Thursday, February 23, 2017

What is being poor?

In 2008 the World Bank raised its Global Poverty Line from $1.00 to $1.25 per day, then raised it again to $1.90 in 2015, taking inflation and other factors into account. Using these figures there are now some 700 million people living in extreme poverty. These thresholds tell us nothing meaningful.

It should be obvious that even if poverty (at $1.90) is declining, this is a very low bar, and rising above it (going from $1.90 to $2.30 or $3.15) still leaves you poor. Thinking about the difference between extreme poverty, or dire poverty, or just plain poverty is something only rich people can afford to do; ask someone who has moved from a dollar to a dollar and a half (a spectacular 50% jump) and we might find that person feeling no different than before, or even poorer.

Poverty is a matter of position, where one is in a society.

Indonesia's Inequality

The four richest men in Indonesia own as much wealth as the country’s poorest 100 million citizens, despite the nation’s president repeatedly pledging to fighting “dangerous” levels of inequality.

Oxfam highlighted Indonesia as one of the most unequal countries in the world, where the number of dollar billionaires has increased from one in 2002 to 20 in 2016.

The development charity worked out that the four richest Indonesians – led by brothers Budi and Michael Hartono – control $25bn of assets, which is roughly equal to the wealth of the poorest 40% of Indonesia’s 250 million population. The charity said the Hartonos – who own a clove cigarette company – could earn enough interest on their fortune in a year to eradicate extreme poverty in Indonesia.

Since 2000, economic growth has taken off in Indonesia,” Oxfam said in its report. “However, the benefits of growth have not been shared equally, and millions have been left behind especially women.”
Oxfam said that despite rapid growth in gross domestic product (GDP) – which averaged at 5% between 2000-2016 and caused the country to be included in economics Civets list of fast growing emerging nations – “poverty reduction slowed to a near standstill”. Based on the World Bank’s “moderate” poverty line of $3.10-a-day, some 93 million Indonesians are living poverty.

The growing numbers of millionaires and billionaires, when set against a backdrop of staggering poverty, confirms that it is the rich who are capturing the lion’s share of the benefits of the country’s much-vaunted economic performance, while millions of people at the bottom are being left behind,” Oxfam said.

Dini Widiastuti, spokesperson for Oxfam in Indonesia, said:
 “It is simply not right that the richest person in Indonesia earns more from the interest on his wealth in just one day than our poorest citizens spend on their basic needs in an entire year. Inequality in Indonesia is reaching crisis levels. If left unchecked, the huge gap between rich and poor could undermine the fight against poverty, exacerbate social instability, and put a brake on economic growth.”

Our food future


The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges, warns mankind’s future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate.

It says almost one half of the forests that once covered the Earth are now gone. Groundwater sources are being depleted rapidly. Biodiversity has been deeply eroded. As a result, “planetary boundaries may well be surpassed, if current trends continue,” cautions FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in his introduction to the report.

The core question raised by the new FAO report is whether, looking ahead, the world’s agriculture and food systems are capable of sustainably meeting the needs of a rising global population. The answer is “Yes” The explains the planet’s food systems are capable of producing enough food to do so, and in a sustainable way, but unlocking that potential – and ensuring that all of humanity benefits – will require Major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed if we are to meet the multiple challenges before us and realize the full potential of food and agriculture to ensure a secure and healthy future for all people and the entire planet,” it says. High-input, resource-intensive farming systems, which have caused massive deforestation, water scarcities, soil depletion and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, cannot deliver sustainable food and agricultural production,” adds the report.

