Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Happy New Year?

Socialists do not extend conventional
New Year greetings. We do not expect that
the next twelve months will be happy or
prosperous for the majority of the world's
population. Only relative degrees of poverty
and misery await the wealth producers of
the world in the year to come. As rational
beings, we are aware that for the majority
of the world's people, 2012 will not be a
'happy New Year' and envisage that the
coming year will see the usual newspaper
reports about corruption, injustice, failed
global summits, hunger, disease, conflict
and war and a myriad other social ills.

Don't look to us for instant solutions to
society's ills, though. You, fellow worker,
must enact the remedy or else all of us who
live by selling ourselves for wages or
salaries will continue to be affected by the
social problems that we have come to know
so well. No socialist can do your reasoning
for you. Your brain is your own. You may
either leave it to the manipulative forces of
the status quo (the schools, media, churches
and political leaders) or reclaim it for the
purpose of doing some serious thinking.

We don't need to tell you what to think
about. Your experience is far greater than
our descriptive powers will ever be. You
know what it feels like to live in a world
where your abilities are a commodity to be
bought and sold so that someone else can
make a profit from your labour. You may
be afraid of the label, 'Marxism'; you may
not like to think that you are a slave for
wages, but experience counts more than

You fear war. You fear getting the sack.
You fear getting ill and receiving
inadequate health treatment because you
can't afford the best. You don't like to be
pushed around. You don't need to be told
that your present lot is not good enough;
you are thinking that already.

We do not need to tell yon why all this
is so. But even then, you have only to read
the newspapers and they will give you
another explanation. We can tell you that
unemployment arises when commodities
cannot be sold profitably; they tell you
that it is caused by workers not working
hard enough. We say that wars are the
consequence of the fight between the rich
and the powerful over property and
markets; they say that they are caused by
the aggressiveness and lack of cooperation
of ordinary people. We say that
poverty is caused by the wage labour
system and that without it there would be
no poverty; they say that poverty exists
when people do not contribute enough to

Who do you believe, them or us? Don't
trust either explanation: use your
experience to work out the answers. Are
the unemployed all lazy? Is war caused by
working men and women of different
nations falling out with one another? If so,
can you explain exactly what it is that t.he
average American worker has against the
average Iraqi or the average English
worker has against the average Afghan
worker? Is it really the brainy and
industrious people who get the palaces and
the fools who get the slums? If so, why are
the wealth-producing areas the ones which
often face the greatest urban deprivation?

We don't need to convince you that
your troubles are not caused by human
nature. You know that most of the men
and women around you are not
responsible for war, for unemployment,
for social service cuts, for mass starvation.
They say that politics is not for them, and
leave social planning to the 'experts'.

Human beings make there own social
environment and the environment makes
them. At the moment we have a world
which is unfit for humans. Profit comes
before need and class before equality.
Such a system once played a useful role
in developing the means of wealth production
to their present level, but the forces which
gave rise to capitalism no longer exist.
Today, in a world of abundant resources and
technological sophistication, nobody
need starve, nobody need be homeless.

We have made our social environment,
and now we must change it. To do that we
need ideas. First, we need experience of
capitalism. We've all got that. Second, we
need to know how the system works. It
works to produce commodities for sale on
the market with a view to profit. The
consequences of this can be seen in the
waste and shoddiness and destructiveness
of modern production. Third, we need to
know how to get rid of the present system.
That's simple: it will be removed in the
same way as it is presently kept in being -
by the political decision of the majority.
At the moment most people accept the
present system, usually because they think
there is no alternative. When the majority
of people, in all the countries of the world,
decide that this system does not suit their
needs, they be persuaded to produce things
if there were no wages, but just voluntary
cooperation? If there were no laws would
we not all kill each other? Without leaders
would we know how to stay alive? The answers
depend on you, fellow worker, upon you and
all those who are in the class which exists
by wage slavery.

The socialist case is that if you understand
what the alternative is, and if you want it,
then you will co-operate to make it work.
If you cannot conceive of a co-operative
society, then we urge you to think again.
If you think that the new society that we
stand for is a Utopia and in the next breath
you wish your friends a 'happy New Year',
you are forgetting that in a world of social
chaos, the search for genuine happiness
will be a frustrating one. The socially
blinkered may be happy in their acquiescence,
but only the struggle for socialism offers
the chance of something more than a
happy New Year; a happy society.

(Socialist View, vol.3,#13)

Friday, December 30, 2011

brazil's child labour

The Center for Economics and Business Research released its latest figures showing that Brazil had surpassed Britain this year to become the world's sixth-largest economy. Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega says his country will overtake France to become the world's fifth-largest economy before 2015.

But despite the economic advances claimed by Brazil , children from low-income families are still forced to work in Latin America’s biggest country and economy. The Folha de S.Paulo newspaper says that its analysis of preliminary 2010 census figures compiled by Brazil’s government statistics agency shows that more than 1 million children between the ages of 10 and 14 were working last year.

getting poorer

Full time workers across Britain have suffered a drastic drop of as much as 28 % in their living standards over the last four years, due to “bankers' recession” and delayed economic recovery, a study issued by GMB union revealed.

The average fall for Britain is 5.9% and 6.2% for England when income rises were compared to inflation. Hammersmith and Fulham in London faced the highest figure of 28.6%, followed by Herefordshire with 22.7%, Bedfordshire with 20.7% and Nottingham with 20.5%. The worst regional fall was in North West as its full time workers have suffered 9.1% in the real value of their average gross earnings between April 2007 and November 2011. South West workers faced the second worst drop with a fall of 8%, followed by the West Midlands with a fall of 7.6%, east of England with 7.3 % and Yorkshire and Humberside with 7.1%.

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said “Full time workers in all regions in the UK have seen the value of their earnings drop when they have a job. Things have got a lot worse in the past year as the recovery underway at the time of the election stalled and the UK is mired in a new recession.”

the recruitment website, has said that the British are engaged in an intense fight for employment, with the private sector failing to hire redundant State workers in sufficient numbers. It said that almost 4 million people are looking for jobs and the jobs that draw the attention of most applicants are the ones, which require no professional skills.

On average, the report said 46 people apply for each customer service job, 45 for each secretarial job and 42 for each retail job. Overall, the website says there are 23 applications for each job, but the reality is far worse in some parts of the country. For example, there is an average of 33 applications for each job in the South East.

John Salt, director of, explained “Since March, the whole market has frozen, with companies reluctant to risk a rise in head-count when consumer confidence is taking a battering - and uncertainty around the future of the euro threatens to pull the whole economy back into recession”

John Philpott, chief economic adviser of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said, “The combination of worsening job shortages for people without work, mounting job insecurity and a further fall in real earnings for those in work may test the resilience and resolve of the UK workforce far more than it did in the recession of 2008/09”, Philpott said. He added that there is a 'serious risk' of a surge in private sector redundancies 'given the fragile state of business confidence'.

More on the Roma

Continuing SOYMB's coverage of Europe's ethnic-cleansing policy (described as integration) of the Roma people we read at the Al Jazeera's website that when Hitler started his ethic cleansing of the Gypsies he inherited elaborate discriminatory legislation specifically designed to keep the Gypsies away. Germany had anti-Gypsy laws since the end of 19th century. During the early days of Nazism, existing anti-Gypsy measures were strengthened and led to mass sterilisation and murder. Mayor Eckersley of Prestatyn in North Wales said Adolf Hitler had the ‘right idea’ about dealing with Germany’s gipsies. His comment came as research from the Welsh Equality and Human Rights Commission identified the country’s Gypsies and Travellers as one of four groups most likely to be discriminated against.

