Friday, September 30, 2011

Financial Advice For The Poor or Poor Financial Advice?

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The following has been taken from the regular column on Yahoo Finance pages and can be found HERE. I have quoted it in it's entirety for clarity.

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"Can you survive on the minimum wage?

The minimum wage adults can earn in the UK rises to £6.08 an hour on Saturday. That's an increase of 15p. But has the government set a wage you can really live on?

Once the changes come in, if you're working a 35-hour week on the new minimum wage, you'll earn just over £11,000 a year — or £212 a week.

Choice versus necessity

I pinch pennies so that I can add to my savings, but obviously many people scrimp and save because they have no choice. I wanted to see what I could learn from these careful budgeters.

So for one week, my husband, my four-month-old baby and I lived on a budget of £212.

Working out our budget

I was a bit apprehensive about how much of our minimum wage income would need to be earmarked for bills, which include the cost of our home's gas and electricity, broadband, TV package, TV licence and council tax plus water rates.

Add to this our personal bills, including our mobiles, gym memberships and my car loan, and our bills come to an average of £609 a month.

That means our bills come to around £152.25 a week, leaving just under £60 for day-to-day spending. Add on our weekly child benefit of £20.30, and we had a total disposable income of around £80.

Frugal food and groceries - £50

I decided to avoid running low on food and other essentials by writing a meal planner and doing a big shop at the start of the week.

Our normal weekly shop comes to an average of about £80 a week, including items we buy in bulk once a month or so, like nappies.

It was fairly easy to cut our food spending by ditching the more expensive shortcuts like fresh pasta and ready-made sauces. I also bought supermarket-own products rather than big brands.

Although we didn't have to cut back on food, we didn't have the luxury of choosing more ethical products. Fair-trade fruit and tea was too expensive for us and we wouldn't have been able to afford high-welfare meat, so my husband agreed to go vegetarian like me for the week.

But I wasn't able to save as much as I wanted across my other shopping. Normally, I keep the cost of items down by buying in bulk but that simply wasn't an option on our minimum wage budget.

Take nappies, for example. I can buy 194 Pampers nappies for £20, which works out at about 10p each. I need around 42 nappies for one week and a pack of 46 costs a staggering £9.99 — or 22p each. That's more than double!

Ditto for washing tablets, kitchen roll, even boxes of cereal. By buying smaller amounts to fit our budget, I ended up paying far more per item or serving. So we were only able to cut our weekly shopping down to £50. That left £30.

Frugal fuel - £20

I tend to only drive around town, and spend about a tenner a week on fuel. Meanwhile my husband spends around £20 a week getting to and from work.

Clearly we couldn't afford to spend the £30 that remained of our budget just on petrol. My husband works in an out-of-town office with limited bus routes and his early morning starts make car-sharing difficult.

But he agreed to cycle into work and back for two of the days, when his morning schedule allowed, and so filled his car with £15 of fuel instead. I topped up my car with just £5, enough to get me to the supermarket and leave some fuel in the tank in case of emergencies.

The rest of the time, I left the car at home and walked. I was astonished at how much of my week was spent walking. Getting to places took up most of my spare time.

Frugal fun - £5

Books, renting films, going out for coffee and cake with some other mums, taking a bottle of wine to a friend's house, taking my baby swimming — all these little luxuries became suddenly impossible because we only had a tenner left.

We both had less time to relax or socialise because walking, cycling and cooking from scratch took a lot of extra time. But we did find several free ways to enjoy ourselves.

We went to the library, invited friends around for coffee at our house, and spent a Saturday looking at a couple of depressed donkeys at a free 'zoo' run by our council. Having less time to enjoy ourselves definitely made it easier to spend less.

I spent £2 on a bus ticket to visit a friend in a different town and my husband spent £3 having a burger with some colleagues.

The final fiver

We were a bit frightened to spend our final fiver. It didn't seem like much of an emergency fund but it was better than nothing.

In the end, we used it to buy some extra milk towards the end of the week, meaning we had £3.51 left at the end of the week.

What have I learned?

It's been a challenging week and I really admire everyone who manages on such a tough budget every single day, especially if they have more than one child.

What surprised me the most was not how hard it was to budget, but the amount of time the low-cost options took, especially the cooking and walking.

Also, we hadn't budgeted for clothes or baby equipment, and we hadn't saved any money for emergencies or annual expenses like insurance policies.

If we had to routinely manage on such a limited budget, we'd need to cut our bills quite dramatically, probably ditching our TV and mobile phone packages, and shop on an even tighter budget.

Thanks to his cycling and my walking, both of us had plenty of exercise, so we're now questioning whether we need gym membership.

We also discovered how much money we fritter away on entertainment when there's a lot of ways to have fun for free.

It's a relief to get back to our usual budget, but I know we'll manage to save even more thanks to the experience. One thing is clear — the rise in minimum wage might make life easier for workers but it still won't make it easy.

Felicity is Yahoo! Finance's new money-saving columnist. "

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Comment...

Is that the MOST appalling, condescending, patronising drivel? Apart from the flawed 'budget' that doesn't even include the biggest expense, housing, the whole playing-poor experiment is an insult to the millions living in such degrading poverty.

And the lesson this financial 'expert' learned was whether they needed gym membership or not. Sheesh. Perhaps these 'experts' should try reality out for a while. Not for a week, forever. Then see if the mis-guided system that requires people to live in poverty, debt and hopelessness is one that can be cured with a bit of penny-pinching and frugality or not. Advice like this for most people is needed like a chocolate fire-guard. Perhaps the lesson she should have learned was that despite claims to the contrary capitalism is either incapable or unwilling to provide even decent basic living standards to the majority, while keeping a minority in luxury. Perhaps then the answer won't lie in being frugal but in being revolutionary.

SussexSocialist


Shame of Elderly Care

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Southern Cross is to be wound up by the end of the year. A third of Southern Cross care homes have been transferred to new operators, the company has announced. Southern Cross said the transfer of 250 homes would be followed by further transfers in October and November. Southern Cross was the UK's biggest care home operator, with 752 homes, but ran into difficulties when it was unable to pay its rent to landlords. In July, the firm said it was to cease trading after all of its landlords said they wanted to leave the group. The first "wave" of homes have been transferred to about 18 different operators. Its largest landlord, NHP, which owns 249 of the homes, will be included in the second wave.

NHP is forming a new company, HC-One, with turnaround specialists Court Cavendish to run the homes itself. HC-One is headed by the former boss of the Priory chain of clinics, Dr Chai Patel. Southern Cross said it had entered unconditional business purchase agreements covering 70% of its homes, with the remaining 30% still in progress. It said all the homes would be transferred by the end of the year and the company would be wound up. The firm has said that landlords are committed to providing continuity of care to its 31,000 residents, and that residents should notice no changes on a day-to-day basis. It maintains that no homes will close and says the "vast majority" of its 43,000 staff will have their jobs protected, with care home workers transferring to the new operators.

