Saturday, February 04, 2023

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

 The following imaginary conversation originally appeared in the October 1937 issue of The United Automobile Worker:

“What did you tell that man just now?”

“I told him to hurry.”

“What right do you have to tell him to hurry!?”

“I pay him to hurry.”

“How much do you pay him?”

“Four dollars a day.”

“Where do you get the money?”

“I sell products.”

“Who makes the products?”

“He does.”

“How many products does he make in a day?”

“Ten dollars’ worth.”

“Then, instead of you paying him, he pays you $6 a day to stand around and tell him to hurry.”

“Well, but I own the machines.”

“How did you get the machines?”

“Sold products and bought them.”

“Who made the products?”

“Shut up. He might hear you.”

In a recent Facebook discussion of this conversation, some insisted that the worker does have a way out:

A: There is a simple solution if things are that simple! The worker can buy his own machine, make his own product, and reap 100% of the profit. I love American capitalism! Where else can a person be his own boss and take home all of the profits?

B: It’s still sort of a free country. If that man don’t like being told to hurry he can go start his own company and make his own products.

Others pointed out that while many people may try to go into business on their own account very few of them succeed,

C: Market saturation and utilization are HUGE factors in how many “owners” can exist. In current society that equates to between 1–5% owners, where only the top 20% of owners are not crushed by higher level capitalist firms.

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag - World Socialist Party US (wspus.org)

Capitalists on a high

 


UK’s blue-chip share index hit an all-time high of 7,906.58 on Friday, amid hopes that global inflation is easing and central banks may be reaching the end of a sustained period of interest rate rises. 

The FTSE 100 peaked at that level before ending the day at a new closing high of 7,901.80. Both the intraday high and the closing high were above the previous record set on 22 May 2018. The index contains the 100 most valuable companies listed in London. It was created in 1984, when it started at 1,000 points.

"...the FTSE 100 is defying the doom and gloom,” said Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor.

FTSE 100 hits record high | FTSE | The Guardian

Friday, February 03, 2023

When the Bear Speaks, Listen Closely

 First it went from no. we won’t send Ukraine tanks. Then it was, we’re sending tanks.

Then it went to, no, we won’t send Ukraine fighter aircraft. Then it was, we’re sending fighter aircraft.

Then it was no, we won’t send Ukraine longer range weapons. Now it’’s, ‘The Pentagon’s next package of military assistance to Ukraine will reportedly include Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDBs), munitions for rocket artillery, and munitions that have a range of 150km (94 miles).’

If western supplied missiles land on Russian territory we enter a whole new ball game.

This Blog supports the statement issued by the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Great Britain in August, 1914:

Having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow workers of all lands the expression of our good will and Socialist fraternity, and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism
THE WORLD FOR THE WORKERS!’

With the Doomsday Clock standing at ninety seconds it seems very sensible to listen to, and take seriously, what the Russian President has to say.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has hit out at the looming deliveries of Western-made tanks to Ukraine, warning that Moscow’s response to the threat will span far beyond armoured vehicles. The Russian leader made the comments during a ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of victory at the Battle of Stalingrad.

Unbelievable, but true – we are once again threatened with German Leopard tanks, with crosses on their hull. And once again seeking to battle Russia in Ukraine with the help of Hitler’s followers, the Banderites,” Putin said.

Those seeking to defeat Russia on the battlefield apparently do not realize that a modern war with Russia would be entirely different for them. We’re not sending our tanks to their borders. Yet we have something to respond with, and it would not be limited to armour use only, everyone must realize that,” he added.

Last week, Berlin changed its stance on supplying modern armour to Kiev, pledging to deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks as well as allowing European countries to re-export German-made vehicles from their own inventories. The number of Leopards expected to be funnelled to Ukraine amounts to some 112 vehicles. Separately, Washington pledged to send 31 Abrams tanks, but doesn’t expect to deliver them until late 2023 at the earliest.

Moscow has repeatedly urged the collective West to stop “pumping” Ukraine with modern weaponry, warning that the ongoing military aid would merely prolong the hostilities and inflict more suffering on everyday Ukrainians, rather than change the ultimate outcome of the conflict.”

RT 2\2\23

 

Dave C

Twenty Pounds and Sixpence

 Readers of Charles Dickens “David Copperfield,” will be familiar with Mr. Micawber.

He is in somewhat straightened circumstances. He proffers some advice gained from experience: ‘Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen, six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds, ought, and six, result misery... Meanwhile I am waiting for something to turn up.’

