Saturday, November 16, 2019

Golden Passports

Allen Chastanet, the prime minister of the Caribbean island of St Lucia, told about 300 members of the super-rich elite and their advisers gathered at the Rosewood hotel for “global citizenship conference” that his country’s economic mission was “going after high net-worth individuals and giving them a comfortable place to live”.

He promised that in return for a $100,000 (£78,000) “contribution to the national economic fund” applicants would be granted St Lucian citizenship within three months. With it comes a so-called “golden passport” giving visa-free travel to 145 countries, including the UK, the European Union’s Schengen Area, Hong Kong and Singapore. 
Chastanet said there was no requirement for the country’s rich new citizens to actually live on the island, as long as they paid the money to the St Lucia development fund and bought a home in the country.
“St Lucia is modernising itself, and going to be making itself competitive on a global basis,” he said. “And it’s looking for new citizens that want to take advantage of what St Lucia has to offer.”

Also selling citizenships at the conference were the prime ministers of Albania and Montenegro, a Maltese minister, an ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda, and representatives from Cyprus.
Cyprus, which asks for an investment of at least €2m (£1.7m), gave citizenship to Jho Low, the fugitive Malaysian businessman at the centre of the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund scandal. The island nation, which as a member of the EU thereby gives its new citizens access to the rest of the bloc.  Cyprus has made about €6bn issuing about 4,000 passports since the scheme was introduced in 2013.
Malta, which is also an EU member state, has sold citizenship to five people charged with criminal offences overseas. They include Anatoly Hurgin, an Israeli citizen charged by the US and Israeli authorities with fraud, smuggling and money-laundering.
Edi Rama, the prime minister of Albania and Duško Marković, the prime minister of Montenegro.
Rama launched Albania’s citizenship-by-investment programme at the conference promising a “10-year tax holiday”. He reminded delegates that Albania was an official candidate for accession to the European Union, which would give new Albanian citizens the right to live and work across the bloc.
Marković said he was offering 2,000 people Montenegrin citizenship in return for a €100,000 contribution to government coffers, and a property investment of at least €250,000. 
The conference featured a keynote address by the former CIA director David Petraeus, and was compered by Nils Blythe, a former BBC business correspondent and ex-head of communications at the Bank of England.

The three-day event, which cost £1,500 a ticket, was organised by Henley & Partners, a London-based firm that acts as matchmaker between the super-rich and countries selling their citizenships. Henley has made tens of millions of dollars in commission from selling citizenship. The trade is legal;
Ben Cowdock, a researcher at the anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International UK, said: “There is a growing body of evidence that corrupt elites use ‘Golden Visas’ to gain residency and citizenship across Europe. Selling a fast track to citizenship has dubious economic benefits, whilst providing an open door to those with deep pockets and a past to hide. There are serious questions whether pawning residency and citizenship should be allowed to continue.”

The choice is capitalism or socialism

The Socialist Party feels it right that it should use all possible opportunities to put forward our objective, socialism, to as many people as possible and this election provides us with  hopefully a receptive audience. At this stage the main purpose of us contesting elections is to put the socialist case to more people than usual as well as to build up and consolidate socialist activity in and around the places contested and have our leaflets distributed free of charge by Royal Mail to the house-holds in the two constituencies, Cardiff Central and Folkestone & Hythe, where we are standing our candidates, Brian Johnson and Andy Thomas. The most important feature of the election campaign is  the circulation of our literature and the communication of our case for socialism. Hopefully, we can succeed in preventing at least some of our fellow-workers from being duped into the sham fights of the masters an that increasing numbers will either vote for the Socialist Party or spoil their ballot paper by writing:

Elections are important because the party—and the class—that wins them thereby controls political power. It is a sad fact that ever since workers have had the vote the vast majority of them have chosen to support capitalist political parties and so helped to keep in being the system which exploits them and deprives them of liberty, abundance and security. At the moment the majority are expressing their demand —or preference—for capitalism. They vote for representatives of capitalism who go to the various legislative bodies throughout the world to run society in the interests of the capitalist class, to protect the property rights of capitalism and to administer the state machine.

The workers have one of the essential tools for this—they have the vote. The capitalists fully recognise the importance of elections; that is why they at first opposed universal suffrage and why they now spend vast sums of money in hoodwinking the voters. The other essential tool — socialist understanding — is at present lacking. When they have got that knowledge the working class will reject all the political parties which stand for the continuance of capitalism. They will opt for Socialism—a world of abundance in which mankind, for the first time, will be free.

