Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Edited from Socialist Standard May 1983

It really is ironic that those members of the Militant group who faced expulsion from the Labour Party should have complained about the lack of democracy and tolerance which they allege was being shown to them. After all, as worshippers of Lenin they must know that their hero was no democrat and showed little tolerance of his opponents outside or inside Bolshevik ranks. We have yet to hear them condemn this.

One of the most amazing legacies of the Russian revolution and its aftermath
is Lenin's image as a humane, even saintly figure, despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary. To this day thousands of people all over the world will revile Stalin but revere Lenin, yet the truth is that it was the latter who commenced the reign of terror after November l9l7 and who deserves his own place in history as a brutal, lying, ruthless dictator.

  Right up till the Bolshevik seizure of power Lenin had been agitating for the abolition of the state apparatus including the army, police and bureaucracy. Every official, he said, should be elected and subject to recall at any time. He was all for freedom of the press and the right to demonstrate for "any party, any group"'
Immediately on gaining power he even promised to uphold the verdict of the coming elections for the Constituent Assembly.
As a democratic government' we cannot ignore the decision of the rank and file of the people, even though we may disagree with it ...and even if the peasants continue to follow the Social-Revolutionaries, even if they give this party a majority in the Constituent Assembly, we shall still say, be it so'
(Report on the Land Question,8 November 1917')

All of this was, of course, mere window dressing, for Lenin knew that the Russian people would never have supported what he really had in mind for them. Far from abolishing the state apparatus he set about strengthening it, especially the secret police (Cheka), in order to impose the Bolshevik dictatorship. And instead of officials being elected and recallable the Bolsheviks simply appointed their own men who were answerable to them alone'

 Gradually all opposition press was outlawed and their demonstrations
forbidden'. When the long-called-for elections for the Constituent Assembly resulted in a humiliating defeat for the Bolsheviks. Lenin dissolved the Assembly by force.

Later on he explained away those earlier promises on the grounds that
"This was an essential period in the beginning of the revolution; without it we
would not have risen on the crest of the revolutionary wave, we should have
dragged in its wake" (Report of the Central Committee to the 11th Congress of
the Russian Communist Party 27 March 1922.)

  In the run-up to the November coup Lenin and the Bolsheviks had won widespread support with their slogan "peace, bread and land". Of course the
promises of politicians are always easier to make than to fulfil, as the Russian
workers and peasants very soon discovered. The peasants, having got rid of the
landlord, now had their grain and cattle forcibly taken from them in return for
worthless paper money. Those who resisted were shot and many villages were
burnt. Lenin claimed that his policy of robbing the peasants was necessary to avoid famine but inevitably, the peasants retaliated by burning their crops and killing their cattle and so Lenin's policy produced famine anyway. In the cities and towns unemployment was rife and the workers, in or out of a job, were starving.
  Lenin's response to the plight of the Petrograd workers was to tell them to
"...set out in their tens of thousands for the Urals, the Volga and the south,
where there is an abundance of grain, where they can feed themselves and
their families . . "( To The Workers of Petrograd, 12 July 1918.)
 How the workers and their families were go get to these areas in view of the
fact that the civil war had broken out in each of them, Lenin didn't say.

 Early in 1919 many strikes and protest demonstrations were crushed with
great loss of life. Starvation continued to be the workers' lot for several more years but anyone who argued that the chronic food scarcity could be eased by allowing the peasants to trade their produce instead of having it stolen by the state should, said Lenin, be shot. This argument was "counter-revolutionary" - until Lenin himself made it official policy early in l92l.

 Another myth surrounding the period of Lenin's dictatorship is that at least
there was democracy within the Communist Party. This is the so-called "democratic centralism", but Lenin no more welcomed opposition from his own comrades than he did from anyone else' Communists who criticised him or his policies were denounced as "unsound elements", "deviationists" or worse' and their arguments “mere chatter", "phrase mongering" and “dangerous rubbish".

 Lenin's anger boiled over at those communists who wanted free trade unions
independent of party control' He raged at the "loudmouths" and demanded complete loyalty or else they would throw away the revolution because,
"Undoubtedly, the capitalists of the Entente will take advantage of our party’s
sickness to organise a new invasion, and the Social Revolutionaries will take
advantage of it for the purpose of organising conspiracies and rebellions." (The Party Crisis, 19 January 1921 )

 He also complained that the debate on the trade unions had been
". . an excessive luxury. Speaking for myself I cannot but add that in my
opinion this luxury was really absolutely impermissible" (Report on the political activities of the Central-Committee to the l1th Congress of the Russian
Communist Party, 8 March 1921.)
In short, shut-up and don't rock the boat. Faced with this attitude the
dissidents had no chance. Their various groups, such as "Workers' Opposition",
were expelled (even when they agreed to abide by majority decisions against them)and many of their leaders and members were jailed or exiled.

 All Lenin's actions were the result of his single-minded determination to seize
power and hold on to it, even if it meant that millions of Russian workers and
peasants died in famine and repression. The seizure of power was' given the chaotic condition of Russia at the time, comparatively simple: to hold on to power he had to create a state apparatus which, under his personal direction, was used to terrorise all opposition into submission.

