuge of the worker desperate to flee the nightmare of capitalism , and such desperation takes its toll on our bodily and mental health.

The acceptance of the individual into a set of satisfactory personal relationships is necessary to sustain personal stability and mental health.Within this social interaction the individual finds a place and gives to his/her life all the meaning that it requires. Because feelings are personal, we are apt to think that existence is independent, but feeling is the emotional language by which men communicate their social interdependence. But in to-days world people are becoming isolated from each other, with mental illness on the increase. The health and welfare of the individuals take second place in the battle of commercial competition to minimising costs so as to maximise profits. This why at work we suffer speed-up, pain, stress, boredom, overwork and accidents. This is why we have to work long hours, shiftwork and nightwork. This is why the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe are all polluted. This is why natural balances are upset.

The assault on so-called benefit fraud is popular with politicians. The victims of this assault are often among the more vulnerable people. It is easy to depict them as calculating, cynical scroungers when they are often simply desperate about how to survive. They are the human casualties of a social system in which people are judged by the degree of their availability for profitable exploitation.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Israel's Inequality

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Just 18 families in Israel control roughly 60 percent of the equity value of all companies in Israel according to this economist .

Of course, there are other rich people in Israel who control much of the other 40 percent. Israel is the most unequal country in the developed world, second only to the United States. In the year 2009, Israel bypassed Mexico for the first time as more unequal. In 1965 there was a survey of all countries in the world in terms of equality, and Israel was ranked between the Netherlands and Finland—one of the most equal countries in the world. Today, Israel is one of the most unequal countries in the world.

Because Israel spends so much on security and the military Israel actually spends about 75 percent less, in ratio comparisons with OECD countries on health care and unemployment benefits and such like. In 2002 the chairman of the Manufacturers Association in Israel said that because of the struggle with the Palestinians, because of the intifada, Israelis have to learn that they cannot expect an increase in the minimum wage, or perhaps even they should expect a decrease in the minimum wage, meaning that the security constraints are used as a justification to stifle social struggle.

Socialists have always argued that the workers of all countries have more in common with each other than with those representing the interests of capital. Zionism hasn’t established a workers’ paradise. The sole fruit of the decades of strife which Zionism has known has been the establishment of yet another capitalist state - an achievement the workers of the world, Jewish or otherwise , could well have done without. The tragedy is that Israeli workers take sides in this struggle instead of organising for socialism.

.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

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Over a million copies of this classic work by Robert Tressell have apparently been sold worldwide. How do Socialists regard this book? Read on.

Robert Noonan spent the latter part of his life at Hastings working, when work was available, as a house painter and decorator and sign writer. He was a member of the local branch of the Social Democratic Federation. During the first decade of this century he devoted his leisure time to writing a novel which, in his own words, was to be " ... a readable story full of human interest and based on the happenings of everyday life, the subject of Socialism being treated incidentally."

Noonan completed his task in 1910 and soon afterwards entered hospital, where he died of tuberculosis early in 1911. He left his manuscript to his daughter who, like many girls of her time, went into service, taking the manuscript with her. Three years later, following a chance conversation with a member of the staff of Punch, the work was brought out of her tin trunk and published under the author's title, The Ragged trousered Philanthropists and in his pen name, Robert Tressell.

The earliest editions were abridged or, more correctly, emasculated.. Chapters were left out and the remainder rearranged, phrases were altered and deleted, characters omitted and a tragic ending imposed to meet the commercial demands of the publishers and pander to current literary and political conventions.

Years later a group of enthusiasts recollected the missing chapters, reconstructed and rearranged them in the form the author originally intended. A more complete edition, with only one chapter missing, was published in 1955 and it is this fuller edition that is now published in paperback form. The original manuscript was presented to the TUC in 1959 and is now held at Congress House, London.

A book that can command continuous editions and reprints for over fifty years must surely qualify for the title, of a Classic. Thousands of workers have claimed that their political ideas were first stimulated by reading it.

In the story the author casts himself in the role of Owen, a house painter who devotes every opportunity to explaining to a group of workmates how they are exploited in all directions. Despite their abject poverty and insecurity of livelihood they defend capitalism with heat, using arguments that have long since disappeared from the vocabulary of all but the most stupid of anti-socialists. .

Those who remember working class conditions during Edwardian days will know that Noonan writes fact into his fiction. He weaves into his story chapters on charitable organisations, religious bodies, unemployment, a parliamentary election, a workers' social outing, the Clarion eyelists, Public houses, public meetings and the seduction of a worker's wife, much of which was omitted from the earlier editions.

But Noonan did not expound Socialism. When he does propose an alternative to capitalism it turns out to be the woolly reformism of the Social Democratic Party, now in part inherited by the modem Labour Party. The characters that Noonan portrays as Socialists are advocates of nationalisation as the solution to the workers' problems. They visualise a benevolent State operating industry in the interests of the whole of the people, reducing working hours, removing undesirable institutions and increasing wages so as to provide an equitable distribution of wealth. Noonan ridicules religious organisations but accepts the idea of a Great Spirit as creator of natural raw material.

It is astonishing that a man who so obviously realised that it is the private ownership of the means of wealth production from which stem the social evils about which he wrote so satirically, should halt his thinking on the threshold of the socialist alternative.

We have read this novel a number of times and with this recent reading we find that age has not staled it. We still smiled at the antics of the workers on their beano, we were still sad at the death of Philpot and we were still angry at the stupidity of Crass and the schemes of Sweater and Sir Graball D'Encloseland. With all its faults and limitations we shall probably read it again someday.

W.W.
SOCIALIST STANDARD APRIL 1965

Further reading:

Robert Tressell and the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

The Great Money Trick