The report emphasisesAccording to the report, without a push to invest in and re-tool food systems, far too many people will still be hungry in 2030 — the year by which the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda has targeted the eradication of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition, the report warns.
Without additional efforts to promote pro-poor development, reduce inequalities and protect vulnerable people, more than 600 million people would still be undernourished in 2030,” it says. In fact, the current rate of progress would not even be enough to eradicate hunger by 2050. Given the limited scope for expanding agriculture’s use of more land and water resources, the production increases needed to meet rising food demand will have to come mainly from improvements in productivity and resource-use efficiency, says FAO. However there are worrying signs that yield growth is leveling off for major crops. Since the 1990s, average increases in the yields of maize, rice, and wheat at the global level generally run just over 1 percent per annum, the report notes.
To tackle these and the other challenges outlined in the report, “business-as-usual” is not an option, The core challenge is to produce more with less, while preserving and enhancing the livelihoods of small-scale and family farmers, and ensuring access to food by the most vulnerable.  The world will need to shift to more sustainable food systems which make more efficient use of land, water and other inputs and sharply reduce their use of fossil fuels, leading to a drastic cut of agricultural green-house gas emissions, greater conservation of biodiversity, and a reduction of waste.
The FAO report identifies 15 trends and 10 challenges affecting the world’s food systems:
15 Trends:
• _A rapidly increasing world population marked by growth “hot spots,” urbanization, and aging
• _Diverse trends in economic growth, family incomes, agricultural investment, and economic inequality.
• _Greatly increased competition for natural resources
• _Climate change
• _Plateauing agricultural productivity
• _Increased conflicts, crises and natural disasters
• _Persistent poverty, inequality and food insecurity
• _Dietary transition affecting nutrition and health
• _Structural changes in economic systems and employment implications
• _Increased migration
• _Changing food systems and resulting impacts on farmers livelihoods
• _Persisting food losses and waste
• _New international governance mechanisms for responding to food and nutrition security issues
• _Changes in international financing for development.
10 Challenges:
_Sustainably improving agricultural productivity to meet increasing demand
• _Ensuring a sustainable natural resource base
• _Addressing climate change and intensification of natural hazards
• _Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality
• _Ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition
• _Making food systems more efficient, inclusive and resilient
• _Improving income earning opportunities in rural areas and addressing the root causes of migration
• _Building resilience to protracted crises, disasters and conflicts
• _Preventing trans-boundary and emerging agriculture and food system threats
• _Addressing the need for coherent and effective national and international governance
 But from the past record of capitalism, we can only expect failure to achieve sustainable food production that provides for peoples' needs. Next month's issue of the Socialist Standard will go into more detail of how we can adequately feed the world. 

American life expectancy blues

Imperial College London and the World Health Organization analysed lifespans in 35 industrialised countries.

The USA is on course to have the lowest life expectancy of rich countries by 2030. The study predicts an average age of 80 for men and 83 for women - roughly the same state Mexico and Croatia will have achieved. The US will be overtaken by Chile, where women born in 2030 will expect to live for 87 years and men for 81.

Prof Majid Ezzati told the BBC News website, "Society in the US is very unequal to an extent the whole national performance is affected - it is the only country without universal health insurance. And it is the first country that has stopped growing taller, which shows something about early life nutrition."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What a way to run the world

 We live in a world in which 800 million are malnourished, in which 600 million have no home, in which 1 billion have no access to clean water and in which over 1 billion have no work. Our world is racked by war and civil strife, crime is on the increase everywhere and racism and nationalism is again rearing its ugly head. Were this not enough we now face the threat of environmental catastrophe.

 These are not natural problems, they are social problems and all rooted in the way our world is organised for production – production for profit not social need. The terrible irony is that these are problems we are already capable of solving.

 While we destroy mountains of food, children starve. We employ 500,000 scientists world-wide on weapons programmes, while the world cries out for medical and technological breakthrough that. can directly benefit humanity. 

 Countless families sleep rough on the streets or the world's cities, yet there is no shortage of vacant building, stockpiled bricks and mortar and unemployed builders. We pollute the world, yet for 6 per cent of the money we spend on weapons each year we could provide 1 billion people in underdeveloped countries with solar power. The list is as endless as it is insane. Everywhere we look we are reminded of the maxim of capitalism: "can't pay, can't have". At every turn we find evidence that capitalism impoverishes our lives and retards real human development.

The alternative

 The World Socialist Movement, which dates back to 1904, believes the only way forward lies in the establishment of a world of free access. A world social system based upon the common ownership and democratic control of productive wealth by and in the interest of all people. Production for social need, not profit. A world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders, states or governments, money, wages, buying and selling. A world in which we all give freely of our abilities and take according to our needs, with all work being based on voluntary cooperation. A world devoid of force or coercion and in which we each have a real democratic voice.

