Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Nowhere People

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the world is witnessing the highest level of displacement on record with 22.5 million refugees, over half of them under 18, languishing in different parts of the world in search of a normal life.

Persecuted in their country of origin, Myanmar, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in the world at three million — have found shelter across vast swathes of Asia including in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh alone, who now face the onset of the monsoon season in flimsy shelters. Around 40,000 Rohingyas have trickled into India over the past three years to cities like New Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Jammu where their population is the largest. Some had settled in the Kalindi Kunj camp that was set up in 2012 by a non-profit on a 150-odd square metre plot that it owns. A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants.

The camp’s occupants worked as daily wage labourers or were employed with private companies. A few even ran kirana (grocery) kiosks near the camp. Most of these refugees had landed in Delhi after failed stints in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh or Jammu (a northern Indian city), where they were repeatedly targeted by radical Hindu groups. Last August  the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party government abruptly asked the country’s 29 states to identify illegal immigrants for deportation –  including, the guidance said, Rohingya Muslims who had fled Myanmar. Some critics also pointed out that the Rohingyas were being targeted by the ruling Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party government because they were Muslims.  To keep a strict vigil against the Rohingyas’ influx, the Indian government has specially stationed 6,000 soldiers on the India-Bangladesh border. Rohingya groups have been lobbying to thwart their deportation to their native land and  have demanded that they be allowed to stay on in India.

Nurudddin, 56, who lost all his belongings and papers in the Kalindi Kunj fire, told IPS that he has been living like a vagabond since he fled Myanmar with his wife and four children in 2016. “We left Myanmar to go to Bangladesh but we faced a lot of hardships there too. I couldn’t get a job, there was no proper food or accommodation. We arrived in Delhi last year with a lot of hope but so far things haven’t been going too well here either,” said the frail man with a grey beard.

“Rather than resent their presence, India should accept the Rohingyas as it has other migrants,” elaborates Dr. Ranjan Biswas, ex-professor sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis which will usher in peace and stability in the region.”

Remembering Rana Plaza

 Yesterday, Bangladesh marks the fifth anniversary of the deadliest disaster in the garment industry, which killed more than 1,130 and injured around 2,500 workers, when the Rana Plaza building collapsed in the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka. The building had housed five garment factories that manufactured clothes for many international clothing brands in Europe and North America. Investigations would later reveal that besides shoddy construction, the building had too many floors and too much heavy equipment for the structure to withstand.

Five years after the biggest industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history, no relief seems to be in sight for the thousands of survivors who are suffering from severe physical and psychological trauma.

"I can't even think of going near a multi-story building. I become scared and feel nervous. It reminds me of the horror I faced when the Rana Plaza building collapsed," says Lufta Akter, a 36-year-old sewing machine operator, who was on the building's 5th floor when disaster struck on April 24, 2013. But Lufta Akter received only a donation of a few hundred euros after the incident. She has yet to receive any compensation for the accident that has ground her life to a halt. "Since the accident I can't remember faces anymore, I forget things easily. I am paralyzed by fear and memory loss," she said.  Her only hope is to get compensation, which could help her livelihood in the future.

Mahbuba Akter was on the 7th floor of the Rana Plaza when it collapsed, sustaining injuries to her neck, back and left knee when she fell as the roof caved above her. Nevertheless, the 30-year-old single mother has had to fend for her family and now works at a single-story garment factory as she fears working in high-rise buildings.

"Whenever I hear a loud sound around me, I panic. I don't know what to do. I feel like I'm dying and there's nobody to help me out," she told DW. Mahbuba now earns far less than what she did at Rana Plaza, as she has turned down job offers from bigger factories because of her psychological trauma. She hopes to open a tailoring shop one day. However, the few hundred euro donations she received after the tragic incident are not enough to fulfill her dream. "I have heard that a discussion is going on to compensate us for the damage caused by the collapse. But we haven't received anything even five years after the incident. Had I received a good amount of money as compensation, I would have built my own shop," she said.

Mahmudul Hasan Hridoy was stuck under the debris for 20 hours, resulting in the loss of his right leg. He drank urine and blood from the dead bodies around him to stay alive. Having lost everything because of this disaster, he decided to fight for victims like himself and formed an organization called the "Rana Plaza Survivors Association." Mahmudul told DW that the victims of the accident have yet to receive any compensation. "We have received donations from various sources, but no compensation as yet. Each victim of the disaster should receive €48,000 as compensation," he demanded. Mahmudul believes that the Bangladeshi authorities have received vast sums of money meant for the survivors, none of which has reached the victims. While the victims believe that compensation might help in their rehabilitation, Bangladesh has no standard form of compensation for the death or injury of garment workers.

