Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Israeli Pilots Protest Deportations

In December, the Israeli government announced its plans to deport some 35,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers who entered Israel without proper authorization since the early 2000s starting in March. The asylum seekers claim they are fleeing famine and civil war in their home countries. Israel claims that the Africans are "infiltrators" and "economic migrants," not refugees. The Israeli government also said it plans to hold African asylum seekers in indefinite detention if they do not choose to leave the country voluntarily.
A group of airline pilots in Israel recently vowed not to fly deported African asylum seekers and refugees back to war-stricken countries in their home continent, Israeli media has reported.  Pilots from Israel's flagship airline, El Al, posted their intentions to refuse to fly planes carrying refugees back to Rwanda and other African nations and called on the Israeli government to forego their deportation plans.
One of the pilots wrote, “I’ve joined many of my colleagues in declaring that I will not fly refugees to their deaths. I will not be a partner to such barbarism.”
A second pilot stated, “There is no way that I, as part of a flight crew, would participate in taking refugees/asylum seekers to a destination where their chances of surviving in a ‘third country’ are minuscule.”
Their protest comes days after Zizim Community Action, an Israeli non-government organization, launched an online campaign calling on pilots from the Israel Aviation Association and the Israel Pilots Association to refuse to fly migrants to Rwanda, Sudan or any other country deemed dangerous by the group.
“Throughout the world, citizens are fighting cruel expulsion decrees and stand alongside refugees and asylum-seekers,” Raluca Gena, chief executive officer of Zizim, said in a statement last Thursday. “This is a test for the Israeli public to determine the fate of tens of thousands of people." In her statement, Gena pointed to the 222 planned deportations stopped by pilots in Germany last month as a source of inspiration. "We call on Israeli pilots to follow their European counterparts and stand on the right side of history,” she proclaimed.

An Education Minister and Ignorance

India’s minister for higher education has been condemned by scientists for demanding the theory of evolution be removed from school curricula.

“Darwin’s theory is scientifically wrong,” he said at the weekend. “It needs to change in the school and college curriculum. “Since man is seen on Earth, he has always been a man. Nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, said they ever saw an ape turning into a human being.”
“I have a list of around 10 to 15 great scientists of the world who have said there is no evidence to prove that the theory of evolution is correct,” Singh told a crowd at a university in Assam state, adding that Albert Einstein had agreed the theory was “unscientific”.
More than 2,000 Indian scientists have signed a petition in response calling Singh’s remarks simplistic, misleading and lacking in any scientific basis.
“It is factually incorrect to state that the evolutionary principle has been rejected by the scientific community,” the statement said. “On the contrary, every new discovery adds support to Darwin’s insights. There is plentiful and undeniable scientific evidence to the fact that humans and the other great apes and monkeys had a common ancestor.”
Prof Raghavendra Gadagkar, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, in Bangalore, responded on NDTV, saying: "It seems to be aimed at politically polarising science and scientists, and that is the real danger we must guard against."

Sweated Labour in Vietnam

Vietnam's garment sector accounts for the country's largest workforce, but many of its employees are forced to work hard to fill the pockets of rich shareholders, Oxfam has said in a new report on the global inequality crisis.

In Vietnam, as well as Indonesia, Kenya and Morocco, wages have failed to keep pace with increased productivity and economic growth, and profits are often returned to wealthy shareholders, leaving workers to suffer a “relentless squeeze,” Oxfam said.

According to Oxfam, the minimum wage in Vietnam is currently not enough for people to escape poverty. Vietnam’s minimum wage now ranges between VND2.58 million and VND3.75 million ($113-165) per month, depending on region. The government has approved a 6.5 percent wage increase for later this year. The minimum wage is used by businesses to calculate salaries for workers by multiplying the base level by a coefficient assigned to each worker, based on their skills and experience. But a study by the International Labor Organization, published in August 2016, found workers in the garment sector actually earned 6.6 percent less than the minimum rate in 2013. Vietnam’s Institute of Workers and Trade Unions surveyed workers in March 2017, and a third of them said their incomes were low and barely sufficient to live on, while 12 percent said their wages simply did not cover living expenses, forcing them to work extra hours.