If there is a Corbyn government it will be as much the subject of dissatisfaction as were its predecessors. Workers will grumble about the cost of living, about their housing difficulties and other similar problems. There will be strikes over wages and working conditions, in spite of Corbyn’s appeals not to rock the boat. The fact that such problems as these—and many others—continue under a Labour government will probably depress and bewilder many of the people who so hopefully voted for it. But the answer is easy. The Labour Party is an organisation which stands for capitalism. When it gets power it runs capitalism in basically the same way as the Conservatives or any other party. The problems of capitalism — poverty and insecurity—are therefore bound to continue under a Labour government. We have stated is that our candidates will stand for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism. As all the other candidates, including those from the Labour Party, will support capitalism in one way or another, we shall be in opposition to them all. For the moment voters vote for reforms — not revolution; for patching up the old society —not for transforming it; for capitalism — not for socialism.  The capitalist class has been dangling carrots of all shapes, sizes and descriptions in front of the workers’ noses for a century or more!

The Socialist Party confidently make one election prediction. Whatever the outcome, capitalism will be safe because the majority of the working class are not yet socialists. When they know their own class interests they will make the issue socialism versus capitalism and it will not be Brexit versus Remain. 

Flying the nest?

Over the last two decades, there has been a 46% increase in the number of young people aged 20-34 living with their parents. Over the same period, average house prices have tripled from about £97,000 to £288,000.

In total, 1.1 million more young men and women are now living at home, with the number increasing from 2.4 million in 1999 to 3.5 million in 2019.
The “boomerang generation”, children returning to live at home, saves £91 a week in rent, £16.50 in council tax and £12.80 in fuel bills. But parents have to spend extra on food and heating.

Men are far more likely to be staying with their mum and dad into their 30s. The ONS said 32% of all males aged 20-34 are now living with their parents, compared with 26% in 1999, with most of the increase occurring since the financial crisis in 2007-08. One in five women (21%) aged 20-34 live with their parents, although this is also a substantial increase from the 14% level of two decades ago.
Georgie Laming of campaign group Generation Rent said: “Young people are facing an impossible choice: either stay, if you’re lucky, living in your childhood bedroom in the hope you can save a deposit – or rent and face a struggle to put money aside. Two thirds of private renters have no savings whatsoever.”

Who supports the NHS?

NHS staff are working over a million hours a week of unpaid overtime to help the health service deal with an unprecedented demand for care, according to research.

Many staff put in extra hours for no extra pay, and that some do as much as 11 hours a week unpaid overtime. The staff survey’s finding that doctors and dentists work an average of 3.6 hours a week unpaid overtime. Nurses do about three hours and allied health professionals such as physiotherapists an average of 2.2 hours.

The number of vacant posts in the NHS in England has risen in recent years, leaving hospitals, ambulance services and mental health services short of about 100,000 doctors, nurses and other staff.

Applications to study nursing have fallen by 30% and the number of students starting relevant degree courses by 9% since then chancellor, George Osborne, scrapped the bursary for nurses, midwives and some other health professionals in 2016. 

“With major staffing shortages across nursing and general practice the NHS is ever more reliant on the commitment of staff to go the extra mile. That commitment to patient care is a huge asset but it’s no substitute for having enough staff to meet demand”, said Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation thinktank. “Ultimately nursing shortages are a policy choice not an inevitability. We need to train more staff and provide a better offer to the people currently in the NHS so that fewer leave.”

This is what a dictatorship looks like

Despite departing Bolivia to minimise the possibility of violence Evo Morales gesture appears to have failed. Morales has said he was forced to stand down but did so willingly "so there would be no more bloodshed"  and in order to stop fellow party colleagues from being "harassed, persecuted and threatened"

Bolivian security forces whose withdrawal of loyalty were instrumental to Morales forced resignation have clashed with supporters of the exiled former president, Evo Morales, leaving at least five people dead and dozens more wounded or injured. Elderly people and children were caught in the violence and tried to seek shelter. The protesters  were majority indigenous.

The head of the powerful Bolivian Workers’ Center (COB) union, Juan Carlos Huarachi, said on Friday that the group was open to dialogue to help stop the bloodshed. 
“We are seeing the army and the police mobilized, using tear gas, firing bullets and that worries us.”

Friday, November 15, 2019

Iceland and the looting of Namibia

Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, the CEO of the Icelandic fishing firm Samherji, and Namibia’s fisheries and justice ministers, Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala  have resigned and the boss of Iceland’s biggest fishing company has stepped aside amid a spiralling scandal over alleged bribes paid to officials in the southern African country in exchange for fishing rights.
Samherji  paid more than 1bn Icelandic króna (£6.2m) since 2012 to ensure access to the fishing quotas, transferring the proceeds from the catches, mainly of horse-mackerel, via a web of offshore firms to a shell company in the Marshall Islands. Samherji had channelled about £54m to the tax haven in this way between 2011 and 2018, with some of the money reportedly passing through Norway’s largest bank, DNB, in which the Norwegian state holds a 34% stake.
Johannes Stefansson, a former company employee turned whistleblower, told Icelandic media the company habitually “does whatever it takes to get its hands on the natural resources of other nations”.
Halldóra Mogensen, a Pirate party MP, demanded that the minister answer questions in parliament, adding that “the myth of Iceland’s innocence is dead”.
As global fish stocks decline, Africa’s coastal waters are becoming more and more sought after by international trawler fleets, with Namibia’s resource-rich fisheries particularly prized. It emerged last year that a fifth of the country’s MPs hold shares in fishing companies.
 The Namibian newspaper spoke of “a coterie of well-heeled vampires sucking the sector dry”
“No amount of firing of ministers and convicting top officials will fix the looting of state resources, unless loopholes are closed,” the paper wrote. “Corruption is firmly entrenched through laws and policies. It is systemic, and the looters are getting more and more sophisticated to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary Namibians.”
SOYMB has no doubt that this case is just one of many in many other countries in what is an endemic looting of Africa's natural resources