 A recent survey by ActionAid Bangladesh, an international non-profit federation, reveals that nearly 48 percent of the survivors of the Rana Plaza incident are out of employment due to their physical and mental weaknesses. The report stressed that apart from mental trauma, many survivors suffer from headaches as well as hand, leg and backaches, which left them unable to return to work in Bangladesh's multibillion-dollar garment industryBangladesh's garment industry has been growing at a reasonable speed. The $24 billion generated in garment exports in 2013 is projected to increase to $30 billion this year. The sector contributes nearly 80 percent to the nation's total export earnings.

Farah Kabir, the country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, says "A high-level committee that was formed on the order of the High Court in 2013 had submitted a standard for compensation, but the High Court's verdict on the proceedings is pending till now. Thus even after five years, there is yet to be any standard in paying compensation to garment workers." 

"Workers in thousands of subcontracting factories, many of them young women, continue to work under unacceptably dangerous conditions," Michael Posner of New York University's Stern Center for Business and Human Rights said in a statement.

A  report - "Five Years After Rana Plaza: The Way Forward" estimated that up to 3,000 subcontractors help "mother factories manage their export workload". For many suppliers, subcontracting is a vital business practice that helps to compensate for ever-increasing production pressures, said report co-author Dorothée Baumann-Pauly.

"With falling prices and faster fashion, the need to rely on subcontractors may be greater than ever for suppliers, despite the risks involved in the practice," she said. Among the risks for workers, the report said, are that many smaller factories ignore safety rules, and operate out of unsafe buildings that lack fire exits, alarms and extinguishers. 

Despite the progress on safety, Bangladesh's garment workers remain among the worst-paid in the world, a compensation report released by Fair Labor Association (FLA) stated. The legal minimum wage of $66 is below the World Bank's global poverty line of $85 and the Asia Floor Wage of $454. That means many workers must work overtime to supplement their wages, the FLA's report said. Overtime income accounts for 20 percent of their salary, it said, and half of the workers put in more than 60 hours a week despite the impact on their health. 

"The work pressure, production targets, forced overtime and lack of social security makes the garment worker very vulnerable even today," said Babul Akhter of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers' Federation.

Solidarity with fellow-workers

A union for gig economy workers has saved the jobs of cleaners at the London offices of accountancy giant EY. A group of 65 workers contracted through outsourcing company ISS, were told last month that some would lose their jobs and others may be given reduced hours in reforms aimed at achieving “operational effectiveness and financial efficiency”.  ISS, which posted revenues of £9.4bn last year, said it had agreed these changes with EY. Following action by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), ISS wrote to the workers on Monday telling them that it had cancelled the planned redundancies and reduction in hours. The U-turn came after IWGB staged two protests, the first of which took place inside the accountancy giant’s offices at More London Place near London Bridge. Protesters entered the building and distributed leaflets informing other employees at EY about the redundancies. The second protest was at the Tate Modern where EY is sponsoring the Picasso exhibition.
“If the workers weren’t unionised ISS could have just done this quietly and nobody would have known about it," said IWGB president Henry Chango Lopez. "This is the normal thing that companies do when workers are outsourced. What was going to happen was that the workers that were left after the redundancies would have had to do the jobs that their colleagues were doing. This victory shows that when workers get organised they can put pressure on employers to stop exploiting them and also send a clear message to other workers to join a union.”
It is the latest in a string of victories for IWGB. In February it became the first union in the UK to be recognised for the purposes of collective bargaining with a gig economy company. The Central Arbitration Committee ruled that The Doctors’ Laboratory, which delivers blood supplies for the NHS should recognise the IWGB, meaning that it can bargain on behalf of couriers for the company.