 We reject that such a system can be brought about by force. World socialism will only come when a majority of the people of the world want socialism and are prepared to organise for it peacefully and democratically to get it. We further reject the idea that socialism has already been tried and has failed. We have always maintained that what was named 'socialism' was only ever state capitalism.

 We are a leaderless organisation consisting of a membership of equals. We have companion parties and members throughout the world, all sharing the same vision of a moneyless world. We make no promises and ask not to lead you. There is nothing we can do for the workers of the world that they are not capable of doing for themselves – after all, they already run the world from top to bottom. If we want change then we have to bring it about ourselves.

Dogs, Cats & Wage Slaves

 According to a recent news item, a study has shown that cats are as
intelligent as dogs ( ). But
could then be more intelligent?

 Dogs, specifically domesticated kind, are nature's sycophants. They beg.
They perform tricks upon command. Their tails wag upon the merest pat
from their masters. They are ever loyal. They know their place.

 Dogs do not reject their masters. As a canine Lenin might have observed,
the dog is incapable of reaching an independent consciousness. Urging
dogs to stand up for their dignity is as pointless as distributing
cleanliness manuals to rats.

 Cats, on the other hand, are remarkably sensitive to their own needs.
These are nature's materialists, ever heading to where food and shelter
is available and there settling for as long as their needs are satisfied
and their human providers leave them alone. Try as they might, humans
will fail to train cats to beg or jump through hoops or pretend to sing
the national anthem. Cats purr when they get what they want and they
depart when they don't. You will rarely see a cat on a lead.

 Now, with all due excuses in advance for the implied anthropomorphism of
all this, there is a conclusion which merits a few moments of the
reader's political contemplation. Capitalist culture is based the
expectation that the working class can be turned into dogs. The good
wage sieve is essentially a well-trained pup whose loyalty to the master
who holds the lead is undying and whose bark is reserved for anyone
threatening to invade the masters' property. Workers are educated as
pups are trained, with a few bones on offer to the graduates best able
to jump to the appropriate orders of their future bosses. BBC's One Man
And His Dog could well be a documentary about job training, except for
the obvious fact that most "job-seekers" (as the unemployed have now
been reclassified) are denied such splendid rural scenery as the
back-drop for their exploitation-seeking. In capitalist culture the
tail-wagging wage slave, content in a squalid kennel, running to fetch
the sticks which the master throws and fearful of the stick which the
master wields, is the most ideal of dehumanised creatures of the profit

 Of course, some capitalists tend to become strangely sentimental when it
comes to pet dogs in ways that rarely extend to their employees. The
billionaire inhabitant of Buckingham Palace, for example, is reputed to
have quite a soft spot for a corgi with a belly-ache after eating too
much lunch (which is perhaps why she reserves the British beef for
visiting heads of state), but is not known for her concerns about
workers dying as they wait in queues for hospital appointments. Other
capitalists patronise charities concerned with animal welfare (usually
excluding the welfare of the defenceless suckers whom they chase and
shoot for sport) while resenting every penny they are forced to pay
towards the welfare of their wage slaves. Cruelty to domestic pets is a
crime. If the dogs of the rich and famous were transported in conditions
which have become customary for rush-hour users of the buses and
underground trains there would soon be a campaign formed to put an end
to it.

 Now, the great unconscious fear of the bosses is that workers become
rather more like cats. At the very least, cats are like high-class
prostitutes, sitting on their owners' laps and purring, with one eye on
the smoked salmon and the other on their claws should the would-be owner
make a single false move. At their best, cats are animals who know their
place in a way that dogs never will: in the sun, near the food and
drink, never far from the open air and long leisure hours of idle
roaming, peaceful napping and hot sex. What characteristics do
capitalists less admire in their workers than those?

 Dogs are pack animals. Humans (with the exception of Millwall supporters
and marching Orangemen) are social, but not pack animals. In short, we
are socially interdependent, but we have sufficient consciousness to
survive and prosper alone as well as in groups. Dogs survive either by
total dependence upon the pack or by domesticated submission to an
owner. Cats are not pack animals and are never quite owned by those who
imagine themselves to be cat-owners.

