Friday, June 23, 2017

Blood Money

To deter refugees from reaching its shores, Australia has a policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Unauthorised boat arrivals are sent to Australian-run camps on Nauru or Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, without the prospect of resettlement in Australia. Last week, the Australian Government settled a class action brought on behalf of 1950 people who have been detained on Manus Island by agreeing to pay AUD$70 million, likely the largest human rights settlement in Australian history. But money cannot make good their suffering. The UN, the Australian Human Rights Commission, and others have detailed the disgraceful human cost of this policy.

 Arbitrary and indefinite detention has caused detainees severe mental anguish and suffering, which has been compounded by an insufficient medical care and unsafe living arrangements. The full extent of this tragedy is beyond enumeration here, but includes high rates of self-harm and suicide attempts, including by children; sexual and physical abuse of adults and children by guards and other detainees; the murder of Reza Berati on Manus Island in 2014; the death of Hamid Kehazaei by sepsis following delayed medical transfer from Manus Island in 2014; and the self-immolation of two detainees on Nauru in 2016. Amnesty International's 2016 conclusion that “the Australian Government has set up a deliberate system of abuse” is plain.

The Australian Government asserts—without evidence—that this policy is the only effective strategy to protect the nation's borders from “illegal” and potentially dangerous arrivals, and to prevent further deaths at sea. The claim that the lives of these men, women, and children are the cost of national security or somehow serve an altruistic purpose is perverse.

In April, 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants reported that Australia must immediately close the camps, swiftly process all outstanding claims on the Australian mainland, and implement a rights-based approach to migration. 

From The Lancet

The Food Revolution

Every ninth person on the planet suffers from hunger. The situation is so dire in some countries that 20 million people are at acute risk of death by starvation. How is this possible at a time of a global food surplus? FAO head José Graziano da Silva related how "People still think that famine is caused by lack of food." He continued. "Since the Green Revolution in the 1960s, we produce more than enough food," Graziano da Silva says, "enough for 10 billion people and more."

The fact that the global population is growing doesn't necessarily have to mean more people suffering from hunger. The world produces enough food for 10 or even 12 billion people, but a third of it is lost during harvest, transport or storage -- and much of it is ultimately thrown away by end consumers. In Germany alone, 28 million tons of foodstuffs are wasted every year. 

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly set itself the goal of "zero hunger," part of the package of Sustainable Development Goals passed that year.  The zero-hunger goal has recently been slipping further into the future rather than getting ever closer. 

In Somalia famine is spreading.  The situation is similarly dire in South Sudan, Yemen, and northeastern Nigeria. Twenty million people are at acute risk of death by starvation in these four countries and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien says that "we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN."

 800 million in the world are facing hunger today. How is it possible that humanity is unable to get this most existential and shameful problem of all under control?

 Combatting famine is not one of the stated goals of the G-20 plan. Its main focus is that of stopping migration. 

Somalia is no stranger to famine. It was only six years ago that the last record drought gripped the country, with 260,000 perishing from hunger. Today, the UN estimates that almost 7 million people -- more than half of the population -- need help. 

The region of Somaliland in the country's north declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but it has not been globally recognized as an autonomous republic.  Somaliland has long been seen as an African success story. But the government there does not have the means to handle a famine of the magnitude of this one. "We have six ambulances for a million people in our area of responsibility and no money to buy fuel or pay drivers," says Ali, the doctor. The fact that Somaliland hasn't been recognized internationally has meant that it receives little aid. Suffering has spread as a result. 

Somaliland's economy is almost entirely based on traditional animal husbandry, and when times are good, the region exports up to 4 million goats, sheep, camels and head of cattle per year to Arab countries and 75 percent of the government's budget comes from taxes on these exports. 

Shukri Bandare, Somaliland's environment minister and member of the National Drought Committee, explained, "We must free ourselves from animal husbandry," Bandare says. She tries to sound optimistic, even as she constantly uses the word "must." "We must expand our fisheries industry and change our diet." Somaliland, she points out, has petroleum reserves and the port of Berbera. "We must diversify our income." 

In South Sudan, the United Nations declared a famine -- the highest of five hunger warning levels -- in parts of the country, in which a civil war broke out in 2013. Corrupt, militaristic elites have discovered hunger as a weapon of war, with two men bearing most of the responsibility: Salva Kiir and Riek Machar. The two represent the country's largest ethnic groups, with President Kiir belonging to the Dinkas and his former deputy Machar hailing from the Nuers. Following independence in 2011, they launched a struggle for power that has been defined by ethnic rivalries. The fighting has made it extremely difficult for aid workers to reach the population.