The number of zero-hours contracts in the UK labour market rose by about 100,000 last year, according to the Office for National Statistics. There were 1.8 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours in the year to November 2017. The equivalent number in November 2016 was 1.7 million

Ending Homelessness

The true scale of homelessness in the UK is almost 10 times worse than official figures suggest, according to a new report from the homeless charity Justlife.
It warns thousands of people are being “forgotten in statistics” after it estimated that at least 51,500 people were living in B&Bs in the year to April 2016 – compared with 5,870 official B&B placements recorded by the government.
It comes after a separate investigation found that 78 homeless people died last winter – an average of at least two a week. Megan Lucero, director of Bureau Local, which surveyed dozens of homeless charities, trawled local press reports and pieced together figures to create a database of homeless deaths, said: “Local journalists and charities are often the only ones recording these deaths. 
Christa Maciver, author of the report, said: “We can no longer ignore the tens of thousands of people stuck homeless, hidden and ignored in our cities. This report shows there is so much we don’t know and that we really need to be calculating homelessness more accurately. Very few seem to care about the vulnerable people who end up in B&Bs, hostels and guesthouses. Once they are there they are forgotten and it’s almost like we forget they are people.  Their mental and physical health gets worse, and many can end up dead, but because they have a roof over their head – no matter how insecure – they are not counted within homelessness, when they should be. Only if we acknowledge the problem will we really be able to start finding solutions.”
 A report commissioned by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) earlier this month estimated more than 100,000 households would be living in B&Bs, hostels and other forms of temporary housing by 2020.

Yemen - No Apologies

The UK government has said that its heart “goes out” to relatives of people killed when a Saudi-led air strike bombed a wedding which left 20 people dead including the bride, but that it still refuses to halt arms sales to the country.

Foreign minister Harriet Baldwin said she stood by the UK’s on-going arms trade with Saudi, worth £4.6bn since the start of the Yemen conflict, arguing that the Middle Eastern country has adequate systems to ensure operations comply with international law. She did not explicitly criticise Saudi Arabia or even say that she condemned the attack. Instead, she addressed her words at all sides of the conflict. She said the UK would be a “candid friend” to Saudi Arabia, encouraging the country’s leaders to the negotiating table – but also advising and training Saudi military personnel.

 Ministry of Defence’s own figures shows there have been 42 potential violations of international humanitarian law in just three months at the beginning of 2018. That was compared to 66 incidents throughout the whole of last year.  Of 17,000 Saudi-led coalition air strikes, one third have hit non-military targets.

 Many observers find troubling is not just a lack of willingness for humanitarian intervention on the part of EU countries, but a lack of willingness to even condemn the aggression. Because EU nations such as Britain and France have close ties to Saudi Arabia through the arms trade and other economic arrangements, many are often silent when civilians are killed by the kingdom's airstrikes, which have killed thousands of the up to 10,000 people who have died in Yemen's conflict. In April 2016, according to Reuters, more than 60 percent of the deaths in Yemen were caused by Saudi airstrikes. France and the UK also have close political alliances with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who leads the kingdom. According to Reuters, French defense contractors delivered €2 billion in equipment to Saudi Arabia in 2015. Statistics published by Britain's Department for International Trade in October showed that in the first half of 2017, arms sales from the UK to Saudi Arabia topped €1.25 billion.

Refugees are another reason why EU nations have been so interested in bringing Syria's civil war to an end while largely ignoring Yemen's. Up to 1 million of the more than 11 million displaced Syrians have sought refuge from the war in EU countries. The situation is different with Yemen. Instead of attempting to reach Europe as refugees via a nearly impossible land route that would force them to transit Saudi Arabia and possibly Syria, Iraq or both, displaced people there are fleeing to the remaining safe areas within the country. About 3 million people are internally displaced within Yemen, and unless they attempt to make the dangerous journey to Europe, the EU simply has less of a stake in the conflict than it does in Syria's civil war

Fracking Nonsense

The UK would have to build 6,100 wells to replace just 50 per cent of gas imports between 2021 and 2035, a new study has found, casting doubt on Conservative calls a US-style fracking “revolution” in the UK at the last general election. And if the quantities of gas produced per well was at the lower end of the amount forecast, the report suggests the number of wells required could rise to as many as 16,500 in total. 

 A new study by Cardiff Business School has found that one well would have to be drilled and fracked every day for 15 years for half of gas imports to be replaced.

Rose Dickinson, from Friends of the Earth said: “This would mean an industrialisation of our countryside at a rate that nobody has yet fully appreciated and would put many more communities in the firing line of this dirty and unwanted industry.”

Daniel Carey-Dawes, senior infrastructure campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "The fracking industry has always been clear that fracked gas would replace what's currently imported, but what wasn't clear was the scale of land take that would involve. The many thousands of wells that would be needed, peppered across our precious landscapes, would cause harm to the English countryside on an industrial scale.