 The revolutionary socialist is the lion of the capitalist jungle. Not
content to hunt the pack or be trained into the domesticity of wage
slavery, the socialist looks at the world from a position of strength.
There are more workers than there are capitalists. We are stronger than
them. We are the ones they depend on to protect them as a class from one
another and, above all, from us. We are intelligent enough to know our
way round the jungle and find our way out to the other end. And our
capacity to rise up scares the hell out of those who would like the
working class to be forever weak and bowed.

 Freedom does not depend upon humans becoming more like cat - just less
like dogs. Like cats, we might learn that there is more dignity in
walking away from tyranny into the unknown than putting up with lousy
treatment forever.
 But the message of this rather strange piece is not
SOCIALISTS SAY WORKERS SHOULD BECOME MORE LIKE HUMANS. This means refusing to adopt the political posture of the dependent canine and
resting satisfied with the reformers' offers of bigger bones. Instead,
let those who think they can own us learn soon that our bite is as bad
as our bark - and our bark can become a roar.

STEVE COLEMAN (Socialist Standard, August 1996)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

We need a change of vision

University of Virginia economics professor James Harrigan is using more than 35 years of data to study economic inequality in the United States. the data shows the dramatic rise of the "1 percent," the very wealthiest people in the country. To be in the top 1 percent, someone would need to earn at least $400,000 per household, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service. That same data shows that, of all income earned in the U.S., the share going to the top 1 percent has risen from 8 percent in 1980 to 18 percent today, meaning it has more than doubled. Roughly one out of every five dollars is going to the top 1 percent.

In the U.S., between 1978 and 2015, the income share of the bottom half of the population fell to 12% from 20%. Total real income for that group fell 1% during that time period. The average annual income of the bottom 50% has stagnated at about 16,000 dollars per adult (expressed in constant dollars 2015), while the average income of the top 1% rose from 27 times to 81 times this amount, that is from a little over 400,000 dollars in 1980 to over 1.3 million dollars in 2014.

Just as denying climate change doesn’t change physics, believing that helping the rich will help the poor doesn’t make it true.   Offering a radically different alternative vision would be a good way to begin building the future and that is what the World Socialist Movement is intent upon doing.

The Libyan Hell

“I gave my birth to my baby in a toilet – I lost her and now I’m dying as well,” says a woman weeping as she lies on a dirty floor, unable to walk after months without medical treatment. She is one of thousands of women and children held indefinitely in Libya’s countless detention centres, caught in a lucrative trade between militias and people smugglers profiting from the worst refugee crisis the world has ever seen.
Near Tripoli, the Fallah detention centre holds almost 900 men. When the Libyan guards’ backs are turned, they tell film-makers how they were “beaten like animals” and called “slaves” by their captors. Those centres are controlled by the UN-backed Libyan government, but many more are under the control of the numerous militias and armed groups operating in the country that have forced migrants from across Africa into work camps and brothels. Britain and other European countries are increasing cooperation with Libya to slow the crossings but the war-torn country’s fledgling Government of National Accord (GNA) have been powerless to stop warring militias profiting from exploiting desperate refugees. The documentary’s director, Marta Shaw, said it would be tantamount to “signing a death sentence” to force refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean back to Libya. Outsourcing the policing of our borders to Libya isn’t the solution,” she added.
The UK is helping train the Libyan coastguard, which is being given increasing responsibility for “rescue” missions, but new footage to be broadcast by Sky shows its staff beating and whipping refugees in a boat. Ross Kemp, the former EastEnders actor said the coastguard showed little concern as they attacked refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, having already been accused of causing at least 25 people to drown in the panic caused by a similar attack. “They seemed to take a bit too much pleasure in the beating,” he told The Independent. They left them for hours in the sun without water and food, then they took them to detention centres, splitting up families. If you’re going to do that you also have a responsibility to ensure they’re treated as human beings, and they’re not. Turning them back isn’t going to stop them coming, it’s inhuman.”
Refugees forced back to land by Libyan authorities are taken to detention centres spread along the country’s coast – some controlled by the government and others by powerful militias that have carved the country up since the UK-backed ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
They are held for months, before being moved or sold on to smugglers to attempt the treacherous crossing once more. Some are said to be taken to Libya’s southern border, although rumours of people being abandoned and left to die in the desert abound.
Kemp said he feared Europe was adopting an “out of sight, out of mind approach” to the refugee crisis as it enters its third year. “These people are being treated like commodities,” he added. “Their own countries don’t want them, Libya certainly doesn’t want them and Europe doesn’t want them – so what happens to them?”