The 200 Darlington-based back office workers will transfer to HC-One. The company also announced the resignation of it chairman, Christopher Fisher, who stepped into the role in April to oversee the restructuring process.

"Now that the transfer of homes has commenced, I consider my role complete," Mr Fisher said.

Adapted and edited from BBC News here.


What and absolute bloody disgrace this fiasco is. Elderly people, no longer of interest to the system as they ceased producing wealth and in fact are a drain on it, are now worthless commodities to be pushed form pillar to post. The lack of ability for Southern Cross to squeeze enough profits from their 'services' provided to the elderly means they have taking the business, not social, decision to go bust. Elderly people face uncertain futures which will have a massive negative impact on their lives with worry and stress, at a time when they should be receiving support and care of the highest standards. The way our society looks after our old, putting business and financial needs first at all times, is one of the most distasteful and shameful indictments of this sick, inhuman system.

SussexSocialist


Thursday, September 29, 2011

What Footballers Think.....

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David Cameron appears to have won Joey Barton's vote, following some moderate praise for the prime minister. The footballer and Twitter phenomenon told the Evening Standard that he even signed up to his 'big society' agenda but warned that the recent riots suggested things needed to change in Britain.


"I actually quite like David Cameron but what's he got to lose by joining Twitter? It would be good for him to be at the forefront of technology and able to listen to what people are saying," he said.
"I agree with his theory of the smaller society taking care of the big society but we as a city and a nation have to be more accountable to one another - and that includes the prime minister."

The footballer served 77 days in prison for assault in 2008, but his use of Twitter to quote from George Orwell, Friedrich Nietzsche and The Smiths has propelled his image in the public mind.

"The riots highlighted a demand for a better society and increased accountability," he continued.

"There's a lot of social unrest, people unhappy with how this once great country is being run and whether they're getting a fair shake of it. But is the answer to loot and riot? I don't think so.

"It started off with people leaving colleges and universities and not having a future that was as bright as it once was. Cameron's government has to do something about it. They're employed by the people, for the people, as a representation of the people - so they should get out there and interact with them.

"If I was a politician I'd be out there speaking to people and working out how I can make things better.


"We're too concerned with how America and the EU perceive us. People are still going to want to trade with Britain but we need to get exporting more."

Mr Barton grew up in a council estate in Liverpool but is now settling into London, where he has started playing for Queen's Park Rangers.

Edited and Adapted from Yahoo News here.


Priceless. A violent thug (on and off the pitch) with criminal convictions, who earns excessive amounts of money (over £10k a week by all accounts) for doing very little, is now supporting the David Cameron and his laughable 'Big Society' idea. They sound ideally suited and highlight where Tory ideology finds fertile ground in the shady minds of the idle rich.

Sadly, Barton is addicted to entertaining us all with his views on the world via Twitter, an aptly named device.

Cameron however, once said of this instant communicating tool whilst live on Absolute Radio :

"The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat."

Well you got something right there David!

SussexSocialist

Latest News - 21,000 kids will die today

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Here is the news, today 21,000 children died.

That is equivalent to:

  • 1 child dying every 4 seconds
  • 14 children dying every minute
  • A 2010 Haiti earthquake occurring every 10 days
  • A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring every 11 days
  • Just under 7.6 million children dying every year
  • Some 92 million children dying between 2000 and 2010

The silent killers are poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and other related causes. Despite the scale of this daily/ongoing catastrophe, it rarely manages to achieve, much less sustain, prime-time, headline coverage.

Some more numbers

From UNICEF:

  • 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation
  • 1 billion children are deprived of one or more services essential to survival and development
  • 148 million under 5s in developing regions are underweight for their age
  • 101 million children are not attending primary school, with more girls than boys missing out
  • 22 million infants are not protected from diseases by routine immunization
  • 4 million newborns worldwide are dying in the first month of life
  • 2 million children under 15 are living with HIV
  • Over 500,000 women die each year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth
Taken from here

GREAT! Britain

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The UK is the worst place to live in Europe of a 10-country league table, covering working hours, VAT, holidays, spending on health and education.

The UK also came bottom of another table based on the cost of energy, petrol, food, alcohol, cigarettes, and life expectancy. Households in the UK struggled with a high cost of living, with food and diesel prices the highest in Europe, while unleaded petrol, alcohol and cigarettes all cost more than the European average, said the report. People in the UK now have the lowest holiday entitlement in Europe as well as having one of the highest retirement ages.

"We may still be enjoying the fourth highest household income in Europe, but the high cost of living means that we're living to work." Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A reply to what Ed said

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For Miliband to speak out against business "predators" was hilarious when he has no desire or intention whatsoever to bring predative capitalism to an end. The capitalist system has always preyed on the many to enrich a tiny few. It cannot function any other way. So any attempt to position himself as a "man of the people" was a sick joke.

Even if `Red' Ed lived up to his nickname, and switched from a freemarket capitalist economy to an Old Labour-style state-capitalist economy, as far as the working class majority are concerned, there'd be no difference whatsoever. Whether business activities are under the control of state capitalist `Lefties' or individual multi-millionaires and billionaires has no effect on the lives of those who work, are retired or unemployed. The majority still get exploited, still worry about paying the bills, and still get ignored by those in power whether or not there's a freemarket Prime Minister or a leftie Prime Minister in charge. Neither freemarket capitalism nor state-run capitalism benefit the vast majority of us. The only part of his speech I agreed with was his remark about charting "a new course". But the course Miliband's set on is exactly the same one as Cameron and Clegg are steering already — towards yet more clapped-out capitalism.

The real "new course" we must take to avoid a nightmarish future under out-of-date and predatory capitalism involves us all becoming the new direct and collective owners/managers of the `means of production and distribution' (factories, power stations, farmland, mineral mines etc). When this happens, money will become redundant, since when we all own the factories and natural resources etc, we will also all collectively own everything that's produced, and you don't have to buy what's already yours! There will then be free access to whatever people need. And there'd be no shortage of goods and services, since all those millions presently unemployed will then be able to contribute. And millions more, presently doing idiotic `jobs' involving money (printing the stuff, banking, insurance, creating bills, cold calling, making ATMs etc) will also then be able to do worthwhile jobs of real benefit to people. Such moneyless real socialism has never existed, but it must now replace obsolete capitalism because this profit-driven system has served its purpose and reached the end of its useful life.

"In every generation there comes a moment when we need to change the way we do things. This is one of those moments" said Ed Miliband. Absolutely! So let's have nothing to do with politicians like him, and take a look at a genuinely different economic system backed by the real Socialist Party.

Max Hess

Equal Shares?

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Another writer who has made some pertinent points is Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist and author.