Fully 5.5 million people, almost half of the country's population, are suffering from hunger, not a product of the climate, but of war -- and this despite the fact that the country is rich in natural resources. Nobody should face starvation there. But the aid organizations aren't just helping those suffering from hunger, they are also extending the war, says Jok Madut Jok, director of the Sudd Institute, an independent think tank in the capital of Juba. Jok used to be a development aid worker himself and has written several books about Sudan. "If you provide food to the population, you're also feeding the armed forces," he says. Much of the food supplies, he says, are either diverted to the army or distributed to families whose relatives are fighting in the conflict. "Emergency aid saves lives, but at the same time it impedes the finding of political solutions for the causes of suffering," Jok Madut Jok says, giving voice to the eternal aid dilemma. He argues that aid for South Sudan should be completely suspended. "Then our elites would be forced to come up with their own solutions."

Many aid workers are infuriated by such suggestions, particularly given that they often put their own lives at risk to help. Indeed, more than 100 aid workers have lost their lives in the last three-and-a-half years in South Sudan. "We're not going to let people suffer just so we have an argument for negotiations with local authorities," says the employee of one aid organization. "We have to act, we have no choice," says the aid worker. "That is the humanitarian imperative."

All of the hunger crises are caused by humans themselves. But what about the less visible part of the 800 million total: All those people facing hunger despite living in countries that haven't been beset by war or climate-related phenomena?

In Haiti they are facing a different form of hunger than the kind present in Somaliland and South Sudan: a chronic, day-to-day shortage of food. Every second Haitian is undernourished and the small Caribbean country, with its almost 11 million residents, was listed in 4th place on the 2016 Global Hunger Index. "We should eat enough," an aid worker begins, "and the food should be clean." In Haiti, unclean means contaminated with cholera bacteria.  If Haiti is known for anything, then it is for the armies of aid organizations that are active in the country. Some of them have been here for decades. climate change is a factor, bringing storms and sudden, unpredictable rainy periods. A drought in the northern part of the country and flooding in the south. The sea level is rising, creating salt deposits in the soil. Plus, forests are logged illegally to produce charcoal, which leads to landslides. All of that contributes to a situation in which farmers have great difficulty cultivating their fields. The result is that Haiti is dependent on food imports, which has likewise weakened its agricultural sector. The country's most important economic sector is agriculture and corruption consumes a large portion of state revenues. There is also a significant amount of wasted effort because some aid projects lack coordination or are of questionable utility in the first place.

"It is very disappointing," says Graziano da Silva, "that we cannot get together and find solutions for these political issues." Graziano da Silvva says the number of people suffering from hunger is likely to continue climbing. He says donor countries that fund organizations such as the FAO, are displaying "symptoms of fatigue."

On average, the world's poor spend 70 percent of their money on food. If prices rise for rice, wheat or corn, people quickly find themselves in a life-threatening situation. They are the victims of a global game that others play to enrich themselves: speculation on the commodities markets. For decades, the food trade was rather unspectacular. Farmers sold their harvests at a set price on the futures markets; futures are contracts for future sales or purchases of commodities. The system allowed farmers to hedge their risks while futures traders pumped money into the markets and buyers could purchase goods at any time. They were credit transactions that adhered to the rules of supply and demand.
But then, the financial industry discovered the market and in the 1990s, lobbyists were able to gain access to the foodstuffs markets. Since then, banks have also been allowed to invest heavily in commodities. But because large positions on single commodities were too risky, banks like Goldman Sachs invented so-called index funds, which bundle futures for things like corn or oil. Large investors and pensions funds were eager to take advantage of the offer. The result was that investors seeking to earn money on the commodities markets triggered additional price fluctuations, the consequences of which were made plain in 2010, when rapidly rising prices between the summer and winter of that year pushed fully 44 million people around the world under the poverty line. The world's hungry are left at the mercy of the speculators.  

Food should be produced where it is eaten. The decisive factor is not increasing productivity at all costs -- it's producing the food where it is needed. This works best in small rural structures. In Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, for example, Arab and Chinese companies produce food for export even as the local population starves. 

If there is any country out there that is well-positioned to feed its hungry, India is the one. Its economy is growing faster than that of almost any other country, and it will replace Germany as the world's fourth largest economy within five years. In recent decades, the country has also managed to double its food production and has become a net exporter of rice and beef. India has a functioning government and a growing middle class. But India is also home to more undernourished people than any other country in the world: 195 million. Almost 40 percent of children under five are underdeveloped because they haven't received the nourishment they need -- numbers that are difficult to accept, and difficult to understand. And the situation isn't likely to improve any time soon, with the population of India set to rise to 1.7 billion by 2050 and global warming beginning to make its presence known in the country. 