 The Leninists of today will argue that all of this was a case of the end
justifying the means, that it was done in order to bring about socialism. But
undemocratic means can never bring about democratic ends; any minority which seizes power can only retain it by violent, undemocratic methods. In any case, even before 1917 the Mensheviks and many European social democrats had used Karl Marx's theory of social development to demolish the idea that socialism could be established in a backward country like Russia. The absence of larger-scale industry and the consequent smallness of the working class, both of which are essential ingredients for socialism, plus the presence of a vast, reactionary peasantry made socialism impossible.

 This earned them Lenin's undying hatred, a hatred which only increased as he saw their view justified by events. All that was left to Lenin in the circumstances was to commence building up state-capitalism. The Russia of Soviet Union is a grim reminder of how well he succeeded.  V.V.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017



The Daily Telegraph's highlighted the fact that tax paid by the rich
has increased in the last decade by 3% -- conveniently forgetting
that their share of wealth's increased by a far greater percentage.

Not for the rich a divvy freeze,
And no sign of austerity,
And not for them a ten-year squeeze,
When they've been down upon their knees;
But unabashed prosperity.

And not for them or all their brood,
Of whether they will have to choose,
Between themselves and kids for food,
Or some choice equally as crude;
Which one of them will have to lose.

And not for them to have to bitch,
And stay and pay the bedroom-tax,
For Corporations and the rich,
Acquiring wealth's reached fever-pitch;
As tax enforcement seems quite lax.

And not for them what seems a cheek,
Of borrowing to pay the rent,
And reaching the end of the week,
Where the outlook is still as bleak;
Without a single lousy cent.

And not for them the awful plight,
Of having men cut off the gas,
Or cutting down on heat and light,
To darken more their hopeless blight;
Or something equally as crass.

No, for the rich what brings a frown,
As it's their main priority,
Is stopping wealth from trickling down,
To the less gentle parts of town;
And the brainwashed majority!

© Richard Layton

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Death of Trotsky

Today is the 77th anniversary of the assassination of Trotsky.   This account of his political life
first appeared in the September 1940 edition of the Socialist Standard.

Through the attack of an assassin Leon Trotsky is dead. The Press reports that the attack was made in Trotsky's own home, the assailant having wormed his way into the aged revolutionary's friendship through many visits to his home in Mexico.

Thus the murderer avoided the usual search which the guards of Trotsky's person carry out in the case of all visitors, and so managed to conceal a small axe, with which the attack was made. Trotsky's dying words were to accuse the Russian Secret Police of the crime.

So ends the amazing career of one of the outstanding men of to-day. Trotsky (his real name was Bronstein) was the son of a well-to-do Jewish farmer in the Russian Ukraine. In early youth, whilst he was yet studying at High School in Odessa, he became an active member of the Russian Revolutionary Movement, whose fundamental aim was the overthrow of Czarist Autocracy. So far he was merely expressing the general need and feeling of Russian intellectuals, teachers, civil servants and such like, whose scandalously low pay added fuel to their intellectual abhorrence of a medieval despotism.

Soon, however, the character of the Russian Revolutionary Movement changed completely. The doctrines of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, interpreted and disseminated in Russia by theoreticians like Plekhanov, Struve and Axelrod in the first place, swept aside the curious mixture of destructive Nihilism and Western Liberalism so typically represented by the Party known as “Narodnaya Volya" (People's Will).

To understand the apparent contradiction of the spread of Marxism among "intellectuals" in a country so agrarian and backward as Russia, it would be necessary to go deeply into the subject, but perhaps one of the most important, certainly the immediate factor, was the absence of a strong, coherent capitalist class who could have directed the opposition to Feudal restrictions along orthodox capitalist lines.

Instead, the ferment was organised and led by “intellectuals," who took their cue from the most advanced social science which Europe then had (and still has) to offer.

In his own life-story, Trotsky tells us of the enthusiasm with which he plunged into Socialist study and the light which then suffused even the darkest and most perplexing problems.

It is curious, therefore, that a man so gifted as a writer as Trotsky undoubtedly was, has left little, if any, literary trace of his Marxist education. This is in contrast to men like Lenin, Martov, Riazanov, Bukharin and many other Russians, who have given us ample proof of their familiarity with the theoretical system of Marx.

After spending some time in Russian prisons and Siberian exile, years of hardship and suffering which left their mark on Trotsky's health, he managed to escape only to be arrested again as one of the ringleaders of the revolt at Petrograd in 1905.

Escaping once more, he left Russia and spent the intervening years until the Bolshevik uprising in October, 1917, in various European countries and, finally, the United States.

During this time he was continually in touch with the exiles who were planning revolt, and he played an important role in the deliberations of the Russian Social-Democratic Party, although he was then only a young man in the twenties.

When the split in this organisation took place at a conference in London in 1903, Trotsky took an individual stand.

It is not true that he was a Menshevik, for, although he, like the Mensheviks, opposed Lenin's plan for an organisation of revolutionary conspirators to be controlled by a dictatorship in the centre, his fundamental views differed from both factions.

Trotsky himself made it clear that he did not consider the controversy important enough to warrant a split, and continued to work with both groups in an attempt to re-establish unity.

But whereas both factions were agreed that the coming Russian Revolution would be essentially capitalist and that Russia would consequently have to pass through an era of capitalist democracy, Trotsky was alone in proclaiming that the overthrow of Czardom could be accomplished by the Russian movement alone, which could maintain itself in power and so cut out completely the period of capitalist transition.