To increase the salaries of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers to a living wage, employers would have to spend $2.2 billion a year, which is equivalent to just a third of the amount paid to shareholders by the top five companies in the sector.

 “Poorly paid work for the many is supporting extreme wealth for the few,” it said. “Women are in the worst work..."

Lan, has been stuck between long hours and low pay and has been unable to go home to see her son for nine months. Lan, 32, works in a garment company in the southern province of Dong Nai, 30 hours south of her home in Thanh Hoa. She works six days a week for at least nine hours a day, sewing together the heels and soles of shoes for around $1 per hour. Every day, she works on 1,200 pairs of shoes for multiple global brands. She remembers thinking that her son would like a pair of the shoes, but she would never be able to afford them. “These shoes would fit my son perfectly, they are very nice,” she said. “I’d like my son to have shoes like these, but he can’t. You know, that one pair of shoes that we make is valued more than our whole month’s salary,” she said.


Vulnerable Employment

The International Labour Organization (ILO) forecast a worldwide unemployment rate of 5.5% this year, a marginal improvement on the 5.6% recorded in 2017.

"Even though global unemployment has stabilized, decent work deficits remain widespread: the global economy is still not creating enough jobs", the organization's director-general, Guy Ryder, said in a statement. 

"The significant progress achieved in the past in reducing vulnerable employment has essentially stalled since 2012", the ILO said.   "Vulnerable employment" is a category that includes informal work arrangements with little or no social and contractual protections. The problem is most acute in the developing world, where 3 out of every 4 workers have a "vulnerable" employment status.

“A large part of the jobs created in the region remain of poor quality: vulnerable employment affects almost half of all workers in Asia Pacific, or more than 900 million men and women.
“Projections indicate that 72% of workers in Southern Asia, 46% in South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific, and 31% in Eastern Asia will be vulnerable employment by 2019, showing very little change from 2017,” the ILO said. The poor quality of jobs and high informality, the ILO said, is key for the high level of “working poors” or those living with less than $3.10 per day
ILO economist Stephan Kuhn, pointed out that 40% of all employed people in the developing world still live in "extreme poverty".

Eat or Heat?

More than a million elderly people fear they won’t be able to afford to pay their energy bills this winter, according to new research. Almost two-fifths of people aged over 65 surveyed said they would ration their energy usage over the winter because of increasing costs88 per cent said that they believe the cost of energy presents a real health threat to older people living in the UK.

A fifth eat less or buy cheaper food to offset the cost of energy bills, and 12 per cent say their health suffers because they limit the amount of heating they use. Nearly half of over-65s said they would have to dip into their savings or use credit if energy companies increase prices, while 37 per cent said they believed they would need to cut down on expenditure in order to make ends meet. 

Around two million over-65s could be stuck on expensive standard variable tariffs, which are often among the most expensive options. The average energy bill rose by more than £240 to £1,625 in 2017 and those on standard variable rate tariffs may be paying even more. One problem is that energy bills are too complex, meaning that millions of customers simply do not understand what they are paying for and why.

More than half said they did not think an energy price cap planned by the Prime Minister will help them reduce their bills. A further 36 per cent did not even know about the measure.

“The rising cost of energy is a real concern for older people, especially at a time when household bills are already sky high,” said Peter Earl, head of energy at Comparethemarket.com.  “Cold weather already presents worrying health problems to the elderly and it is critical they should not be faced with additional costs at a time when they are at their most vulnerable,” he added. 



Transport Minister, Chris Grayling, was abroad when
New Year rail fare increases of 3.4% were announced.

Let's keep the railways privatised,
In a (John) Major way;
So each branch hasn't got a clue,
What others do each day.
Let's show the public how to run,
A real bureaucracy;
With private enterprise that 'earns',
A double subsidy! (1)
Let's make the railway timetable,
An incoherent mess;
So tariffs and all travel times,
Are anybody's guess.