The problems India has with feeding its population are rooted both in distribution shortcomings and in inequality. Members of lower castes suffer from hunger more often than those from higher castes and daughters are often worse off than sons. "Never in the history of humanity has a country created so much prosperity while achieving so little social justice," says Jean Drèze, one of the country's best-known economists. "The Indian elite are interested in a mission to Mars," says Drèze, "but not in the issue of hunger in the country." It isn't, he says, due to a shortage of resources, but the product of a lack of political will.

For as long as capitalism continues "zero hunger" will remain little more than a dream. We need to change the way in which we produce food. The agricultural industry is responsible for much of the species loss, environmental pollution and water shortages that plague our planet. Intensive use of pesticides and other pollutants, chemical fertilizers and heavy machinery endanger soil, water and wildlife. Industrial farming is the source of around one-third of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. And that doesn't include the energy necessary for food transport and cooling. Modern technologies like green genetic engineering could be useful in helping to adjust food production to climate change. In the long term, we will need plants that can thrive despite droughts or salty soil. One way of getting there, though it is controversial, is through genetic engineering.

Adapted from here

A reminder of US inequality

The 14 richest Americans made enough money from their investments in one year to hire two million pre-school teachers, about four times the number of pre-school teachers who currently have jobs in the United States. 

Total US wealth increased by a stunning 60 percent between 2009 and 2015, from $54 trillion to $86 trillion, but 3/4 of that massive increase went to the richest 10 percent of Americans.

The lowest-income people live up to 15 years less than those at the high-income end. 

 As a result of their low pay and almost nonexistent savings, almost half of Americans would be unable to afford a $400 emergency room visit without borrowing money or selling personal items. 

The resulting stress leads to mental and physical illness, and perhaps worse. The Centers of Disease Control reported a 24 percent increase in suicides in the first 15 years of this century.

Capitalism is causing the destruction in American lives.

The share of total U.S. personal wealth held by the wealthiest 1/10th of 1% has tripled over the last 36 years from 7% in 1980 to a staggering 22% today.

The Chagos Islands goes to the Hague

This blog has more than once directed our visitors' attention to the plight of the Chagos islanders who were forcibly removed from their home to make way for a giant US military base at Diego Garcia. But perhaps one of Cde. Richard Layton's poems best describe the situation.

But much to the consternation of HM Government the injustice simply cannot be swept under the carpet. The UN General Assembly voted by 94 countries to 15 that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague should examine the legal status of the Chagos Islands. Mauritius, which gained independence from Britain in 1968, argues that the UK broke international law when it separated off the islands before granting Mauritius its independence.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Brexit Racism

Prejudice against immigrants from the European Union was a “major” deciding factor in the Brexit referendum, according to a new study.
But people who actually met foreigners living in Britain tended to have a positive experience and this appears to have helped persuade many people to vote Remain, the researchers found.
The lead researcher of the new study, Dr Rose Meleady, said their findings helped explain an apparently counter-intuitive voting pattern – that areas with low numbers of immigrants were more likely to back Brexit.
“It is the contact that predicts prejudice towards immigrants, and prejudice was a predictor of how people intended to vote,” she said. “Everyday interactions with immigrants are really important. If you have more opportunities for contact, for example on public transport, at the shops, or with neighbours and colleagues, your attitude is likely to be more positive. Fear of immigration can sometimes drive prejudice rather than its reality.” She added, "Of course, interactions can sometimes be unpleasant or unfriendly and this can increase negative feelings, but we find that people report more positive encounters with immigrants than negative.” 

In The Train: Bermondsey Bunkum Baulked (Short Story, 1909)

A Short Story from the November 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

Characters: PETER PIP—a Bermondsey voter.
                     VIATOR—a traveller.

Scene. Third-class “smoker ” on the S.E.C. Railway. Peter Pip is seated in corner smoking his pipe. Enter Viator, who takes opposite seat.