We read


"We're living in an economy where productivity is no longer the goal, employment is. That's because, on a very fundamental level, we have pretty much everything we need. America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, there is enough food produced to provide everyone in the world with 2,720 kilocalories per person per day. And that's even after America disposes of thousands of tons of crop and dairy just to keep market prices high. Meanwhile, American banks overloaded with foreclosed properties are demolishing vacant dwellings to get the empty houses off their books.


Jobs, as such, are a relatively new concept. People may have always worked, but until the advent of the corporation in the early Renaissance, most people just worked for themselves. They made shoes, plucked chickens, or created value in some way for other people, who then traded or paid for those goods and services. By the late Middle Ages, most of Europe was thriving under this arrangement. The only ones losing wealth were the aristocracy, who depended on their titles to extract money from those who worked. And so they invented the chartered monopoly. By law, small businesses in most major industries were shut down and people had to work for officially sanctioned corporations instead. From then on, for most of us, working came to mean getting a "job." The Industrial Age was largely about making those jobs as menial and unskilled as possible. Technologies such as the assembly line were less important for making production faster than for making it cheaper, and laborers more replaceable. Now that we're in the digital age, we're using technology the same way: to increase efficiency, lay off more people, and increase corporate profits...

...The question we have to begin to ask ourselves is not how do we employ all the people who are rendered obsolete by technology, but how can we organize a society around something other than employment? Might the spirit of enterprise we currently associate with "career" be shifted to something entirely more collaborative, purposeful, and even meaningful? Instead, we are attempting to use the logic of a scarce marketplace to negotiate things that are actually in abundance. What we lack is not employment, but a way of fairly distributing the bounty we have generated through our technologies, and a way of creating meaning in a world that has already produced far too much stuff..."

So close...but then we get this piece of nonsense.

"The communist answer to this question was just to distribute everything evenly. But that sapped motivation and never quite worked as advertised."

Sorry, but communism has never ever really been about dividing the World's wealth up equally. People are different and have different needs. Some needs will be more expensive (in terms of resources and labour needed to satisfy them) than others. Socialists want a world of equality, but this is not one where everybody has an equal income. On the contrary, it would be a world where nobody had a monetary income, large, small or equal, but where everybody would have an equal say in the way things are run and an equal right to satisfy their needs. In a classless society every member is in a position to take part, on equal terms with every other member, in deciding how the means of production should be used. Every member of society is socially equal, standing in exactly the same relationship to the means of production as every other member. Similarly, every member of society has access to the fruits of production on an equal footing. Socialism will not be about equal wages or equal sharing. Contrary to a widespread belief, socialism is not about equal sharing or redistributing wealth more evenly. It’s about the common ownership of the means of wealth production. Which is a different proposition altogether. These means are already a single integrated network operated collectively by the whole working class, but they are owned separately, whether by rich individuals, capitalist corporations or states. It’s not a question of dividing them or their monetary value up amongst the population but of making them the common property of all. On this basis they can be used to turn out what people require to satisfy their needs and to which everyone can have access to satisfy those needs in accordance with the principle “from each their ability, to each their needs”. Because people’s needs are different so will be what they take and use. But everyone will have an equal right to satisfy their different needs. That’s what socialism means, not sharing out the wealth of Bill Gates, the Rothschilds or other wealthy individuals.

Competition can certainly be a positive motivation in sport and games for enjoyment, a healthy challenge, self-fulfilment and the like – but not in day-to-day living or as a requirement for putting bread on the table and a roof over our heads. In these situations the negative force of competition puts undue stress on workers causing unnecessary aggravation, even going so far as to wreck family life and be the reason for thousands of suicides every year. Divide-and-rule has proved to work brilliantly well against different sectors of the workforce nationally and works equally well internationally.

Free Access Greens

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Many independent thinkers come to reach similar positions as the World Socialist Movement and Derek Wall appears to be one of them, judging from some of his answers in this interview.

Question: Some environmentalists and writers have pointed to the dangers of endless economic growth and have offered various proposals for a zero-growth or steady-state economy. Is zero growth possible in a capitalist economy?

Derek Wall: The short answer is no. Firms compete to make profit. Those who make the most profit can reinvest in capital and with more efficient machinery they out compete other firms. Firms have to make profit to survive. It’s not a case of wicked capitalists but instead a system with a built in growth imperative.

The problem is, from declining oil to diminishing fish stocks, an environmental wipeout is occurring.

We could rollout good public transport, eat lower on the food chain, make goods that last longer — there are all sorts to ways of gaining prosperity without growth. You can make goods repairable or modular for easy upgrade, but in an irrational system we throw away and buy more and the system works. But the better the system works the worse it is for us and the rest of nature.

But capitalism only works if we work harder, consume more and throw more away. Capitalism without growth is capitalism in crisis, as we can see at present.

Question: What do you mean by “the commons” and how could it be applied across whole economies?

Derek Wall:..The commons is collectively owned property, as opposed to state or privately owned. To me it is the essence of ecosocialism, involving the democratic ownership of the means of production... Access is free...


See our own article
http://www.worldsocialism.org/articles/eco-socialism.php

Derek Wall understands the way capitalism works. Here he describes the fate of a future Green government:

A Green government will be controlled by the economy rather than being in control. On coming to office through coalition or more absolute success, it would be met by an instant collapse of sterling as ’hot money’ and entrepreneurial capital went elsewhere. The exchange rate would fall and industrialists would move their factories to countries with more relaxed environmental controls and workplace regulation. Sources of finance would dry up as unemployment rocketed, slashing the revenue from taxation and pushing up the social security bills. The money for ecological reconstruction—the building of railways, the closing of motorways, the construction of a proper sewage system—would run out” (Getting There: Steps to a Green Society).




Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cool clear water

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There is enough fresh water in the world to double food production in the next decades -- the problem is its inefficient use, according to a study released Monday at the World Water Congress meeting in Brazil. Scientists in 30 countries spent five years analyzing river basins that cover a total of 5.2 million square miles (13.5 million square km) and are home to 1.5 billion people, including 470 million of the world's poorest. The experts studied 10 river basins around the world, including the Indus-Ganges, Mekong, and Yellow in Asia; the Limpopo, Nile and Volta basins in Africa; and the Sao Francisco and the Andes river basin in South America.

"Yes, there is scarcity in certain areas, but our findings show that the problem overall is a failure to make efficient and fair use of the water available in these river basins. This is ultimately a political challenge, not a resource concern," said said Alain Vidal with the Challenge Program on Water and Food. According to Vidal, "huge volumes of rainwater are lost or never used, particularly in the rain-fed regions of sub-Saharan Africa. With modest improvements, we can generate two to three times more food than we are producing today."

Africa has the biggest scope to increase food production in its river basins, but parts of Asia and Africa have areas where production is at least 10 percent below its potential, and in some places, productivity is only 10 percent of what it could be. For example, in the Indus and Ganges, researchers found 23 percent of rice systems are producing about half of what they could sustainably yield.