This point of view he elaborated into a theory called "Permanent Revolution."

The basic points of this theory rest on the assumption that power could be held by Socialists in Russia long enough to enable the workers of the more advanced Western countries, helped, of course, by their Russian comrades, to introduce Socialism. Then the material backwardness of Russia could be overcome through the united efforts of a Socialist Europe.

None of the Bolsheviks, including Lenin, accepted this view until after the seizure of power in October, 1917.

This theory is still the kernel of "Trotskyism," and from the S.P.G.B. standpoint that kernel is rotten with error.

Lenin himself had to admit that their hopes for a Socialist revolution in the West had been frustrated, but he and Trotsky blamed this on bad and treacherous leadership.

What the Bolsheviks did not grasp, then any more than their would-be imitators can do to-day, is the need for an understanding of Socialism by a majority of the working-class. This understanding alone would make leadership, good or bad, impossible.

But Trotsky who himself failed to grasp all the implications of Socialism, continued to nourish these illusions to the end.

Hence his bitter opposition to Stalin, whom he accuses of having betrayed the "Socialist" Revolution in Russia.

Trotsky's role in the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks was second only to that of Lenin. This fact is generally recognised, except by the hide-bound followers of the present Russian Dictatorship.

His talent for military organisation and strategy helped to save the Bolsheviks from being defeated by the armies of the Czarist generals and the half-hearted intervention of the Allies.

This was often asserted by Lenin and, at the time, admitted by Stalin.

But Trotsky did not achieve this military success without ruthless discipline, a ruthlessness which showed itself again in his suppression of the revolt of the sailors at Kronstadt.

When charged by Kautsky with using methods of terrorism, Trotsky replied with a defence justifying the means by the end, as if the two could ever be separated.

Socialism, the pinnacle of human development, can never be achieved by methods that are themselves reactionary and anti-human; it is more than the irony of his logic that Trotsky himself should have met his end in such a violent manner.

How can the fall of Trotsky be explained?

Trotsky himself ascribes it to the chicanery of Stalin and his associates, but this explanation is both shallow and misleading.

Fundamentally, Trotsky fell from power because his theory of Permanent Revolution and his consequent insistence on continued revolutionary agitation abroad would have cut off all technical aid from the Western world, and so made any attempt at industrial development more difficult in Russia.

Another important factor was Trotsky's standing in the party clique which ruled the country. For although his military successes had probably made him the most popular man with the Russian masses, the Bolshevik party-machine, controlled by the secretary, Stalin, regarded him as an interloper. As already explained, Trotsky had maintained an individual stand until the October upheaval, therefore his hold on the Bolshevik party was not strong and was finally broken by the Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev clique.

The last two have since been legally murdered by their former associate; in this way Stalin has attained a personal power unequalled by any Czar.

Trotsky's misunderstanding was further exemplified by his contradictory attitude towards the Soviet Union. Bitterly hostile towards the regime, yet he urged that should Russia be involved in war, it would be the duty of all workers, inside or outside Russia, to fight in “defence” of that country, whilst at the same time working for the overthrow of Stalin.

This inconsistency he defended on the grounds that the Russian economic system, i.e., state control, was essentially working-class, and apparently required only a change in its political administration to perfect it for working-class needs.

This error is bound up with Trotsky's confusion between State-capitalism and Socialism, evidence of which can be found in his writings.

Trotsky's personal qualities are of minor interests to Socialists. As a political pamphleteer he was outstanding and he was also a first-class orator. But unless the world-proletariat can harness such gifts to serve the struggle for Socialism, they will be wasted and even harmful to workers' interests, although, and as in the case of Leon Trotsky, there is no doubt that his whole life was sincerely dedicated to their cause.
Sid Rubin

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Saudi Arabia Responsible for Yemens Cholera

The majority of deaths from Yemen's cholera outbreak have occurred in rebel-controlled areas cut off from supplies due to airstrikes and blockades by a Saudi-led military coalition, according to research.  78 percent of cholera cases and 81 percent of deaths from cholera occurred in Houthi-controlled regions. Only 10.4 per cent of deaths occurred in government-controlled areas.

Yemen is suffering the "world's worst cholera outbreak", according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than half a million people have been infected with cholera since the epidemic began four months ago and almost 2,000 people have died. Each day there are more than 5,000 new cases of cholera, which causes acute diarrhoea and dehydration. Cholera, spread by ingestion of food or water tainted with human faeces, can kill within hours if untreated.

London's Queen Mary University found eight out of 10 cholera deaths took place in regions controlled by Houthi forces who have fought a two-year war against Saudi-aligned forces backing Yemen's official government. The ensuing economic collapse has made it difficult to deal with disease outbreaks such as cholera and mass hunger.

"Saudi-led airstrikes have destroyed vital infrastructure, including hospitals and public water systems, hit civilian areas, and displaced people into crowded and insanitary conditions", Jonathan Kennedy, Andrew Harmer and David McCoy, the study's researchers, wroteThe researchers said the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for the deadly outbreak, by causing shortages of food, medical supplies, fuel and chlorine, and restricting humanitarian access.

