Friday, December 09, 2016

Religion 3

Banish Gods from the Skies and Capitalists from the Earth 

The Socialist Party has been castigated for insisting that socialism and Christianity are incompatible. To us, it is obvious that "render to God what is God's and Caesar what is Caesar's"; "servants be subject to your masters", together with the focus on the "better life hereafter" are totally at odds with the emancipation of the exploited. Everyone knows about the tortures and burnings of so-called heretics by the Inquisition and the selling of "Indulgences" and that the Crusades were not about the freeing of the Holy City of Jerusalem but rather the pillage, subjugation and rape not only of the Infidel but any Christian on the way.

This is how religion works. You generalise from real conditions, keep the generalisation and discard the reality. The generalisations are now an ideal world, to which reality must conform. As our knowledge of the real world changes, the generalisations become outdated. At first, this seems to mark them as eternal truths, a divinely simple and regular account of a disordered and chaotic world. As time goes on, those people who live in the new, more complex world express their lives in new generalisations, and a new system confronts the old. The scientific worldview attempts to overcome this; it is, at least in principle, the permanent revolution of ideas. The generalisation process is continually subjected to experimental testing: does the theory match up with the real world? You can generalise as much as you like, as long as you can verify or falsify the idea, i.e. that you test it with relation to the real world. The post-modern retreat from reality denies this faculty of judgment; it says that there is no way to compare ideas against each other. Each person comes up with their own way of generalising the world; their “narrative”. So someone who thinks that the Earth is flat and the moon is cheese has just as much claim to a correct account of reality as, say, an astrophysicist. The logic of our existence as real, capable men and women who need no gods and masters to rule us is denied.

The socialist case against religion is a simple one. We understand that, as ideas are the result of the historical movement of society, and the premises of religion thus concur with specific forms of society, religion is a social matter and not, as protestant sectarians would have it, a matter of individual conscience. Religion, as we know it today, is a part of a social process of acquiring and understanding knowledge left over from a bygone age, one in which the imagination of humanity outstripped its capacity to understand and control the world. Knowledge is inextricably linked with the process of acquiring it, with the practice of thinking. Since we, as workers, live in a world that has acquired the capacity to control its own material environment, we must reject those guides to behaviour and analysis based upon premises of human powerlessness, and the practices of thinking that go along with them. Belief in religion – any religion – warps and handicaps the ability to think objectively, particularly about social and political issues. Socialism is the application of science to the relations between men, in effect, a branch of natural history.

There has sprung up a set of ideas, loosely related in content but closely tied by form, referred to collectively as the "New Ageism", crystal healing, aromatherapy, holistic remedies, along with a host of offshoots from the more conventional religions. These themselves are associated to a general "change of consciousness", in the main anti-technological and pro-"spiritual". We as Socialists often appear alone in standing against this seeming tide of goodwill, good vibrations, and wholesomeness. Our position on organised religion is that religion is debilitating to the mind of the worker and thus to the progress which we wish to make as workers in advancing our interests. But the New Age? What could be bad about "healing"? Who could protest against the benefits of goddess worship in empowering women? Surely this New Age is at worst harmless fun and at best a route to a new, gentler society? Our answer is that the New Age religion is merely the old age religion in a new, modern form. New Age's powers are all developed on the side of "spiritual energy", "psychic transformation", etc. If the old religion was the opium of the people, then this is the heroin; no longer extracted by chance from nature but refined, even artificially manufactured, and all the stronger for the process. The chants and prayers of the old religion have become commodified into tarot cards, crystals, and psychic healing workshops with incense burners, and scented candles. New Age is not different from religion; it is the perfection of it. The old religions are dying in the West because actual experience of the modern world has ripped them asunder, and as dogmas they must break instead of bowing to this change. The Pope cannot end the Catholic Church's stance on abortion, for example, even though every Catholic with a rudimentary scientific education knows that there is no divine spark at conception. Rather than obeying a priest, we choose the form of our own mental domination.

 The pagan backdrop of Catholicism is filled by that of Hinduism or Buddhism removed from their own social contexts of native exploitation; all generating a thousand and one cults and sects. What all these have in common is the flight from reality into a magical world where the evils of the material world are transcended in thought. They are not revolutionary, as some might suppose, from their content of peace, love and contentment; they are escape, the only escape of the life prisoner staring through the bars of a jail cell window.

Religion 2

Religion: Thy name is superstition

The socialist point of view rests solidly on the materialist conception of history. Religion divides the universe into spiritual and physical realms and all religions offer their adherents relief from their earthly problems through some sort of appeal to the spiritual. Socialists see the problems that wrack human society as material and political, and their solutions as likewise material and political, not supernatural. A materialist is someone who understands the world by discovery and observation and does not postulate things without any bearing in fact. Some religious leaders may rebel against what they deem injustice, even suffering imprisonment or worse for their efforts. But where this means they seek their solutions within the framework of the system that socialists aim to abolish, they demonstrate a lack of understanding of the development of social evolution, and socialists cannot endorse their views.

Just as important, adherence to the beliefs of religious denominations can defeat people's best intentions unawares. The doctrines of organised religions traditionally locate the solution to society's problems in the individual's salvation and remain fundamentally indifferent to the fate of the human social community. At their most progressive, they seek only to modify the existing institutions of a class-divided society, and at their most reactionary, they openly obstruct even that desire. Such confusion over goals in an organisation claiming to practice scientific socialism would sooner or later undermine its revolutionary character, for the tendency of such thinking is to confine discussion of capitalism's problems to the horizon of existing society, a blindness fatal to the socialist viewpoint. One cannot understand the development of social evolution by resorting to religious ideas. Socialists do not hold beliefs. They have an understanding of the world based on the evidence available. Socialism isn't a dogma, it is a correct way of thinking about the world, and socialists learn to think correctly and accept the logical results of their own arguments. The Socialist Party is a materialist organisation, that is, we believe that ideas, etc. have no independent existence from human beings and that ideas are determined by the material world in which we live. This is an important idea for our case, and its refutation would amount to a refutation of our case.