VIATOR : Good evening. I suppose things are pretty lively just now down Bermondsey way?
PIP : Yes, the election’s in full swing—all three candidates are hard at it.
VIATOR : Who do yon think will win ?
PIP: Oh! The Socialist, Dr. Salter. He’s bound to get in. I and my mates are for him, anyhow.
VIATOR : I thought the doctor called himself “Labour” candidate.
PIP : Well, it’s all the same. Labour is Socialism, isn’t it ?
VIATOR : May I ask you some questions by way of trying to answer yours ?
PIP : Certainly.
VIATOR : Well then, the doctor was chosen by your local branch of the I.LP., wasn’t he ?
PIP: Yes.
VIATOR : The local branch had to get sanction from the National Council of the I.L.P. ?
PIP : Why, yes, of course.
VIATOR : Of course you know that before the doctor could be run as a candidate for Parliament, the I.LP. had to get sanction from the Labour Party executive, being affiliated to that body?
PIP : That’s so.
VIATOR : The candidate must sign the Labour Party ticket and agree to obey the Party whip?
PIP : Yes.
VIATOR : One of the conditions to be agreed to is, I think, that the candidate must stand as “Labour,” and not as “Socialist.”
PIP : Quite true.
VIATOR : Doesn’t it strike you as odd that a Socialist should not be allowed to run as such, and that if returned he must obey the Labour Party whip, nine times out of ten voting with the Liberals?
PIP : It never struck me like that. But all the same Salter’s a real good Socialist. Why just look at his programme!
VIATOR : Ah, let me see it. (Pip hands him a copy of the election address.) Yes! I thought so. Same old story.
PIP : What’s wrong now ?
VIATOR : The first article in his confession of faith is the dear old “Right to Work Bill.” Hum!
PIP : But you surely don’t condemn the “Right to Work Bill?”
VIATOR : No need to: it condemns itself! What about the clause empowering a municipality to find work for the unemployed? If the unemployed are not satisfied with the kind of work allotted them, or the rate of pay, and refuse to do the work, the municipal authorities, who are representatives of the master class, have power given them to haul the offending workers before a magistrate. That means six months gaol! Fancy a Socialist voting for such a measure.
PIP : But I say—
VIATOR : Next item. General Eight-Hours Day. Well suppose you get it—and mind you, you have got to get it from the masters; many of them are in favour of it and would vote for it. That fact alone ought to make you suspicious of it. “Timeo Danaos et dona ferantes.” That’s French or Figian—you know, for “When the masters send you a gift horse, look in the beggar’s mouth.”
PIP : (Rather uneasily, feeling he is being “got at ”) Well but—
VIATOR : But me no buts! Can the master class—or employers as you call them— can they or can they not speed you up in the factory to the highest possible pitch, 8 hours day or no 8 hours day ? Aren’t they doing it now? If you are going to cross the road to vote, vote for something that’s to do you good!
PIP : I think you will have a job to get round the next item.
VIATOR: Then I’ll go under it. Minimum wage! Minimum fiddlesticks! Do you suppose the labour market is a thing to be played with so? There was a "maximum wage” law as the result of the dearth of labour after the plague in the middle ages, a law strengthened by far more severe penalties than any a capitalist government is likely to attach to a mere "minimum wage” enactment in these days of “freedom of contract”—the futility of the attempt to enforce this law should be a lesson for all time. When labour was scarce the labourer was master of the situation, in spite of the Statute of Labourers which the employers of labour themselves caused to be enacted, in their anxiety to obtain labour power cheaply, but which they were compelled to evade. Now that labour power is so terribly redundant the masters will remain masters of the situation, minimum wage laws notwithstanding, for starvation will compel evasion on the one hand, and profit-hunger on the other. But if such a law can have any effect at all in preventing sweating, there is one counterbalancing factor that will rob it of all benefit to the working class. When any one talks to you about minimum wages, shorter hours, and so on, don’t forget that grim spectre at the worker’s elbow—his constant competitor— machinery. Every restriction placed upon the exploitation of labour power, makes for the advantage of machinery; every lifting of the price of labour-power handicaps it against machinery. So far then as a minimum wage law can affect the situation it can only result in the extended use of machinery and the factory system, and the further displacement of workers.
PIP : That seems to make the struggle hopeless. (Removes his hat, wipes his brow, and looks out of the carriage window.)
VIATOR : It makes Socialism the only hope, at all events. (Pointing) That’s a very nice piece of land over there, isn’t it? Look well nationalized, wouldn’t it? “For sale. Apply Law, Jaw, Wynstun & Co.” I see your worthy doctor has “nationalization of land” on his card. In Japan they have nationalization of land; in Russia the mines are national; in Germany the railways are national property. Yet the proletariat (that’s you and me, you know) who work all those services are not a whit better off—worse off in some cases. German and Belgian State railway workers for example.
PIP : That’s true.
VIATOR : Then : “Municipalisation of means of transit, lighting, water, milk, electricity and power.” Let’s see. In Bermondsey you have all these things run either by the County Council or the Borough Council. Milk, you say,—better milk. Yes, quite so, but a doubtful advantage if you’re a milkman out of a job. Can’t you see, my dear fellow, that you can nationalise and municipalise ’til you’re black in the face, but so long as you leave the masters in full possession of the political power, they will take good care to keep top-dog?
PIP : Surely you will support the next item : “Votes for all men and women of adult age”?
Viator : The principle’s all right, but as a vote catcher it’s all wrong. Besides, aren’t there enough votes now to get Socialism if they were used properly? What we want to do is to educate the present working-class vote— which greatly preponderates—as to the meaning of Socialism, not to bother about extensions of the franchise, and above all, not to use such issues, however much we may agree with them in principle, as bait to catch the voles of those who are opposed to us on the question of Socialism.
PIP : (With an air of conscious superiority) Well, you must agree that raising the amount of old age pensions and lowering the age limit, as our candidate suggests, would be a good thing ?
VIATOR : Yes! for the master class! Shifting the burden of the aged poor off the rates on to the taxes, neither of which affect the worker tuppence. No' if that's the best your doctor can do for you you might as well vote : for Dr. Cook.
PIP : What shall I do then?
Viator : Stop at home this time and don't vote. I tell you the disease Bermondsey is suffering from can’t be cured by medicine. What is wanted is a surgical operation. Here you are, this will tell you all about it. Read this (hands him a Manifesto). Full details - how to cure poverty and when you're tired of messing about with quacks and their nostrums, take your courage in both hands and try “the knife.” Here’s my station. Good night! (He gets out. Pip is left thinking.)