Servants, Servitude and Slavery

  More than 15 million women work as servants in private households in Asia and the Middle East. Many are exploited, mistreated and sexually abused by their employers.  Millions of women, men even children employed in domestic work, who cannot be accurately counted because most of them not registered. These women and men sweep, swab, clean, cook, serve the more privileged.

 The problem goes beyond the poor wages and the lack of legal protection. It extends to the very attitude held towards domestic workers that is so entrenched that it doesn’t even change with the generations.  Employers care little about how many people does she support with her meagre wages?  ‘Human trafficking’ began to be recognised as a serious crime, and the United Nations negotiated international conventions to address it. These conventions require member states to incorporate international standards into their domestic legal frameworks. In Tanzania, but human rights campaigners say it is a major problem for the country. There are laws prohibiting all forms of child labor for anyone under the age of 14 and allowing only light work for children aged between 14 and 18. But because child labor is largely informal and unregulated, critics say the legislation is being poorly implemented. A government survey  in conjunction with the International Labour Organization (ILO) says there are more than 4 million child laborers in Tanzania aged between 5 and 17. Of those doing domestic work, girls make up the vast majority – more than 84 percent.

 Domestic workers may pay high recruitment fees to labour brokers, essentially paying for a position that will trap them in debt bondage. Vague employment contracts – or contract terms that change once they arrive in the country – allow for abuses such as excessive hours, the denial of requests for time off, dangerous working conditions, forced labour, and wage theft to occur. In  Middle Eastern countries they are subject to the kafala (sponsorship) system, which ties work and residency permits to a single employer who consequently has near-absolute power in the employer-employee relationship.

 Migrant domestic workers often face extreme isolation in the workplace, i.e. their employer’s household. They often experience verbal, physical, and sexual violence, as well as inappropriate housing and sleeping conditions, and are therefore denied their dignity and their safety. If they are undocumented, they are even more vulnerable to exploitation. They are not registered in the social security system; they are neither allowed to get married during the employment period nor have children (which means they cannot take maternity leave); they are excluded from the minimum wage for locals; and their wages are decided in a bilateral agreement between receiving and the sending countries.

 Many migrant workers receive no training prior to their departure and often have limited information about the country of destination, the local customs, and the conditions and nature of their work. On other occasions, workers are described one job, which turns out to be dramatically different when they arrive on site, far from their support networks and with little knowledge of their rights. In worst-case scenarios, unscrupulous labour brokers deceive migrant workers and traffic them into situations of forced labour.

 Lacking awareness of the regulations, laws, procedures, and services available to domestic workers who find themselves in exploitative situations, many workers leave the workplace to escape violence and improper working conditions. They usually go to their embassy or to the recruitment agency that brought them to the country. However, given their weak position and subjection to the kafala system, they are usually returned to the employer to work under the same exploitative conditions.
In other cases, an abused worker may escape her employer-sponsor and go underground, working without a passport or without valid work and residency permits on an hourly or daily basis. In this case, the worker is breaking the law and runs the risk of being tracked by the police, detained, and deported. She then becomes an easy target for black-market brokers of work permits and at risk of greater exploitation.

 A case in point is the story of an Indian housemaid who had not been paid her monthly wages by her Saudi employer for the past six years. The lady from the Indian state of Kerala, was sent to her present employer six years ago as a domestic help through a recruiting office back in her home country. Her contract stipulated that she be paid a monthly wage of 900 Saudi riyal. After her arrival, she was taken aback when she was told by her Saudi sponsor that her salary was 700 riyal, and that was the arrangement he had with the recruitment company that had sent her. With no choice but to continue, she began her household duties. Her employer paid her during the first four months, but then all payments stopped while she continued working. He kept making one excuse after another, and she had no way to collect her dues except to keep holding on to her job with the hope that eventually she would get paid.

 This went on for years, and her employer virtually held her hostage in his residence to serve his family while not paying her wages. She was not allowed to contact anyone and thus had to bear the indignity of playing the role of an unrewarded slave. Such employers believe they own the worker and can get away with just about anything. Such unscrupulous employers somehow manage to escape justice and the cycle of injustice simply continues.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Property Owners

One in 10 have bought or inherited a second home.

Four in 10 own no property at all.

The number of multiple home owners grew by 30% between 2002 and 2014.

The number of people without property had also risen over the 12-year period. As a result, the study concluded that there was a growing gap between those who have property wealth and those who do not.
"Contrary to the popular narrative, these second-home owners are rarely your typical middle-income worker shoring up savings, or ordinary retirees boosting pension income," said Laura Gardiner, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation. "They tend to be baby boomers (currently aged between 52 and 71) who are very wealthy indeed relative to their peers, living in the south and east of England."