It's true that belief in God is not synonymous with belief in a particular religion. But the fact remains that there is no concrete evidence for God's existence. Science cannot prove the non-existence of God. It cannot, either, prove the non-existence of pixies at the bottom of the garden. But doesn't it follow that if you are a believer, you also trust that it has some influence in human affairs? If there's no such influence, there can't be any evidence for God's existence. And as scientific knowledge grows, God is relegated more and more to the background. The God of the modern day is a very different God from that the feudal age or of ancient times. And the "role" that God plays in the explanation of the working of the material world has changed. Religion has had to do all the hard work of accommodating more and more scientific progress, which is why mature religions tend to become ever vaguer and more metaphorical. Successive modifications of religion have been the reflexes of changed conditions and interests. The role of God has changed from that of belief in predestiny to God as a "personal” God, from God as the first creator of the world and the cause to God as an afterthought (agnosticism) who has no control and the question of belief in him as irrelevant. The point being in this is that religion, belief in God and our own beliefs as socialists arise from the material world, how we produce it, how we interact with it. And the primacy is the material world, of matter, yet as matter and mind (spirituality as some say) that interact. Socialism, as the science of society, is an essential part of a scientific view of all phenomena regarded as an interdependent whole; and such a Monistic view of the universe, with each part in inseparable causal relation to the rest, can leave no nook or cranny for God.

Our case is that religion is not a personal/private matter, but a social and scientific matter. In religion, gods are products of the human imagination given powers to dominate the lives of those who create them. Throughout the history of class society religion performs two essential functions: it buttresses the established order by sanctifying it and by suggesting that the political order is somehow ordained by divine authority. Its sanctification of the existing social order makes it a counter-revolutionary force. Yet it consoles the oppressed exploited by offering them in heaven what they are denied upon earth. By holding before them a vision of what they are denied, religion plays at least partly a progressive role in that it gives the common people some idea of what a better order would be. But when it becomes possible to realise that better order on Earth in the form of socialism, then religion becomes wholly reactionary, for it distracts men from establishing a now possible good society on earth by still turning their eyes towards heaven. We invent religions which denigrate our humanity, and which offer a solution in the promise of a mythical, never-never land of the future.

Quote of the Day

“I spent a long time in my life exploring the possibilities for an intelligent social democratic solution of the class conflict. The idea that we could modify capitalism towards equality and social justice. That we could tame the beast. Now I think those are more or less utopian ideals.” - WolfgangStreeck, economic sociologist and emeritus director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne

'After Brexit and Trump, What?' (Public meeting, London)

'After Brexit and Trump, What?'  

A talk by Bill Martin

Sunday, 11 December at 3pm.

Head Office
52 Clapham High St.
London, SW4 7UN

Everyone welcome 

Free admission and refreshments
Bring a friend

Science, Revolution, and Society

The equilibrium and counteraction of some atomic systems, starting from small extends to polymeric structures. The valence or the assembly of molecules depends on the framework of molecular orbital and solid state structures. This molecular orbital system is extended to develop algorithms for calculation of topological indices and to deal with problems involving reaction in networks. We have seen various valences of chemicals in the laboratory and how the chemicals are changed in colour. This is a disguised revolution in the organic world which was organic originally. I always respect to the chemists regarding this. We have seen how do the electric bulbs are blazed through the framework of the molecular orbital. This is another revolution in physics. Everyone knows the rotation of the solar system in her own orbital and the retardation of the Earth’s rotation by the tides indicates the doom of this system. This is the law of dialectics in nature which has been discovered by the scientists, I also respect to the physicists regarding this.  All these have mass recognition because these revolutions have been discovered.

Such is also the struggle for emancipation from poverty as a social task. You cannot achieve the emancipation from slavery until a social revolution is begun by us. We have come to understand this phenomenon, that the social revolution will be reached through this material basis.  When you want to access your daily basis life, then you have to face to different monetary problems and to fight so many austerities. The social scientists are pathfinder of the socialist revolution to eliminate these austerities. Have you seen any scientific activity into the money circulation? We got an alienation activity between these circulations C-M-C’ and M-C-M’.  Socialists aware about the various class struggles and they know through the materialist conception of history how the future struggle will be brought about. Without the collective socialist consciousness a peaceful social change is not to be expected, so if any organisation tries to change society through the action of a vanguard the newly born society cannot be peaceful. The existing antagonistic social disorder must be abolished. As chattel slavery changed into serfdom and serfdom changed into wage slavery, so wage slavery must be changed into a socialist society. Who would have thought that an aeroplane would fly in the sky before one did in 1903?  The material basis for this social change exists. It just awaits mass consciousness and recognition.  I respect to the Socialists regarding this.

Gorachand Paramanik

Religion 1

 The Opium

 Religion must be subject to the same scrutiny as any other belief and cannot hide behind the idea that they are personal. Religion is a social, not a personal matter and the Socialist Party holds that religion is incompatible with socialist understanding. For socialists, the struggle against religion cannot be separated from the struggle for socialism. Our criticism of religion is part of a struggle against the ideas that hinder the socialist movement. We need to remember that. But nor should we forget that in serving the interests of the ruling class, it is only but one ideological form at their disposal. While religion is no doubt a useful means of dampening social discontent, it would be mistaken to exaggerate how effective it is today. It seems safe to say that the key ideology propagated by capitalists is not religion, but nationalism, which is more effective in blinding workers to their class interests and chaining them to a system that turns their blood and sweat into profits. Where social and economic development has not provided a practical impetus to challenge the teachings and presumptions of religion, it has remained strong. Such as in India where traditional religious castes still retain a strong sway. Religion also gains influence as a means of giving a sense of identity and community to ways of life that are under threat as in parts of the Muslim world where they are reacting to western economic domination and cultural intrusion, as well as military invasion. Also, there are some people politically marginalised as in the Bible-Belt of rural United States who are holding to religious fundamentalism in the face of lack of control over their own and their communities’ lives.

 It isn't simply a question of religion being false, or brutal or divisive; it I and has been a weapon of the ruling class used against the emancipation of the working class. Thus, the socialist sees religion as an integral part of the class struggle while the secularist sees it simply as a harmful, false premise on which to base a system of moral rectitude. For humanists, criticism of religion is a process towards the eventual "triumph of reason". But they ignore the material circumstances which give rise to superstition attributing miraculous powers to the figments of men's brains. Socialists oppose religion placing humanity outside the natural world – with anthropomorphic deities shaping the world.