Feeding the world is possible

Researchers from York University and Edinburgh University analysed the global food system using data from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.

It found that the world's population consumes around 10% more food than it needs and almost 9% is thrown away or left to spoil.
The researchers looked at losses at different stages in the production process and found that almost half of all harvested crops - or 2.1 billion tonnes - are lost, taking into account inefficiencies in production processes as well as consumer waste and over-consumption.
The study again stressed the inefficiency of livestock production, which it said produced losses of 78% on harvested crops. They found that around 1.08 billion tonnes of harvested crops are used to produce 240 million tonnes of edible animal products including meat, milk and eggs.
In 2015 a UN report found if the amount of food wasted was reduced by only 25 per cent there would be enough to feed all the people who are malnourished.

THE CONNING TOWER CON! (weekly poem)



The Government has reluctantly admitted that none of
Britain’s ‘Nuclear Deterrent’ submarines are operational.

Gad Sir! Those Johnnie Foreigners,
Have got us by the throat;
As Britain’s has no submarines,
At present time afloat!

All of our underwater fleet,
Is laid-up in dry-dock;
And being renovated in,
A race against the clock.

So our ‘Deterrent’ seems to be,
Completely, ‘All at sea’;
And yes, ironically, it is,
Thanks to the M.O.D.!

Is that a conning tower we see,
Upon the salty main?
Or is it just a figment of,
Sir Michael Fallon’s brain? (1)

How to defend this sceptics isle,
This berth of travesty;
If all our bleedin’ submarines,
Are tied up at the quay?

We could call on the Home Guard to,
Put on their marching shoes;
And sing that old Bud Flanagan,
‘Dad’s Army Hitler Blues’! (2)

Then the Marines could put to sea,
In Butlin Pedaloes;
And see how the next Falklands War,
And fight for Goose Green goes! (3)

(1) Britain’s Defence Minister.

(2) In 1968, Bud Flanagan recorded ’Who do you think you are
kidding, Mr Hitler?’ — the ‘Dad’s Army’ TV series theme tune.

(3) Major battle in the Falklands War. 27/28th May 1982.

© Richard Layton

The forecast is gloomy

The future depicted by US intelligence’s ‘Global Trends, Paradox of Progress’ report is one of doom and gloom. The US National Intelligence Council, which “supports the Director of National Intelligence in his role as head of the Intelligence Community (IC) and is the IC’s centre for long-term strategic analysis” maps trends in the world over the next five years and also over the next 20 years. Since forecasting how things play out over 20 years is extremely speculative, the report's next five years has better odds of getting at least some predictions right. “The next five years will see rising tensions within and between countries.”

Global economic growth will slow, making life difficult for governments, who will come under increased pressure to deliver jobs and welfare. Governance will become more difficult. Real wages have been stagnant in the West, and this will lead to increased populism and dissatisfaction with globalization.
Both the US and Europe will turn inward. Stresses in societies will increase as they fragment along religious and cultural lines, aided and abetted by the echo chambers of social media.

Geopolitical risks will rise, as ambitious new powers such as China and Russia seek to expand their presence.

India will be the world’s fastest growing economy in the next five years. It quotes an estimate that India alone will need to create as many as 10 million jobs per year in the coming decades to accommodate people of working age in the labour force.However, “internal tensions over inequality and religion will complicate its expansion”.  Populism and sectarianism will intensify if Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan fail to provide employment and education for growing urban populations and officials continue to govern principally through identity politics.

Violent extremism, terrorism, and instability will continue to hang over Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region’s fragile communal relations”.  The report warns, “The perceived threat of terrorism and the idea that Hindus are losing their identity in their homeland have contributed to the growing support for Hindutva, sometimes with violent manifestations and terrorism. India’s largest political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, increasingly is leading the government to incorporate Hindutva into policy.” It says that this could increase social tensions in the region.