Patriotic Poison

The virus of nationalism is spreading. Welsh and Scottish nationalist tricksters preach independence from the UK as some sort of panacea for ending poverty. The global capitalist economy is in a crisis. Millions are feeling the hardship and misery of living under a system which puts profits before needs. Not understanding the capitalist system, they seek someone to blame. Deceived by their masters, they seek security in isolationist policies behind fortified borders. In Britain, Brexiteer nationalists wrap their Union Jack around them and give thanks that they are not born foreigners.

Plaid Cymru argue that it is “London government” that causes our problems. The solution, apparently, is Cardiff government. This is nonsense. Our problems are not caused by London government but, as elsewhere, by the class monopoly of the means of production, in short, by capitalism. Their solution lies not in nationalism, which is a delusion and a snare, but in world socialism.

Is nationalism about freeing an oppressed people, liberating them from exploitation. Catalonia is Spain’s wealthiest region—but half of the income tax and value-added tax generated in the region, along with a percentage of some other taxes, goes to Spain’s government. According to Reuters, the region pays $12 billion more to Spain than it gets back—the equivalent of five percent of its regional economic output. So it’s all about refusing to share its prosperity with the disadvantaged regions of Spain.

The obsession about independence is one which socialists confront all the time. We confront it from leftists who divide their time between paying lip service to the idea of workers of the world uniting and supporting the nationalism of this or that “people”.

Can revolution today come wrapped in the Scottish Saltire or a Welsh dragon as the left nationalists suggest? Should workers be motivated by a desire to “save Scotland or Wales from its rulers? Are the leftists the real patriots? Or is any form of nationalism class betrayal as the Socialist Party asserts?

The words in the Communist Manifesto that ’the workingmen have no country’ are today truer than ever before. It is not the function of socialism to support nationalism, even though the latter battles imperialism. But to fight imperialism without simultaneously discouraging nationalism means to fight some imperialists and to support others
In opposing Welsh and Scottish nationalism, socialists make it absolutely clear that we stand in bitter hostility to the arrogant nationalism of the so-called loyal Unionists, whose pathetic submission to a Queen who would not let her corgis live in some of the conditions the poor have to endure.

The Socialist Party, whose country is the planet Earth, does not underestimate the importance of cultural diversity. Socialism is a global solution to a global problem. The problem is that the Earth and all its abundant resources belong to the minority, not to the human community as a whole. The minority abuse the planet Earth for the purpose of making profits. This will require global organisation and not national fragmentation. Socialism will put an end to every border; nation-states will be abolished immediately. We, who produce the world’s wealth, must cast off the chains of nationalist illusion. We have a world to win.

All nationalist movements arises from a confused desire to see a united community. The aspiration to have a nation which belongs to you is in reality a desire to have a society which is yours — which you can feel a part of because it belongs to you. The same is true of Scottish and Welsh nationalism: these are not really movements by workers wanting Scottish and Welsh capitalists to dominate them — although that would be the effect of their unlikely success — but of alienated workers who want a society which they can call their own. Workers are right to want a society which we can call our own: a planet which belongs to humanity and local areas which we can take pride in as people who are no longer the tenants in a capitalist-owned world. To workers who are obsessed by nationalism The Socialist Party appeals with all of the passion which the nationalists use in their address to the working class: Come, let us unite as a class which has everything in common, everything to gain, a variety of cultures to develop — let us, indeed, have the world for the workers.

The working class must free themselves from the chains of nationalism and tackle their class problem on the basis of socialist understanding. Nationalism is a cloak that covers the real aims and interests of the ruling class of the major capitalist countries and is a hindrance to the development of a socialist movement. International solidarity and comradeship for a socialist world may seem at the moment a long way off; but it must come if we are to survive.

The only things that working people need to embrace are the undeniable truths that capitalism cannot work in our interest and the nationalist message is everywhere poisonous and divisive, embracing the notion that capitalism is somehow better when administrated locally. We do not notice that even now, today, we are standing on the very threshold of that post-scarcity world. All we have to do, as individuals, is take one step.

In Cardiff Central, Brian Johnson, is the Socialist Party candidate.
In Folkestone & Hythe, the Socialist Party candidate is Andy Thomas