Rejecting Kids

The Trump administration has cancelled an immigration assistance scheme established to help some of the world’s most imperiled children - a move activists say will lead to “suffering and death” for vulnerable youngsters.
The programme was established in 2014 and provided a safe-entry for children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador whose parents were already living legally in the US. It took note of the unique threat to the children in these countries from organised gangs, and the fact that tens of thousands of children were fleeing their homes and trying to make it northwards by themselves. 
Now, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced it is terminating the scheme, following Donald Trump’s executive order cracking down on immigration signed in January.
The scheme was set up by the administration of Barack Obama - a man whom some activists dubbed the “deporter in chief” - at a time when tens of thousands of unaccompanied youngsters were making their way illegally into the US with the help of people smugglers or “coyotes”. It was only available for children whose parents were already living in the US legally and offered an alternative for youngsters who, for whatever reason, did not meet the requirements for asylum.
 In 2014, a total of 57,498 children from the three Central American three countries crossed the southern US border. The Lutheran Immigration Service (LIRS), one of the groups that worked with the government to help reunite families said the scheme has helped a modest number of children - less than 3,000 to date. Yet even though the number were relatively small, activists said the scheme provided critical protection to those youngsters. LIRS said removing the programme will subject children to further harm and increasing risks of trafficking and child exploitation.
Oscar Chacón, Executive Director of Alianza Américas, said the decision was “unfortunate and misguided”. 
“The decision by the Trump Administration to end th humanitarian protection programme for Central American minors, will result in suffering and death for the very children and young people most at risk from gangs and other violent groups in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador,” he said. 
In 2015, El Salvador took over from Honduras as the deadliest country other than a declared war zone. That year, it recorded 104 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, a rise of 67 per cent on the figures for 2014. By contrast, the UK’s murder rate is 1 per 100,000 inhabitants, while the US has a figure of 4. 

Green Capitalism

Emerging economies are increasingly selling green bonds to Western investors seeking environmentally-friendly investments. Green bonds are intended to finance environmental projects such as solar and wind farms. $32.2 billion-worth of them were issued in the second quarter of 2017, according to Moody's. Issuance from emerging markets has jumped from $2.3 billion to $9.2 billion year-on-year, about half the total from developed markets, versus 16 percent a year ago. China accounts for over two-thirds of total emerging market green issuance and a fifth of the global tally, even though it is classed as the world's bigger polluter by carbon emissions.
It issued $23 billion of green bonds in 2016, up from just $1 billion in 2015, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative. But there is a concern some of the new deals don't meet the standards required. Bonds from polluting countries are one example; investment in controversial hydro projects another.

Lombard Odier's Global Climate Bond fund, for example, did not buy Poland's sovereign green bond, issued last year, concerned about issuer responsibility and so-called greenwashing. This is where an issuer promotes green initiatives but operates in a way that damages the environment. The Polish bond was still oversubscribed, though.
"To protect its coal industry, Poland has repeatedly vetoed climate policies and obstructed negotiations both at EU and international levels and is seen to be infringing EU law through its continued subsidies," said Stuart Kinnersley, chief executive of Affirmative Investment Management, which co-manages the fund with Lombard Odier. 

In China's case, meanwhile, only 10 percent of green bonds sold last year had independent verification on the use of proceeds. One issue is that Chinese green bond guidelines allow funding for "clean coal" power stations, which do not qualify under other market standards. China has acknowledged the issue and the state-run Bank of China successfully raised $500 million from a green bond issued in London last year. The deal was oversubscribed 1.8 times, attracting European investors.

End Terrorism

Jihadi terrorism has again struck, this time in Barcelona. 

The aim of the Islamist fundamentalists, according to some analysists, is to intensify hatred against Muslims, because that strengthens recruiting networks. The terrorists are aiming to kill a few, but scare millions and their weapon of choice are fanatics willing to die in the act to become "martyrs". Winning notoriety and sowing fear to help recruiting is what terrorists want to achieve with these bloody indiscriminate attacks. Those who commit the atrocities  - often young, marginalised men, alienated and blinded by anger - may well believe they will go to Paradise and receive their heavenly reward. But they are only a symptom, not the actual disease. Of course, they believe that Allah will be pleased and rewarding but their action is not simply a religious gesture; it is intended as a political act aimed at a political end - though, of course, Allah‘s "approval" of their action makes it a sound investment in their perceived "Hereafter".

Those who preach hate from the mosque and in the madrassas or on their internet websites want is to create tensions, to stir up hatred against Muslims, to radicalize non-Muslims to draw the world into a religious war - one that they are convinced they can win. But let's not be mistaken. Jihadi extremism kills more people in Muslim-majority countries than in the West. Jihadi terrorism kills more innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan than in the rest of the world. It is just that our "own" dead have a bigger "impact" and leads to bigger headlines in the media, of course.

Federico Aznar of Spain's Institute for Strategic Studies (IEEE) has said: "The West is not their real target, just part of their rhetoric. Western victims are for show; they are high-profile targets, an expression of power and resolution meant to bolster the group's legitimacy in their own territory, where their true interests lie."  

Let us not play into their hands. Terrorism is a political weapon. It has been used by nationalists, anarchists, leftists, fascists and by many nations in state-sponsored acts of terrorism. 

Muslims in Germany have become a particular object of hatred for violent far-right extremists. The number of people being injured in Islamophobic attacks in Germany has increased this year. But very few anti-Muslim hate crimes are successfully prosecuted. The real number of crimes was likely to be far greater, as most of them went unreported.  The PEGIDA marches aimed at what they call the "Islamization of the West," are still going on every Monday throughout the country. The nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has gained national prominence and regional electoral success in the last five years, looks likely to enter the Bundestag after September's national election. 