The socialist analysis of religion derives from our basic materialism (not in the acquisitive sense, but how we view the production of wealth in society and the sort of ideas it gives rise to). Historical materialism traces how religions have evolved, from their beginnings in ancestor worship and private property in primitive societies, to established social institutions. Rationalists, humanists, secularists, atheists, see themselves as defenders of reason yet in seeing nothing wrong about capitalism they do science no great service presenting religion as the primary obstacle to the free development of science and in letting capitalism off the hook. To abolish religion is not to end exploitation. Religion keeps the gaze of worshippers fixed upon the sky, where they cannot see how they are robbed and oppressed. Socialists no longer look to heavens for a supernatural savior, or to the class above it for a Moses to lead it out of the house of bondage, but have become conscious the strength that resides within ourselves as a class. To end the political and economic exploitation, the first lesson to learn is to question the thoughts we inherit from well-intentioned parents and teachers; to challenge the strictures of the priests, parsons, rabbis and mullahs and to question why in a world of potential abundance a parasitic class are rich beyond measure, and the working class who produces all the wealth endure want and poverty. Preachers often promise that the rich will face judgement and be punished but the court date is always in the hereafter, never in the here-and-now.

Argument alone will not suffice to eliminate religion and religious strife from the world. It will take the material interest of a common cause and a common struggle to build a democratic society where people stand in real relation to each other. For the socialist alternative to our lives being controlled by impersonal forces, we must bring about a society in which humans consciously control the forces of production. It is on this basis that we can say, rather than being abolished, religion can be expected to (as Engels put it in another context) "wither away".

The Dream is Over

The American dream of upward mobility is foundering amid a widening wealth gap. The likelihood that young adults will earn more than their parents has plummeted in recent decades, a study has found.

Just half of Americans born in 1984 earned more at age 30 than their parents did at that age, down from 92 percent in 1940, according to research by Stanford economist Raj Chetty and five colleagues.

The study found two reasons for the drop: Income inequality has widened, so that even when the economy has grown, fewer Americans have received enough income gains to overtake their parents. And average annual economic growth has slowed since 1980, compared with the 35 years after World War II. The decline in mobility occurred across all states but was worse in Rust Belt states such as Michigan and Indiana.

Among the poorest 10 percent of Americans, 94 percent of those born in 1940 had surpassed their parents’ income 30 years later. That fell to 70 percent for those born in 1980 and who reached 30 years of age in 2010.
The middle class suffered a sharper drop: 93 percent of those born in 1940 into families with median household incomes — halfway between the top and bottom — had fared better than their parents by 1970. By 1980, only 45 percent of those born into the middle class did better than their parents 30 years later.
And for children born into the richest 10 percent in 1940, nearly 90 percent did better than their parents. That figure plunged to 33 percent in 1980, partly because it became harder for children of wealthy families to surpass their parents.

Those figures show that mobility has fallen for everyone — rich and poor.

The study follows separate research released this week by Thomas Piketty at the Paris School of Economics and two colleagues that documented worsening income inequality since 1980. That study found that Americans in the bottom half of the income scale have experienced stagnant income since 1980. Adjusted for inflation, the bottom 50 percent earned about $16,000 in 1980 and earns about the same now, the paper concluded.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Fact of the Day

Life expectancy in the United States has declined for the first time in more than two decades.

No Gain - A Lot of Pain

Half of the U.S. got nothing even as the economy doubled.

Approximately 117 million adults stuck on the lower half of the income ladder — "has been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s. Even after taxes and transfers, there has been close to zero growth for working-age adults in the bottom 50 percent." economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, discovered in the most thoroughgoing analysis to date of how the income kitty — like paychecks, profit-sharing, fringe benefits and food stamps — is divided among the American population.

Stagnant wages have sliced the share of income collected by the bottom half of the population to 12.5 percent in 2014, from 20 percent of the total in 1980. Where did that money go? Essentially, to the top 1 percent, whose share of the nation's income nearly doubled to more than 20 percent during that same 34-year period.

Average incomes, adjusted for inflation, grew by 61 percent from 1980 to 2014. But nearly $7 out of every additional $10 went to those in the top tenth of the income scale.

Inequality has soared over that period. In 1980, the researchers found, someone in the top 1 percent earned on average the equivalent of $428,200 a year in 2014 dollars — about 27 times more than the typical person in the bottom half, whose annual income equaled $16,000. By 2014, the average income of half of American adults had barely budged, remaining around $16,000, while members of the top 1 percent brought home, on average, $1,304,800 — or 81 times as much. That ratio, the authors point out, "is similar to the gap between the average income in the United States and the average income in the world's poorest countries, the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Burundi."

"It confirms the surge in income at the top," said Raj Chetty, an economist at Stanford unaffiliated with the project. “And it shows government redistribution doesn't really change the picture."

Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard who also independently reviewed the research, agreed that the data underscored the inadequacies of programs that try to redress inequities after the fact.

Piketty, Saez and Zucman concluded that the main driver of wealth in recent years has been investment income at the top.

Rumpelstiltskin - a fairy story for adults (1988)


A Short Story from the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Long ago in a kingdom now gone there lived a miller who had a very beautiful daughter. The miller was so proud of her and so eager to move up in the world that one day he went to the king and told him that his daughter was so clever that she could spin gold out of straw.

The king was prepared to talk to people like millers, and even listen to them, because he desperately needed gold to pay for his silks and spices from the East, his increasingly sumptuous woollen fabrics and carved furniture and stone castles, and to finance the wars he kept engaging in to keep hold of his kingdom and. wherever possible, expand it. The taxes and fines he and his nobles were able to extract from the serfs and artisans and small manufacturers like the miller were no longer enough to pay for all this, and he was prepared to listen to anyone who could tell him how to get more gold.

"Bring her to the palace in the morning," said the king, expecting that a witch with such powers must be ugly. When he saw her he was astonished by her beauty, but he did not say so. He led her to a chamber where there was a great quantity of straw, a stool, and a spinning wheel and said. "You must spin all this into gold before morning. or you will be put to death." The poor girl protested that she could not do it, but the king was unmoved. The door was locked and she was left alone, weeping loudly.

As night fell the door was suddenly unlocked and in hobbled a little hunch-backed man. "Who are you?" sobbed the maiden.

"I hear you have need of a master spinner. I am the best in the land."

"Are you a dwarf?" asked the maiden.

"If you say so," said the little man. "My mother was so poor that all her other children died, and so did she. I am the runt of the litter."

“I have to spin all this straw into gold before morning, or the king will have me put to death. Can you do it?"

"What will you pay me?"

"My beautiful necklace."