Let's paint all the train carriages,
In psychedelic hues;
So when train's cancelled, passengers,
Won't have those 'Lost Train Blues'!
Let's turn compartment heating on,
Sometime in early June;
To make each straphanger emerge,
Like a wet, wrinkled prune.
Let's give commuters refunds when,
The trains are running slow;
In Summer months that start with 'X',
With the 'wrong type of snow'!

Let's raise train fares repeatedly,
Above inflation's rate;
And site the ticket barriers,
To make the punctual late.
Let's vaguely threaten railway firms,
With a small paltry fine;
When staff in Winter wrongly leave,
The wrong leaves on the line.
Let's change our minds and take the bus,
To miss all this delay;
Then catch all level crossings whilst,
We journey on our way!

(1) Action For Rails claim that subsidies have more than doubled
and fares have increased by 24% in real terms since privatisation
in 1994. Chris Grayling has recently had to bail out Virgin Trains.

© Richard Layton

Greed Versus Need

 Four out of every five dollars of wealth generated in 2017 ended up in the pockets of the richest one percent, while the poorest half of humanity got nothing, Oxfam found.

"It reveals how our economies are rewarding wealth rather than the hard work of millions of people," Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam's executive director, said. "The few at the top get richer and richer and the millions at the bottom are trapped in poverty wages."

"The economic model is not working at all," Oxfam report co-author, Iñigo Macías Aymar, explained. "The way this wealth is being distributed we are really worried, it's being concentrated in fewer hands."

The number of billionaires rose at a rate of one every two days between March 2016 and March 2017.

In the United States the three richest people own the same wealth as the poorest half of the population.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Meet The Socialists

West London Branch

Tuesday, 23 January - 8:00pm

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

South London Branch

Saturday, 27 January - 2:30pm

Head Office
52 Clapham High Street,
London SW4 7UN 

The Socialist Party knows that it is difficult for the workers to recognise their slave status because wage-slavery is cloaked with many disguises. And because the capitalist class or the capitalist state owns the media of propaganda, it is indeed difficult to air the truth. This is why fellow-workers usually believe that they live in a free society. If our fellow-worker would but peep beneath the cloak of superficialities they would glimpse the real nature of society. They would see that the only sound future for them is to join a movement, the World Socialist Movement, and work to overthrow the system that keeps you in poverty and to introduce a sane system — Socialism.

India's Inequality

India's top 10 per cent of population holds 73 per cent of the wealth and 37 per cent of India's billionaires have inherited family wealth. They control 51 per cent of the total wealth of billionaires in the country.

The richest 1 per cent in India cornered 73 per cent of the wealth generated in the country last year.

 67 % of Indians comprising the population's poorest half saw their wealth rise by just 1 per cent

Last year's survey had showed that India's richest 1 per cent held a huge 58 per cent of the country's total wealth -- higher than the global figure of about 50 per cent.

This year's survey also showed that the wealth of India's richest 1 per cent increased by over Rs 20.9 lakh crore during 2017 -- an amount equivalent to total budget of the central government in 2017-18, Oxfam India said.

"2017 saw an unprecedented increase in the number of billionaires, at a rate of one every two days. Billionaire wealth has risen by an average of 13 per cent a year since 2010 -- six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers, which have risen by a yearly average of just 2 per cent," it said.

In India, it will take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment firm earns in a year, the study found. In the US, it takes slightly over one working day for a CEO to earn what an ordinary worker makes in a year. "It would take around 17.5 days for the best paid executive at a top Indian garment company to earn what a minimum wage worker in rural India will earn in their lifetime (presuming 50 years at work)," Oxfam said

 it said the country added 17 new billionaires last year, taking the total number to 101. The Indian billionaires' wealth increased to over Rs 20.7 lakh crore -- increasing during last year by Rs 4.89 lakh crore, an amount sufficient to finance 85 per cent of the all states' budget on health and education.

New Zealand's Inequality

The report revealed 28 per cent of all wealth made went to the richest 1 per cent of Kiwis in 2017. The 1.4 million poorest New Zealanders got just 1 per cent of that wealth.  Many of those 1.4 million New Zealanders were in employment and working hard. 