“The most surprising finding is that despite all of the pressures facing our basins today, there are relatively straightforward opportunities to satisfy our development needs and alleviate poverty for millions of people without exhausting our most precious natural resource,” said Dr. Simon Cook, of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and Leader of the CPWF’s Basin Focal Research Project. Cook said that the capacity to increase food production "is there, but only if we use the water in a balanced way." The key is dialogue among all those who use the water in the basin, Cook said: Farmers whose crops are rain-fed, farmers who use irrigation, herders and ranchers, city-dwellers, factory owners and workers and hydropower producers and users.

This blog has sometimes high-lighted a pending water crisis and the possible coming of future water wars. But not all is doom and gloom, it seems. SOYMB isn't at all too surprised by the revelation since it once again demonstrates the potential abundance of the world if rational decisions were made about our natural resources.

From
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/27/us-rivers-food-idUSTRE78Q0BZ20110927

Against Wall St ....but more

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There has been a series of "anti-capitalist" protests in Wall St. against the corporations who have been perceived to have caused the recession and the companies that have been bailed out, deemed too big to fail, but also "too big to jail." as Chomsky describes it . LinkSOYMB remembers a host of other "anti-capitalist" actions from the past and posts this response.

What is anti-capitalism
"Anti-capitalism" has become a popular slogan. It seems that more and more people are interested in critiques of capitalism. Unless anti-capitalists take the time to study what exactly capitalism is and how it operates they risk not advocating a viable alternative. When people idolise "activism" at the expense of "theory" they risk failing to understand the problem and its logical direction, into the political, ideological and economic spheres, which are shunned because it doesn't fit most anti-capitalists concept of political activism. They are not even anti-capitalist, in the sense that they haven't yet agreed on a definition of capitalism. Far less is there yet any talk of "post-capitalism". Anti-capitalists have no clear end-vision of where they want to be, except away from where we are. If you proclaim yourself to be “anti-capitalist”, it is a good idea to have some idea of what capitalism is. Many are not so much anti-capitalist as anti-globalisation, or anti-neoliberal, or even just opposed to particularly malignant corporations. They assume that the detrimental effects of the capitalist system can be eliminated by taming global corporations or by making them more "ethical", "responsible", and "socially conscious". You would have thought that the main aim of an anti-capitalist movement would be to end capitalism and establish socialism. Unfortunately not. The aim seems to be to bring pressure on existing governments to introduce reforms and to change their policy so as to tame multi-national corporations and/or return to the state interventionism. Many are prepared to call themselves “anti-capitalists”, but only a few are prepared to argue for a world society of common ownership and democratic control with production directly to meet human needs without passing through money and the market. Most are literally what they say they are – anti-capitalists, i.e. opposed to the actions of capitalist corporations, and the governments that protect them and promote their interests, rather than against capitalism as a total, global system. They are engaged in a never-ending, uphill struggle to try to contain and restrain capitalist corporations and governments from pursuing profits without regard for the consequences. Some have made a virtue of their institutionalised role within capitalism, warning those responsible for running it of the long-term dangers for the system of allowing policies to be dictated by short-term profit considerations. They are not really anti-capitalist at all, just advocates of a “regulated” capitalism. It's a message capitalist governments are prepared to listen to and even welcome (which is why they subside some NGOs, which are therefore not as “non-governmental” as all that). Nevertheless, this being said, Nevertheless, the conscious recognition of the international nature of the adversary by the anti-capitalist movement and the awareness of the necessity of a global action against it is itself a very significant development.

What is capitalism?
To most people, capitalism is associated with private ownership and laissez-faire economics. Private ownership originally meant the ownership of industry by private individuals but it would be more accurate nowadays to speak of corporate ownership but this doesn’t go far enough, because it doesn’t take into account state ownership, another form of “private” ownership in the broader sense in that it is still a form of ownership (by those who benefit from it) that excludes – deprives – other people. Thus capitalism is based on the individual, corporative or state ownership of the means of production whereas, for most in the anti-capitalist movement, it means only individual or corporative ownership. Which makes a difference as to what is regarded as “anti” or “non” capitalism. For as long as capitalism has existed state “interference”, or “intervention”, in the economy has always existed so laissez-faire is more a policy, advocated by certain interest groups within capitalism at certain times and in certain places. As such it can not be described as defining feature of capitalism. Those arguing for a return to the laissez-faire policies describe it as "neo-liberalism". In the anti-capitalist movement this word “neo-liberalism” occurs again and again. In fact, so often that it gives a very strong hint that this is what the movement is really opposed to, that this is what it means by “anti-capitalism”. Not opposition to capitalism as such but opposition only to certain economic policies. The alternative they offer to neo-liberalism is not anti-capitalism. It is basically a return to state interventionism. The argument is that the state should abandon neo-liberal, laissez-faire policies and again adopt interventionist ones (finance regulations, import and currency controls, the Welfare State, re-nationalisation). "Tax the Rich and Make Them Pay" sounds anti-capitalist. The call for a Tobin (or Robin Hood) tax—a tax on financial transactions—is not as anti-capitalist, as some in the anti-globalisation movement seem to think. A demand for a minimal tax on the financial transactions in which capitalists try to swindle each other out of the proceeds of their past exploitation of the working class is one of the most pathetic reform proposals for which people have ever been called upon to demonstrate for (it is even now supported by such anti-capitalists as the likes of Bill Gates.) It's the old illusion that you can use taxes and government intervention to make the capitalist system work for everybody's benefit. You can't, as has been proved time and again. Anti-capitalists shouldn't go down that road again.

Some defenders of capitalism like to talk about a "market economy". To most people a market is a friendly place where you buy things you need so the term "market economy" is employed so as to conjure up the idea of an economy geared to serving consumer demands. It is possible to envisage such an economy on paper but it would be vastly different from capitalism. It would be an economy of self-employed farmers, artisans and shopkeepers, each producing a particular product which they would exchange on the market, via the medium of money, for the products produced by the others which they needed. There would be no profit-making, no exploitation and no accumulation, just independent producers exchanging their products for their mutual benefit. The farmers, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and others would be producing their particular products which would sell at a price reflecting the average amount of time required to produce it. There would be no profit and no exploitation because everybody would be receiving the full value of what their labour had produced. They would just be exchanging so much labour in one form for the same amount in a different form. It is doubtful whether it has ever existed in a pure form. The nearest that may have come to it would have been in some of the early colonial settlements in North America. One danger is that the anti-capitalists will be diverted into campaigning to try to put the clock back by returning to the simple market economy that may have existed in early colonial North America. This is exemplified by the slogan "small is beautiful". We are offered the idyllic picture of an economy of self-employed smallscale producers producing for a local market. More sophisticated thinkers advocate is a steady-state market economy (a variant of Marx's "simple reproduction".) The idea is that the surplus would be used not to reinvest in expanding production, nor in maintaining a privileged class in luxury but in improving public services while maintaining a sustainable balance with the natural environment. It's the old reformist dream of a tamed capitalism. it assumes that a profit-motivated market economy can be tamed, and made to serve human and/or environmental needs. History has proved that it can't be; capitalism has shown itself to be an uncontrollable economic mechanism which operates to force economic actors to make profits and accumulate them as more and more capital irrespective of the consequences. This mechanism first came into operation in the 16th century and since then has spread to dominate the whole world in the form of the world market.