The little man nodded his head, sat down at the spinning wheel and began to spin. Whirr, whirr, whirr went the wheel, and one bobbin was full of gold thread. Then he set up another. Whirr, whirr, whirr, thrice round again, and a second bobbin was full. And so he worked all night until all straw had been spun into gold.

At sunrise the dwarf left with her necklace in his pocket, and soon afterwards the king came in He could hardly conceal his surprise and pleasure at seeing the gold. But he had the spinning wheel and the girl taken to another room containing much more straw. "If you value your life you will spin all this into gold before sunrise."

The miller's daughter was in despair. "What shall I do now?" she wept. "No magic will save me a second time." But the words were scarcely out of her mouth when the door sprang open again and in stepped the dwarf. "What will you give me this time?"

"This ring from my finger." The hunchback took it. sat down and once more began to spin. Faster and faster went the wheel all night long until all the great pile of straw had been turned into bobbins of fine gold.

The dawn came and the king appeared. He was delighted, but he was far from satisfied. He had begun to see a way in which he could make himself the richest king in the world. He might marry the girl and make her spin gold whenever he wanted it. But just to be sure he had her taken into yet another room piled high with straw and commanded her on peril of her life to turn it all into gold by morning.
The miller's beautiful daughter waited for the dwarf to appear again, and sure enough, he did. "That is a great deal of straw. What will you give me to spin it all into gold before morning?"

"I have nothing left to pay you with. "

The little man tugged his thin beard and pondered for a moment. Then he said. "I have no child. When you are queen you must give me your firstborn infant. For that, I will do the work. "

Desperate to save her life and thinking it impossible that she should ever be queen the girl agreed. Once again he began to spin. The wheel fairly sang, so fast he span, and by morning he had finished it all.

When the king arrived he was overjoyed. "You are a very beautiful girl," he said. "Fit to be a queen. I will make you my wife."

The miller was extremely satisfied. At the royal wedding of his fair daughter, he was dressed in fine new clothes and strutted about as though the king had already made him a duke.

A year went by and queen gave birth to a fine healthy boy child. By this time she had quite forgotten her promise to the little hunchback. Then one day he was brought before her. "Your majesty," he said, "it is time to pay your debt."

The queen was terrified. She offered him all the riches in the kingdom, but he said. "I do not want wealth. You must keep your promise."

Then she wept and groaned as if her heart would break until the dwarf took pity on her. "I will give you three days and if during that time you can manage to guess my name I will let you keep your child. "

All night the queen lay awake trying to think what to do. She knew that she could never discover his name by guessing, so in the morning she sent out spies into the countryside to try to find out the dwarf's name.

When he came before her she tried him with all the strange names they had gathered. "Is your name Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar?" But at every one the dwarf said. "No, that is not my name."
Again the messengers set off throughout the kingdom and came back with names like Ribs-of-Beef. Spindleshanks and Hunchback. but when the little man appeared he said to everyone. "No. that is not my name."

On the third day, the queen’s spies came back with no more names, but one of them said. "As I came to a high mountain near the edge of the forest where the foxes and hares say goodnight to each other I saw a little hovel with a fire burning outside. Dancing round the fire was a little hunch-backed man and he was singing:
Today I've brewed, tomorrow I'll bake
And then I shall the Queen's child take.
Little does my lady dream
That Rumpelstiltskin is my name.
When the dwarf appeared the queen pretended to be still guessing. "Is your name Hans?”


"Is it Conrad?"

"No, it is not?"

"Then are you called Rumpelstiltskin?"

"A witch has told you!" shrieked the little man and he stamped his right foot so hard upon the ground that it was buried up to his thigh.

Some say that as he tried to pull it out he tore himself in two. Others have it that it was the new queen who had him put to death for trespassing and poaching in the king's deer forest. But whichever account is true it is plain that the queen had no pity on the little stunted man who had done all the work for which she had taken the credit. Through the product of his labour the miller's daughter had become queen. She and her father had come to power in the kingdom, and they were just as ruthless and avaricious as the king had been.

Ron Cook

Our Common Future


Where does the idea of “carrying capacity” come from? Is there any scientific basis for attempting to posit any limit for the human family? There is none whatsoever. The world’s population is now growing at just half the rate it was before 1965. Yet beliefs that the rate of population growth will lead to some doomsday scenario have been continually perpetuated. The world's population also has enough to eat. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the rate of global food production outstrips the growth of the population. People grow enough calories in cereals alone to feed between 10 billion and 12 billion people. Yet hunger and malnutrition persist worldwide. This is because about 55% of the food grown is divided between feeding cattle, making fuel and other materials or going to waste. And what remains is not evenly distributed — the rich have plenty, the poor have little. Likewise, water is not scarce on a global scale, even though 1.2 billion people live in areas where it is. Overpopulation is really not overpopulation. It's a question about poverty. Instead of examining why poverty exists people debate definitions of overpopulation. Those who do know the fallacy of overpopulation decline to condemn an economic system that only favours the wealthy. Countries in Asia and in Africa are “overpopulated” because they lack the technology of the developed world. Only in the most underdeveloped areas does the state of the environment place limits on the number of people it can support.

Predictions of the collapse of the human species as a result of overpopulation are not new. The “carrying capacity” idea originated with Giammaria Ortes, a defrocked Camaldolese who in 1790 published a tract called ‘Reflections on the Population of Nations in Relation to National Economy.’ Here Ortes set the unalterable upper limit for the world’s human population at 3 billion. Many since have joined the ranks of boys that cried wolf. Overpopulation, for the most part, has not caused humans much trouble. The overall standard of living for most of the world’s population has risen. Our past innovations have allowed us to continue growing our economies and our population with little change required by us.

Food is a commodity, and it is those who can afford to pay, that will get food. The problem, of course, is that people who don't have enough money to buy food simply don't count. To understand why people go hungry you must stop thinking about food as something farmers grow for others to eat, and begin thinking about it as something companies produce for other people to buy.
Much of the best agricultural land in the world is used to grow cash crops such as cotton, sisal, tea, tobacco, sugar cane, and cocoa, items which are non-food products or are marginally nutritious, but for which there is a large market.

Millions of acres of potentially productive farmland is used to pasture cattle, an extremely inefficient use of land, water, and energy, but one for which there is a market in wealthy countries. More than half the grain grown in the United States (requiring half the water used in the U.S.) is fed to livestock, grain that would feed far more people than would the livestock to which it is fed.