Under the Communist Party dictatorships, hundreds of Gypsy women were sterilised in Czechoslovakia. Human rights organisations claim that the practice continued after 1989. A couple of years ago, a Bulgarian Facebook group appeared under the title - "Sterilise first the Gypsies and then the dogs" (There are a lot of street dogs in Bulgaria and there are debates about whether it is humane to sterilise them.) The group quickly gathered 20,000 members, and then grew by several hundred every a day. "Model" citizens - most of them with higher education - with detailed personal profiles, family and wedding pictures, proudly listing their professional achievements publishing their names, addresses, emails and mobile numbers were competing with each other about who could suggest a better method for getting rid of the Gypsies. According to Bulgarian law, many of the members of this group could have been prosecuted and even jailed for up to four years. Yet, no one in Bulgaria or anywhere in the European Union reacted.

The truth is that people know very little about the Roma beyond the reported horror stories and the general prejudices that occupy peoples' minds. The European Parliament has only one person of Roma origin. Around 10 per cent of the Bulgarian population is Roma, but there is exactly one half-Roma member in the 240 seats of the Bulgarian parliament.

chickens come home to roost

Nearly two hundred years ago the poet, Percy Shelley, felt compelled to write of the cruelty inflicted on livestock:

“How unwarrantable is the injustice and barbarity which is exercised towards these miserable victims. They are called into existence by human artifice that they may drag out a short and miserable existence of slavery and disease, that their bodies may be mutilated, their social feelings outraged. It were much better that a sentient being should never have existed, than that it should have existed only to endure unmitigated misery”

The author of Animal Farm, George Orwell, stated:

“Men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat”.

On January 1st a new EU directive will abolish the battery hen cages when egg producers will have to provide hens with larger cages enabling them to spread their wings and move around. The old-style cages had just 550sq cm of space – less than a sheet of A4 paper.

In the UK alone over 750 million cattle, sheep, pigs, turkeys, ducks, geese and rabbits are slaughtered annually. Pollution of the environment as a result of farming intensively for profit is massive: millions of tonnes of a potent, noxious cocktail containing nitrites, antibiotics, heavy metals, pesticides and parasites are washed into UK rivers each year. Farm animals are also the second largest source of the greenhouse gas methane. BSE and its human-variant CJD are just two of the diseases attributable to the production of animals as food items produced for sale with a view to profit.

However, those who advocate animal rather than human liberation put the cart before the horse. Socialists consider that a human’s first loyalty should be their own species. Nevertheless, the degree to which human society is ‘civilised’ can reasonably be gauged by its treatment of animals and the natural world as well as by its treatment of humans, and socialism, in its abolition of all aspects of the appalling savagery of capitalism, will undoubtedly do its part to abolish all unnecessary suffering by non-human sentient creatures.

Capitalism - a depressing system

The use of anti-depressants has risen by more than a quarter in England in just three years, amid fears that more people are suffering from depression due to the economic crisis. The number of prescriptions for anti-depressants increased by 28% from 34m in 2007-08 to 43.4m in 2010-11.

Emer O'Neill, chief executive of Depression Alliance, said: "These uncertain economic times are linked to an increase in the number of people with the illness."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

mounting debt or mountain of debt?

"In these tough economic times, the most vulnerable families in society are being lured into an unaffordable debt trap by a morally-bankrupt lending industry," said Barnardo's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie. She called on the OFT to protect families from being "unwittingly pushed further into poverty by compelling these unscrupulous lenders to make clear their extortionate rates".

Families on low incomes are being exploited by so-called rent-to-buy deals that charge more than double than High Street retailers. Barnardo's said consumers were paying up to 150% more for some standard household appliances. It cited a three-year rental arrangement with a well-known weekly payment store that cost £1,074 for a fridge freezer, compared with a High Street price for the same product of £430.

the real cost of capitalism's waste

Nearly 1 billion people in the world are hungry.

Malnutrition contributes to the death of 500 million children under the age of five every year.

In Africa, a child dies every six seconds from hunger.

Between 250 million and 500 million children with vitamin A deficiency become blind and half of them die within 12 months of losing their sight.

Within the United States, food retailers, food services, and households waste approximately 40 million tons of food each year, which is about the same amount needed to feed the estimated 1 billion hungry people worldwide. Roughly 1.3 billion tons of food, a third of the total amount produced for human consumption, is lost or wasted each year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Socialism and the Media

“We don’t just criticise capitalism – we work to replace it with socialism.”

The main features of socialism are – common ownership, co-operation to produce goods and services, democratic control, free access on the basis of need, a healthy and sustainable environment, no money, classes, national borders, wars, leaders.

There are other aspects too, for example, the closely related areas of education and the media.

In capitalism there is at present the very large Goliath of capitalist-inspired policies and practices and the very small David of socialist education. The same goes for the media. Newspaper, periodicals and other electronic media are overwhelmingly owned and controlled by capitalist interests. They hardly ever mention the s-word and when they do they invariably equate it with nationalisation or what happened in the former Soviet Union.

In socialism education will be for life and life-long. There will likely be a closing of the gap between teacher and taught. In some cases there will be an interchange of roles. For example the same individual may for a time be a teacher in a subject of which they may have made a special study, while at other times they may learn from others who have different specialisms.

People will derive meaning and satisfaction from the varied contributions they make to the material, intellectual, social and cultural world in which they live. Of course skills and expertise will still need to be taught and learned. But not how to be a professional killer, a persuasive salesperson or a maker of money (except perhaps how to preserve specimens of it in a museum).

In any modern society the media are a reflection of, and a significant part of, the world in which they are located. Regarding the various forms of media in a socialist future, it is easier to say what won’t be in them rather than what will be. Property-based crime won’t be reported and discussed because there won’t be any. That doesn’t mean to say that no one will ever behave in an anti-social way or that disputes will never arise, but how these will be coped with is another matter. The salacious events in the lives of media-created ‘celebrities’ seem unlikely to outlast a capitalist-dominated world. We shall have to work for the growth of socialist media to see what will take their place.

In recent years there has been a rapid increase in technological – and especially electronic – invention and gadgetry. We don’t know what the socialist future will bring in this regard. But we can say for sure that there won’t be such things as commercially-inspired advertising, product placement or incitement to consumer addiction. Information about what is or could be made available would be freely accessible by all.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rising Costs of Living

Whilst many spent Boxing Day spending millions of pounds on mainly unnecessary luxuries, millions more working are bracing themselves for an even harder financial new year, as this report from This Is Money bears out....

The price of basic purchases, such as food and fuel, soared by 43 per cent over the decade from 2000.

These rising costs – far above general inflation – have already wiped out most of the gains in living standards made by families on low and modest incomes in the early 2000s, before the downturn began, according to research.

The analysis, commissioned by the Resolution Foundation think-tank, revealed the squeeze on living standards for ordinary households has been more severe than previously thought.

It found 30 per cent of working-age households now have incomes too low to afford the essential basket of goods. It also showed that Labour’s stewardship of the economy may not have benefited ordinary families as much as the party had claimed. Some household costs increased even more dramatically than the 43 per cent average, according to the study.

Household fuel more than doubled in price during the 2000s and water bills increased by 63 per cent, it said.

Report author Donald Hirsch, from the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, said: ‘This research shows the dramatic impact recent price increases have had on the ability of households to afford a minimum standard of living.

‘Of course, global pressures on prices are largely beyond our control.

‘But that makes it all the more important that we do all we can to reduce pressures in areas where we can make a difference, such as transport costs, council tax and energy prices.’