Capitalism is a market economy, but not just a simple market economy. A key difference is that under capitalism production is not carried out by self-employed producers but wage and salary workers employed by business enterprises. In other words, under capitalism, the producers have become separated from the means of production. This makes all the difference. The producers are now not bringing to market what they have produced (that belongs to their employer, the owner of the means of production) but only their working skills, so they receive the value not of their product but only of their ability to work, which is less. The product is still under normal circumstances sold at its full labour-time value but the proceeds go not to the direct producers but are pocketed by the owners of the means of production. Profit is the difference between this and what they pay, as wages and salaries, for the working skills they purchase on the labour market.

Marx and Capitalism
Marx explained the difference well when he said that what happens in a simple market economy is that the producers brought to market a product of a certain value which they sell for money in order to buy another product or products of equal value. The economic circuit is commodity-money-commodity (C-M-C), the aim being to end up with a basket of useful things. Under capitalism the economic circuit is different. A capitalist sets out with a sum of money which they use to buy commodities (factory buildings, raw materials, working skills) that can be used to produce other commodities with the aim of ending up, after these other commodities have been sold, with more money than they started off with. So the circuit is now money-commodities-more money (M-C-M'). It is now clear why capitalism cannot be described as an economy geared to satisfying consumer demands. The products of capitalist production have to find a buyer of course but this is only incidental to the main aim of making a profit, of ending up with more money than was originally invested. Production is initiated not by what consumers are prepared to pay for to satisfy their needs but by what the owners of the means of production calculate can be sold at a profit. This is what makes the wheels of capitalism grind—or not grind, or not grind so quickly, as the case may be—depending on the level of the rate of profit.

But the picture of capitalism is still not complete. Capitalist investors want to end up with more money than they started out with, but why? Is it just to live in luxury and consume in riotous living? That would suggest that they aim of capitalist production was simply to produce luxuries for the rich. Once again, it is possible to envisage such an economy on paper. Marx did, and called it "simple reproduction", but only as a stage in the development of his argument. By "simple reproduction" he meant, logically enough, that the stock of means of production was simply reproduced from year to year at its previously existing level; all of the profits (all of M' less M) would be used to maintain a privileged, exploiting class in luxury and idleness. As a result the M in M-C-M' would always remain the same and the circuit keep on repeating itself unchanged. This of course is not how capitalism operates. It is not a "steady state economy". On the contrary, it is an ever-expanding economy of capital accumulation. In other words, most of the profits are capitalised, i.e. reinvested in production, so that production, the stock of means of production, and the amount of capital, all tend to increase over time. The economic circuit is thus money-commodities-more money-more commodities, even more money (M-C-M'-C'-M''). This, however, is not the conscious choice of the owners of the means of production. It is something that is imposed on them as a condition for not losing their original investment.

So, capitalism is an economic system where, under pressure from the market, profits are accumulated as further capital, i.e. as money invested in production with a view to making further profits. This is not a matter of the individual choice of those in control of capitalist production – it’s not due to their personal greed or inhumanity – it’s something forced on them by the operation of the system. And which operates irrespective of whether a particular economic unit is the property of an individual, a corporation, the state or even of a workers’ cooperative.

Competition with other capitalists forces them to reinvest as much of their profits as they can afford to in keeping their means and methods of production up to date. As a result there is continuous technological innovation. Defenders of capitalism see this as one of its merits and in the past it was insofar as this has led to the creation of the basis for a non-capitalist society in which the technologically-developed means of production can be now—and could have been any time in the last 100 years—consciously used to satisfy people's wants and needs. Capitalism today could in fact be described as the profit-motivated, capital-accumulating world market economy. Under capitalism this whole process of capital accumulation and technical innovation is a disorganised, impersonal process which causes all sorts of problems—particularly on a worldscale where it is leading to the destruction of the environment and the absolute impoverishment of many formerly independent producers in the Third World — which have rightly ignited the anger of anti-capitalist protesters. A movement attempting to distance itself from US/EU hegemony may be anti-imperialist but it is not anti-capitalist. There are also plenty of rich people living in the so-called Third World and a regulated capitalism would only put more money into their pockets, it would not eliminate inequality.

Global capitalism is not a new creature, it is just capitalism writ large and even nastier. A return to pre-global capitalism would be no alternative, even if it were practical. Many anti-capitalist protesters see this fact that capitalism is a world system as being the problem and the solution as being to break it up into separate capitalisms operating within national frontiers behind protective tariffs walls. This hardly justifies the description "anti-capitalist" of course, and parallels a nasty strand of nationalist thinking which has always associated capitalism with a sinister "cosmopolitan" conspiracy. Indeed, the danger is that, in the absence of being presented with a credible alternative, it is here that the "anti-capitalist" protests will find the loudest popular echo. But it should now be clear beyond dispute that national-based solutions to humanity's problems are pointless, and that a world movement, leading to world socialism is urgently needed.
What is the alternative to capitalism?
It's where all the productive resources of the Earth have become the common heritage of the people of the world—"make the Earth a common treasury for all", as Gerrard Winstanley put it right at the beginning of capitalism—so that they can be used, not to produce for sale on a market, not to make a profit, but purely and simply to satisfy human wants and needs in accordance with the principle of "from each region according to ability, to each according to needs". The economic mechanism that is capitalism is just too strong and just cannot be reformed to work in any other way than it does and always has done. An effective anti-capitalist movement will have to be one that works for ending the impersonal economic mechanism that is capitalism by restoring control of production to society; which can only be done on the basis of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources having become the common heritage of all Humanity. It is all very well being anti-capitalist but if this is to mean something more than merely protesting against the effects of capitalism, it has got to also mean having an idea of an alternative to capitalism. Mere anti-capitalism is not enough. That’s why, in our view, coherent anti-capitalists should be campaigning for socialism not changes of policy. Anti-capitalism may be a start, but it’s certainly not a finish. Socialists have always known that another world is possible. The world doesn't have to be capitalist.

the Catholic child abuse

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The abuse of thousands of innocent children in state- and church-run institutions in Ireland amounted to torture, a report from Amnesty International has found. Youngsters suffered decades of inhuman and degrading treatment by being brutalised, beaten and starved, the human rights watcLinkhdog said. The horrific details of neglect, physical abuse and rape were revealed in four state-ordered reports - the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne reports.

Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: "The abuse of tens of thousands of Irish children is perhaps the greatest human rights failure in the history of the state. Much of the abuse described in the Ryan Report meets the legal definition of torture under international human rights law. Children were tortured. They were brutalised, beaten, starved and abused. There has been little justice for these victims. Those who failed as guardians, civil servants, clergy, gardai and members of religious orders have avoided accountability."

Amnesty's a new report, In Plain Sight, prepared by Dr Carole Holohan, explored why it had happened - and to ensure it never happened again.
Mr O'Gorman said: "This abuse happened not because we didn't know about it, but because many people across society turned a blind eye to it. It is not true that everyone knew, but deep veins of knowledge existed across Irish society and people in positions of power ignored their responsibility to act. Attitudes to poverty at both the public and political level, were also significant factors. Society judged and criminalised children for being poor rather than address the underlying factors that condemned their families to poverty." Mr O'Gorman said Amnesty's research had shown that the true scandal was not that the system failed children, but that there had been no functioning system. "Instead, children were abandoned to a chaotic, unregulated arrangement where no-one was accountable for failures to protect and care for them,"

In November 2009, the Murphy Report found four successive archbishops in Dublin had covered up allegations of abuse and had not reported claims to gardai for decades. Six months earlier, the damning Ryan Report shocked the nation with revelations that tens of thousands of children had been neglected and suffered physical and sexual abuse for decades in orphanages, industrial schools and residential institutions run by religious orders. And the Ferns Report, published in October 2005, revealed more than 100 allegations had been made against 21 priests over 40 years - with the Catholic Church hierarchy putting the interests of priests before children.

SOYMB says it was the political power that the Catholic Church once exercised in Ireland that allowed it to cover up for so long the child abuse. The guilt of the Church was, and is, in the appalling fact that in order to preserve its awesome power over its credulous membership it was prepared to protect those engaged in the most vile practices against children.

When the British withdrew from the greater part of Ireland there was no discernable concern about the Catholic Church becoming almost wholly responsible for the general ‘education’ of the young, including places of care and security like orphanages and juvenile penal institutions. Governance over education was clearly prescribed under the Church’s Code of Canon Law cc. 1381, 1382. Control of the minds of the young was vital to the adult acceptance of the outrageous basis of religious belief. The church’s dirty washing was becoming public. They were not just a few "bad apples" but whole orchards of them - priests, nuns and Christian Brothers remained in the fold to torture and rape innocent children whose care they had been charged with.

Eventually public disquiet became so clamorous that the Irish government, fearful of legal action by victims for dereliction of the State’s duty of care had to do something about it. Given the abundance of proven cases not only in Ireland but in other countries throughout the world where paedophile Irish priests had been moved by church authorities in order to escape the opprobrium that their public conviction would bring on the Church, it was reasonable to expect swift and intensive action into sources of information that would help the Authorities to get details of the identity of the criminals and their current location. But the Garda did not bring their battering rams to the doors of Bishoprics where such information might be found. Not a single officer of the Church who was complicit in withholding information into these utterly heinous crimes appeared in the dock. Instead the state went into negotiations with the church authorities about setting up a Commission of Enquiry into the disgustingly unsavoury affair and the church authorities - presumably the cardinal and the bishops - agreed to co-operate with the Enquiry on the basis of an undertaking from the State that it (the church authorities) would not have to reveal the identity of its miscreants and that the Church’s liability for financial compensation to victims should be capped at some 128 million euro. This latter is estimated at 1.3 billion euros which leaves the Irish taxpayer liable for some one billion euros for the crimes of the clergy.

The Ryan Commission heard evidence from literally thousands of victims into rape, buggery and brutality in Catholic institutions where children and young people had been placed by the State for care and protection over a period of some four decades. The Enquiry took ten years and its conclusion was that these utterly depraved practices were ’endemic’ in such institutions. It is hard to imagine the magnitude of suffering inflicted on children of all ages over decades by brutal priests and nuns numerously permeated into a grossly arrogant and sanctimonious church whose maintained code of silence must surely have equalled the evil of its debauched clerics.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mili-bland's Laboured Speech

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Labour leader Ed Miliband has admitted he has "a long way" to go to convince voters to back his party at the next general election. On the opening day of the party's annual conference in Liverpool, he insisted Labour is "on the way back" - but said it would take time for people to "tune back in". He and other senior Labour figures acknowledged the party's failings in government on the economy, immigration and welfare.

In an interview with BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Miliband said:

"When you lose an election, and we had our second worst result since we were founded in 1910, it takes time for people to tune back in to you.

"We are a party on the way back. There's a long way to go and I, more than anyone, know the scale of the task. But, you know what's most important? I know who I am and I know where I want to take this country and that's what I'm going to be talking about this week."

He admitted the former Labour government - in which he and shadow chancellor Ed Balls were cabinet ministers - got "some things wrong" on immigration, had failed to shift the emphasis of Britain's "fast buck economy" and had not shown enough financial discipline. His message was reinforced on the conference platform by shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne, who said he had heard from ordinary voters that Labour had grown "out of touch" and "got it wrong on issues close to their heart - on immigration, on welfare, on control of banks". Former Home Secretary David Blunkett warned that Mr Miliband's political message is not being heard by voters and that Labour would not win if an election was held today.

And amid continued questions about Labour's economic credibility, former Labour Treasury minister Lord Myners accused the shadow cabinet of having no understanding of business. Mr Miliband's leadership won lavish praise from Labour left-winger Michael Meacher, however, who said:

"He is moving the Labour Party in the direction which it needs to go, away from privatised markets, away from deregulated finance, away from unfettered free markets, to a different kind of policy which deals with the banks, which deals with big corporations, which deals with the Murdoch press."

Adapted and Edited from Yahoo/Press Association article here.


Yawn. Oh sorry, were you talking Ed, I nodded off. I guess we've heard all this before, what you not going to do, what should've/would've/could've been done or not done. It's yawn inspiring stuff and I bet most working people know it means absolutely nothing. The only interesting thing to note was I am glad you know who you are. For most people this is good start to the day, so keep it up sunshine! As for knowing where YOU want to take the country and what YOU want to do, I like the fact you acknowledge that what anyone else wants is immaterial to your own needs. As for Mr Meecher (who?), if Labour moves from free markets how on earth will it deal with the banks then? As usual, contradictory nonsense, sound-bite politics for a generation of tiresome schoolboys. If they weren't playing with people's lives it would almost be funny to watch. As it is it merely confirms the ever greater need to do away with the entire system from its rotten top down starting with these mealy-mouthed apologists for capital.