When the best agricultural land is used up as described, it is marginal less fertile land has to be used for food and subsistence farming, which may require clearing more rainforest, or other forms of encroachment on other ecosystems.

What capitalism as a transnational system does to impoverish people throughout the world is simply not a fit subject for the news media. Instead, poverty is treated as its own cause. We are asked to believe that Third World people are poor because that has long been their condition; they live in countries that are overpopulated, or there is something about their land, culture, or temperament that makes them unable to cope. Subsistence wages, forced displacement from homes, the plunder of natural resources, the lack of public education and public health programs, the suppression of independent trade unions if we were to believe the way they remain untreated in the media have nothing much to do with poverty in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The media treat capital expansion and investment as a solution to Third World poverty and indebtedness rather than as a cause.

Power to the People (music video)

36 years ago John Lennon was shot dead on December 8, 1980

Foreign Aid and Profiteering

The Commonwealth Development Corporation (originally the Colonial Development Corporation) seeks the cap on government funds to its private equity arm, CDC Group, to be increased from £1.5 billion to £6 billion with the possibility of increasing the cap to £12 billion in the future. The Department of International Development (DFID) request is being made amidst growing criticism of DFID’s controversial new position on international development and against the CDC Group’s use of tax havens and its connection to labour and land rights abuses in the global South.

War on Want holds the view that private equity firm, CDC group should not be tasked with carrying out overseas development aid where its primary goal is to secure a return on investments rather than alleviating poverty. The CDC appears to be chasing a return on investments and wealth creation through high risk investments. Its investment in poverty reduction projects in Africa and Asia has reduced significantly. The CDC Group showed that it was able to average a rate of return of 10.3% since 2012 – far outstripping its target of 3.5%.

In 1988, just under 50% of CDC Group investments went to agribusinesses in Africa. The Zambian Mpongwe agribusiness has long been held as a jewel in the CDC Group’s crown but whose funding was pulled to support profit generating projects. Ten years on, investment in agriculture dropped to just over 20% while investment in infrastructure went up to about 35%. By 2004, 10% was going to agriculture, and just over 10% was going to infrastructure and Telecoms and IT projects. In 2009, support for agricultural projects was down to 5% and investment in consumer products rose from nothing to 14%. The other big loser was investment in infrastructure projects (such as roads, cargo depots and water distribution) which fell from 35% in 1999 to 8% in 2009. Its new investment portfolio shows an increase in investment in infrastructure and financial institutions.  The support for financial institutions and private medical care raises further concerns to the role of CDC Group in the international development aid arena.

CDC Group revealed that whilst 49% of its investments were in support of businesses and job creation in the poorest states of India, 52% went to support financial institutions and private medical care in the wealthier or middle-income states like Maharashtra, for example. It has been shown that India, classified as a middle-income country, is able to offer 71% on investment returns.

War on Want explained, “CDC Group’s existing portfolio is evidence that poverty is just a thin veil for wealth creation for elites. How is investing in the building of a shopping mall in Ghana or a gated property development in an upmarket, wealthy suburb in Kenya addressing poverty? Is it possible that what they are actually doing is using UK tax-payers’ money to make a profit off the backs of poor nations…” The CDC was involved in Feronia, a business venture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, bankrolling a shady palm oil company embroiled in allegations of a land grab from indigenous tribes; labour abuses and corruption.  

Any charity that has applied for DFID funding know the painfully rigorous, hoop jumping processes they have to go through to submit an application for funding, get the funding and then report on the use of funds. Yet DFID is perfectly content with the CDC Group not having a strategic plan for how it will spend the first £6 billion, let alone the full £12 billion. Can you imagine if an NGO went to DFID and asked for a lump sum of funds with no proposal, time-frame, outline of value for money, impact monitoring, evaluation criteria, number of direct and indirect beneficiaries?

 This the UK’s economic development aid model – abuse of labour rights, displacement of indigenous people from their land, corrupt practices and the enrichment of a few elites.

The Planet's Carrying Capacity

Many believe that we are undermining the very life support systems that sustain us. Like bacteria in a petri dish, our exploding numbers are reaching the limits of a finite planet, with dire consequences. Disaster looms as humans exceed the earth’s natural carrying capacity. Clearly, this could not be sustainable. Many have learned the classic mathematics of population growth — that populations must have their limits and must ultimately reach a balance with their environments, it’s physics, after all, there is only one earth! "Carrying capacity" refers to the number of individuals who can be supported in a given area, within natural resource limits, and without degrading the natural, social, cultural, and economic environment for present and future generations. The carrying capacity for any given area is not fixed. Carrying capacity is not a fixed number. Estimates put Earth's carrying capacity at anywhere between 2 billion and 40 billion people. It varies with a wide range of factors, most of them fitting under the umbrella of "lifestyle." If humans were still in the hunter-gatherer mode, Earth would have reached its capacity at about 100 million people. With humans producing food and living in high-rise buildings, that number increases significantly

A good way to understand the flexibility of Earth's carrying capacity is to look at the difference between the projected capacities of 2 billion and 40 billion. Essentially, we're working with the same level of resources with both of those numbers. So how can the estimates swing so widely? Because people in different parts of the world are consuming different amounts of those resources. Basically, if everyone on Earth lived like a middle-class American, consuming roughly 3.3 times the subsistence level of food and about 250 times the subsistence level of clean water, the Earth could only support about 2 billion people. On the other hand, if everyone on the planet consumed only what he or she needed, 40 billion would be a feasible number. As it is, the people living in developed countries are consuming so much that the other approximate 75 percent of the population is left with barely what they need to get by. Ultimately, the idea is this: If everyone on Earth can manage to do more with less, we'll be back on track to Earth's indefinite carrying capacity.

A Scottish shooting estate manager maintaining a population of deer will want to know how many deer could be supported on that patch of land. Having an idea of carrying capacity would tell him, as a rough guide, whether his land is underpopulated (in which case the population would be expected to grow) or overpopulated, which could happen if too many deer were competing for the same resources. Some wildlife populations fluctuate widely in size and exhibit a tendency to “overshoot” carrying capacity, in which case natural mechanisms—like starvation or increased predation—kick in to reduce the population size. Overpopulation, for a wildlife manager, would indicate a risk of disease or damage to the resource base from overgrazing. The game manager might decide to allow hunters to harvest some of the animals in order to bring the population back down to a sustainable level; the carrying capacity. Shouldn’t we take steps to manage the human herd?