The analysis is based on the commonly accepted essential basket of goods, which includes food, fuel, public transport and very occasional treats for families with children.

The official inflation measure, the Consumer Price Index, takes into account a wider basket of goods. Over the decade to 2010, CPI was 27 per cent.

Gavin Kelly, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, said: ‘The fact that the rising cost of essential goods and services has outstripped official measures of inflation helps explain the disconnect many hard-pressed households have long felt between their own stagnating living standards and the growing affluence they see around them.’

Meanwhile, it has emerged that demand for frozen meals has rocketed among cash-strapped Britons desperate to cut their grocery bills and produce popular family meals for less. The latest market data has revealed that the frozen food retail market has grown by 5.2 per cent since 2010, according to analysts Kantar Worldpanel.

Volume sales of frozen meat and poultry are up 5.5 per cent, pizza by 3.6 per cent and frozen fish by 3.4 per cent. Brian Young, director general of the British Frozen Food Federation, told The Grocer magazine: ‘In times of economic uncertainty choosing frozen meat and poultry allows consumers to make their favourite meals and foods at a much lower price point. ’


The article can also be shortened to 'the poor get poorer'. The future looks bleak for millions of working families unless they start making the connection between their lowering living standards and the failings of capitalism.


Monday, December 26, 2011

The season of good cheer?

A quarter of a million people aged 75 and over spent Christmas Day alone, according to a survey. And 40 per cent of those who were on their own had children living in the UK.

And for the rest of the year - about 370,000 over-75s spend “zero hours” with other people on a typical day.

The Centre for Social Justice executive director, Gavin Poole said: “For so many to spend Christmas day alone while their family celebrates elsewhere is a modern tragedy.”

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, added: “Sadly the figures suggest being alone, and being alone on Christmas Day, is more prevalent amongst older people than many of us would like to believe or should be prepared to accept.”

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Marxmas

Almost one in three people in the UK will go into debt over the Christmas period. 58% will rely more heavily on their credit cards and most of the remainder will cover their costs by using overdraft facilities.

The lowest price for an acceptable Christmas for a low-income family with two children is £182, a study says. Most UK families will spend between £530 and £682 on gifts, decorations, food and drink.

Many parents felt pressure to buy gifts for their children that were far more expensive than they could afford. They blamed this mainly on retailers, the media and older children's expectations of electronic goods like MP3 players, mobile phones and branded items.

The report says: "A Cut-Price Christmas highlights the challenge of being a parent on a low income: not wanting to crush your kid's sense of fun but not being able to escape the reality of up-to-the wire budgeting and debt."

A lone parent with two children aged eight and 12 is likely to receive £209.49 per week in benefits if they are not working. The report suggests they would need to save up their disposable income for two-and-a-half weeks to be able to afford the £182 Cut-Price Christmas.

Meantime, those real Santa's little helpers, the Chinese toy sweat-shop workers, the Guardian reports that found that employees:

■ worked up to 140 hours overtime a month;

■ were paid up to a month late;

■ claimed they were expected to work with dangerous tools and machines without training or safety measures;

■ had to work in silence and were fined up to £5 for going to the toilet without permission.

A typical working day during the peak season starts at 8am and does not end until 10pm. Workers routinely put in six-day weeks, but if the factory is busy there are no days off.

The most insidious effect of the long hours and poor wages was how it tore families apart, separating mothers and fathers from their children for all but a few days a year. Many workers were too afraid to speak to the investigators from human rights group Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour. Sacom accuses big global brands of failing to pay the factories enough, with workers suffering because factories undercut one another in an attempt to secure contracts. The report also criticises the industry's own regulator for failing to clamp down on rights abuses.
"Our family will not die from hunger, but cannot be fed with this wage level," said one worker, Wang Fengping. She and her husband earn £200 a month making toys for Disney and others, but cannot afford to bring the children to the city. The reality is that they will meet only once a year, at Chinese new year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Annual Cheer or Blueprint For Future?

Today is Christmas Eve. Traditionally, in the West at least, a time of high expectation for the coming feast, the annual orgy of gluttony and commercial greed. Every year, many commentators in the capitalist press bemoan that the religious significance is being lost (not mention that it is through the system of their making mind you), and that what the Bible and Jesus had to show us about humanity is being forgotten.

Perhaps they have a point, albeit from a different angle. As socialists, we reject the enforced morality of religion and do not accept the unscientific belief in a greater being etc. However, on some aspects of thought we can agree - in that mankind has the potential to be loving, caring and benevolent towards one another and to reject our differences and working together towards a common good, sharing the earth as a treasury for all.

However, unlike the religious and often saccharin Christmas message, we propose such a state of being for all time, not just merely for twenty-four hours once a year. Mankind has the capacity, the scientific knowledge, the intelligence and the machinery to provide food, shelter, warmth, clothing, medical care and all the necessities of life as well as the luxuries, to all the inhabitants of the planet every day of every year. We have the ability to do this as well as protect and look after our natural environment and repair the damages of previous generations. We can work together, live together and progress together, not just as individuals, or nations or classes but as one united, strong and capable human race. We can choose to live in peace and love and harmony and to build a better, more wonderful world than any Christmas sentiment can express, should we decide to.

The only stumbling block to a world of permanent Christmas spirit, a world where real peace and goodwill to all men is a normality rather than a tinsel-edged dream from card on the mantelpiece, is capitalism itself.

True Socialism would mean an end to hunger, poverty, war, disease, famine, hatred and the ills of the current world - a new beginning for mankind where the need for an annual festival to relieve the misery of existence for many would be a thing of the past.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Cromwell, Lord Protector

Here is an article, made available online for the first time,
from the February 1954 edition of the Socialist Standard.

JUST over three hundred years ago, on December
16th, 1653, Oliver Cromwell took the oath as Lord
Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland. The
occasion of the ter-centenary of this event summoned
forth a number of articles in the Press. Maurice
Ashley, in The Times (15-12-53) was shocked to find
how far the materialist conception of history (though,
of course, seldom acknowledged as such) has spread
among the younger school of historians. He quotes an
Oxford historian as having tried to show "that
Cromwell represented 'the men of the new wealth' who
purposed to overthrow the established ruling classes,"
and goes on,

"An older generation of university historians would
rub their eyes at so fanciful an economic interpretation of
history. Could any reader of Cromwell's letters and
speeches, they might ask, genuinely picture him as an
upstart moved by jealousy and greed, or any student of
contemporary tracts suppose that religion had not been
a central fact in the puritan revolution?"

This article does not propose to discuss the place
of Puritanism in the Great Rebellion; this has been
done with consummate skill by Professor R. H. Tawney
in "Religion and the Rise of Capitalism.?" But it is
proposed to enquire how far the picture of Cromwell
as the representative of the men of new wealth is a
true one.

Marching with the Band in Front

It is of course possible for a leader or figurehead
to be motivated (so far as he himself understands his
motives) entirely by religious considerations, while his
"followers" are acting to protect or advance their
economic interests. "Followers" is put in quotation
marks because in such a case the great mass of men
making up the movement would not be followers at
all; the leader only "marches with the band in front"
like children do. The movement only follows such a
person because it is in the interest of those making up
the movement to do so. As soon as the" leader " gets
out of step, he finds that the movement has pursued
its own course, and he has been left a general without
an army. For example, Mohammed, a religious fanatic
got his big chance when the inhabitants of Medina
invited him to come and rule over them. This they
did not because of religious conviction, but because
they wanted to share in the profits of religious
pilgrimages, which were then going entirely to the great
rival of Medina, Mecca. Five hundred years later, the call
of successive Popes to the faithful to go on Crusade
against the Saracens was successful not because of
religious enthusiasm, but because there was a surplus
of younger sons in the great landed houses who in this
way carved out for themselves estates in the Middle
East. In such cases, is the root cause of the movement
in what inspires the lender, or in what inspires the
"followers"? For as Sir Ernest Barker put it, "what
makes national history most is the action not of lonely
leaders, but of big battalions; and by big battalions I
mean social groups." (Introduction to L D. Jones'
"The English Revolution 1603-1714.")