Class Struggle Reverses

Andy Haldane, the chief economist of the Bank of England, said the lack of wage growth in Britain’s economy is the result of turning the clock back to the days before the Industrial Revolution when there were no trade unions and self-employment was rife.

Andy Haldane said the current relationship between pay and employment had more in common with the period between 1500 and 1750 than in the subsequent period, because in the post-1750 era, collective bargaining and the expansion of full-time paid employment meant workers were able to secure generous pay awards when labour was scarce.
“The move towards greater self-employment and less unionisation is, in some respects, a shift back to the future in the nature of work,” Haldane said, harking back to the days before James Watt, a key figure in the emergence of the steam engine, and other pioneers began the transformation of Britain’s largely agrarian economy. “Prior to the Industrial Revolution, and indeed for some years after it, most workers were self-employed or worked in small businesses. There were no unions. Hours were flexible, depending on what work was needed to collect the crops, milk the cows or put bread on the table. Work was artisanal, task-based, divisible.”
Haldane said the read-across from pre-industrial Britain to the 21st century was not exact but that there were parallels with today’s gig economy. He added that there was evidence that changes in the nature of work had been a factor in explaining why wage growth was running at just 2% at a time when unemployment was the lowest since the mid-1970s.
The chief economist said a period of “divide and conquer” had left workers less able to bargain for higher wages. “There is power in numbers. A workforce that is more easily divided than in the past may find itself more easily conquered. In other words, a world of divisible work may reduce workers’ wage-bargaining power.”
Trade union membership has declined from 38% of employees in 1990 to 23% in 2016, and Haldane noted that the downward trend was likely to continue.
“The fact that unionisation rates have been falling within each age cohort over time, and are lowest among the young, suggests the downward trend in rates of unionisation may still have some distance to travel. For example, if unionisation rates were to continue to decline at the same average rate as over the past decade, then they are likely to fall to around 10% of employees, or 3 million people, within a generation.”
Self-employment had increased from 8% of the workforce in 1980 to almost 15%, or about 4.25 million people. Only one in six of the self-employed hired other workers compared with 30% in 1990. The number of people on zero-hours contracts had increased from 170,000 (0.6% of those in employment) in 2010 to almost 1 million workers (3% of employees) by 2016. At the current rate of expansion, employees on zero-hour contracts would reach about 7% within a decade.

About us


Who We Are
The Socialist Party is like no other political party in Britain. It is made up of people who have joined together because we want to get rid of the profit system and establish real socialism.
Our aim is to persuade others to become socialist and act for themselves, organizing democratically and without leaders, to bring about the kind of society that we advocate.
We are solely concerned with building a movement of socialists for socialism. We are not a reformist party with a programme of policies to patch up capitalism.
What We Do
Our aim is to build a movement working towards a socialist society. We publish literature, we hold meetings and debates throughout the country, we write to the press and state our case wherever possible on the media. We run weekend educational conferences, we sell tapes and pamphlets, we hand out leaflets, we contest elections, and we discuss our ideas with people wherever we can.
We are unique
The Socialist Party has been unique in Britain throughout the twentieth century for:
  • Consistently advocating world socialism - a fully democratic society based upon co-operation and production for use.
  • Opposing every single war
  • Opposing every single government
  • Being a democratic and leaderless organization
The Next Step
The more of you who join the Socialist Party the more we will be able to get our ideas across, the more experiences we will be able to draw on and greater will be the new ideas for building the movement which you will be able to bring to us.
The Socialist Party is an organization of equals. There is no leader and there are no followers. So, if you are going to join we want you to be sure that you agree fully with what we stand for and that we are satisfied that you understand the case for socialism.
If you want to know more about the Socialist Party, its ideas and activities, please contact us.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

World Refugee Day 20th June

One again a special day to remember the victims of capitalism came around.