The World Socialist Movement says terror is terror whether unofficial and illegal terrorism or legalised state-sponsored terrorism through conventional warfare, whether it is the Taliban, Al-Qaida Islamic State or bombing missile strikes and drone attacks by the world powers. Clearly, there are double standards applied when it comes to defining what a terrorist is, with the media choosing to turn a blind eye to what the political elite in charge of the state does.

The solution to the ongoing insanity, we insist, remains the same. There is one world and we exist as one people in need of each other and with the same basic needs. There is far more that unites us than can ever divide us along cultural, nationalistic or religious lines. Together we can create a planet worth living in. We need people across the world, united in one common cause – to create a global society in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation and technology, a world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders and a world in which production is at last freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the good of humanity – socialism.

Killing Kids

Business as usual
The Saudi Arabian military coalition – which receives logistical support, weapons and political backing from the US and UK – has been accused of killing hundreds of children in Yemen, according to a confidential UN report.

 51 per cent of all child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year were the result of the Saudi-led military operation. It says the deaths were “unacceptably high”. The report said the Houthi rebels and affiliated forces were responsible for nearly a third of the total child casualties. 

“Attacks carried out by air caused over half of all child casualties, with at least 349 killed and 333 injured,” said the report.

“The United Nations was informed of measures taken by the coalition in 2016 to reduce the impact of conflict on children. However, despite these measures, grave violations against children continued at unacceptably high levels in 2016.”

Britain has also continued to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia despite mounting worries over civilian deaths. A British court ruled that such sales could continue despite humanitarian concerns and rejected an appeal by the Campaign Against Arms Trade to stop them. Last year, the UK Government did consider suspending arms sales after a strike in October 2016 killed 140 civilians attending a funeral. In the end, Britain, which has sold around $3.8bn of weapons to Saudi Arabia over the past two years and is its biggest supplies of arms, decided to continue with the sales.

In May, Trump visited Saudi Arabia where he delivered a major speech before Muslim leaders and announced multiple agreements between American and Saudi companies, including between the Saudi oil giant Aramco. “That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States,” he said. “Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said of the UN report: “The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is among the worst in the world, and the bombardment is making it even worse. This couldn't have happened without the complicit support of governments like the UK, which have armed and supported Saudi forces every step of the way. For decades now, the Saudi regime has had one of the worst human rights records in the world, and that brutality has been on full display in its destruction of Yemen.”

Friday, August 18, 2017

Poverty Tourism and Voluntourism

16,500 children are living in 406 residential care institutions in Cambodia, according to the Cambodian government and the United Nations children’s fund (Unicef). Between 2005 and 2015, the number of orphanages has increased by 60% in Cambodia, and half are now concentrated in the tourist destinations of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. A significant proportion of Cambodia’s orphanage network is operating without scrutiny. 12% were not registered with the government, meaning they operate completely off the radar.  38% have never been inspected by government, and 21% have no agreement with the government in place.
The vast majority of those children are not orphans. Roughly 80% still have a living parent, according to Friends International, a child-focused nongovernment organisation operating across south-east Asia. The growth in orphanages is completely at odds with a declining poverty rate and falling numbers of genuine orphans over the same decade, according to Friends International’s Cambodian communications coordinator, James Sutherland.
“Coincidentally that was a period of real growth in tourism as well, and in ‘voluntourism’ – combining holidays with humanitarian work,” Sutherland tells Guardian Australia from Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. “So essentially what’s happened is that unscrupulous directors of institutions have seen a business opportunity,” he said. “Most tourists, donors and volunteers are simply unaware of the facts, of the scale of the exploitation that is happening,” Sutherland said. “Unscrupulous orphanage directors know that if you open hearts, you also open wallets,” he said.
Much was hidden from the tourists visiting Sinet Chan in her rundown Cambodian orphanage. When they returned to their hotels, cameras full and best intentions sated, they remained oblivious to the reality of what they had just supported. Chan, the nine-year-old who sang and danced for them, was being starved. She and the other children hunted and ate mice to survive.

“I thought it might be a good place. Maybe I could have enough food to eat, have a chance to go to school. But actually what I imagined is wrong,” Chan told Guardian Australia. “He dressed us up looking poor so the visitors see us, they feel pity for us, and they donate more,” she said. “But they don’t really know what was going on inside the orphanage.”
What the tourists saw was a pantomime. A cruel theatre with vulnerable children as its cast.
 An estimated eight million children live in institutions globally, and the vast majority still have family who, given the right support, could care for them.
Australians are among the top financial supporters of orphanages in many south-east Asian countries, including Cambodia, according to Unicef. Australia props up the industry through volunteers, donations, and tourist visits, arranged by Australian travel agencies, charities, churches, universities, or high schools. 51% of all church attendees in Australia are contributing funding to institutional care overseas. About one-quarter were providing the funding through a Christian agency or charity, and another 21% did so through their local churches. Australian universities that offer volunteer placements and high schools are also significant contributors. 57.5% of Australian universities were advertising orphanage placements through international volunteering programs. About 245 registered NGOs directly funded or sent volunteers to residential care institutions, and 565 Australian charities were involved with or operated residential care institutions overseas.
“Despite their good intentions, supporters of orphanages such as tourists and volunteers, actually end up contributing to the breaking up of families and removing children from their own family environment,” Unicef’s Cambodian communications chief, Iman Morooka, told Guardian Australia.
Australian-based travel agencies market orphanage placements as “voluntourism”, a blend of holiday and volunteering sold to well-intentioned travellers. 22 Australian-based travel agencies or organisations that send volunteers to residential care centres. Another 61 overseas-based travel agencies were found to be recruiting Australian volunteers to work in residential care.
“I think people who are supporting orphanages, whether they’re funding or volunteering, generally have excellent intentions,”  Griffith University law and human trafficking expert, Kate van Doore said. “Unfortunately it’s those very good intentions that are being manipulated in these instances.”
In places like Cambodia, orphanages are now replacing more traditional forms of kinship care and community-based care as a means of caring for orphaned children. To sustain the business, children are “recruited” from poor families with promises of education and a better life. Some are trafficked. Many orphanages deliberately market themselves as tourist destinations. Children are kept looking poor and malnourished and taught to sing or dance to maximise pity and Western donations.