More worryingly, it says that Pakistan, unable to compete in economic growth with India, will increasingly turn to “asymmetric means”. Towards that end, it will seek to enhance its nuclear arsenal and delivery capabilities, using “battlefield nuclear weapons” and sea-based options.
Non-traditional forms of warfare, such as cyber-warfare and terrorism, will gain prominence. Environmental stress will increase. Increasing urbanization will mean that providing services for burgeoning city populations will be a huge challenge for resource-strapped governments in South Asia, and that may “create new social, political, environmental, and health vulnerabilities”. Already, more than 20 cities in India alone have air quality worse than Beijing’s.
What can the US do about it? The report’s answer is revealing: “It will be tempting to impose order on this apparent chaos, but that ultimately would be too costly in the short run and would fail in the long. Dominating empowered, proliferating actors in multiple domains would require unacceptable resources in an era of slow growth, fiscal limits, and debt burdens.” Simply put, the US can’t do anything about it.

Fact of the Day


Monday, February 20, 2017

More on more inequality

The Socialist Golden Rule 
 "Behind every great fortune lies a great crime."- Honoré de Balzac

In early 2016 Oxfam reported that just 62 individuals had the same wealth as the bottom half of humanity.
About a year later Oxfam reported that just 8 men had the same wealth as the world's bottom half.
Based on the same methodology and data sources used by Oxfam, that number is now down to 6 The wealth of these six men increased by $69 billion in just one year.  As of 17th of February, the world's six richest individuals had $412 billion. The poorest five deciles of the world population own just .16% of the $256 trillion in global wealth, or $410 billion. 

The world's richest 10% (mostly the richest 1%) gained nearly $4 trillion while every other segment of the global population lost wealth

According to the Forbes Billionaire List, the world's richest 500 individuals have $4.73 trillion in wealth. The poorest seven deciles of the world population own just 1.86% of the $256 trillion in global wealth, or $4.76 trillion. That's over two-thirds of all the people on earth. That means 5,000,000,000 people -- FIVE BILLION people -- have, on average, and after debt is figured in, about a thousand dollars each in home and property and savings.

In the U.S., the Forbes 400 Own as Much as 3/5 of the American People 
The bottom 60% of Americans own 3 percent of the nation's $85 trillion in total wealth, or $2.55 trillion. The Forbes 400 owned $2.4 trillion in October 2016, and that's been steadily increasing.  And yes, many Americans have negative wealth because of debt. A human being doesn't have to live in a third-world slum to be impoverished. 

Cato's Michael Tanner suggests that "even if inequality were growing as fast as critics claim, it would not necessarily be a problem." The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby calls the Oxfam analysis "irrelevant." Reuters contributor Felix Salmon calls it a "silly stat."  Capitalism's apologists say the Oxfam methodology is flawed, but whether it's 6 individuals or 62 or 1,000 doesn't really matter. The data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook (GWD) and the Forbes Billionaire List provide the best available tools to make it clear that inequality is extreme and getting worse every year. The poorest half (and more) of the world has continued to lose wealth; and the VERY richest individuals -- especially the top thousand or so -- continue to add billions of dollars to their massive fortunes.

  The power that comes with the money has served to corrupt our government, our communities, our democracy, our education, our health-care, and it destroys our personal lives. 

Student Debt

Debts accumulated during university years are so high that students are suffering from mental ill health and cannot afford to buy food, according to new research.

Sky-high tuition fees and the rising cost of living have been blamed for “overwhelming” stress levels felt by the majority of students, with one in seven admitting they have been chased by debt collectors as a result of missing rent payments.

Three-quarters of students who receive maintenance loans feel stressed about the amount of debt they accumulate while studying, with over a third (39 per cent) saying they cannot afford their weekly food shop.

Over a quarter of students admitted to missing rent payments, with three in five polled (58 per cent) running out of money completely before their next payment is due.

In spite of social stereotypes, the top three items students said they spend their money on were rent (78 per cent), food (69 per cent) and utility bills (47 per cent), with the average student loan fund running dry by the sixth week of term.

The total student debt owed in the UK is currently estimated at £71bn, with students in England leaving university with the highest average debt in the English-speaking world, a study revealed last year.