The report concludes that “there is no evidence that fracked gas can be brought to market at sufficiently low cost, and sufficiently great volume to make any significant profit, or to make any difference to the UK energy security position.”


The US Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a man sentenced to 241 years in prison for a crime he committed when he was 16 years old. They did not give a reason for their decision.

Bobby Bostic committed several violent crimes in 1995. The teenage Bostic had robbed people delivering Christmas presents at gunpoint, shot and injured a man, and stole a car.  The judge who sentenced him has since said: "This is the only one where I regret the amount of time I gave. The amount of time is ridiculous."

Bostic will not be eligible for parole until he is 112. Bostic's lawyers wrote in their petition that the unfair sentencing meant Bostic, "who committed only nonhomicide offenses as a 16 year old, will never be fit to rejoin society, no matter how successfully he demonstrates maturity and reform as an adult".

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Power to no one, and to every one!

The Socialist Party advocates social revolution, one that can be brought about by parliamentary means. We welcome any upsurge in the militancy and resistance and organisation of our class. But we also know, from bitter experience, that work of an altogether quieter, patient, more political kind is also needed. The working class as a whole must understand the issues, and organise and fight for these ends themselves and unlike some on the Left, we do say it has to be by organising a political party for the conquest of state power.  To achieve socialism requires a clear understanding of socialist principles with a determined desire to put them into practice. For socialism to be established the mass of the people must understand the nature and purpose of the new society. Our theory of socialist revolution is grounded in Marx's - the position of the working class within capitalist society forces it to struggle against capitalist conditions of existence and as the workers gained more experience of the class struggle and the workings of capitalism, the labour movement would become more consciously socialist and democratically organised by the workers themselves and would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it. Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary but would be carried out by workers themselves whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. Marx’s “the workers’ party to be", would be the mass democratic movement of the working class with a view to establishing socialism. We fully accept that it is the responsibility of the Socialist Party to challenge capitalist apologists and pseudo-socialists in the battle of ideas and that requires talking to, leafleting and debating and engaging with our fellow workers.

The Socialist Party is well aware that revolution will not "simply" be the result of our propaganda efforts. Our appeal to workers is upon the basis of class interest and our appeal will be successful because the class struggle generates class consciousness in workers. The growth of socialist consciousness and organisation will allow workers to prosecute the class struggle more effectively. Socialist consciousness won't entirely emerge "spontaneously" out of the day-to-day struggle, which is given as an excuse for not advocating socialism by those such as Trotskyists who think it will. It has been claimed by some of them that all socialists need to do is to get involved in the day to day struggle. The justification for advocating socialism as such is that socialist ideas do have to be brought to workers, though not from outside, from the "bourgeois intelligentsia" or the "proletarian vanguard", but from inside, from members of the working class who have come to see that socialism is the way-out. We, socialists, are members of the working class spreading socialist ideas amongst our fellow workers. We are (if you like) part of the "spontaneous" process of the emergence of socialist consciousness.

There are two models of revolution prevalent in the Socialist Party:
(a) the snowball theory, that once a certain stage has been reached, socialist consciousness will grow at an exponential rate and a majority will be reached in a relatively short time, and
(b) the avalanche theory, that once that certain stage has been reached mass socialist consciousness will come suddenly. 

Both these views reject the view that the growth of socialist consciousness will be a simple 1+1+1 progression as individual workers are "converted" one by one, which is attributed to us.

As socialists we are engaged in a necessarily contradictory struggle: on the one hand we propose the abolition of the wages system as an immediately practical alternative, but on the other, we recognise the need of workers to fight the wages struggle within capitalism. But, as socialists, our main energies must be directed towards the former objective. We could endeavour to remove this distinction between the trade union struggle within capitalism and the socialist struggle against capitalism by adopting the ideas propounded by DeLeon, who at one time advocated that socialists should form their own "revolutionary unions" but their failure is a very important case study of the danger of imagining those capitalist institutions such as trade unions can be easily converted (or substituted) into socialist bodies. They demonstrate that capitalism cannot be transcended from within.

It is very probable that as more socialists come into the movement groups of them will have involvements in all kinds of areas of the class struggle, ranging from strike committees to anti-racist or anti-sexist awareness groups to people's theatre projects to libertarian education projects. However involved individual members may or may not be in what is going on outside the Socialist Party, we certainly need to be aware that workers are doing things which, often unknowingly, are contributing to the evolution of class consciousness. Not everything has to have the stamp of approval of the Socialist Party for it to be non-reformist and contributory to the evolution which precedes revolution. The Socialist Party tries to guard against appearing to be the sole agent of the socialist transformation. Our main task is to find better ways of expressing our message to as many workers as possible, to evolve a strategy so that we use our resources well and to retain our confidence in the face of the immense frustration and pessimism which socialists often encounter.