New Zealand's richest man added more than $4 billion to his coffers last year, as more Kiwis joined queues at food banks.

The wealthy elite have continued to accumulate their assets while hundreds of millions of people struggle to survive on poverty pay, Oxfam NZ executive director Rachael Le Mesurier said.
"This gap is extreme. It's not reducing, so that's a real concern. Inequality is really bad for democracy.

Australia's Inequality

"The richest 1 percent of Australians continue to own more wealth than the bottom 70 percent of Australians combined. While everyday Australians are struggling more and more to get by, the wealthiest groups have grown richer and richer."
Australia's inequality is the worst it has been in two decades, data released by the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam) on Monday revealed.
Oxfam said that Australian billionaires increased their wealth by 38 billion Australian dollars (30 billion U.S. dollars) in the financial year ending in June 2017.
"Over the decade since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the wealth of Australian billionaires has increased by almost 140 percent to a total of 115.4 billion AUD (92.1 billion U.S. dollars) last year.
"Yet over the same time, the average wages of ordinary Australians have increased by just 36 percent and average household wealth grew by 12 percent.

Welsh Inequality

In Wales, the wealthiest 16% of people have as much money as the other 84%.

Oxfam Cymru says Wales has more people living in relative poverty than any other UK country.

They also say the "low wage economy" here disproportionately affects women.

"Here in Wales, nearly a quarter (24.9%) of workers are paid less than the voluntary Living Wage of £8.75 an hour based on the cost of living, and women in part-time role employment represent 63% of all women earning less than this Living Wage." explained, KIRSTY DAVIES-WARNER, HEAD OF OXFAM CYMRU

South Wales Branch 

12th February  

Monday, 7:30pm - 9:00pm

 Unitarian Church, 
High Street, 
Swansea SA1 1NZ

The rich get richer....again

Capitalism? Who is complaining?
Oxfam launched a new report showing that 42 people hold as much wealth as the 3.7 billion who make up the poorest half of the world’s population ( compared with 61 people last year and 380 in 2009.)

Billionaires had been created at a record rate of one every two days over the past 12 months, at a time when the bottom 50% of the world’s population had seen no increase in wealth.

 It added that 82% of the global wealth generated in 2017 went to the most wealthy 1%.

 Oxfam said it was “unacceptable and unsustainable” for a tiny minority to accumulate so much wealth while hundreds of millions of people struggled with poverty pay. 

Mark Goldring, Oxfam GB chief executive, said: “The concentration of extreme wealth at the top is not a sign of a thriving economy, but a symptom of a system that is failing the millions of hardworking people on poverty wages who make our clothes and grow our food.” Goldring said it was time to rethink a global economy in which there was excessive corporate influence on policymaking, erosion of workers’ rights and a relentless drive to minimise costs in order to maximise returns to investors.

The charity added that the wealth of billionaires had risen by 13% a year on average in the decade from 2006 to 2015, with the increase of $762bn (£550bn) in 2017 enough to end extreme poverty seven times over. 

In the UK, when asked what a typical British chief executive earned in comparison with an unskilled worker, people guessed 33 times as much. When asked what the ideal ratio should be, they said 7:1. Oxfam said that FTSE 100 bosses earned on average 120 times more than the average employee.
Mark Littlewood, director general at free-market think tank The Institute of Economic Affairs, said Oxfam was becoming "obsessed with the rich rather than the poor".