“We see orphanages that have become tourist attractions and in many cases there is no rigorous background check of those given access to the facility,” Morooka said. “This puts children at risk of exploitation and sexual abuse,” he said.

Even where they are well-run, orphanages are damaging for children. Children tend to be more likely to develop reactive attachment disorders, developmental delays, behavioural issues, poor physical health and reduced intellectual capability compared to those living at home.

In Australia, efforts are focused on pressuring the federal government to ban orphanage tourism. parliamentary inquiry into the establishment of a modern slavery act is currently considering banning Australian support for orphanages in places such as Cambodia. Chan, now an adult, travelled to Canberra this week to give evidence before the committee.  She told the inquiry of how an Australian, Tara Winkler, rescued her, after initially working at the orphanage as a volunteer. Winkler soon realised the extent of exploitation occurring within the orphanage.
“I began to realise the gross corruption that was going on, that every cent that was being sent to the orphanage, not just from me, was being embezzled by the director, and the kids were often catching mice to feed themselves,” she told Guardian Australia. Winkler rescued 14 children, with the help of the Cambodian government, and set up her own orphanage. She soon realised opening her own institution was a mistake. The children, once away from the orphanage, began to open up. They told Winkler their parents were still alive. Winkler gradually realised the extent of the problem and created the Cambodian Children’s Trust, which helps to reunite children in orphanages with their families.
Reputable NGOs, charities, and travel companies have formed an alliance, known as ReThink Orphanages, to lobby government. They are also trying to raise awareness among smaller charities, schools, and universities. The aim is not to cut off precious donations and volunteering resources, but to redirect it to reunification and reintegration services, which link children back up with their families. The partnership involves 50 Cambodian child welfare and protection NGOs, who work to reintegrate children with their families, while providing medical and psychological services, family support, and transitional care. The ministry of social affairs, veterans, and youth rehabilitation has set a target of reintegrating 30% of children back to their families and communities in five priority provinces by the end of 2018. 

“I think, for people, around the world, there is no better place like home,” Chan said. “You live with your family. You have your mum and dad, your brother and sister, if you have that kind of family, why do they need to go to live in the orphanage? I think if they want to help Cambodian children to have a good future or better education, better to have a poor parent that can look after their own kid, and they can have support on top of that.”

Avoiding taxes

Wealthy foreigners are prepared to shell out as much as £25,000 a week renting luxury homes in London without bothering to set foot inside before opening their wallets. High-end estate agents report that overseas demand for super-prime London homes is so strong that the global super-rich are agreeing to rent properties after only viewing them on FaceTime or WhatsApp. Iin the past wealthy tenants would have sent their personal assistants or hired relocation experts to go to viewings on their behalf, but are now utilising technological advances instead.

Rich overseas clients are increasingly choosing to rent properties rather than buy in order to save on the government’s increased stamp duty on homes owned via by offshore companies. “Those who considered buying can now rent for four or more years for the equivalent cost of the stamp duty on a comparable home, leaving them in a good position to buy if and when the time is right.” 

Trevor Abrahmsohn, the owner of Glentree Estates, a top-end north London agency, who has sold dozens of multimillion-pound homes on and around The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead to billionaires from across the world, said his agency had secured a series of “mega deal” rentals recently and let properties worth £40,000 a week in aggregate. “The properties these people want could be valued at £30m or more,” he said. “The stamp duty on that would be near £5m – that’s the equivalent of five years’ rent even at £20,000 a week. And you save on all the maintenance costs, as they become the owner’s responsibility. The number of high-end rentals has been gradually increasing for the past two years, but now they’re quite a regular event.”

 Renting also lets wealthy individuals maintain their privacy, as the government prepares to force the declaration of the identity of the true owner of all properties. At the last count, 200 wealthy foreigners are choosing to pay £218,200 a year in tax rather than declare which of London’s £20m-plus mega-mansions they own. The number of homes let for more than £5,000 a week – or £156,000 a year – in the first six months of 2017 increased 21% compared with the first half of 2016.

Support McDonald's Workers

Workers at two restaurants in England have voted to strike in what would be the first industrial action taken against the fast-food chain McDonald's in Britain. 

Staff at restaurants in Cambridge and in Crayford, south-east London, have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike amid concerns over working conditions and the use of zero-hour contracts.