This is nonsense. These claims demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of the ecology of human systems. The conditions that sustain humanity are not natural and never have been. Since prehistory, human populations have used technologies and engineered ecosystems to sustain populations well beyond the capabilities of unaltered “natural” ecosystems. We transform ecosystems to sustain ourselves. This is what we do and have always done. Our planet’s human-carrying capacity emerges from the capabilities of our social systems and our technologies more than from any environmental limits. The idea that humans must live within the natural environmental limits of our planet denies the realities of our entire history.

There is no environmental reason for people to go hungry now or in the future. There is no need to use any more land to sustain humanity — increasing land productivity using existing technologies can boost global supplies and even leave more land for nature — a goal that is both more popular and more possible than ever.

An oft-cited piece of country wisdom is that you can feed a family of four on an acre of land, more or less, give or take. If you allow 4 people per acre, this gives you 988 people per square kilometre. So if you find the maximum cultivable or productive area of a given country, and multiply that by 988, you can get an approximation of the maximum sustainable population (MSP) of that country. The maximum cultivable area of the UK - meaning land good for annual crops like wheat or permanent crops like fruit trees - is just 23 percent of total land area, or around 56,600 This might not sound like much, however, when you times this by 988, you get an MSP of 55,924,752. This is rather more impressive, though still shy of the current UK population estimate of 65 million. However, we have not included pasture land, currently used for dairy and beef cattle, sheep and goats. The main thing wrong with this land, from an arable point of view, is that it's not flat enough for tractors and combine harvesters. Given that pastured beef consumes around 20 times the energy it produces (grain-fed beef is around 40:1), it could make sense to convert this pasture to intensive allotments which would yield on average 20 times more food. If you include this land, the total farmable land area goes from 23 percent to 75 percent. Even this does not include woodland, which constitutes 11 percent of the remainder, and which could, in theory, be turned to good account using well-established 'wild farming' techniques like permaculture and forest gardens. Most of what's left is lakes (fish-farming?), parks, golf courses and mountains. Urban development, cities, roads, buildings etc only account for about 4 percent.So if push came to shove, the tiny islands of Britain could convert 86 percent of their land to agriculture. On a land area of 241,590sq. km this gives a theoretical MSP of 238,631,640, near enough the population of the USA than of Britain. First, could an acre really feed 4 people, year in, year out? Farmers in Britain with smallholdings say they can be generally self-sufficient on vegetables using around an acre, but there is a limit to what you can grow in the British climate, and soil quality, light, drainage and other variables will also affect yield. And you also need to let land lie fallow or else exhaust it or drench it in polluting nitrate fertilizers, so it would be wise to slash that figure in half. But even so, and even allowing some meat farming so people can still enjoy the odd hamburger or sausage, it's hard to see how there's any obvious danger of famine. Rather than being a basket case, socialist Britain might even be a net exporter. Currently, the UK produces about 75 percent of its food and imports the rest. But it imports things you can't easily grow here, mostly Mediterranean fruit and veg, coffee, rubber and wine, and exports things the world enjoys, mainly whisky. Imports come from around 28 countries, and the government view is that the more sources you have the better since your supply is less likely to be interrupted. But this may not hold when socialism is first established, because global priorities may be more concerned with feeding starving people elsewhere than providing Brits with their morning orange juice and cappuccinos. And though it may be cheaper in capitalism to ship tomatoes from Spain than grow them in UK greenhouses, the same economics may not hold in a non-market moneyless economy. In short, though socialism will be global, it will be smart for people to produce as much as possible locally without relying on fleets of container ships. A similar MSP calculation gives Ireland a potential to feed 2.5 times its current population, while the USA could feed its people 5 times over on arable land alone, without considering the vast cattle ranges. 

The same story is true pretty much everywhere. People don't take up much space at all. It's capitalism – and the rich - that engulf resources and create misery. Socialists fully recognise the need to protect the life-support system that sustains humanity. 

Australia's Inequality Grows

In Australia data also showed that profits, rents and interest payments have gradually taken more and more of the national income, eroding the share given to workers as wages. Despite gains in productivity (making more stuff with fewer people), wage earners are still getting a far smaller portion than they used to. According to one senior economist, this dwindling wage share helped fuel a household debt binge that triggered the Great Recession, and could now be creating the conditions for a property crash.

Professor Bill Mitchell, an economist at the University of Newcastle, blamed the “pernicious” trickle-down economics of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Labor’s Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. Wages decoupled from productivity growth in the 1980s because of liberalised trade, tax cuts for the rich, financial deregulation, privatisation of public assets, attacks on trade unions and other ‘free market’ policies, he told The New Daily. :
“The whole Hawke/Keating mantra was, if we suppress real wages growth and let productivity growth outstrip it, then the profit share will rise and business firms will pump that money back into capital investment and we’ll have more innovation, high productivity and we’ll all be better off. That didn’t happen. What happened was, the money was pumped into financial markets, which are essentially unproductive, but spawn massive speculative behaviour and this rise in the top-end of town.” He continued “That redistribution of national income away from wages to profits, where did it go? It went into the financial markets and it coincided with financial market deregulation, which led to the credit boom and record levels of household debt.”

Others point to structural shifts, such as technological automation, the shift from manufacturing to services, and increased globalisation. Whatever the explanation, workers are hurting.  There has been a deliberate ploy to undermine workers’ pay and rights by attacking unions so the rich can claim a bigger slice of the pie while the rest scramble for the crumbs. And it is still going on, with the continued attack on unions. Do things have to collapse around our ears before we do something? We are so apathetic. So long as we have capitalism we shall have "haves" and "have nots" . The ruthless "haves" will happily grind the faces of the "have nots" into the ground to further enhance their already better life-style and security. The franchise is at the moment universal. Poor and rich each have one vote. How long will this situation remain that the majority vote for the rich?

The reality may be worse, as the definition of ‘worker’ includes bank CEOs and other highly-paid executives, whose share of wages is rising. The ABS measure of national income, called ‘total factor income’, adds up worker wages, business profits, interest on capital and rental income to landlords. It then expresses as a percentage the share given to workers.

Children in Sweatshops

Bangladesh’s garment industry is the world’s second largest after China, accounting for some $25 billion in annual exports. It employs around 4 million workers, most of them women.