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Land Wars in Montana

According to a study from the Center for Western Priorities, 4m acres of public lands in the Rocky Mountain West (Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico) are considered “landlocked”, blocked off by private landowners who control adjacent properties or roadways. Two million of those landlocked acres are in Montana.
The report notes that “land ownership in the Rocky Mountain West is a quilt of federal, state local, Native American and private lands. The patchwork of owners can make it difficult for the public to access lands without trespassing through private lands.”
And in some pockets that have become havens for the uber-rich – like the Crazy Mountains near Livingston - and politically connected, private landowners have tied up huge tracts of prime recreational public lands.
Kate Kelley, public lands specialist with the Center for American Progress, said while natural resource development like oil and gas threatens access to public lands in the west, a major and less noticed peril in Montana – and to a lesser degree in other states – comes from private landowners blocking public access.
“Where Montana stands out is when it comes to how much public land is essentially inaccessible,” said Kelley. “For Montana, it appears that a very real problem is private landowners – including those coming in from out of state – and their unwillingness to grant access to public lands. It’s essentially locking Montanans out of their backyard.”
The region was built on a snatching land from Native Americans and conflicts have long been present over who owns what and goes where for what purpose.
Gloria Flora, a former US Forest Service manager, explains, “I know this sounds like an odd thing to say, but we’re kind of running out of land.” 
Since the 1960s, the population of the Rocky Mountain West has grown at a higher rate than the rest of the United States. States including Idaho and Montana have seen steady population increases in the past 30 years. In other words, this is not a stagnant economic zone lacking for growth. In 1970, Montana’s population was less than 700,000; today it’s more than 1 million. That inward migration has come alongside a shift from an economy based on mining and logging to one based on the service industry. And it’s all brought fast-rising income inequality and an ongoing, roiling culture clash.

Band-aid Housing

Millions of private renters face being stuck in dangerous homes for decades because of a large-scale failure of local councils to take action against landlords.  Almost 800,000 privately rented homes and 118,000 housing association properties in England contain the most serious type of safety hazards, including faulty boilers, dangerous wiring, vermin infestations and mould.

New data seen by The Independent shows local authorities took action in relation to just 1.1 per cent of the most dangerous rented homes in England last year. At the current rate, it would take almost 30 years for all the existing hazards to be addressed.

Almost three-quarters of councils (71 per cent) did not prosecute a single rogue landlord, while a third of all landlord prosecutions that did take place were in just two London boroughs. A fifth of local authorities said they did not issue a single improvement notice to landlords last year, while the average council issued just 13.

Experts said part of the problem was councils failing to employ properly trained staff to inspect properties, while cuts to environmental health department budgets were also highlighted. More than one in seven authorities admitted they were not using qualified environmental health officers to carry out inspections, suggesting people who are not fully trained in identifying and dealing with hazards are being tasked with investigating safety risks.

Dan Wilson Craw, director of campaign group Generation Rent, said: “These figures are a stark illustration of how stacked the odds are against tenants who are forced to live in squalid conditions.

“There are three causes of this lack of enforcement: first, cuts to local environmental health teams mean that they can’t inspect the home of every tenant who complains. Second, when inspectors find hazards, they don’t take formal action against the landlord in every case, even though this would protect tenants from retaliatory eviction. Third, many tenants don’t want to complain in the first place because they’re worried that they’ll be evicted or face a punitive rent increase.

Defeating Hate

When people in Sesto Fiorentino, a suburb of Florence, heard 50 asylum seekers were moving into a former hotel in the historic centre, they responded in much the same way as those in other parts of ItalyInfluenced a fearmongering campaign launched by local politicians from Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, they united in protest. Antipathy towards the newcomers in Sesto Fiorentino, home to a population of 49,000, was aggravated by the effects of the lingering economic downturn, alongside a perceived breakdown in basic public services in an area that once boasted a thriving porcelain industry. Prejudice reached a new low point last week when Attilio Fontana, the far-right Northern League candidate vying to be the next governor of the Lombardy region, claimed the influx threatened to wipe out “our white race”.

Six months on, Sesto has become a model for how to treat migrants with dignity while keeping local people onside. Despite some people having lingering reservations about the migrants’ presence, tensions have eased a lot. And now Sesto Fiorentino is to become home to a mosque, the first official place of worship to serve the 30,000 Muslims in the Florence area. 

Concerns had mostly centred on the changing face of Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the main square overlooked by the town hall. “People were worried about noise and rubbish, but it was mainly about perception,” said Dalila De Pasquale, coordinator for Il Cenacolo, a Florence-based social cooperative that manages the Il Gerlino hotel where the migrants now live. “They didn’t know who these people were, they were scared to go out at night.”