One new refugee every three seconds is the latest harsh truth about the world today.

Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported. 

The world’s refugees, internally displaced and asylum-seekers currently number 22.5 million, 40.3 million, and 2.8 million, respectively.

Syria remains “the world’s biggest producer of refugees” with 12 million people living in neighbouring countries and away from the region. There are 7.7 million displaced Colombians, 4.7 million Afghans and 4.2 million Iraqis.
However, in 2016, South Sudan became “the biggest new factor” when peace efforts broke down in July resulting in some 737,400 people fleeing by the end of the year. In total, about 3.3 million South Sudanese had fled their homes by the end of the year, in what is known as the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world. 
About half of the refugee population last year were children younger than 18 years of age, according to the report. This is in contrast to the fact that children make up only about 31 per cent of the total world population.

Director of UNHCR’s New York Office Ninette Kelley, explained, “I really ask you to pause and think about your own children or your nieces or your nephews and then think about the journeys that refugees take across conflict areas, across deserts, climbing mountains, giving their lives to unscrupulous traffickers and smugglers. And imagine those journeys of children without their parents or without adult accompaniment—then they arrive, and they are alone,” 

Uganda, where 37 percent live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, is now the largest refugee-hosting nation in Africa with over 1 million refugees from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi. Already unable to provide adequate health services and other public goods to its citizens, Uganda’s resources have become increasingly stretched.

The Barclay Banksters

Former Barclay Bank chief executive John Varley, former senior investment banker Roger Jenkins, Thomas Kalaris, a former chief executive of Barclays' wealth division, and Richard Boath, the ex-European head of financial institutions, have all been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. It relates to a £2bn loan advanced to Qatar after the fundraisings were negotiated, the implication being that there was a money-go-round at work - Barclays was handing Qatar some of the money it was using to support the British bankso it could avoid a govenment bail-out and the consequences of that on th financial market which led to their rivals, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland suffering collapse of share values.

The SOYMB blog makes a tentative prediction, that the banksters are found not guilty and if they aren't, they will not receive jail-time but will be have a token fine imposed. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017



Lib Dem Leader, Tim Farron, resigned on the 14/06/2017
as he felt it impossible to lead “a progressive, liberal party”
(sic!) whilst holding “faithfully to the Bible's teaching”.

Page fourteen of The Guardian's,
Revealed the headline news,
Tim Farron's quit because of his,
Illiberal Christian views! (1)
(Unlike Charles Kennedy who quit,
Whilst legless from the booze!)

Who'll be the Lib Dem leader now,
And step into his shoes?
As Tim's prevarication led,
To media reviews,
That questioned his support of old,
Intolerant taboos.

Exasperation on both sides,
Lit a potential fuse,
The Lib Dem hierarchy had,
A man they couldn't use;
A Bible-bashing puritan,
They simply had to lose!

So it was time for Tiny Tim,
To say his last adieus,
Though some say Paddick's exit was, (2)
An inner circle ruse,
To force Tim’s hand for saying things,
That they could not excuse.

And though he had his Christian faith,
Which guru would Tim choose?
Lord Jesus or Lord Palmerston? (3)
The hustings or the pews?
It seems he won't be rapping now,
To dem ole Lib Dem blues!

(1) This doesn't say much for the Lib Dems or Christianity!

(2) 14/6/2017. Brian Paddick, the Lib Dem Home Affairs
spokesman resigned citing Tim Farron's views on 'certain
issues' which then led to the Lib Dem leader's resignation.

(3) Lord Palmerston, first Liberal Party leader,1859--1865.

© Richard Layton

Monday, June 19, 2017

Women, Work and Wages

 In an interview with the magazine section of the Mail of Sunday (26 March), the author and playwright Fay Weldon provocatively claimed that, through women going out to work,  'the feminist revolution' had led to 'halving the male wage, so it no longer supported a family.'

 It is of course absurd to attribute women going out to work to feminism. That resulted from capitalism's need to overcome a labour shortage. In fact, if anything, it will have been women going out to work that led to the rise of feminism. In any event, there is nothing wrong with women going out to work, apart, that is, from under capitalism this being as wage slaves (Weldon's objection is the old-fashioned one that this means that children are brought up by nursery staff rather than their mothers).