The working class has nothing to gain and everything to lose by relying on leaders. Leadership is one of those problematic words that needs qualifying. When we say “don’t follow leaders” we mean by this something very specific – a narrow political sense of the term – to denote the idea of surrendering power to an individual or group to change society on our behalf. We are not promoting the false idea that socialism is about “making everyone equal” in their endowments, abilities and so on. There will always exist those who will be better orators or write more lucidly than others.

A socialist party must be a party of no compromise. Its mission is to point the way to the goal and it refuses to leave the main road the side-tracked that lead into the swamp of reformism. Nor does a socialist party advocate violence in the labor movement because it knows the capitalist class has the advantage. It is not cowardice but common sense and it is not heroism that makes a fool rock a boat in deep water, it is idiocy.

The capitalist class can gerrymander elections, miscount and steal votes, plus resort to a thousand and one other political tricks, but such is simply to tamper with a thermometer, it cannot change the temperature. And the temperature is the organised power of the working class.
Bill Martin

Adam Buick

Kevin Parkin


The Tories have been hounding 'SS Windrush' immigrants (invited here
by the Government in 1948) to prove they are British or be deported.

Those harridans named May and Rudd,
Left 'Windrush' settlers in the lurch;
Rudd's Office is now mired in crud, (1)
May salves her conscience knelt in church. (2)
They've both pursued a hostile feud,
'Gainst those once new to the UK;
A policy both cruel and crude,
To force some immigrants away.

They've also bashed the unemployed,
The sick, disabled and the poor;
The Tories need the help of Freud,
And us to show them to the door.
There's nothing they will not stoop to,
To keep themselves in government;
We need an ocean of Jeyes Bloo,
To rid us of such excrement.

May summed it up some years ago,
“The Nasty Party” through and through; (3)
That’s for the lowest of the low,
The racists that she panders to.
Each person a mere voters card,
And right-wing ideology;
Means keeping power with no holds barred,
And using snob kidology.

So what is it with those dim wits,
Who vote for Tories every time?
A Party that's the very pits,
Engaged in anti-social slime?
Are the electors none too smart?
Are they just low life from the pond?
As every five years they take part,
And let themselves be truly Conned.

(1) Amber Rudd described her department's action as, “appalling” but
her Home Office officials have only been pursuing Government policies.

(2) Whilst Home Secretary, May boasted that she'd create a, ”really hostile
environment” for illegal immigrants, following the Tory pledge  to reduce
immigration numbers to unrealistic levels following the success of UKIP.

(3) “You know what people call us: the nasty party” . T. May 2002.

© Richard Layton

The Colour Question

A landmark US study in 2011 found that light-skinned black women receive shorter prison sentences than dark-skinned black women. In 2015, another study found that white interviewers regarded light-skinned black and Hispanic job applicants as more intelligent than darker-skinned interviewees with the same qualifications. Cynthia Sims, of Southern Illinois University, found a gap in career opportunities between dark- and light-skinned women in India, while a Seattle University study by Sonora Jha and Mara Adelman found that the chances for a dark-skinned Indian woman dating online were “nonexistent”. Studies have consistently shown that in the competitive market for jobs and marriage, lighter skin has advantages. And now, in the digital age, accessing the products and know-how to gain that advantage has never been easier.

Not all products that purport to lighten the skin are illegal, but many creams from outside the EU contain chemicals banned under safety regulations. These include mercury and hydroquinone – which with prolonged use are linked to poisoning, skin damage and liver and kidney malfunction – and corticosteroids, which in the UK are prescription-only products. Misuse of corticosteroid creams is associated with thinning of the skin, an increased chance of skin cancer and, counterintuitively, darkening of the skin.

It’s difficult to pinpoint how many people are using skin-lighteners – legal or otherwise – in the UK, but around the world, business is booming. In 2017, the global skin-lightening industry was worth $4.8bn (£3.4bn), and it is projected to grow to $8.9bn by 2027, fuelled by a growing middle class in the Asia-Pacific region. Skin-lightening products include creams, scrubs, pills and even injections designed to slow the production of melanin. Many of these are created by pharmaceutical giants such as Unilever, Proctor and Gamble and L’Oreal and come with massive marketing budgets. A World Health Organization study found that 40% of Chinese women regularly use skin-lightening creams. That number is 61% in India and 77% in Nigeria. It stands to reason that diaspora communities will be influenced.