The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union said staff were demanding a wage of at least £10 an hour and more secure working hours alongside the recognition of the right to form a trade union as employees of the company. The BFAWU said: “Workers have found themselves living on low wages with no guarantee of hours. This has been viewed by some as punishment for joining a union, and has seen employees struggle to meet their rent payments, whilst some have even lost their homes.”

Ian Hodson, BFAWU national president, said: “We at the BFAWU fully support the historic decision by these brave McDonald’s workers to stand up and fight back against McDonald’s, a company that has let them down one too many times. McDonald’s has had countless opportunities to resolve grievances by offering workers a fair wage and acceptable working conditions. This is a call for change.”

Global Solidarity and World Socialism

Junior interior minister Kiren Rijiju told the Indian Parliament the central government had directed state authorities to identify and deport all illegal immigrants including Rohingya, even those registered with the U.N. refugee agency. Rijiju, a high-profile minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government, said the UNHCR registration was irrelevant. India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which spells out states' responsibilities towards refugees. Nor does it have domestic legislation to protect the almost 210,000 refugees it hosts.

Human rights groups have condemned India's plan to deport some 40,000 Rohingya Muslims, saying India should abide by its legal obligations and protect the stateless refugees who face persecution in Myanmar.

"Indian authorities are well aware of the human rights violations Rohingya Muslims have had to face in Myanmar and it would be outrageous to abandon them to their fates," said Raghu Menon, advocacy manager at Amnesty International India. "It shows blatant disregard for India's obligations under international law." India is bound by customary international law not to forcibly return refugees to a place where they face danger, rights groups say.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and classified as illegal immigrants, despite claiming centuries-old roots. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar, where they face atrocities, including murder, rape and arson attacks, with many taking refuge in Bangladesh, and some then crossing a porous border into India. Many others have also headed to Southeast Asia, often on rickety boats run by people-smuggling gangs.
"The government should put an end to any plans to deport the Rohingya, and instead register them so that they can get an education and health care and find work," Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.
If you seek a planet without borders contact:
The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

Too much food

From Iowa to China, years of bumper crops have overwhelmed storage capacity for corn, wheat, and other basic foodstuffs. Brasil, the world's biggest soybean exporter and the No. 2 corn exporter after the United States, is also seeing these stockpiles.

This year's harvest has been so big, and prices so low, that farmers have no choice but to leave it exposed to the elements. Record soybean output sits in silos while producers wait for prices to rebound. Growers say the grain stocks may still be there when the next soy harvest arrives in January.

"For the first time in history, producers here will pile one harvest on top of the other," said Rafael Bilibio, who cultivates some 4,700 hectares of soy and corn near Vera, in the mid-North of the state.

Brazil’s corn production in the 2016-17 season is forecast to surge 45 percent from a year ago to a record 97 million metric tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency estimates that the 2016 U.S. harvest reached an all-time high and that the crop gathered this fall will be the second-bigger ever. 

Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil. The city’s name comes from the initials (in Portuguese) of the company that “colonised” the area, the Real Estate Company of Northeastern Paraná (a southern state), buying lands, building the first houses and streets, and attracting families to an illusory El Dorado.

“We have 14 to 15 million hectares of land available to expand soybean crops by 150 per cent in Mato Grosso, with no need to deforest,” Galván told IPS.

The production of soy also drives the deforestation of the Amazon forest, although in a much lower proportion than livestock production, which “occupies 50 to 70 per cent of the recently deforested areas,” Alice Thuault, associate director of the non-governmental Instituto Centro de Vida(ICV), which operates in northern Mato Grosso, explained.

Brazil’s Amazon region was populated, with the 1964-1985 military dictatorship promoting internal migration, which expanded the deforestation and provoked land conflicts, massacres of indigenous people and malaria epidemics. Ssoybean growers, mostly producers with large extensions of land, dominate local politics and rule according to their interests, to the detriment of family farmers, the environment and public health. Former Mato Grosso governor Blairo Maggi is currently Brazil’s agriculture minister.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A free market?

 Foxconn agrees to invest $10 billion to construct, over six years, a facility in Wisconsin and create up to 13,000 jobs, with a reported average salary of $53,875 over a period of up to six years. The state's agreement among other things, is to provide up to $3 billion in an economic package which would include refundable tax credits and a construction sales tax exemption for Foxconn. The state of  Wisconsin would reimburse Foxconn for 15 percent of its capital expenditures for the Wisconsin plant. This credit would be capped at $1.35 billion. The second would pay for 17 percent of Foxconn’s payroll and be capped at $1.5 billion. Because the Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit would leave Foxconn with little or no tax liability even before the new credits kicked in, these credits would result in cash payments to Foxconn, rather than a reduction in its tax liability. At the peak, between 2022 and 2026, about 2 percent of Wisconsin’s state revenue would go to Foxconn.

It is unclear how many jobs will actually be created by the Foxconn deal. It appears that the hiring of 3,000 workers is a firmer commitment from Foxconn. Foxconn’s president has been quoted as desiring to more fully automate his plants. It has been suggested that if Foxconn heavily automated its plant, the number of employees could be radically reduced. In this scenario, the payroll tax credits drop substantially but the capital expenditure credits continue.

Over a 15-year period Wisconsin would pay Foxconn a total of $218,516 per job created. If, instead, the number of jobs topped out at 3,000, the cost per job would rise to $546,958.