The scheme to integrate the new arrivals began with a joint mission to rid the square of the residents’ biggest gripe: cigarette butts. Migrants, mostly from Mali, Senegal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, worked alongside a group of pensioners, themselves immigrants from the south. Stories were shared and some common ground was found.

Romania's Corruption Laws

Tens of thousands of Romanians marched through heavy snow in Bucharest in protest against proposed laws that critics say will make it harder to prosecute crime and high-level corruption.  New legislation means video and audio recordings could no longer be used as evidence in prosecutions. 50,000 people marched towards parliament, blowing whistles, waving flags and chanting, “thieves”. 

The 'left-wing' government pushed through a judicial overhaul through parliament in December, despite criticism from the European Commission, the US state department, thousands of magistrates and the centrist president, Klaus Iohannis. The bills would weaken judicial independence and they have been challenged in the constitutional court, where they await a ruling.

"We've had enough!"

An estimated 33,000 people took part in the march and around 100 farmers drove their tractors through the streets to support the protest.  They were demonstrating for a more ethical and environmentally-friendly agricultural sector. Around 100 environmental, agricultural and development groups organized the march.

Organisers said the protest was not directed against farmers, but against the unethical and damaging practices prevalent in the modern industry.

"Food is political — more and more people realize this. But politicians nurture an agricultural sector that detrimentally affects the environment and animals in the name of productivity," said a spokesman for the alliance, Jochen Fritz.

Protesters voiced their support for directing EU agricultural subsidies to farmers who operate ecological farming practices instead of paying farmers based on the total amount of land they use.

"Farmers who cultivate the land in an environmentally-friendly way and operate ethical animal farms should be supported with direct-payment subsidies," said Georg Janßen, the head of the farming association, Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft.

Many other demonstrators demanded the outlawing of the controversial weed killer glyphosate. 


The Brasilian Land War

The Ka’apor tribe patrol one of the most murderous frontiers in the world, a remote and largely lawless region of the Brazilian Amazon where this indigenous community has fought for generations to protect their forest land. Members of Ka’apor Forest Guard drive off – and sometimes attack – loggers who intruded into their territory, the 530,000-hectare Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Land, which is roughly three times the area of Greater London and contains about half of the Amazon forest left in Brazil’s northern Maranhão state.

For decades, loggers have cut dirt tracks into the forest that allow them to selectively fell valuable timber such as ipê (Brazilian walnut), which can fetch almost £1,000 per cubic metre after processing and export. This is followed by fires – often set deliberately – that destroy the remaining trees so land can be used for cattle ranching or soy farming.

Last year 6,624 sq km – more than four times the area of London – was deforested in Brazil. This was the first time in three years that the rate did not rise, and the country remains off track to reach its Paris climate targets. Numerous studies have shown that protection of indigenous land is the most effective way to cut deforestation, but the Ka’apor – like many other tribes – feel the police often work against them. 

 According to Global Witness, Brazil is the deadliest country in the world for environmental and land defenders with 44 killings recorded in 2017. Maranhão – the nation’s poorest state – is among the worst affected. There were more death threats and attacks on indigenous groups here than anywhere else in 2016, according to the Pastoral Land Commission.

 The biodiversity is testimony to the quality of the forest in a place that defiantly holds out against extractive industries and global markets. But the pressure on this natural wealth is relentless. The Ka’apor council has attempted to hold the line but many individuals succumb to temptations. “The loggers use alcohol to weaken us. It’s a more powerful weapon than guns,” said Itahu.

It is clear where the real power lies. More than any state in Brazil, Maranhão is in thrall to the “coronels” (major landowners who carry a semi-feudal authority). One family – the Sarneys – have dominated politics here for as long as anyone can remember. The patriarch (an 87-year-old senator who ruled Brazil from 1985 to 1990) has a roadside school named after him – the Escola Unidade da President José Sarney. The system of patronage and control is replicated at a municipal level. The powerbroker near the Ka’apor’s land is Josimar Rodrigues, a state assemblyman who has been accused by police of running an illegal operation to remove timber from the indigenous territory. Despite the allegations, he and his family remain hugely influential. His wife, sister and former driver are all mayors in municipalities that overlap Ka’apor territory.