A new report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) shows how children from Bangladeshi slums work 64 hours a week on average. And many of them work in clothing factories.

ODI undertook a survey of 2,700 slum households in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka and discovered that:
1. 15% of six-to-14-year-olds in the city’s slums were working full time rather than studying – mostly as a result of the economic pressures facing their families.
2. At the age of 10, about 8 percent of slum-dwelling children had jobs. By age 14, almost half of these children were working.
3. Although national legislation sets 42 hours as the threshold for ‘hazardous work’ and defines 14 as the minimum working age, the average working week for under-14s in Dhaka’s slums was 64 hours.
4. Two thirds of young girls worked in the clothing sector.
5. Over a third of both boys and girls reported experiencing extreme fatigue.
6. Almost two thirds of the children who started working between the ages of six and ten couldn’t read a single Bengali word correctly.
One factory manager, who was aware that under-14s shouldn’t be working, said he didn’t consider employing under-age workers to be illegal.

According to report co-author Maria Quattri: 
“The children we spoke to wanted to be at school… But poverty was driving parents to find jobs for their children, even though they could see that it would jeopardise their long-term future.”

Kevin Watkins, the other co-author, said child labour “transmits poverty across generations” and “traps children in a cycle of poverty”. This is because its cause is usually poverty, and its result is usually educational deprivation. By entering the world of work at such a young age, they are trapped inside a cycle of poverty. And Watkins insists that the results of the investigation into child labour and its effects in Dhaka are only “a microcosm of a global problem that should be at the centre of the international agenda.”

This dismal situation facing workers in Bangladesh is in large part is because big retailers haven’t really committed to improving conditions. They know full well that increasing prices could reduce the number of Western consumers able to buy their products and, unless these customers demand change, they have little financial incentive to improve workers’ rights.

Child labor is not confined to Dhaka’s slums. Crushing poverty leads children across Bangladesh to take jobs to help their families. Out of an estimated 4.7 million child laborers nationwide, the vast majority live in rural areas, working on farms or in homes as domestic servants, according to government statistics and UNICEF.

Fact of the Day

According to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report 2016,  the top 1% of the Russian population controls a whopping 74.5% of the country’s wealth. 

Meanwhile, India and Thailand come in close 2nd and 3rd, with each country’s 1 percenters owning 58.4% and 58% of their nation’s resources, respectively.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Sodom and Gomorrah?

According to the 2011 Census of England and Wales, Norwich had the highest proportion of respondents reporting “no religion”. The city’s figure was 42.5% compared with 25.1% for England and Wales as a whole.

The survey revealed that Brighton & Hove came in a close second in the ‘godless’ stakes with 42.4% of residents describing themselves as having no religion. Local newspaper reports in both areas pointed to the relative youth of the population and the high number of students as being relevant factors. If you are young and bright, it seems, you are more likely to be irreligious.

Berlin has been dubbed the “atheist capital of Europe”. Some 60% of Berliners claim to have no religion,

Another Migrant Graveyard

The Mediterranean has been the scene of thousands of deaths but less visibly the deserts of America has also been places of death. The US-Mexico border a formidable barrier with treacherous terrain and ubiquitous cameras, sensors, drones, and patrols,

The group No More Deaths said the US Border Patrol agency has engineered the death and disappearance of tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants by using the desert wilderness as a “weapon”. The report accused agents of hounding people to injury and death, and brutalising those they captured: “Mass death and disappearance are the inevitable outcomes of a border enforcement plan that uses the wilderness as a weapon.” Pursuit increases the risk of dehydration, heat stroke, exhaustion, injury and drowning, the report said. Agents chase and scatter border crossers across hostile terrain in a strategy that leaves many people injured, dead or lost, turning the US’s south-western frontier into a “vast graveyard of the missing”.

No More Deaths depicts the border as a gauntlet which often condemns would-be crossers to grim and uncertain fates. It said the policy was rooted in a 1994 Clinton-era Border Patrol strategy called “Prevention Through Deterrence” which sealed off urban entry points and funneled people to wilderness routes risking injury, dehydration, heat stroke, exhaustion, and hypothermia. Tens of thousands have gone missing since the 1990s, including 1,200 last year, it said. “If found, the disappeared turn up in detention centers, in morgues or skeletonized on the desert floor; many human remains are never identified. Thousands more are never located. With each passing day, another father, sister, aunt, brother, partner or child goes missing while attempting to cross the Southwest border.”

It accused the federal agency, which deploys about 18,000 agents on the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, of sabotaging humanitarian aid efforts and discriminating against undocumented people in emergency responses.

“The known disappearance of thousands of people in the remote wilderness of the US–Mexico border zone marks one of the great historical crimes of our day,” the group said

The Border Patrol estimates at least 6,000 have died since the 1990s. Other estimates are significantly higher with many bodies never found

Big Pharma at it again

Drugs giant Pfizer has been fined a record £84.2m by the UK's competition watchdog for overcharging the NHS for an anti-epilepsy drug, Epanutin (phenytoin sodium). 

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also fined distributor Flynn Pharma £5.2m for the 2,600% price increase for the drug in 2012.

NHS spending on the capsules, used by 48,000 UK patients, rose from £2m a year in 2012 to about £50m in 2013. UK prices for the drug were many times higher than in Europe.

Poverty in the UK

People with less than 60% of median income once housing costs are deducted. are classified as poor. There were 13.5 million people living in households classified as poor in 2014-15. This is 21% of the UK population, a proportion barely changed in more than a decade. The report found, 55% of those in poverty are now in working households, a record high. This comprises a total of 7.4 million people – 1.1 million more than in 2010-11 – among them 2.6 million children.

High rental housing costs mean an estimated 3.8 million workers - one in eight - are in poverty, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). It said in-work poverty was up by 1.1 million since 2010-11, and 55% of those in poverty were in working families.

"The economy has been growing since 2010 but during this time high rents, low wages and cuts to working-age benefits mean that many families, including working households, have actually seen their risk of poverty grow," said Helen Barnard, head of analysis at the JRF. “This report shows that people on low incomes cannot rely on economic growth and rising employment alone to improve their financial prospects. Families who are just about managing urgently need action to drive up real-term wages, provide more genuinely affordable homes and fill the gap caused by cuts to Universal Credit, which will cost a working family of four almost £1,000 per year." 