Do Americans still read Dickens one wonders?

The website, US Debt Clock. org, shows in real time America's rising national debt.

https://www.usdebtclock.org/

The figures in red wizz round accumulating so fast it’s hard to read.

Federal debt to GDP ratio is one hundred and twenty per cent.

Rather than wait for’ something to turn up.’ perhaps American should ask the World Socialist Movement US for the solution to their woes.

“US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Saturday warned of dire consequences the country may be facing if it doesn’t hike its statutory debt ceiling in the coming months. According to the senior official, the US could default on its debt by summer, which would lead to a financial crisis.

It makes me nervous…It would be devastating. It's a catastrophe,” Yellen told Axios news outlet, adding that “we’ll have a financial crisis and I believe we would have recession in the United States.”

Spending would have to decline to match the tax revenues,” Yellen said, which would strip the government of the ability to support the economy with stimulus. Furthermore, “psychological consequences” like people fearing to spend money could then “further impact spending and deepen a recession.”

She noted that a full-blown US debt default would also send ripple-effects across the global economy.

“Americans would face higher borrowing costs, and it would cause a good deal of turmoil globally as well,” Yellen said.

The secretary began to raise the alarm on potential US debt default earlier this month, notifying the US Congress that the Treasury had started to invoke emergency measures to prevent the country from reaching the national debt ceiling, now set at $31.4 trillion. The measures largely involve temporarily suspending payments that are not immediately necessary to keep the government running. Yellen noted at the time, however, that the measures only go as far as to give the Congress time to negotiate and pass a debt limit hike, most likely until early June. Without the hike, default would be imminent, she said.

The president and the leadership of Congress are responsible to find a way to get the debt ceiling raised,” she told Axios.

The debt ceiling, which was first enacted by the Congress in 1917, prevents the US Treasury from issuing new government bonds to fund government operations after the debt ceiling is reached. Exceeding the limit means that the federal government's ability to make routine budget payments, including paying for various social expenditures, is at risk. Moreover, the government's ability to pay debts and interest on obligations already incurred could be seriously undermined.”

https://www.rt.com/business/RT 29\1\23

Dave C.

Afghan Agony

 Aid agencies in Afghanistan predict that a record 28.3 million people – some two-thirds of the population – will need humanitarian assistance in 2023, with 6 million of those already perilously close to famine.

Afghanistan’s economy is in freefall and food prices skyrocketing, many desperate families have taken loans or borrowed from neighbours, and the slightest setback can plunge them deep into debt.

Families struggle for survival during Afghanistan’s coldest winter in a decade - Afghanistan | ReliefWeb

Wealth Difference

 The rising value of property, private pensions and shares have helped the UK’s wealth to grow by 70% since 2010, with most of the gains going to the top 10% richest households.

 Since 1979, household wealth adjusted for inflation has almost trebled, gaining £7tn.

TUC general secretary, Paul Nowak, said that by cutting services and “holding down wages in favour of a wealth boom for the rich, the Tories have created an economic ‘doom loop’”.

Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Resolution Foundation shows income from work falling behind the gains from owning assets.

Britain has missed out on £400bn of growth since 2010, says TUC | Economic growth (GDP) | The Guardian

Shell is in Heaven

 


Shell reported one of the largest profits in UK corporate history, the biggest in its 115-year history, with the oil company’s annual takings to $40bn (£32bn).

 Shell posted profits of almost $10bn in the final quarter of last year, taking its annual adjusted profits to $40bn in 2022, far outstripping the $19bn notched up in 2021.

Shell also announced a boost in payouts to shareholders, with a 15% increase in the final quarter dividend to $6.3bn, as weel as a  $4bn of share buybacks over the next three months.

 In total, Shell distributed $26bn to shareholders in 2022.

Paul Nowak, the general secretary of the TUC, said the profits were “obscene” and “an insult to working families... As households up and down Britain struggle to pay their bills and make ends meet, Shell are enjoying a cash bonanza...Instead of holding down the pay of paramedics, teachers, firefighters and millions of other hard-pressed public servants, ministers should be making big 0il and gas pay their fair share.”

Jonathan Noronha-Gant, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, said: “People have every right to be outraged at the enormous profits that Shell has made in the midst of an energy affordability crisis that has pushed millions of families into poverty.”

Greenpeace UK senior climate justice campaigner Elena Polisano said: “World leaders have just set up a new fund to pay for the loss and damage caused by the climate crisis. Now they should force historical mega-polluters like Shell to pay into it.”