SussexSocialist

Chinese food is politics

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In a nation reeling from tainted-food scandals, organic products are mostly reserved for the rich and political elite. Chinese government officials have exclusive suppliers. In modern-day China, it is the degradation of the environment and a limited supply of healthful food that is fueling the parallel food system for the elite. The continued existence of the tegong, or special supply, is treated with secrecy because of public resentment over the privileges of the elite. In China, the tegong, or special supply, is a holdover from the early years of Communist rule, when danwei, work units of state-owned enterprises, raised their own food and allocated it based on rank. "The leaders wanted to make sure they had enough to eat and that nobody poisoned their food," said Gao Zhiyong, who worked for a state-run food company and wrote a book on the subject.

A 6-foot spiked fence hems the meticulously planted vegetables and security guards control a cantilevered gate that glides open only to select cars.
"It is for officials only. They produce organic vegetables, peppers, onions, beans, cauliflowers, but they don't sell to the public," said Li Xiuqin, a lifelong Shunyi village resident who lives directly across the street from the farm but has never been inside. "Ordinary people can't go in there."

Until May, a sign inside the gate identified the property as the Beijing Customs Administration Vegetable Base and Country Club. The placard was removed after a Chinese reporter sneaked inside and published a story about the farm producing organic food so clean the cucumbers could be eaten directly from the vine. Elsewhere in the world, this might be something to boast about. Not in China. Organic gardening here is a hush-hush affair in which the cleanest, safest products are largely channeled to the rich and politically connected. Many of the nation's best food companies don't promote or advertise. They don't want the public to know that their limited supply is sent to Communist Party officials, dining halls reserved for top athletes, foreign diplomats, and others in the elite classes. The general public, meanwhile, dines on foods that are increasingly tainted or less than healthful — meats laced with steroids, fish from ponds spiked with hormones to increase growth, milk containing dangerous additives such as melamine, which allows watered-down milk to pass protein-content tests.

"The officials don't really care what the common people eat because they and their family are getting a special supply of food," explained Gao.

"We see the only elements of China society getting food that is reliable, safe and free of contaminants are those cadres who have access to the special food supply," said Phelim Kine of the Hong Kong office of Human Rights Watch.

Taken from LA Times

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why Labour fails

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This week the Labour Party holds its conference. A comrade writes:

The Labour Party never was a socialist party but it did once see its role as trying to shift the balance of power and wealth under capitalism in favour of working people. They never did do this of course nor, given the nature of capitalism, could they have done so. But this was what they said and this at least showed that they thought capitalism was far from being the acceptable economic system they now think it is.

Incredible as it might seem today, Denis (now Lord, of course) Healey told a cheering Labour Conference in 1973 that he was going to squeeze the rich till the pips squeaked:
"Our job is to get power, and we join battle armed with the most radical and comprehensive programme we have had since 1945. Its aim is honestly stated, to bring about a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people and their families . . . We are going to introduce a tax on wealth. We are going to turn the estate duty into a real tax... I warn you, there are going to be howls of anguish from the 80,000 rich people."

Labour got to power, but it was working people who ended up getting squeezed till the pips squeaked. The result was a massive wave of strikes in the public sector over the winter of 1978/9 – and the election of the Tories under Thatcher pledged, as she openly boasted, to undo everything Labour claimed to champion. Which, as demanded by capitalism's worsened economic conditions, she did and, spiteful woman that she was, with glee. State industries were privatised, council houses sold off, local services axed, welfare payments slashed and the health service subjected to market forces.

Power for what?
Today all that Labour has retained of Healey's rhetoric are the first six words: "our job is to get power". Since radical phrases, indeed any definite policies, are now perceived to be a drag on this drive to get power they have been ruthlessly abandoned. Just attack the Tories as incompetent and clapped out, the marketing team advise, and, anxious for power, the Labour politicians oblige.

But power for what? In the end, since they are only projecting themselves as better and more competent managers of the status quo, it amounts to power for its own sake. The Labour leaders want power because they are professional politicians and the ambition of every professional politician is to become a government minister.

Is this being too cynical? Can they be that bad? Perhaps not, but it doesn't really matter since even if they were sincere (and, on the law of averages, some of them must be) they still wouldn't be able to make the capitalist market economy work other than as a system that puts profits first and so as a problem-ridden system incapable of meeting human needs properly.

In so far as they might have a theory of what they would do if they get power it will be no different from that behind the failed policies of ail previous Labour governments : trying to redistribute profits towards socially desirable projects such as a better health service, better education and better housing.

This involves accepting the profit system – not a problem of course for the Labour Party leadership – and allowing firms to make the maximum profits, justified on the grounds that this also supposedly maximises the resources available for social spending.

The trouble is this makes what a reformist government can do depend on the profitability of capitalist industry. As Richard Crossman, a Labour politician who was to become a senior Cabinet Minister in the 1964 Wilson Labour government, wrote following Labour's defeat in the 1959 election on such a classic reformist programme:

"A Socialist Government, it is often argued, would be able to finance the huge extension of welfare, education and other pubic services by encouraging a much faster rate of development in the private sector of industry and then taxing away a sufficient amount of the profits. This was the policy put forward by the Labour Party at the last election and in the short run any Labour Government would to attempt it. But experience should have taught us that the run might be very short indeed. In the Affluent Society no Government is able to give orders to Big Business. After one budget a Labour Chancellor who tried to squeeze private industry too hard would soon discover that he was not master in his own house and that there is a relatively low level above which taxation rates, whether on the individual or the company, are only raised at the cost of provoking tax evasion and avoidance so widespread that revenue is actually reduced. If the motive of your economy is the profit-making of large-scale modem private enterprise, a Labour Government must be prepared to allow very large profits indeed and to admit that the number of golden eggs he can remove is extremely limited." (Labour in the Affluent Society, 1960)

His answer was that Labour should therefore seek to establish an enlarged state sector so as to give a Labour government more room to manoeuvre. The present Labour leaders would recoil in horror at such as suggestion, not that anyway it would have worked to protect a Labour government from the economic pressures of capitalism to keep costs down and profits up. Nor that the Labour governments of which Crossman was subsequently a member made any real attempt to do it.

Profits first
In fact Labour ministers ended up making speeches accepting that profits should be encouraged. Here is how one of them (Harold Lever who, like Healey was later ennobled) put it:

"Labour 's economic plans are not in any way geared to more nationalisation; they are directed towards increased production on the basis of the continued existence of a large private sector. Within the terms of the profit system it is not possible, in the long run, to achieve sustained increases in output without an adequate flow of profit to promote and finance them. The Labour leadership know as well as any businessman that an engine which runs on profit cannot be made to move faster without extra fuel." (Observer, 3 April 1966).

This could be any of the present Labour leaders speaking and well sums up what will be the only economic policy that any future Labour government will be able to pursue. Profits First, that's the economic law of the capitalist system, which all governments of capitalism have to accept and apply.