 This said, is there any substance in her claim that women going out to work has reduced the male wage? This is not as implausible as it might at first seem. In Marx's day and for many years after, when few married women went out to work, men's wages had to cover the cost of maintaining a wife and children. So, Marxian socialists defined the value of labour power as what it cost for a male worker to reproduce his working skills and also to maintain a family.

 In time those administering capitalism came to realise that this meant that unmarried men were being paid too much, and a campaign was launched for 'family allowances' as a payment from the state to workers with children. The trade union movement was wary about this as they realised that this would exert a downward pressure on wages, by relieving employers of the need to include an element in wages to cover the cost of maintaining a family and raising a new generation of workers.

 We in the Socialist Party had something to say on the subject in a pamphlet we brought out in 1943 Family Allowances: A Socialist Analysis. This endorsed the trade unions' reasoning, pointing out 'that once it is established that the children (or some of the children) of the workers have been 'provided for' by other means, the tendency will be for wage levels to sink to new standards which will not include the cost of maintaining such children.'

 Once married women went out to work, drawn into it by capitalism's need to make a fuller use of those capable of working, the next logical economy for employers in the payment of wages would be to no longer pay married male workers enough to maintain a non-working wife. In this sense,  married women going out to work would exert a downward pressure on male wages.

 Nowadays, the wage paid by employers has come to be enough to maintain only a single worker, whether man or woman, married or not. The norm now, for raising a family, is for both partners to go out to work and pay for this out of both their incomes. To this extent Weldon has a point but it is an exaggeration to say that male wages have been halved, if only because equal wages for men and women has yet to be achieved. It will, however, have had the long-run effect that wages will not have gone up as much as they would otherwise have done.

 This is not an argument either against women going out to work or against equal pay, but rather one against the whole wages system under which workers, male and female, have to sell their working abilities for a wage or salary reflecting costs determined by market forces.

From Cooking the Books:  Women, Work and Wages
 Socialist Standard June 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Farron's Faith

Tim Farron no longer wants to be The Liberal Democrats leader because- 'to be a political
leader and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to The Bible's teachings, has felt
impossible (Metro, 16-6-17) .
         He wasn't making much sense in politics and he will continue spouting religious nonsense.
Capitalism and religion work hand in hand: religion asking us to not rock the boat and wait until
we get to heaven for everything to be just right.  

'ANOTHER TORY GOVERNMENT: WHAT NEXT?' (public meeting, London)



Tuesday, 20 June - 8:00pm

Committee Room, 
Chiswick Town Hall, 
Heathfield Terrace
London W4 4JN

iPhone slavery

 “This factory area is legally established with state approval. Unauthorised trespassing is prohibited. Offenders will be sent to police for prosecution!”

 Foxconn’s enormous Longhua plant is a major manufacturer of Apple products. It might be the best-known factory in the world; it might also might be among the most secretive and sealed-off. Security guards man each of the entry points. Employees can’t get in without swiping an ID card; drivers entering with delivery trucks are subject to fingerprint scans. A Reuters journalist was once dragged out of a car and beaten for taking photos from outside the factory walls. 

The vast majority of plants that produce the iPhone’s component parts and carry out the device’s final assembly are based  in the Chinese People’s Republic, where low labour costs and a massive, highly skilled workforce have made the nation the ideal place to manufacture iPhones (and just about every other gadget).

 The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that as of 2009 there were 99 million factory workers in China – have helped the nation become the world’s second largest economy. And since the first iPhone shipped, the company doing the lion’s share of the manufacturing is the Taiwanese Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, Ltd, better known by its trade name, Foxconn, which is the single largest employer in mainland China; there are 1.3 million people on its payroll. Worldwide, among corporations, only Walmart and McDonald’s employ more. As many people work for Foxconn as live in Estonia. Foxconn City is a nation-state governed entirely by a corporation and one that happened to be producing one of the most profitable products on the planet.  Steve Jobs said after news of the suicides broke. “Foxconn is not a sweatshop. It’s a factory – but my gosh, they have restaurants and movie theatres… but it’s a factory.