Righteous judgment

Even it it is allowed, then, that the Great Rebellion
was caused by the emergence of a new class of
men made rich by large-scale trading, allied to the class
of yeomen or small landowners who were found chiefly
in the south-eastern counties, we must still consider if
Cromwell himself was inspired mainly by puritanism.
There is some evidence for this view, but more against
it. First, the evidence for this view.

Certainly Cromwell, like the Kaiser, was always
sure that God was on his side, When he was faced
with the task of subjugating a rebellious Ireland, in
1649, he stormed Drogheda; of the 3,000 troops which
had defended it, he himself wrote "I believe we put
to the sword the whole number of the defendants, I do
not think thirty of the whole number escaped with their
lives. Those that did, are in safe custody for
Barbadoes "-that is, were sold into slavery. This
bloody work he described as " a righteous judment of
God," and he wrote back to the Speaker of the House
of Commons more fully:

"Sir, what can be said of these things? Is it the arm
of the flesh that hath done these things? Is it the wisdom
and counsel, or strength of man? It is the Lord only.
God will curse that man and his house that dares to
think otherwise. Sir, you see the work is done by a
Divine leading."

Cromwell then stormed Wexford, slaughtered the
garrison there too, and wrote again to the Speaker that
"God hath blessed you with a great tract of land in
longitude alongst the shore." It is curious that a full
knowledge of this butchery does not prevent our
modern Nonconformists claiming Cromwell as a blood
brother, inspired by the Holy Scriptures.

Stubble to our swords

After some months of this, Cromwell left to his
lieutenants the work of murdering and enslaving the
Irish, and himself went north to deal with Scotland.
Though at first the English army seemed in a perilous
situation, Cromwell wrote "We have much hope in the
Lord, of whose mercy we have had large experience."
On this occasion the Lord's mercies took tangible shape
in the battle of Dunbar, where 3,000 Scots were killed
or injured, and 10,000 captured. After the battle
Cromwll boasted that "the Lord made them as
stubble to our swords." Further evidence may be
found in the well-known fact that before the battle
Cromwell gave the command to sing a Psalm; surely
this means that he was motivated by religion? But on
further consideration, one observes that Cromwell chose
none of the bloodthirsty Psalms, of which usually he
was inordinately fond; for example, Psalm 110 (the
Lord "shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he
shall wound the heads over many countries") or Psalm
69 ("Let them be blotted out of the book of the
living") - or many more. Psalm 117, which Cromwell
chose, is a very mild one, with nothing to recommend
it - except its brevity; of all the 150 Psalms, this is the
shortest, having only two verses. The moral perhaps
is that if Cromwell hadn't been attentive at Sunday
School, he might well have chosen Psalm 119, which
has one hundred and seventy six verses; and the Scots
would have been able to withdraw to the trackless
moors in their rear before the English army had
finished Psalming at them.

Providence seemed to lead us

These examples of the pious-sounding words used
by Cromwell could be multiplied many times. "The
Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell" by Thomas
Carlyle, is full of instances. But to find the true
character of a man, and the true reasons for his
policies, it is always necessary to examine not only his
words but also his deeds. And we find that both
Cromwell's home and his foreign policy were shaped
by the desires of the commercial class, not by any
religious abstractions.

In 1651 England went to war with Holland, in spite
of the fact that the brand of religion professed by the
Dutch was very similar to that of the Puritans them-
selves. It is true that at that time Cromwell had not
yet become Protector, but he was already so out-
standing a figure in the Government, as well as being
Commander-in-chief of the army, that the Rump would
not have dared to take any action of which he disapproved.
The cause of this war was unashamedly commercial - the
Rump had passed the Navigation Act, which was an attempt
to win back the carrying trade of England and the colonies
from the Dutch. Cromwell brought this war to a successful
conclusion in 1654, and then tumed his attention to the
Spanish Empire. England had a large navy at the end of the
Dutch War, the Spanish West Indies were inadequately
defended, and altogether, as Cromwell himself said,
"Providence seemed to lead us" to an unprovoked
aggression against Spain. This war gained Jamaica and
Dunkirk (also previously a Spanish possession) for the
English Empire. As it happened, Spain was a Catholic
power, which suggests the view that the war was really
a war of religion; but since England was at the same
time allied with another Catholic Power, France, this
view is untenable.

First to his Englishmen

Even Cromwell's speeches themselves show us
that he was by no means blind to economic considerations.
In a speech to the first Parliament elected under
the Instrument of Government, in 1654, he bemoaned
the fact that the trade of the nation was ruined and
the manufacture of cloth at a standstill for want of a
market. (This market Cromwell attempted to provide
by attacking the Spanish Empire.) In another speech
to the same Parliament he pointed with pride to the
fact that the Sound, leading into the Baltic, was now
open, and said "that which was and is the strength
of this nation, the shipping, will now be supplied
thence "-with rope, masts, pitch and tar. Cromwell
even carried his patriotism into his religion. G. M.
Trevelyan tells us in "England under the Stuarts"
that Cromwell held, along with his secretary Milton,
that God revealed himself "as His manner is, first to
His Englishmen."

A study of Cromwell's home policy reveals plainly
the same lesson. Same of the reforms carried
out under the Commonwealth, although they were all
held to be nullities at the Restoration, were immediately
re-enacted by the extreme anti-Puritan Anglicans who
held power after 1660 - for example, the Navigation
Act, the provision in the Instrument of Government
for triennial Parliaments, and the abolition of the
system of holding land by military tenure. Many more
of Cromwell's reforms and policies were abolished in
1660, only to be resuscitated later. Among these were
the abolition of the monarchy (since the last century
this country has been, in effect, "a crowned Republic");
the reform of the franchise; the unification of
Ireland and Scotland with England in one united
Commonwealth, and free trade within that Common-
wealth; the reform of the court of Chancery, and an
attempt to codify the common law; the abolition of
patronage in the Church of England, and the establish-
ment of civil marriage; the maintenance of a fleet
permanently in the Mediterranean; and the setting-up
of an efficient system of local government and police
(which is called in the history books "the rule of the
Major-Generals "). These reforms and policies were
not brought back all at the same time. Some were
re-enacted by the High Church Anglicans of Queen
Anne's reign; some by the Low Church, freethinking
Whigs of the eighteenth century; and some by men of
all shades of religious belief, and of none, in the
nineteenth century. All these men were very different,
in point of religion, from the sternly Puritan and
evangelic Cromwell. What they had in common with
him was not any particular set of religious principles,
but the desire to preserve and extend the interests of
the commercial class, and to carry out the reforms in
the structure of society desired by that class.
Cromwell genuinely thought of himself as a chosen
instrument of God, carrying out God's will. But no newly-
emerging ruling class has ever been accurate about its
motives. Every man likes to credit himself with higher
motives than the pursuit of self- or class-interests. But
it is what a man does, not what he says, that shows
what he is: and Cromwell's policies reveal him to have
been, just as much as his comrades-in-arms, a man of
the middle class.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

no crib for a bed

At this time of season we are often reminded of the mythical "Baby Jesus" having "no crib for a bed" as Mary and Joseph had to use an animal shed for accommodation.