Estelle Clarke, advisory board member for the Intergenerational Foundation, said “The dreadful injustice is that every single day, while students are scrimping and saving, punitive monthly compounding interest is being added to their loans, snowballing them into unmanageable debt – and at a time when students can, literally, do nothing about it.
While students are suffering from lack of money, extortionate interest charges are still being added to their loans. It is exploitation at best.

The Booming Industry

The global sales of major weapons systems rose over the past five years to the highest volume since the end of the Cold War as the Middle East nearly doubled its imports.

 Saudi Arabia, which leads a military intervention in Yemen that has cost hundreds of civilian lives, was the world’s second largest importer after India, increasing its intake by 212%, mainly from the US and the UK.  India dwarfed regional rivals, China and Pakistan, by accounting for 13% of the global imports. Vietnam, in particular, dramatically increased imports by 202%, which puts it in the list of 10 largest importers compared to its hitherto position in the 29th place.  Algeria was the largest importer in Africa.

 US and Russia together supplied more than half of all exports. The USA supplies major arms to at least 100 countries around the world — significantly more than any other supplier state China, France and Germany were also among the top five exporters.  

Quote of the Day

A ruling elite maintains an idea of what’s good and reasonable by a whole series of methods. Who gets advancement, rewards and status? If you don’t hold to the orthodoxy, you stop being invited to meetings. There’s a phrase that people in centre-left politics use: oh he’s very good. What they actually mean is: I agree with him.” - Former president of the National Union of Students and chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

This is socialism

The socialist case is from its beginnings mankind had organized socially for survival and for the satisfaction of its needs. All societies—primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism—were founded upon the manner in which humanity set about organizing to produce for the satisfaction of its needs: what Marx had termed the mode of production. On the different bases of different modes of production, he had found necessary different institutions, different customs and conventions, different religions, different laws, different attitudes and concepts, and different kinds of government. Always, however, the distinguishing feature between societies was none of these by itself, but the mode of production which gave rise to them all.

Capitalist society is based on the ownership of all of the means of life by a small class. The remainder, the majority - wage-workers, all more or less poorly paid. This basic class-structure had never changed within capitalism; the techniques of production might have altered, but not the basis.

The consequences of capitalism in the form of social troubles were innumerable. War and its horrifying weapons, economic crises, poverty and its results, disease, bad housing, crime: all these and countless other problems were direct results of the system which was concerned only with sale and profit. The only standard by which a society could be judged was whether it satisfied the needs of the people living within it, and by this measure capitalism—for all its spectacular achievements —failed completely.

If it were true that social problems were the outcome of the system itself, and not of mismanagement of it then it followed that all policies of reform were useless, since they aimed to abolish effects while retaining the cause.

The capitalist class do not rule by their own strength. Many of them had never seen, had little knowledge of, the factories, land, workshops and enterprises which they owned. Their ownership was maintained and protected by the State, which had no other function. It was in this coercive agency, with its fighting forces and penal systems, that capitalist power resided.

It followed, therefore, that any body of people wishing to change the ownership basis of society must go to the place where ownership was kept: that is, it could only seek to take hold of the powers of government as the means of taking away capitalist ownership. This is the aim of the Socialist Party. Its policy is to make socialists, for a conscious and politically organized working class to go to the State and make the ownership of the means of life common to everybody.

In the socialist society, thus based on common ownership, the competition which leads to wars, crises and chaos, would have ended. So would poverty; there would be no wages, no money barrier to the satisfaction of needs. The aim of society would be simply for all people to share, according to their needs, in all that the earth produced.

The Socialist Party's case is that the problems of the present-day world originate in the capitalist economic system, and that a co-operative world could only be established on a different ownership basis. While private ownership existed, politicians—delinquent or otherwise —could only when they were in power carry out the requirements of capitalism. The history of the Labour Party, which had once had a strong pacifist strain, but when in office had instituted military conscription and the biggest armaments drive in history. Its members were not drunk with power, but were simply having to prepare for war because they had undertaken running the system which led to war.

The proposition that wars were caused by delinquent politicians was, in fact, capitalist nonsense; people had gone to war precisely because they had been told that the wars were begun by irresponsible and wicked rulers who must be opposed. It was equally silly to say that people were coerced to work by police and armies; they went to work because, having no ownership of the means of life, they could only live by selling their labour-power.