A new war?

Turkish jets have bombed the Kurdish-controlled city of Afrin in northern Syria and were accompanied by waves of artillery barrages , as the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, promised to expand Turkey’s military border operations against a Kurdish group that has been the US’s key Syria ally in the war on Islamic State.

 Turkey has been promising to clear the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Afrin and its surrounding countryside. Turkey’s military is ironically calling the campaign Operation Olive Branch.

The YPG is the driving force behind a coalition of north Syrian forces allied with the US to battle Isis. With US support, including around 2,000 embedded forces, the coalition now controls close to a quarter of Syrian territory, concentrated mostly to the north and east of the Euphrates river. Turkish leaders were infuriated by an announcement by the US military six days ago that it was going to create a 30,000-strong border force with the Kurdish fighters to secure northern Syria. Days later, secretary of state Rex Tillerson announced that the US would maintain a military presence with the Kurds for the foreseeable future.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organisation, an extension of an outlawed Kurdish rebel group that it is fighting inside its own borders, and it has found common cause with Syrian opposition groups who view the YPG as a counter-revolutionary force in Syria’s multi-sided civil war. Associated Press journalists saw a convoy of armed pick-up trucks and buses believed to be carrying Syrian opposition fighters travelled along the border.  Turkey's leader, Erdoğan, announced an expansion to Turkish operations in Syria, promising to move on the Kurdish-controlled town of Manbij and its surrounding countryside after completing operations in Afrin. The operation would force out the Kurdish militia from all positions west of the Euphrates River. In 2016, Turkey trained and equipped opposition forces to drive Kurdish fighters out of parts of north Syria, driving a wedge between two enclaves along the Turkish frontier. Turkish ground forces, including tanks and artillery, crossed into Syria with the fighters to establish a zone flanked by Afrin and Manbij that now serves as hub for Turkish operations inside the war-torn country. Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, said the strikes on Afrin marked the start of a campaign to “eliminate the PYD and PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ party] and Daesh elements in Afrin,” referring to the Kurdish Democratic Union party and the Kurdistan Worker’s party respectively, and using an Arabic name for Isis. The PYD, PKK, and YPG all look to the Kurdish Marxist-nationalist leader Abdullah Öcalan as their guide. Öcalan is imprisoned by Turkey for waging a separatist movement in the eastern part of the country.

 Russian was pulling back troops that had been deployed near Afrin, two days after Turkey’s military and intelligence briefs travelled to Moscow to discuss the planned operation. It said the group of observers was being relocated to another area.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Men are not the enemy

The 2017 Women's March was the largest single-day protest in U.S. History. More than 4 million people across the world participated in the protest in 2017, spanning cities across the United States and other countries. The second Women's March is happening on January 20. If women's bodies are used to sell everything from mustard to motor cars, this is an expression of their peculiar oppression under capitalism. Whether we examine the family, women's sexuality or women's employment opportunities, we find the same kind of story.

It is true, many women are in severely oppressive situations at home and at work. Women get more than their fair share of the work, less than their fair share of the cake and less freedom than the men they share their lives with. Women are subordinate to men. Knowingly and unknowingly, men abuse the power they have over women—but not all men and not all the time. The problem of sexism is complex and linked to a larger problem; that of the way the whole world is organized.The majority of women and men in the world feel and are powerless in the face of the minority powers-that-be. Part of the problem of sexism is simply a "kicking the cat” syndrome. a white employed man, oppressed by his employer (or depressed by the dole queue) comes home and puts his wife in her place, for much the same reason that the pair of them will insult their black neighbours. It is an ignoble and inadequate solution to one’s own lack of self-esteem and autonomy, to undermine someone else’s. but without self-respect, it is hard to respect others. A feeling of self-respect in our present system is for most people constantly under threat.