Shell has also been accused of overstating how much it is spending on renewable energy The firm spent $12bn on oil and gas projects, compared with $3.5bn on its renewable energy division.

Calls for bigger windfall tax after Shell makes ‘obscene’ $40bn profit | Shell | The Guardian

 

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Pakistan's Women Workers’ Alliance

 


 Since the pandemic, Pakistan’s once-thriving textile industry has laid off  7 million workers due to low exports and the country’s grave economic crisis. Electricity costs have doubled; floods have devastated cotton fields, adding to shortages and the government has placed limitations on credit.

In Faisalabad,  known as the Manchester of Pakistan producing textiles for the world, hundreds of thousands of the 1.3 million textile workers – half of whom are women – have lost their jobs and the jobs of a huge number are on the brink.

The biggest worry is that these jobs will be lost forever. That is worse than their delayed and underpaid salariesthe harassment they face at work and having no healthcare facilities. For rural women who travel to the factories from surrounding areas early in the morning and work long days for low pay, this is their only source of income.

Hundreds of factories have closed or are working short shifts. Workers have been fired. Even the cottage industry of female workers, sewing at home, lacks support or incentives. They make gloves, socks and stockings for less than a dollar a day. Women are reluctant to raise their voices because they fear it will mean losing their jobs. In small mills, labour laws are ignored and workers denied even maternity leave.

The Women Workers’ Alliance (WWA) is protesting against the mass layoffs in the industry, and demanding workers are paid. It estimates that of more than 150,000 workers in the hosiery sector alone, only 4,200 have social security cards.

WWA has helped workers form anti-harassment committees in textile sectors and other industries. We have also held meetings with the government’s labour department regarding the formation of anti-harassment committees and succeeded in getting them into 40 mills in Faisalabad. Three months ago, workers from Masood Textile Mills succeeded in forcing the implementation of the legal minimum wage, a battle that took four months.

One of the key issues is that WWA cannot meet with women at their workplaces for any union activity, as they are bussed into these workplaces by the owners. 

Pakistan’s textile industry is in crisis – and women are bearing the brunt of its decline | Parveen Latif Ansari | The Guardian

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

A Blind Eye to Myanmar Dictatorship

 Some of the world’s biggest oil and gas service companies continued to make millions of dollars from operations that have helped prop up the  Myanmar military regime.

More than 2,940 people, including children, pro-democracy activists and other civilians have been killed since Myanmar's military seized power in February 2021's coup.

US, UK and Irish oil and gas field contractors – which provide essential drilling and other services to Myanmar gas field operators – have continued to make millions in profit in the country.

The US state department warned in January last year there were significant risks in doing business in the country – including with state-owned entities that financially benefit the junta, such as the national oil and gas company Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). On Tuesday the US, UK, Australia and Canada announced more Myanmar sanctions, including on the managing director and deputy managing director of MOGE. But they stopped short of sanctioning MOGE itself. Last February the European Union became the first jurisdiction to announce sanctions against MOGE itself in light of the “intensifying human rights violations in Myanmar” and the “substantive resources” MOGE provides the junta.

- US oil services giant Halliburton’s Singapore-based subsidiary Myanmar Energy Services reported pre-tax profits of $6.3m in Myanmar in the year to September 2021, which includes eight months while the junta was in power.

- Houston-headquartered oil services company Baker Hughes branch in Yangon reported pre-tax profits of $2.64m in the country in the six months to March 2022.

- US firm Diamond Offshore Drilling reported $37m in fees to the Myanmar tax authority during the year to September 2021 and another $24.2m from then until March 2022.

- Schlumberger Logelco (Yangon Branch), the Panama-based subsidiary of the US-listed world’s largest offshore drilling company, earned revenues of $51.7m in the year to September 2021 in Myanmar and as late as September 2022 was owed $200,000 in service fees from the junta’s energy ministry.

The major gas projects in which MOGE has significant shareholdings are run by the South Korean corporation Posco International, Thailand’s PTTEP and Gulf Petroleum Myanmar, also from Thailand. 

The services provided to Myanmar’s Asia-owned gas field operators by these companies gave vital support to MOGE, which is a major shareholder in all of the country’s most important oil and gas projects. MOGE collects taxes and royalties for the state on gas field projects, ensuring that the junta gets lucrative tax and royalty payments, as well as a vast share of profits. According to the junta’s own figures the oil and gas industry is its biggest source of foreign-currency revenue, bringing in $1.72bn in the six months to 31 March 2022 alone.