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "A fair day's work should mean a fair day's pay. But wages are simply too low, and millions are struggling to afford the basics, even when they are working hard. After the financial crisis, UK wages fell further than in any other developed country except Greece. It is time for employers to give their staff fair pay and decent hours, while the government should lift the public sector pay cap and invest in our economy."

The chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, said: "Since 2010, the poverty gap - the distance below the poverty line that the typical family living in poverty finds themselves - increased by 13%. A typical family under the poverty line is now £57.40 per week short, after housing costs, of the official poverty line. Parents in poverty are more deprived than they were at the start of the financial crisis."

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggested workers would feel the squeeze on pay for more than a decade - earning less in real terms in 2021 than they did in 2008.

The Resolution Foundation also suggested that the biggest losers between now and 2020 would be lower income families, with the poorest third likely to see incomes drop.

Poverty in the EU

 Almost one in four people in the EU lives at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Today, almost 23 million children in the EU grow up in poverty. 10 % of households struggle in terms of feeding their families, paying utility bills or keeping homes adequately warm. Significant numbers of Europeans do not have sufficient savings to face unexpected financial expenses (40 % of women and 36 % of men) or cannot afford a holiday away from home at least once a year (37 % of women and 35 % of men)

More women and men are living on the edge of poverty and social exclusion today compared to 2010, according to a new study by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). Young people, lone parents, migrants, people with disabilities and families with three or more children are most at risk of poverty. 

A third (36 %) of men and a quarter (25 %) of women who are poor are employed. Many working men live in poor households because their wives or partners are out of the labour market or earn very low income.

There is clear evidence that a heavy dependence on a father’s income in many families increases the risk of poverty and insecurity. Especially when unexpected life events occur, such as job loss, family break-up, serious illness or even death. The study shows that if a father were to lose his job, 70 % of couples with children would fall into poverty.

Fact of the Day (New Zealand)

 60% of the wealth in New Zealand is concentrated in the hands of the top 10%.

If you want to end inequality contact:
The World Socialist Party (New Zealand)


Looting the developing countries

Global Financial Integrity (GFI) has revealed how developing countries lost about $16.3 trillion to leakages in the balance of payments, trade mis-invoicing, and recorded financial transfers between 1980 and 2012.
“GFI’s estimates show that, over the past decade, an average of more than $1 trillion per year, have flowed out of developing countries unrecorded. Viewed another way, for every dollar of development assistance received by developing countries, more than ten dollars disappear from these countries,” the report noted.

As of 2011, about $2.6 trillion of developing countries’ private wealth and over half of the $4.4 trillion of total assets were held in tax havens alone.

“There is perhaps no greater driver of inequality within developing countries than the combination of illicit financial flows and offshore tax havens,” lamented GFI President, Raymond Baker.

According to the report, a total of about $3 trillion in recorded transfers (about $90 billion per annum on average) flowed out of those developing countries, depending on available statistics. Further details of the study showed that developing countries lost $13.4 trillion dollars ($10.6 trillion, excluding China) through broad leakages in the balance of payments and trade mis-invoicing. Also, total portfolio investment and foreign direct investment of developing country residents in tax havens increased from $0.9 trillion at end 2009 to $1.3 trillion at the end of 2012.

Poverty in the USA

Obama legacy is that he trimmed the top 1-percenters’ share, after taxes and transfers, to only 15.4 percent, from 16.6 percent of the nation’s income and increased the slice going to the poorest fifth of families by 0.6 percentage point, to a grand total of 4 percent. Not much of an achievement. But probably the best he could accomplish. Walter Scheidel, a professor of history at Stanford, however, in his new book, “The Great Leveler” reckons that “only all-out thermonuclear war might fundamentally reset the existing distribution of resources.”

Scheidel’s depressing view is based upon his interpretation of the effects of catastrophes in history.

The collapse of the Roman Empire in the second half of the fifth century, reinforced by a bubonic plague pandemic, brought about Western Europe’s first great leveling. Productivity collapsed and the aristocracy’s far-flung assets were expropriated, while Rome’s trade networks and fiscal structures were destroyed. Inequality bounced back, of course. By 1300 the richest 5 percent of people had amassed nearly half the wealth in the cities of Italy’s Piedmont. But another bubonic plague known in history as the Black Death changed all that, killing a quarter of Europe’s population in the 14th century and cutting the share of wealth of Piedmont’s rich to under 35 percent. World War II was also a game changer. It significantly improved the earnings of those at the bottom of the social system by vastly raising demand for unskilled labor to serve the war effort. Between 1939 and 1945 the income share of the richest 10 percent dropped by more than 10 percentage points.

Many reformists would like to propose higher minimum wages, perhaps even a universal basic income; or maybe helicopter in some cash to each citizen so all can benefit from the high returns on investment to help curb poverty; sharply higher income tax rates for the rich along with a wealth tax; a weakening of intellectual property rules, curbs on monopolies and coordination of labor standards around the world.

Again, Scheidel’s prognosis for change is a pessimistic one. “Serious consideration of the means required to mobilize political majorities for implementing any of this advocacy is conspicuous by its absence.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Gulf Cooperation Council - UK’s Allies

Bahraini police after dispersing protesters earlier this year (Getty Images)
Police fired live ammunition into crowds during the Arab Spring protests
Authorities have shut down newspapers and TV stations that air criticism of the Government
Security services used torture in response to protests – with methods so extreme they resulted in deaths
The British think-tank, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, that bills itself as a global authority on military and diplomatic affairs has secretly received £25m from the Bahraini royal family

Saudi Arabia
Accused of committing war crimes in its on-going military campaign in Yemen
Women’s rights severely curtailed
Death penalty by beheading followed by crucifixion of bodies in use

Hereditary monarchy with no democratic institutions
Tight restrictions on protesting and freedom of assembly
Reporters of journalists and activists critical of government ‘disappearing’

Builders at work on the construction of a new office site in Qatar (Getty)
Forced labour of migrant workers with hundreds of deaths reported on major projects
Flogging enforceable as a punishment under Sharia law for drinking alcohol or ‘illicit sexual relations’
Death penalty or prison sentences for gay people

United Arab Emirates
 No democratically elected government
Has not signed international human rights and workers’ rights treaties
Death penalty or prison for gay people

Stateless minority groups lack citizenship rights
All citizens must provide DNA samples to government

Far-reaching restrictions on freedom of speech and criticism of the Government

Wood Green Street Stall