If you accept the profit system, then you have to accept that profits have to be made and all that this implies, including opposing strikes, restraining wages and keeping taxes on Big Business low. Labour does accept the profit system, much more openly than they have done in the past.

Nobody who is against the profit system has any place in the Labour Party. If you want more Law and Order, more Family Values, more Prudent Public Spending, you might as well join Labour as the Tories. But if you are a socialist and want to get rid of the profit system you should be in a democratically-organised socialist party campaigning for socialism and nothing else.

The Crazy Contradictions of Capitalism

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Every year some 9 million children across the world die before they reach their fifth birthday, and about one-third of these untimely deaths is attributed to under-nutrition, with the majority of deaths the result of long-term chronic hunger rather than famines and sudden food crises, according to a report. Production is not the primary issue – it is poverty and access to food. Today three-quarters of Africa's malnourished children live on farms.

The World Disasters Report, published by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, says 178 million children under the age of five have stunted growth as a result of a lack of food. The number of people who are undernourished is at least 1 billion. Of these, around 60% are women. When food is scarce it is often women who receive less or give their share to their children.

Mother and child undernutrition has been widely neglected by national governments and the international community. Nutrition levels before birth and up to the age of two have a major impact on a child's future mental and physical health. "The critical period of growth and development is the 1,000 days from conception to a child's second birthday," the report says. "The problem of stunting has its roots in poor nutrition during this time: undernourishment during the foetal period contributes up to half of a child's failure to grow by the age of two." It says "Breastfeeding advocacy has always been hard to sell to donors when more exciting issues such as HIV and vaccination are competing for attention."

David Peppiatt, international director of the British Red Cross, said: "It is distressing that such huge numbers of people are hungry and can't get enough food to eat for reasons that are avoidable. It's a sad fact that this is a disaster on a large scale, and the situation isn't improving … With the continuing volatility of global food prices it is essential that the most vulnerable are better prepared to cope with changing agricultural and food markets."

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, told a high-level summit on non-communicable disease* in New York: "The lives of millions of children are at stake. We can help them realise their physical and intellectual potential. Without proper nutrition the children and pregnant mothers will suffer irreversible damage." [ *see SOYMB post here]

The World Disasters Report also argues that promoting smallholder farming could be the best way forward in Africa, rather than encouraging "capital-intensive oil-dependent largescale farming, which can lead to displacement of poor people and environmental damage". In the past 40 years, during which the world’s population has more than doubled, food production has always kept ahead of population growth. But the hungry remain hun­gry. Average global calorie consumption has risen – but so has the number of hungry and malnourished people. One reason is that only about one-third of the food produced is actually eaten. Nearly half of the grain harvested each year is not fed to humans, but is converted into bio­fuels or fed to livestock to produce meat or dairy products – an extremely inefficient method of feeding people, since it requires eight calories of grain to produce one calo­rie of beef. Sustaining livestock now occupies a staggering 80 per cent of the world’s agricultural land, either through grazing pastures or cultivation of feed crops. Additionally, an estimated 30 per cent of all food crops is wasted. In low- and middle-income countries, crops fall victims to pests or rot in warehouses and elsewhere in the supply chain. In larger economies, the resulting processed food is often simply thrown away by the profligate. Investing in addressing such failures is crucial. Halving the amount of food that is wasted by 2050 would cut the amount of food required by one-quarter of today’s production. There is increasing evidence that small farms have a great potential to increase their output yet in the crazy world of capitalism in 2002, the coincidence of good weather and the introduction of new seeds and fertilizer produced a bumper maize crop in Ethiopia. The result was not richer farmers, but 300,000 tonnes of grain rot­ting in fields and a market glut that saw the maize price fall by 80 per cent.

High prices have resulted in a massive increase in food insecurity around the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that by the end of 2008, high food prices had added 109 million people to the ranks of the undernourished, raising the number of hungry people to an all-time record of 1 billion in 2009. Save the Children estimated that in 2008 alone, a minimum of 4.3 million (and potentially as many as 10.4 million) additional children in low- and middle-income countries may have become malnourished as a result of food price rises. Poor people in both rural and urban areas, who typically spend between 50 and 80 per cent of their income on food, were hardest hit. Faced with high food prices, poor people in low- and middle-income countries cut back on the quality and quantity of food they consume, struggle to pay for education and healthcare and are forced to sell assets. The strategies that poor households employ to cope with higher food prices often have far-reaching detrimental effects, especially on chil­dren. Across Bangladesh, for example, when the price of rice increases, rice consumption remains steady or even increases as non-rice consumption falls. When households are already spending most of their income on food – and often more than half of their food costs on rice alone – there is no safeguard when prices increase. Families will therefore main­tain rice consumption at the expense of more nutritious foods, such as vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and dairy. As well as reducing the consumption of nutritious food, such strategies include cutting back on health expenditure, removing children from school (often so that they can work) and selling productive assets (e.g., livestock). These problems are compounded when poor families borrow money in times of high food prices, of­ten prioritizing loan repayments over investing in livelihoods or more diverse diets.

The report concludes "a drive for more commercially grown food, and more international trade in food, may be the last thing we need. It may entrench and extend commercial farming, while depriving the billion rural poor of the rights to resources they need to feed themselves. It may fill warehouses but leave the poor with empty stomachs."

In a world where there is enough food for everybody but 1 billion people are hungry and another billion are malnourished, hunger amid plenty, it just doesn't make sense, does it but that's the logic of capitalist economics.

Capitalism is the Rabid Dog

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From the IndependentLink
Around the world, rabies kills around 100 children every day.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates there are 55,000 rabies deaths every year. According to the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, the total is 70,000, with 10 million treated for bites from potentially infected dogs. India has the highest annual rate of deaths in Asia: 20,000. The majority of victims are under 15. In Africa and Asia alone, the disease (the most potently lethal known on earth) threatens 3.3 billion people – just under half the world's population. Dogs are responsible for 97 per cent of human rabies cases.

Rabies is a virus that targets the brain and spinal cord. It is found in the saliva of infected animals and is most often transferred through a bite.

The post-bite jab was invented 126 years ago, but it has a huge price tag in the developing world: in Asia, it costs $49 (£32), and $40 in Africa, where the average daily income is between $1-$2. It is cheaper in India, which has developed its own vaccine, 400 rupees (£5). Every year 40,000 Americans need a $1,000 series of shots.

Dr Fran├žois-Xavier Meslin, head of zoonotic diseases at the WHO, says patients are frequently condemned to a painful, brutal and often isolated death because they have no money.

Sarah Cleaveland, professor of comparative epidemiology at the University of Glasgow tells of a family she met who had enough money for one course of treatment after their five children were attacked by rabid dogs. They had just one day to choose which child to save.

The suffering and death that lies behind capitalism's exterior of modernisation and progress is exposed when the facts are shown.