“People used to say skin ‘bleaching’, but it’s such a loaded term now. Instead, people use the neutral ‘lightening’, and increasingly common is the appetising ‘brightening’, which was pushed heavily by the major  companies.”  says Steve Garner, the head of criminology and sociology at Birmingham City University, who last year undertook the first British sociological study into skin-lightening.

Population matters less than we think

The fertility rate is the number of children born for every woman of child-bearing age in a population. The things that tend to affect it include female empowerment, wellbeing and the status of children, technological and economic changes, and opportunities for family planning.
The level of education in a society – of women in particular – is one of the most important predictors for the number of children families have.
The global average fertility rate is just below 2.5 children per woman today. Over the last 50 years the global fertility rate has halved, as some of these factors bore down on family sizes.
In the pre-modern era, fertility rates of 4.5 to 7 children per woman were common. At that time, high mortality rates of young people kept population growth low. As health improved, the population growth rate began to soar, only flattening out as the fertility rate declined towards 2 children per woman. A record number of women now use contraception. Figures from the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs show 64% of married and cohabiting women used modern or traditional methods of contraception in 2015 – a significant rise from 36% in 1970. But the figures show wide disparities between and within regions and countries.
Africa has the lowest percentage of women using contraceptives, and the highest unmet need in the world. Despite this, some African countries have made the biggest leaps in contraception use over the past 40 years and are projected to make the greatest gains in the next 15.
In Mauritius, rapid population growth in the early 60s led the government to launch a family planning programme, and the country now boasts the highest rates (75.5%) on the continent. 
The decline in Bangladesh’s fertility rate is a significant achievement in a densely populated, predominantly Muslim nation. In 1975, the average family size was 6.3 children; by 2017, this had come down to just over two.
An indication of this is that in 2004 stunting levels (impaired growth and brain development) in the population were as high as 51%. Over the last 10 years this has dropped to 36%, though this still means more than one-third of under-fives are stunted.
Where women have control over their own fertility, there are gains well beyond their own families. The bigger picture is that with increased gender parity, women’s education and employment opportunities have improved and so have many health and economic indicators.
If birthrates have fallen so far, why is the population still rising fast?
Of course, fertility rates are just half the story. People are living longer – far longer in some parts of the world. About 55m people die every year, which is less than half the number who are born.
The number of children who die before reaching their fifth birthday has fallen to an all-time low: it is currently less than half what it was in 1990.
A child’s chance of survival is still vastly different depending on where they are born.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest under-five mortality rate – 79 deaths for every 1,000 births, which means that one child in 13 die before their fifth birthday. This compares with six for every 1,000 in Europe and northern America and four for every 1,000 in Australia and New Zealand.
At the same time, life expectancy is higher than 80 in 30 countries and higher than 70 in more than 100 countries.
This year, the number of people worldwide who are over 60 will rise above 1 billion for the first time. By 2050, it is forecast to be 2 billion. This raises the question: who will pay for them?
Falling birth rates can mean fewer young workers entering the labour force at a time when the healthcare and social support costs associated with ageing are likely to rise.
But ageing populations can be a cause for celebration. It means development has taken place.  In Japan, for example, the introduction of universal health coverage meant more treatment for high blood pressure, and therefore fewer strokes. Many more mature members of society  have not just greater life expectancy but also be healthier for longer.
Taken from here

Monday, April 23, 2018

Vote for a Change

The Socialist Party’s case that socialism will be established by the conscious democratic political action of a majority of workers using the electoral machinery, which in this country means parliament. Only a democratically elected socialist majority can introduce socialism after the capture of the machinery of government. Should an anti-socialist, undemocratic minority attempt to sabotage or disrupt social organisation and administration, a socialist society would necessarily take such action as was requisite to ensure social harmony. the democratic state has been forced, against its will, to bring into being methods, institutions, and procedures which have left open the road to power for the workers to travel upon when they know what to do and how to do it. In this country the central institution through which power is exercised is Parliament. To merely send working-class nominees there to control it is not sufficient. The purpose must be to accomplish a revolutionary reorganisation of society, a revolution, in its basis, which will put everybody on an equal footing as participants in the production, distribution and consumption of social requirements as well as in control of society itself.