Any role played by western gas field contractors in Myanmar’s gas and oil industry after the coup makes them complicit in the junta’s war of aggression. Myanmar’s state-owned gems, pearl and timber industries have been sanctioned by the US but Washington has not yet tackled MOGE, the linchpin in the junta’s largest single source of foreign revenue. In 2021 the New York Times reported that the oil giant Chevron had led an intense lobbying effort against sanctions that would disrupt oil operations in the country. 

Yadanar Maung, Justice For Myanmar spokesperson, called the situation “deplorable”.

“Oilfield service companies in Myanmar have blood on their hands for operating in an industry that bankrolls the illegal Myanmar military junta, as it wages a campaign of terror against the people.” Maung said the Biden administration’s contradictory approach to Myanmar “has allowed US oil and gas corporations to continue business as usual in Myanmar, enabling the junta’s international crimes”.

 The UN’s special rapporteur on Myanmar, Tom Andrews, had told the US Congress that MOGE was “now effectively controlled by a murderous criminal enterprise” and called on it and other state entities to be sanctioned in order to “meaningfully degrade the junta’s sources of revenue”.

The state department has specifically warned of the dangers of doing business in the country and cited MOGE as particularly problematic. MOGE and other state-owned enterprises “not only generate revenue for a military regime that is responsible for lethal attacks against the people of Burma, but many of them also are subject to allegations of corruption, child and forced labor, surveillance, and other human and labor rights abuses”.

Yet, the US commerce department’s country commercial guide for Myanmar, last updated in July 2022, describes the “dynamic” oil and gas sector as a “best prospect industry” with “significant opportunities for US investors”.

Revealed: how world’s biggest fossil fuel firms ‘profited in Myanmar after coup’ | Myanmar | The Guardian

The Working Poor

 Tougher benefit rules have boosted employment in the UK in the past 25 years but only at the expense of trapping workers in dead-end jobs, according to the leading thinktank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

It said successive waves of welfare changes since the late 1990s had imposed more stringent conditions on those claiming jobless benefits and increased the incentives to find a job. Yet its research also found that many of the jobs found were part-time, low paid and had scant chance of career progression.

 Those encouraged to enter paid work had tended to remain on low pay, were paying little in tax and were often still entitled to in-work benefits.

Tom Waters, a senior research economist at the IFS, said: “We spend more than £100bn each year on working-age benefits. About half of it now goes to families in work. This reflects changes in the underlying nature of low income in the UK, to which the benefits system naturally responds: we have high employment and chronic low earnings growth, meaning that an increasing share of the lowest-income families contain someone in paid work."

UK benefit changes have pushed people into dead-end, low-paid jobs, says IFS | Benefits | The Guardian


Who owns the UK

  19,510 out of a total of 32,440 registered overseas organisations have declared their beneficial owners – meaning about 40%, or almost 13,000 have not done so.

Having failed to declare their ultimate owners many may now face fines and a ban on selling their land, the government has said.

Almost 13,000 offshore companies with UK property fail to declare owners | Real estate | The Guardian

Socialist Sonnet No. 96


If Not Now – When?

 

A majority might wake tomorrow

And declare, ‘We now know the solution

To our major problems, revolution!’

And by revolution we also know

It’s democracy, not insurrection,

As barricades and bullets do little good,

While progress wallows and drowns in blood.

If success be measured through election

Socialism may seem long deferred. Still,

How many centuries did capital wait

Before finally coming to dominate?

There’s no hurrying the collective will.

So, the unsettled question it appears,

Is it tomorrow, or five hundred years?

 

D. A.

A Socialist June Weekend Break

 


Lancaster Branch is once again organising a socialist residential weekend, from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 June, at the Yealand Quaker Centre in rural Cumbria. 

This is a sociable get-together for members and non-members in a nice hostel with dorm rooms and self-catering facilities, where we muck in together on the cooking and chores. 

The last time we did this was in 2019 and it was a pretty enjoyable experience. (see the report in the August 2019 Socialist Standard). 

The branch will bear the hire cost but is happy to accept pay-what-you-can contributions. You’ll also have to fund your own travel arrangements.

 Spaces are limited to max 16 so if you’d like to take part please let us know at spgb.lancaster@worldsocialism.org.

Socialist Discussion for February

 


Some Socialist Party meetings/talks/discussions are online via Zoom, and some are in-person. Certain branch and committee meetings are held on Discord. Please contact spgb.discord@worldsocialism.org for instructions on how to join Discord.