In these modern days Shelter has highlighted the plight of the 70,000 children they say will spend Christmas in temporary accommodation without a permanent home. They live in hostels, bed and breakfasts and refuges.

Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns, said: "We cannot underestimate the damage homelessness has on children's lives. They often miss out on vital schooling because they are shunted from place to place and many become ill by the poor conditions they are forced to live in."

Dying young

Homeless people in England die 30 years younger than the national average, research has suggested.

The report for the charity Crisis found an average homeless person has a life expectancy of 47, compared with 77 for the rest of the population. the mean age of death for women was found to be even lower, at 43.

Drug and alcohol abuse account for a third of all deaths among the homeless. While drug and alcohol abuse often lead to homelessness, being without a home exacerbates the problem.

Homeless people are nine times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population and deaths as a result of traffic accidents are three times more common.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The 1% Fight Back

The 1% is fighting back. It has created a public relations firm called the Job Creators Alliance, its mission is to "shape the national agenda" through op-eds and TV appearances to educate Americans on the vital role of free enterprise and entrepreneurship in creating jobs, spurring innovation and ensuring America’s economic success. Job Creators Alliance’s apparent job is to give a platform for billionaires to whine and cry in public about how persecuted they’ve all become.

Not that they care what the 99% thinks. In JCA co-founder (and Home Depot co-founder) Bernard Marcus's own words: “Who gives a crap about some imbecile? Are you kidding me?” A seasonal reminder of Ebenezer Scrooge before he was visited by all those ghosts

Ken Langone (another Home Depot co-founder) tried to defend himself by making this comment: “I am a fat cat, I’m not ashamed... If you mean by fat cat that I’ve succeeded, yeah, then I’m a fat cat. I stand guilty of being a fat cat.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some Stats

#1 A staggering 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be "low income" or are living in poverty.

#2 Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be "low income" or impoverished.

#3 If the number of Americans that "wanted jobs" was the same today as it was back in 2007, the "official" unemployment rate put out by the U.S. government would be up to 11 percent.

#4 The average amount of time that a worker stays unemployed in the United States is now over 40 weeks.

#5 There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million extra people to the population since then.

#6 Since December 2007, median household income in the United States has declined by a total of 6.8% once you account for inflation.

.#7 According to author Paul Osterman, about 20 percent of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that pay poverty-level wages.

#8 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs. Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#9 One recent survey found that one out of every three Americans would not be able to make a mortgage or rent payment next month if they suddenly lost their current job.

#10 The Federal Reserve recently announced that the total net worth of U.S. households declined by 4.1 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2011 alone.

#11 According to a recent study conducted by the BlackRock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income in the United States is now 154 percent.

#12 Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

#13 According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, health care costs accounted for just 9.5% of all personal consumption back in 1980. Today they account for approximately 16.3%.

#14 One study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.

#15 The retirement crisis in the United States just continues to get worse. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, and 29 percent of all American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.

#16 Today, one out of every six elderly Americans lives below the federal poverty line.

#17 According to a study that was just released, CEO pay at America's biggest companies rose by 36.5% in just one recent 12 month period.

#18 Today, the "too big to fail" banks are larger than ever. The total assets of the six largest U.S. banks increased by 39 percent between September 30, 2006 and September 30, 2011.

#19 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.

#20 A higher percentage of Americans is living in extreme poverty (6.7%) than has ever been measured before.

#21 Child homelessness in the United States is now 33 percent higher than it was back in 2007.

#22 Since 2007, the number of children living in poverty in the state of California has increased by 30 percent.

#23 Child poverty is absolutely exploding all over America. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 36.4% of all children that live in Philadelphia are living in poverty, 40.1% of all children that live in Atlanta are living in poverty, 52.6% of all children that live in Cleveland are living in poverty and 53.6% of all children that live in Detroit are living in poverty.

#24 Today, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christopher Hitchens RIP

It is a mystery to me how anyone can consider Hitchens a worthy advocate for atheism. It seems to me that, where Professor Dawkins is concise, sparing with his words and usually crystal clear in his meaning, Hitchens is the exact opposite. Hitchens gives me the impression that his main concern in addressing any issue or question is to reveal how clever and knowledgeable he is. He almost always starts his sentences from the end and works his way towards the beginning. This is the same in regard to answering questions; he is forever answering them with long, windy, wordy and, usually unnecessary, verbose rambles about subjects that the audience has to fit in to the point of the question or subject themselves. It seems to me that Hitchens contributions are invariably almost in the form of riddles.

On another point, I think the disingenuous fraud Hitchens should stop quoting Marx on religion. Just as Hitchens normally mangles Steve Wienberg's quote about "good people doing good things" etc., Hitchens does the same with quotes from Marx. Having spent a great deal of his life passing off the state-capitalist, anti-democratic dictates of Leon Trotsky as the authentic voice of Karl Marx, it is laughable that Hitchens is now trying to present Marx here (as he did in his book) as simply an abstract critic of religion. Marx was nothing of the sort. The passages Hitchens quotes from Marx are, indeed, from his "A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right" (strictly speaking, from the Introduction), but the most interesting aspect of Hitchen's quotations from Marx is not what he says, but what he leaves out.

And, predictably, given the views of Marx in general, the very text Hitchens leaves out is the essential point that Marx was making. Yes, Marx did write that religion is "the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the soul of soulless conditions." He did famously declare that "religion is the opium of the people". Marx did write, as Hitchens relates, that the point of criticising religion was not simply to pluck the flower from the chain so that human beings could wear the chain unadorned, but so that we could cull the living flower. But the connecting passage that Hitchens leaves out is the very point at the very heart of Marx's views about religion:

"The criticism of religion as the illusionary happiness of man is, at the same time, a criticism of the conditions that need illusions."

Little wonder he leaves it out, for Hitchens, of course, is now one of the most vociferous defenders of that society that "requires illusions."

Nigel McCullough

Being poor begins young

"With parents increasingly squeezed for time and money, this only creates more stress and even less positive environments for their children." Vidhya Alakeson, director of research at the Resolution Foundation, said .

Children from high-income families start school with skills that are already five months ahead of their middle and low-income classmates. Wealthier parents were able to create a "richer learning environment" for their children. Mothers in low to middle-income groups were at greater risk of post natal depression and had lower self-esteem and less sense of control over their lives. There was a statistical link between children's behavioural problems and poorer mental health and social isolation among their mothers.

75% of higher-income children were read to daily aged three, compared with 62% of children in low to middle-income households. While 42% of more affluent children visited a library at least once a month, this figure was 35% for worse off families.

The real cut-backs

One in five UK households saw a drop in income in the last quarter, a survey suggests. This was due to a unemployment, loss of bonuses, a reduction in overtime or more part-time working.

Inflation is driving up the cost of essentials, with 44% of respondents spending more on food. Half said they were spending more on utility bills and 37% were spending more on transport costs.

As a result, consumers cut back on their discretionary spending on things like entertainment and holidays. 41% of consumers were spending less on entertainment. It found that 28% were cutting back on holidays, while 36% were spending less on clothing and footwear.

a picture tells a story

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rome v US empires

1,500 years after the fall of the Roman Empire, the supposedly advanced and progressive United States of America is plagued by even worse income inequality. The Roman Empire, a society built on conquest and slave labor, had a more equitable income distribution. Around 150 C.E., Rome's top 1% controlled 16 percent of the wealth, compared to modern America where the top 1% controls 40 percent of the wealth.