Politicians spread one of the biggest myths which keep people voting for them and it is that it is possible to "run" capitalism. With no steering wheel, no brakes and no happy end in sight, capitalism is never short of prospective aspiring "drivers" who will do and say anything for a chance to sit up front in the drivers seat. They try to persuade us that they can control market forces until the next crisis exposes that lie, whereupon the politician quickly blames foreigners, . Evidence for the chaotic nature of capitalism is not scarce. The Socialist Party's candidates' mission is simple. No promises of "I'll do this and I'll do that for my constituents", no flattery, no sweet talk. If you vote for the Socialist Party you won't get a wage rise or a tax cut. If you vote for us now, it's not because we've conned you into it with policies full of promises and pledges. We proceed with our advocacy and education until the working class have understood the fundamental facts of their position—the facts that because they do not own the means by which they live they are commodities on the market, never bought unless the buyers (the owners of the means of life) can see a profit to themselves in the transaction, always sold when the opportunity offers because in that only can the necessaries of life be obtained. We have to emphasise the fact that no appreciable change is possible in the working-class condition while they remain commodities, and that the only method by which the alteration can be wrought is by the working class taking the means of life out of the hands of those who at present hold them, and whose private ownership is the cause of the trouble.

Our position is that politicians, whatever their intentions, are actually retarding the development of the only organisation of the working class that can enter into effective conflict with the forces of capitalism. By association with capitalist representatives in both political and economic affairs they induce the idea (which capitalism does everything possible to foster) that the hostility does not exist. But until that fact is clearly understood there can be no material improvement in the workers' condition. It is unfortunate, of course, that the workers do not understand. It makes the task of those who are concerned with the overthrow of capitalism, and the emancipation of the working class from wage-slavery, very difficult. The results of their work seem so very slow a-coming. And some of them tire and drop out of the movement, and others curse the stupidity of the working class, while others again weary of the work, endeavour to secure some immediate consolation by pandering to the ignorance they once may have thought to dispel, and so simply increase the difficulties in the way. The point of the battle should be to put an end to the dirty job of running capitalism.

 For so long as capitalist political parties and their agents control the law-making bodies, the armed forces, courts and police, the administrative and tax-gathering departments, local councils, etc, all organisations and actions, whether industrial or political, are strictly limited in their scope because whenever the government decides that a vital capitalist interest is seriously threatened it will use all of its powers to protect capitalist property and privilege. The government's ability to take such action depends on the willingness of the workers in government administration, the armed forces, and police, etc to carry out orders. When the socialist movement becomes much stronger among the working class generally it will increasingly influence the outlook and sympathies of workers in the administration, armed forces, etc and the government's freedom of action will be correspondingly lessened.

The Coal Wars have not ended

Wilma Steele is one of the founders of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, located in Matewan. The region has a rich history of people banding together and pushing back against the industry, dating back to the West Virginia Mine Wars. The wars, which took place from 1910 to 1922—starting with the first official strike in 1912—involved more than 10,000 miners who went on strike repeatedly over low wages and deadly working conditions. The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum chronicles it all, from the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912-13 (one of the worst conflicts in American labor history) to the 1920 Battle of Matewan and the Battle of Blair Mountain with 10,000 miners on strike in the largest armed uprising of U.S. citizens outside of wartime, and federal troops were called in to break it up. 

 As immigrants came off the boats in New York, they were offered jobs at the mine, given places to live in their own area of Matewan, and assigned to a shift where they worked according to ethnicity of origin. Cultures were not shared and other languages were not learned, all of which was a tool of the mine owners to avoid unionization—when the miners didn’t know each other, they could resent each other and animosity could grow, which kept them from finding common ground for demanding fair wages and safe conditions. Ultimately, the groups did meet, talk and unionize.  Red bandannas were worn as a simple way to tell who was on their side. One origin of the word “redneck” derives from these bandannas: the term, which is now used with some amount of xenophobia to refer to small-minded people who typically live in rural Southern areas, in this sense is actually a symbol of diversity and working together for a common good.

“Today,” Steele explains “without the unions bringing people together, there is more bigotry. Just how they’ve always wanted it, keeping workers apart instead of fighting together.” 

“The mines used to own people by owning their homes, their stores, their churches, their schools,” Steele says. “Now, they don’t need to, because they own people’s minds. It’s much more psychological.” 