The iPhone is made at a number of different factories around China, but for years, as it became the bestselling product in the world, it was largely assembled at Foxconn’s 1.4 square-mile flagship plant, just outside Shenzhen. The sprawling factory was once home to an estimated 450,000 workers. Today, that number is believed to be smaller, but it remains one of the biggest such operations in the world. If you know of Foxconn, there’s a good chance it’s because you’ve heard of the suicides. In 2010, Longhua assembly-line workers began killing themselves. Worker after worker threw themselves off the towering dorm buildings, sometimes in broad daylight, in tragic displays of desperation – and in protest at the work conditions inside. There were 18 reported suicide attempts that year alone and 14 confirmed deaths. Twenty more workers were talked down by Foxconn officials. The epidemic caused a media sensation – suicides and sweatshop conditions in the House of iPhone. Suicide notes and survivors told of immense stress, long workdays and harsh managers who were prone to humiliate workers for mistakes, of unfair fines and unkept promises of benefits. Foxconn  had large nets installed outside many of the buildings to catch falling bodies. The company hired counsellors and workers were made to sign pledges stating they would not attempt to kill themselves.

“It’s not a good place for human beings,” says one of the young men, who goes by the name Xu. He’d worked in Longhua for about a year, until a couple of months ago, and he says the conditions inside are as bad as ever. “There is no improvement since the media coverage,” Xu says. The work is very high pressure and he and his colleagues regularly logged 12-hour shifts. Management is both aggressive and duplicitous, publicly scolding workers for being too slow and making them promises they don’t keep, he says. 
His friend, who worked at the factory for two years and chooses to stay anonymous, says he was promised double pay for overtime hours but got only regular pay. They paint a bleak picture of a high-pressure working environment where exploitation is routine and where depression and suicide have become normalised. The work is gruelling. “You have to have mental management,” says Xu, otherwise you can get scolded by bosses in front of your peers. Instead of discussing performance privately or face to face on the line, managers would stockpile complaints until later. “When the boss comes down to inspect the work,” Xu’s friend says, “if they find any problems, they won’t scold you then. They will scold you in front of everyone in a meeting later. It’s insulting and humiliating to people all the time,” his friend says. “Punish someone to make an example for everyone else. It’s systematic,” he adds. In certain cases, if a manager decides that a worker has made an especially costly mistake, the worker has to prepare a formal apology. “They must read a promise letter aloud – ‘I won’t make this mistake again’– to everyone.”
“It wouldn’t be Foxconn without people dying,” Xu says. “Every year people kill themselves. They take it as a normal thing. They call Foxconn a fox trap,” he says. “Because it tricks a lot of people.” He says Foxconn promised them free housing but then forced them to pay exorbitantly high bills for electricity and water. The current dorms sleep eight to a room and he says they used to be 12 to a room. But Foxconn would shirk social insurance and be late or fail to pay bonuses. And many workers sign contracts that subtract a hefty penalty from their pay if they quit before a three-month introductory period.
The vision of life inside an iPhone factory that emerged was varied. Some found the work tolerable; others were scathing in their criticisms; some had experienced the despair Foxconn was known for; still others had taken a job just to try to find a girlfriend. Most knew of the reports of poor conditions before joining, but they either needed the work or it didn’t bother them. Almost everywhere, people said the workforce was young and turnover was high. “Most employees last only a year,” was a common refrain. Perhaps that’s because the pace of work is widely agreed to be relentless, and the management culture is often described as cruel.
One worker said 1,700 iPhones passed through her hands every day; she was in charge of wiping a special polish on the display. That works out at about three screens a minute for 12 hours a day.
More meticulous work, like fastening chip boards and assembling back covers, was slower; these workers have a minute apiece for each iPhone. That’s still 600 to 700 iPhones a day. Failing to meet a quota or making a mistake can draw public condemnation from superiors. Workers are often expected to stay silent and may draw rebukes from their bosses for asking to use the restroom.
This culture of high-stress work, anxiety and humiliation contributes to widespread depression. Xu says there was another suicide a few months ago. He saw it himself. The man was a student who worked on the iPhone assembly line. “Somebody I knew, somebody I saw around the cafeteria,” he says. After being publicly scolded by a manager, he got into a quarrel. Company officials called the police, though the worker hadn’t been violent, just angry.
“He took it very personally,” Xu says, “and he couldn’t get through it.” Three days later, he jumped out of a ninth-storey window.
So why didn’t the incident get any media coverage? I ask. Xu and his friend look at each other and shrug. “Here someone dies, one day later the whole thing doesn’t exist,” his friend says. “You forget about it.”
In 2012, 150 workers gathered on a rooftop and threatened to jump. They were promised improvements and talked down by management; they had, essentially, wielded the threat of killing themselves as a bargaining tool. In 2016, a smaller group did it again. Just a month before we spoke, Xu says, seven or eight workers gathered on a rooftop and threatened to jump unless they were paid the wages they were due, which had apparently been withheld. Eventually, Xu says, Foxconn agreed to pay the wages and the workers were talked down.
When I ask the men if they would consider working at Foxconn again if the conditions improved, the response is equally blunt. “You can’t change anything,” Xu says. “It will never change.”