What we see as the glory of Rome is really just the rubble of the rich, built on the backs of poor farmers and laborers. Likewise, today's capitalist achievments

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Chinese Clearances

Last year there were 280,000 so-called "mass incidents", including petitions, demonstrations and strikes, both peaceful and violent, in China. That's a huge rise on estimates for six years ago, when only around 90,000 such incidents were recorded. In many cases they were linked to anger over corruption and other forms of abuse of power such as illegal land seizures.

Wukan, a reasonably well-off place of 20,000, was not known as a hotbed for radicals. Then the authorities decided to sell the village's land for development without residents' consent. Corruption is at the heart of the Wukan case and the villagers complain about "land grabs" by corrupt local cadres. The protests were sparked by the seizure of hectares of land and their sale to property developer Country Garden for 1 billion yuan (£100m). After months of simmering protests at the imposition, Mr Xue put himself forward as a representative in negotiations that were supposed to bring the crisis to a close. Instead, Mr Xue died in police custody. Villagers have taken control of the town. In response, authorities have cut off food supplies.

In a drive to industrialise and urbanise, thousands of industrial parks and many thousands of real estate development projects have been, or are being, built at the costs of dispossessed farmers. The land requisition system deprives three to four million farmers of their land every year, and around 40-50 million are now dispossessed.

It was usually local officials who would carry out difficult negotiations with village collectives, or who were in charge of coercing defiant farmers to accept government terms. Having village cadres who shared their interests would not only lower the selling price but also determine whether or not the transaction could take place at all. Therefore, township and county officials in localities that experienced greater land requisition had a stronger incentive to manipulate village democracies to make sure that more co-operative cadres were elected.

One township party secretary interviewed in Fujian province said: "If election rules are followed strictly, we will lose control of the rural society. Village cadres will be afraid of villagers, not the township government. They can put off assignments from the township government and compromise the tasks during implementation. Therefore … local officials are willing to introduce rules that subvert the true meaning of village democracy. This is also the case in Wukan in which farmers are protesting not only against local governments, but also against villager cadres who worked with the authorities in abusive land requisition."

charity really begins at home

The UK government has come under some criticism for continuing to give humanitarian aid money to India, a nation that has more billionaires than the UK, with a space programme, an economy growing at more than 7 per cent and the resources to offer aid to countries overseas itself.

SOYMB need not look far for the ulterior motive

With surprising bluntness, the International Development minister, Andrew Mitchell, said the decision to spend £1.2bn over the next five years was part of a broader partnership that included the hoped-for sale of fighter jets to India.

"It's an important market, and for our children and grandchildren, it will be an even more important market," Mitchell told journalists in Delhi. Asked about the strategic goals of Britain's aid programme to India, Mitchell said: "It's about everything I have just mentioned. The focus... is also about seeking to sell Typhoon. The relationship is a relationship you have to take in the round."

The potential sale of 126 EuroFighter Typhoons, made by a consortium including Britain's BAE Systems, is one of two jets that have made the shortlist for a deal worth about £6.6bn.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Occupy Brighton: The End?

The Occupy Brighton protest camp has ended amidst storms, high winds and a fire. The BBC reports:

Police said the majority of the Occupy Brighton protesters left peacefully but a minority set fire to furniture and the fire service was called.

One of the officers was pushed to the ground while putting out the fire.

The leader of Brighton's Green-run council, Bill Randall, said because of this he would not tolerate another similar camp in future.

The camp was set up in Victoria Gardens at the beginning of November in response to similar camps outside St Paul's Cathedral, in London, and Wall Street, New York.

It had previously been praised by the Green administration.

'Peaceful protest'

Ch Insp Simon Nelson, from Sussex Police, said: "It is disappointing that after many weeks of peaceful occupation an event has occurred which put the safety of others at risk, damaged the environment and resulted in a public servant being assaulted.

"Most of the occupiers were committed to a peaceful protest and even assisted with clearing the site, but over a period of time the camp had been infiltrated by others who did not share this commitment."

One of the occupiers, Malcolm Cook, said the camp had started to attract people with drug and alcohol problems.

A large part of the camp's infrastructure was destroyed by bad weather, resulting in the occupiers deciding to leave.

However, he said he was proud of what the camp had accomplished.

"I'm overwhelmed with what it has achieved," he said. "The amount of attention we've received for our cause, for a few tents in the park, is outstanding."


So as the camps close down either through bad weather or other reasons, where now for the Occupy Movement? Has the spark burned out? The major occupation at S Paul's still seems to be strong, but even that is earmarked for removal in the New Year if the weather doesn't do it first. Whilst the movement such as it is has made a big impact and has certainly got people talking about the heart of issues within capitalism, there still lacks a cohesive majority agreed consensus on what is to be done. Hopefully the dialogues started can be continued and the conclusions drawn that only by doing away with the entire system can any progress be made for the vast majority of humanity.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Jamboree Diamond Jubilee

So you’ve paid off your mortgage and now you own your house and the land on which it stands. No, you don’t — the land still belongs to the Queen, who is the sole legal owner of land in the United Kingdom. In fact the queen also owns all the land in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and a number of other Commonwealth countries. the Queen of England is the titular owner of all the national soil. In all she owns well over six billion acres (one-sixth of the earth’s land surface), making her by far the largest landowner on the planet. But really what difference does it really make if in the last analysis the queen owns the land your house is on, supposedly making you and everyone else serfs rather than free individuals? In Britain the government can no longer legally seize land in the name of the Crown, but in theory the queen could sell Canada (just as Russia sold Alaska to the US.)

Does monarchy serve any interest for ordinary people, beyond giving a holiday and a pageant now and then? Since her accession to the throne scarcely has a newspaper been published without some mention of the Queen, her husband, and the rest of her brood. Journalists have tripped over each other in their efforts to boost circulation by publishing highly-coloured stories of Royal doings and going-ons. The articles are written in such obsequiously nauseating terms that one can only turn from them in disgust. No effort is spared to convince everybody that the Queen is the repository of every human virtue. With next years royal jubilee we will be subjected to no end of absurd and expensive pageantry with the usual round of royal documentaries, all giving the line that our glorious monarch is the centre of our “identity” and political stability.

SOYMB have no personal quarrel with the Queen. As occupant of the throne of Great Britain she has no real power. The monarchy has become a mere facade of authority, a rubber stamp signature at the bottom of State documents. The Queen's whole life is regulated by strictly-defined rules and a standard of behaviour is expected which would make even the humblest of us protest. Monarchs exist because other people treat them as monarchs not because there is something intrinsic or magical about the royal personage which makes them a monarch. It is the willingness of people to kneel before them. In contemporary Britain, this willingness does not directly turn into political power, but a much more nebulous symbolic one. Local councillors and assorted worthies vie for the opportunity of getting to meet a royal on walkabout, or be invited to special dinners and garden parties with her. Of course, this sort of veneration does not only apply to royalty. Pop singers, movie actors and sports stars receive similar veneration from an adoring public, and perform the same function of reflecting meaning and glory upon the fans that meet and read about them. It is a mark of the extent of the alienation of our society that neither we, nor the doings of our friends and neighbours, are worthwhile to ourselves unless refracted through the lens of the media and the fame game. It is not the monarch that is at fault in all this, but the social system which needs a shining symbol; where there is no monarch, something else has to be held up to dazzle the dispossessed. When millions of people feel alienated-politically, economically, psychologically-they are easy prey for spectacles inviting them to displace their feelings about themselves for someone or something else. But so that the media hacks may be assured that their message has reached us all we hereby declare that we believe every word they tell us and accept every tale of the indomitable courage with which Her Majesty faces her duties, and that we believe that under the inspiration of the Queen this country will become glorious once again. Having issued that declaration, we hope that these inane drivellings will cease and that journalists will now devote themselves to other and more serious matters, that is, provided always that they are capable of anything other than High Society chit-chat.