To connect to any of our Zoom events, click https://zoom.us/j/7421974305 (or type the address into your browser address field) then follow the instructions on screen. You will enter a virtual waiting room – please be patient, you will be admitted to the meeting shortly.
Details of EC and branch business meetings can be found here


WORLD SOCIALIST MOVEMENT ONLINE MEETINGS

Friday 3 February 19.30 GMT Zoom
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH IS NOT ENOUGH (Zoom)
Discussion on current strike wave
Speaker: Alan Johnstone

Friday 10 Febuary 19.30 GMT Zoom
DID YOU SEE THE NEWS? (Zoom)
Discussion on recent subjects in the news
Host: Howard Moss

Friday 17 February 19.30 GMT Zoom
WAR! WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? (Zoom)
Speaker: David Coggan
A critical look at armed conflict and the likelihood of Armageddon, as viewed through the lens of culture: verse, song and socialist analysis.

19.30 Friday 24 February GMT Zoom
WHAT’S IN A NAME? (Zoom)
Speaker: Glenn Morris
A look at how we see our politics in terms of the party names and perhaps how helpful, or otherwise, these names are. Also, how simple words tend to colour our view of each other both in this and other countries.


SOCIALIST PARTY IN-PERSON MEETINGS

LONDON

Saturday 25 February 3pm
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Speaker: Carla Dee.
Preceded by London Regional Branch meeting at 2pm.
All welcome to both.
Socialist Party Head Office, 52 Clapham High St, SW4 UN
(nearest tube: Clapham North)


Yorkshire Regional Branch
Contact: Fredi Edwards, Tel 07746 230 953 or email fredi.edwards@hotmail.co.uk
The branch meets on the last Saturday of each month at 1 pm in The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown Street, Sheffield City Centre, S1 2BS (approx 10 minutes’ walk from railway and bus station)
All welcome. Anyone interested in attending should contact the above for confirmation of meeting.

Glasgow Branch monthly leafleting and social
Various locations and venues around the city
Call Paul on 07484 717893 for further details

Cardiff Street Stall
Every Saturday 1 – 3pm
Capitol Shopping Centre
Queen Street (Newport Road end)
Weather permitting

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Capitalism and Clean Air

 


The government cannot achieve the air quality improvements advised by medical experts, so has set its targets lower for the next 10 years, Thérèse Coffey, the environment secretary has admitted as she unveiled a new environmental planCoffey also confirmed that there would be no major new funding for achieving the targets in the 262-page Environmental Improvement Plan

Doug Parr, UK policy director at Greenpeace UK, said: “If this is a roadmap, it’s a roadmap to the cliff edge. This Conservative government promised the most ambitious environmental plan of any country on earth. Instead, here’s yet more paperwork containing a threadbare patchwork of policies that fail to tackle many of the real threats to our natural world. This won’t do.”

Air pollution experts pointed to research by King’s College London and Imperial College London that has shown the government could achieve the more stringent targets, which are supported by the public in polls, if it took stronger action on the sources of pollution, which include diesel cars and wood-burning.

Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of charity Asthma + Lung UK, said: “Air pollution is a public health emergency which causes 36,000 premature deaths in the UK every year. The government has ignored our calls to bring forward its compliance date, and instead said it will make our air cleaner by 2040. This falls far short of what’s needed – it means that for another 17 years, children will be forced to live, learn and play in toxic levels of air pollution, and a new generation will be condemned to breathe air so dirty it can stunt their lung growth, cause lung conditions like cancer, and trigger existing conditions including asthma.”

Richard Benwell, chief executive of the conservation group Wildlife and Countryside Link, said, “Too many people live in polluted, nature-deprived neighbourhoods, at great cost to mental and physical health,” he said. “Billions of pounds could be saved for the NHS if everyone lived in a healthy environment, and millions of lives could be brightened.”

Thérèse Coffey admits UK can’t achieve air pollution target advised by experts | Pollution | The Guardian

Exxon Record Profits


 Yet another global corporation disclose a bumper year of profits while workers endure austerity and cuts in their living standards.

 ExxonMobil reaped a record $55.7bn (£45.2bn) in profit last year, more than double 2021's figure and about $6.3m an hour.


Exxon boss Darren Woods said, "Of course, our results clearly benefited from a favourable market..." By which he meant, the oil prices surge following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


Oil majors are expected to break their own annual records on high prices and soaring demand, pushing their combined take to near $200bn