The idea that women are (or ought to be) independent and autonomous individuals is a relatively recent one, that is still far from being accepted among much of the world's population. In general, women are economically, legally and socially inferior to men. In many parts of the world women have no legal title to property — they themselves are the property of their fathers or husbands. In feudal times peasant women were subject to the rule of both their fathers or husbands and of the feudal lord. The practice of jus primae noctis (the right of the first night) was common in much of Europe. The feudal lord had the right to take the virginity of the bride of any of his vassals or serfs unless the couple paid a certain amount of produce in redemption dues. The idea of women as property to be sexually exploited continues to the present even though the law in most modern westernised nations formally recognises women as independent. Sexual harassment of female employees by their male employers is commonplace. Again women are faced with the choice of suffering in silence or risking losing their jobs. The idea of women as men's property is reflected in the fact that in many countries rape within marriage is not a crime. The marriage contract is such that it is considered to effectively represent permanent consent of the wife to her husband for sexual relations. Rape then has been and continues to be. a horrifying aspect of war. The maleness of the military, the total environment of violence and the brutalising effects of that violence are breeding grounds for rape. But rape in war has an important symbolic quality too: it is a symbolic occupation, a forced humiliation, and the imposition of subordinate status. Rape is the act of a conqueror and women's bodies merely part of the spoils of victory. It is not only rape that we should be concerned about but the whole spectrum of sexual behaviour. And we cannot begin to understand that until we understand the nature of the wider society from which it is derived. Sexuality is natural but there is nothing natural about the ways in which we express that sexuality: it is shaped and conditioned by the society in which we live and the kinds of sexual expression that are considered acceptable are a product of particular cultures at particular times. The fact that so many people in our society express their sexuality in ways that are twisted, coercive, violent and brutal should make us very concerned about the nature of the society that produced that sexuality.

To the Socialist Party, it doesn't matter what colour or gender you are. What matters is that you are a worker. The politicisation of gender, like ethnicity, helps keep the working class divided and thus too weak to break out of its own misery. Capitalism is a master at instilling its oppressive and divisive structures at an early age. The task of revolutionaries is to identify and break those structures. And we can do it, so long as workers are willing to try to understand each other. Women have been speaking out and must continue to do so in order to lift the veil of silence. For their part, men need to understand that ignoring women's subjective experience of patriarchy is the same as perpetuating it. Either you are fighting oppression or you are complicit in it. When a man suffers rage, helplessness, and frustration, he is experiencing what it means to be a worker. But when he takes his rage out on a woman he is doing the bosses' dirty work for them and he is a class traitor.

As things are, all around the world, women and women’s work are undervalued—by men, other women and themselves. This is serious, not just because of the damage inflicted on that particular half of the adult population, but also because it threatens the well-being of the whole human race. Socialism involves a complete change in the way the whole of humanity organizes, itself so that we have a system which provides goods and services because people need them and not because of money. There is no money and there is no property. The land is owned and controlled by the whole of humanity. There are no national boundaries. It must be highly organised, but in a genuinely democratic way. so that all people are involved in making decisions that affect their lives. There are no hierarchies. no distinctions of class, race or sex.  Such a system seems like the impossible dream, but the potential for it is there. Even in capitalism, men and women can be fair and compassionate and co-operate with each other. People derive pleasure from working for themselves and others without monetary reward. What it will take is for the majority of people in the world to decide that this is how they want to live, and to set about organising it.

In linking women's oppression to property society, we differ from those who argue that women's enemies are men. Men also love and care for women, and work to support women and children. Some men have been women’s best friends at crucial times in their lives—and some men are subordinate to some women: a wealthy woman may hand out orders to a male wage-slave. It is surely preferable for women to work with women and men to change the whole system than against men in the hope of changing just one aspect of it. Some men are sometimes women’s enemies—but so are some women. Many men and women are women's potential friends and allies. If capitalism is to be overthrown then the working class must be united. Women and men, whatever their age or colour, have to work together in the fight for socialism. The Socialist Party's struggle is aiming at the liberation of all, regardless of gender, age or colour.