It would appear, if the court scribblers are to be believed, that the Queen has no faults whatsoever. We are not disposed to dispute that assertion. As we are not personally acquainted with Her Majesty we are unable to pass judgment. The contribution made to society by the Queen and her greedy and incestuous clan is simply zilch. Each one is capable of happily consuming in one day more resources and commodities than any 100 members of the working class, perhaps 1000 times as much as the inhabitants of a small African village. Yet we are meant to kow-tow to this bunch of self-seeking leeches, to prostrate ourselves in front of them? It is time we, the working class, celebrated something of far more importance—ourselves. It seems we have been led for so long by idiots, convinced we should look up to our "betters" and to celebrate their shenanigans, brainwashed into thinking the same by the media, that we have forgotten our own collective strength. If the injustices that plague our world and perpetrated in the name of profit were to receive one-tenth as much coverage as this Jubilee will get, then our case would have been well publicised and our ranks undoubtedly swollen.

Surrounded by bankers, landowners, Tory and Labour leaders, Her Majesty has no doubt perform her part with grace and charm. But such institutionalised privilege can have no place in a society of equals. This said, we don’t see any point in wasting time campaigning to get it abolished under capitalism. Whether or not a capitalist state is a monarchy or a republic makes no difference to the economic structure of society, which is the root cause of the problems wage and salary workers face today. Just look at the USA, which has been a republic since the 18th century. The royal family's role is to act as a focus for loyalty to the British state. The royal family may be a relic from feudalism but it is easier to get people to identify with it than with some abstraction like the constitution. It is true that a republican movement did not grow up in Britain as it did in other European states in the nineteenth century but then, as seems fairly obvious, it didn't need to after the defeat of royal authority in the 17th century. Indeed, the early nature of Britain's bourgeois revolution meant that capitalist growth and secular control of its perceived interests went hand in hand with a “constitutional monarchy”, i.e. a monarchy that was increasingly impotent as political force but emerging as a convenient “impartial” figurehead.

Socialists, of course, are unconcern as to whether we live in a republic or a constitutional monarchy – capitalism is capitalism whatever its political label. We must, however, point out the worst lies told about the history of our class. Constitutional monarchy has not always been a comfortable political framework for British capitalism and has always had its critics, including a minority of republicans. Socialists desire a good deal more than a mere capitalist republic. Unlike the left of capitalism, we openly advocate common ownership and democratic control which, for the privileged royal parasites, would mean the end of their vast ownership of resources and their place as sources of political deference and patronage.

Stuff the 2012 Diamond Jubilee.

New faces but no change

A survey shows America's CEOs enjoyed pay hikes of up to 40% last year – with one chief executive earning $145m yet wages for the majority of Americans are failing to keep up with inflation.

This year's survey shows CEO pay packages have boomed: the top 10 earners took home more than $770m between them in 2010. As stock prices began to recover last year, the increase in CEO pay outstripped the rise in share value. The Russell 3000 measure of US stock prices was up by 16.93% in 2010, but CEO pay went up by 27.19% overall. For S&P 500 CEOs, the largest companies in the sample, total realised compensation – including perks and pensions and stock awards – increased by a median of 36.47%. Total pay at midcap companies, which are slightly smaller than the top firms, rose 40.2%.

Three of this year's top 10 earners come from the healthcare industry. Top earner John Hammergren at McKesson, the world's largest healthcare firm, made $145,266,91 last year – most of it from stock options.

2010 was a great year to lose your job as a CEO. Four of the 10 highest paid CEOs were retired or departing executives. Ronald Williams, former head of Aetna, a health insurer, exercised 2.4m options for a profit of $50.4m. Aetna's stock price declined by 70% from when Williams assumed the role of CEO in February 2006 until his retirement. At pharmacy chain CVS, Thomas Ryan made a $28m profit on his options. During Ryan's 13-year tenure as CEO, CVS Caremark's stock price decreased almost 54%. Omnicare's Joel Gemunder retired last August and received cash severance of $16m, part of a final-year pay package worth $98.28m. Adam Metz, the former boss of General Growth Properties, a real estate company that specialises in shopping malls, walked away with a $46m cash bonus in 2010. GGP executives received nearly $115m in bonuses from the firm as it emerged from bankruptcy. But this year's top earner may have his biggest payday still to come. Hammergren is due a $469m payoff if McKesson changes ownership.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

shopping for shops

Many readers of SOYMB be aware of the current fuss in the UK about the 'decline of the high street', whereby traditional shopping areas are being displaced by out-of-town centres and internet shopping. The BBC website has some coverage of this, including the following from a
shop-owner in Inverness:

Mr Nicol did add, however, that rents for premises were an issue.

He said: "About a year ago I asked a surveyor why shops were being allowed to lie empty and their rents were not being reduced to encourage new occupiers. He explained to me that the rental value of a property had a direct link to the capital value of the property. Because a lot of these properties are owned by national property companies they do not want to see the capital value of their portfolio fall, especially if they have borrowed money from banks. They would rather the properties lay empty than reduce the rents and make some money from them. To me that side of capitalism is bonkers."

Well, he said it.

Paul Bennet

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sussex Business To The Rescue!

Are you tired of running over homeless people? Sick of these wastes of time taking up valuable road space on the busy A27? Fed up with dodging the poor and the elderly? Well Sussex business are leading the way in solving this problem. Teaming up with the local Police and with much back slapping, patronising press releases and 'oohs' and 'aahhs' all round, the clever capitalists are now giving homeless people hi-visibility coats to stop them getting run over whilst crossing a busy main road to get to the homeless shelter each night.

Perhaps us socialists are wrong? Perhaps capitalism can solve all our problems? I mean with such innovative thinking, who knows what wonders this system can come up with?! Forget costly housing solutions that help people with no home! Forget removing the system that creates and fosters poverty and destitution in the first place! Don't fret about removing the need for endless commuting at hi speeds on poorly maintained roads! Simply kit the poor out with hi-vis and the world is perfect again.

If only this was made up, but sadly it's true, see here. The homeless in Chichester, Sussex, are being issued with hi-vis coats to stop them getting run over. This system is truly mental.


Additive eating

Let them eat shit: restaurants using cooking oil collected from sewers, deadly fomula milk, bottled water containing worm eggs, pesticide pop, glow in the dark pork, or banned Clenbuterol added to animal feed by farmers impatient to get their meat to market and turn a profit.

The capitalist class in China however eat organic food from exclusive farms. The tofu they consume will not be laced with formaldehyde. and their honey will be free from antibiotics and heavy metals. Even the air they breathe is filtered. And should any of these parasites choke on their rich diet, they receive the best medical attention.

Whether you eat tainted or top class food is not restricted to China: capitalism being a global system adulterates food worldwide...

The addition of foreign substances to food for profit is as old as capitalism. In medieval times the production of food was subject to quality control by the guilds who regulated their members' trade practices. Food inspectors spent a good deal of time making sure wine, ale, flour and oil were of an acceptable standard and quality. The fourteenth century German "pure beer" laws are an example of this.

The development of industrial capitalism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century led to increasing numbers of people crowding into towns and cities. The adulteration of their food and drink was accepted as a matter of course and practiced with impunity. Like other wealth creating activities food production took on its modern mass-production character - that of a commodity to be produced for sale on the market with a view to making a profit.