To change society there must be a body of people who knew what was needed and how it was to be done. To the socialist, causes has always to be sought. The whole of history showed that, so far from the nature of government being unimportant, every class which had aspired to change society in its own interests had had to gain control of the powers of government This was the real lesson from countless centuries of political history; this was the aim of socialists, who sought to replace capitalism with socialism and to do so by going to the seat of capitalist power.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Passports for sale

Capitalism has created a new type of citizen, one that is able to change nationality by opening a wallet. Think of migration and more likely than not the picture that forms in your mind will be one of huddled, dispossessed refugee masses cast adrift in rudimentary boats. 

Yet a parallel and very different form of people movement is undergoing renaissance. it, too, is a product of globalisation, but one which allows the already possessed to buy a second or third nationality quickly and easily, providing them a comfortable bolthole in a fractious world and affording them the ability to flit easily around the planet in pursuit of business and financial opportunities.

The schemes allowing such movement are referred to by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as Economic Citizenship Programmes (ECPs), though similar arrangements are sometimes called Citizenship by Investment or Immigrant Investment programmes. And new programmes continue to be introduced. In 2013 and 2014, Malta launched a new citizenship programme, while Grenada revived one.

Several European countries, including France, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain have also recently introduced residency programmes based on significant investment. About half of the European Union member states now have dedicated immigrant investor schemes.

For the super-rich, the world is indeed their oyster.

Our Home is Your Home

Casa Nostra Casa Vostra

160,000 (some media reporting 300,000) people have demonstrated in Barcelona to demand the government allow more refugees into Spain from war-hit areas such as Syria.

They accuse the Spanish Government of not honouring its pledge made in 2015 to allow more than 17,000 refugees into Spain within two years. Over that time, Spain has accepted only about 1,100 refugees.

Meanwhile, Dutch populist leader Geert Wilders has seen his lead reduced in recent weeks. He has vowed to ban Muslim immigration and shut mosques if he wins. At his latest election rally, he declared, "There is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who make the streets unsafe," he said. "If you want to regain your country, make the Netherlands for the people of the Netherlands again, then you can only vote for one party."

One of the demonstrators at his meeting, Emma Smeets, told Associated Press, "A lot of people have gotten used to it and they don't protest any more, and I think it's important that you show your voice, that you don't agree with the things that are happening, and also just to get into contact with the people that are voting for him."

Since the referendum, many EU citizens have applied for documents guaranteeing the right to live permanently in the UK. But some say they are being denied a guarantee of permanent residency because they do not have health insurance. Under a little-known rule, EU citizens not in work or those looking for work must buy comprehensive insurance. Since EU migrants can use the NHS, many did not realise they needed health insurance. Students and full-time parents are among those affected. They are worried they could be vulnerable after Britain leaves the EU. A leaked document, drawn up by MEPs on the European parliament’s employment committee to aid the EU’s Brexit negotiations, warns  millions of its nationals living in the UK will be left stranded in a legal no man’s land after the country leaves the EU because of the weaknesses of the British immigration system.

Immigrant communities across the United States are in a state of fear and uncertainty after a week of immigration raids and leaks from the Trump administration that have raised the spectre of a mass deportations. The White House denied the most alarming leak – a draft memo suggesting it considered mobilising 100,000 national guard troops to round up and deport unauthorised immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border – was current administration policy. However the 11-page memo has compounded fears among immigrant communities that Trump’s campaign promise of a hardline clampdown on immigration, dismissed by some at the time as little more than heated rhetoric, is about to be realized.

“It’s almost like it’s psychological warfare that’s being waged against people of color to create a constant feeling of fear and uncertainty,” said Juanita Molina, the executive director of Border Action Network, a human rights organization in Tucson, Arizona.

After a long day of cleaning hallways and public areas at the Encore hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Elsa Medrano spoke of her perspective on the current political climate.
“I feel so worried about the situation, because we came to this country to find better opportunities for everyone,” said the 52-year-old mother of three from Guadalajara, Mexico. “I worked so hard, and I’m still working. We don’t just come to live from the benefits from the government. We work so hard.”