The coal companies donate money to the local schools, she says, so the teachers will endorse the industry. In response to reports of coal-based pollution and sick children, it was the teachers who wrote to the paper to discredit the accusations as liberal propaganda, Steele says, and it wasn’t until a reporter visited Marsh Fork Elementary School and with his finger wiped up a layer of coal dirt to show to the camera that the area finally started to take notice. Today’s workers are paid good wages and when they are fired, it’s blamed on the increasing government regulations that cost King Coal money in upkeep. But the regulations are necessary for the people to live, because they affect their own drinking water and air quality, their own children’s welfare. many miners blame the union and the government for the hard times miners are facing as interest in coal diminishes. From the union perspective, the main reason people are losing their jobs is that the mine owners didn’t want to lose money by keeping up with regulations when they could afford it.

When the victims from the Upper Big Branch explosion in 2010 when 29 miners died as the result of an explosion, were autopsied, it was revealed that 71 percent of them suffered from black lung, the deadly coal dust disease. The industry average is 3.2 percent.

In the neighbouring state of Kentucky a new law will prevent federally-certified radiologists from judging X-rays black lung compensation claims, leaving diagnoses of the disease mostly to physicians who typically work for coal companies. The legislation requires that only pulmonologists — doctors who specialize in the lungs and respiratory system — assess diagnostic black lung X-rays when state black lung claims are filed. Up until now, radiologists, who work in evaluating all types of X-rays and other diagnostic images, had been allowed to diagnose the disease as well. Just six pulmonologists in Kentucky have the federal certification to read black lung X-rays and four of them routinely are hired by coal companies or their insurers.  Those who work for coal companies tend to be conservative in assessing black lung because the coal companies or their insurers pay black lung benefits. The two remaining pulmonologists have generally assessed X-rays on behalf of coal miners but one is semi-retired and his federal certification expires June 1.

"It is curious to me that the legislators feel that the pulmonologist is more qualified to interpret a chest radiograph than a radiologist is," Dr. DePonte said. "This is primarily what radiologists do. It is radiologists who receive all the special training in reading X-rays and other imaging."

Dr. Edward Petsonk, a pulmonologist at West Virginia University with decades of experience and research focused on black lung, points to a 1999 report of pass-fail statistics for physicians taking the NIOSH B reader examination. Two-thirds of the radiologists passed, while the success rate for pulmonologists was 54 percent.

Among the radiologists excluded by the law is Dr. Brandon Crum, who helped expose the biggest clusters ever documented of complicated black lung, the advanced stage of the fatal disease that strikes coal miners. Dr. Crum is the most visible of the excluded radiologists. His clinic in Coal Run Village, Ky., was the focus of a 2016 study by epidemiologists from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). They verified 60 cases of complicated black lung that had been diagnosed in a period of about 20 months in 2015 and 2016. NIOSH had previously reported 99 cases nationwide over a five-year period. At the same time, NPR and Ohio Valley ReSource reported nearly 1,000 cases across central Appalachia, prompting NIOSH epidemiologists to declare it the worst epidemic of complicated black lung they'd ever seen. Our ongoing survey of black lung clinics and law offices has the current count of advanced black lung diagnoses at more than 2,200 since 2010.

"Throughout the United States, I know of nowhere where radiologists are taken completely out of the evaluation for potential black lung disease," Dr. Crum said. "That's what we're primarily trained in."

Physicians who read chest X-rays for work-related diseases like black lung are known as "B readers" and are certified by NIOSH for both federal and state compensation claims. B readers do not specifically have to be pulmonologists or radiologists, though they can be both. Radiologists, on the other hand, focus entirely on reading multiple types of X-rays and other diagnostic images. The law also bars out-of-state radiologists who are both NIOSH-certified B readers and medically-licensed in Kentucky. That includes Dr. Kathleen DePonte, a radiologist in Norton, Va., who has read more than 100,000 black lung X-rays in the past 30 years.

 Rep. Adam Koenig, a Republican from Erlanger is the primary sponsor of the changes in the law and admitted  he "relied on the expertise of those who understand the issue — the industry, coal companies and attorneys."

"I do believe the coal industry is writing this bill to exclude certain doctors that they don't like," said Phillip Wheeler, an attorney in Pikeville, Ky., who represents coal miners seeking state black lung benefits.

 Evan Smith, an attorney at the Appalachian Citizens' Law Center in Whitesburg said the new state law "keeps Kentucky coal miners from using highly qualified and reliable experts to prove their state black lung claims [and] looks like just another step in the race to the bottom to gut worker protections."