Controls were swept away to such an extent that by the 1850s a Member of the Royal College of Physicians, called upon to give evidence before a Parliamentary Committee, could report that he had found adulteration of food "very prevalent" . It occurred, he said

".. in nearly all articles which it will pay to adulterate, whether of food, drink, or drugs. There are but few exceptions to this rule ...The adulterations practised are very numerous ... The majority consists in the addition of substances of greatly inferior nature, for the sake of weight or bulk. Other adulterations consist in the
addition of various colouring matters; these are employed either to conceal other adulterations, or to heighten, and, as it is considered, to improve the appearance of
articles. Lastly, a few adulterations are practised for the purpose of imparting smell, pungency, or taste to certain articles ..."

(Quoted in Royston Pike, Human Documents of the Victorian Golden Age, 1974, page 295.)

That this steady stream of adulterants had a debilitating effect on the health of the working class can hardly be doubted. It must have been in part responsible for
the fact that during the first world war 41 percent of workers conscripted to defend their masters interests had to be rejected as unfit. Seventy years later
government reports still point to the inadequate nutritional levels of the poorest members of the working class, except that adulterants have been up-graded - they are now called additives and have pretentions to respectability.

Researchers from the DHSS found in 1986 that children were eating more crisps, chips and potato products than any other single food. Biscuits and cakes were the second most popular item, being eaten more by weight than vegetables. Little fresh fruit was eaten. Commenting on the report Andrew Veitch, medical correspondent of The Guardian, noted:

"Children of families on Family Income Supplement and Supplementary Benefit had the lowest nutrient intake and were significantly shorter than others. (4 April 1986)

The "state of the nation's health" is still a subject of concern. The employing class clearly does not want a clapped-out working class suffering ill health because
of their diet. On the other hand, there is a great deal of money to be made peddling food given an added value and therefore a bigger margin of potential profitability.

Increasingly too consumers - workers who stump up at the cash register - are asking the question, What is it that we are really eating? Complacency is being replaced by concern. Worried families pressurised by advertising and lack of time and money into buying the cheaper processed foods are questioning the need for additives, as the campaign to remove artificial colouring matter.demonstrates. With limited money to spend it does not need a degree in economics to work out that a shopping basket of products less likely to contain processed, additiye-rich food, will cost more than one including a preponderance of beef-burgers, pot-noodle and fruit squash. The outlay for a family of four eating a "healthy" as opposed to a typical diet was compared recently by Isobel Cole-Hamilton, a dietician working for the London Food Commission, and Anita MacDonald from the University Hospital Leeds. Not surprisingly the healthy diet costs a great deal more - £48.04 as compared to £37.09 (more than 25 per cent.) MacDonald also pointed out that:

"... it would be impossible for a child to obtain the minimum nutritional requirements laid down by the DHSS from the amount of money available for food
from supplementary benefit - the allowance simply isn't large enough." (The Guardian, 18 October 1986.)

Food and drink manufacturers have an annual turnover of £6bn and account for 10 per cent of all manufactured output. They spend an estimated £231 in a year
on food additives. Seventy per cent of what is spent on food buys processed products. There are no exact figures for the amount of additives consumed per head but Erik Millstone of Sussex University estimates it to be between 3 and 7 kilogrammes annually. It could be considerably higher in some cases - 10 or 15 kg per head a year because not all people consume the same quantity of processed food. As The Guardian survey quoted above showed, food purchases of those with less money to spend will almost invariably be made up of processed food because it is cheaper.

Why are additives used in such vast and increasing quantities? As far as food manufacturers and processors are concern ed they fulfill a number of important
technical needs. They improve the look of food products, they modify their texture to increase acceptability, they inhibit mould and bacteria and extend "shelf life"
(which means the product can be kept in circulation from machine to mouth longer before it decays and looses its value). Flavours lost in the manufacturing process
can be regained or reinforced. These needs are real in a system where lncreasinq amounts of food are industrially processed before consumption. For example,
Erik Millstone estimates that 45 major food distribution centres handle some 80 per cent of all the food marketed in Britain, "Hence the ability of preservatives
to give food a long shelf life is of enormous economic value to the food industry ... " (New Scientist, 18 October 1984).

The Consumer Association have looked into the use and need for additives in food, and as far as flavours are concerned state that:

"In a highly competitive industry, keeping down costs while maintaining sales is essential for survival. Even though manufacturers might acknowledge that the most
wholesome products would include natural ingredients ... substitution of flavours for ingredients is one of the easiest ways for them lo reduce costs ... Undoubtedly
when raw material costs increase, manufacturers may feel under pressure to lower the quality of some products in order to maintain their position in the market."

(Understanding Additives, Which? Books-Consumers Assoeiation/Hodder and Stoughton, £6.95.)

In the case of preservatives they admit that:

"Hygiene in factories is not always as high as modem standards would demand. Bacterial spores are commonly found in food processing plants, and preservatives
may need to be added to food to prevent contamination during processing ... The financial benefit of extending the shelf-life of products is likely to be greater than the cost of adding individual preservatives."

Scientific research coupled with public pressure have led in recent years to the abandoning of some artificial colouring matter in food. This was almost always
added to make the product look attractive. But according to the CA:

"Manufacturers would not have replaced synthetic colours with more expensive natural ones unless they were able to recoup or absorb the additional cost. Companies
which felt that there was a commercial risk in excluding colours have, on the whole, retained them ..."

As far as additives as a whole are concerned an anonymous representative of the food manufacturing industry is quoted as saying that "We do produce some products with fewer artificial additives. This is purely for marketing purposes" This puts into true perspective what the CA identifies as the consumer's overriding need " ... to be able to obtain a nutritious and balanced diet, at prices they can afford ... " To which it is reasonable to retort - "It may be cheap, but is it safe?".

Another response to criticism has been the provision of more "information" on food packaging. However this sop to public opinion still fails to give relative quantities, excludes flavourings, and often does not specify additives used in production prior to the final processing. For example museli, that prime example of health conscious eating, may contain fruit treated with mineral oil or preserved with sulphur dioxide, the presence of which is not indicated on the label!

Of the use of sulphur dioxide, the most widely used antimicrobial preservative, Erik Millstone and John Abraham say:

".. it is of enormous technological, industrial and commercial value, but we know that it is harmful to at least a few people, and that it may be harmful to many people."

(Additives: a Guide for Everyone, Erik Millstone and John Abraham, Penguin Books, E3.95.)

Other entries in this "dictionary" of chemicals used in food manufacturing make grim reading. In their assessment of the supposed safety of over 200 additives the phrase "presumed safe" occurs with frightening regularity. The possible long term effect of the continuous intake of small doses and the consequences of taking combinations of chemicals (the so-called "cocktail" effect) will be costly and time consuming to ascertain. The Food Additives Council (a body which regulates the use of additives) has no funds of its own and has to rely mainly on research carried out by the food industry itself - a bit like a gamekeeper trusting the poachers.

The results of research are secret or difficult to verily. Experiments on animals do not produce results which can be readily transferred to humans primarily because the methods are imprecise. Millstone and Adams, summing up this state of affairs, say:

"... the entire regulatory system rests on an undisclosed base ... Secrecy is defended by industry and government on the grounds that disclosure might adversely affect the commercial interests of companies."

Indignant as one may feel at being poisoned for profit - at being forced by economic circumstances to consume inferior food - it must be realised that this is simply part and parcel of the production for sale and profit system. In a society of production for use the incentive to adulterate food would disappear.

(Socialist Standard, March 1989)