Saturday, August 31, 2013

Out Now - September Standard


Socialist Standard No. 1309 September 2013 


(Secret) Military Funding Of Academic Research

The quote below from Edward Said (1991) concludes an excellent expose by Joel Wainwright about the murky and often secretive links between intellectuals, researchers and the military. The full article is somewhat longer than the usual posts here but is recommended for further insight into the limits and constraints of academics and researchers working within the capitalist system and at the same time seeking funding to continue their work.

"There’s only one way to anchor oneself [as an intellectual], and that is by affiliation with a cause, a political movement. There has to be identification not with the secretary of state or the leading philosopher of the time but with matters involving justice, principle, truth, conviction. Those don’t occur in a laboratory or a library.  For the American intellectual, that means, at bottom, that the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world, now based upon profit and power, has to be altered to one of coexistence among human communities that can make and remake their own histories and environments together. … [Unfortunately, even] inside the university, the prevalence of norms based upon domination and coercion is so strong because the idea of authority is so strong, whether it’s derived from the nation-state, from religion, from the ethnos, from tradition.… Part of intellectual work is understanding how authority is formed.  Authority is not God-given. It’s secular. And if you can understand that, then your work is conducted in such a way as to be able to provide alternatives to the authoritative and coercive norms that dominate so much of our intellectual life, our national and political life, and our international life above all."

To which Joel Wainwright adds:

If we are going to criticize the formation of authority and provide alternatives to the norms that dominate intellectual life, we have no choice: we must confront the US military.

Against Capitalist Exploitation - Indigenous Mexican Activists Speak Out

Mexico: Communiqué From the People of San Sebastián Bachajón, Read to the Indigenous National Congress   PDF Print E-mail
Written by San Sebastian Bachajón   
Tuesday, 27 August 2013 09:11   
from here 
Compañeros and compañeras, receive our combative greetings to all the peoples and communities who struggle and resist with dignity, in Mexico and the world, against the capitalist exploitation of indigenous territories which seeks to own the land, air, water, forests, native seeds, and life itself.

We warmly greet students from the Zapatista Escuelita, the Indigenous National Congress and the compañeros and compañeras of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

We are indigenous Tseltal people from San Sebastian Bachajon, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, we fight to defend our territory from dispossession by the government to impose an ecotourist megaproject, and as indigenous people we make your struggle our own; we embrace the struggle for life that each of you undertakes from the place or space you come from, because all of us are here to build a better world for all.

We know that the lords of money and power are planning everywhere, day and night, how to end our world, wanting us and all we represent to disappear. We who are indigenous struggle to continue to be what we are, to build our own way of life and to conserve our territory, defending it from the ambition of those above, because to them we are only an obstacle to their being increasingly rich and powerful, because those who truly command are those who have power and money, the government is only their puppet, serving power and money and not the people.

Those from above give orders to destroy us, our peoples, and order the destruction of all that gives us life, building dams, ecotourism projects, wind parks, stealing the rivers through pipes, stealing and polluting our seeds, opening mines, and to achieve this they order the killing of our brothers, dignified men and women who fight to defend the Mother Earth, they imprison us, torture us and make us disappear, but they forget that we are one, that we are not alone and that as children of the earth our roots are still alive in spite of all the death that they offer us.

The struggle of our people of San Sebastián Bachajón is to conserve our indigenous territory which we inherited from our ancestors, it is where we live, it gives us life and identity. We are defending our land with our lives if necessary, against the ambition of the government and of the lords of money who want to build luxury hotels, golf courses and runways for rich tourists, at the cost of the exploitation, marginalization and discrimination of our people; faced with the defence we have mounted against these projects the government has had only one answer: repression, imprisonment and death.

Our brothers from San Sebastian Bachajon have been imprisoned, on the 3rd of February 2011, 117 of our compañeros were imprisoned; they were released in the same year thanks to the solidarity of all of you; still unjustly imprisoned are our compañeros Antonio Estrada Estrada in Playas de Catazajá, and Miguel Demeza Jiménez in El Amate, tortured and accused using fabricated evidence, violating their human rights because the justice of the bad government is not for the poor and the indigenous.

Another response from the bad government and the lords of money and power has been death, they ordered the killing of our brother Juan Vázquez Guzmán on the 24th of April this year, so far this crime of the bad government remains unpunished. Our compañero Juan Vázquez Guzmán is an example of struggle and of love for his people, he gave his life for his people, he struggled for his people to be free from the oppression and the abuse of power of the bad government, he struggled to recover the territory which had been seized, he always inspired the compañeros and compañeras to continue struggling and defending their land, he was always also closely following the legal work such as the amparo (order for legal protection) 274/2011 from the Seventh District Court, and he constantly denounced the politicians and corrupt judges who have until now favoured the dispossession.

In spite of so much repression our people continue resisting with the intention of gaining victory, as we were taught by our compañero Juan Vázquez Guzmán, cowardly murdered by the bad government.

Although the rulers do not like it, we will continue defending our territory because this is where we come from, and we are not leaving despite their repression and corruption, we will defend it as our grandfathers and grandmothers did until we achieve victory.


From the northern zone of Chiapas, receive an embrace from women and men of San Sebastian Bachajón.


Land and Freedom!

Hasta la victoria siempre!

Freedom Political Prisoners!

Juan Vazquez Guzman Lives, the Bachajón Struggle continues!

Treasure Islands

A few miles off the coast of the UK are the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey who welcome economic refugees. They are fleeing not from hunger or misery but  income tax. They don’t arrive illegally in leaky boats but by private jet to be received by waiting Bentleys and Rolls Royces. These are the men and women who want to cheat the tax man.

However the recent recession has caused a dip in those islands’ prosperity and Jersey and Guernsey have reduced the privileges of the rich. The result is a budget deficit paid for, not by the multi-millionaires, but by the workers. It is the Robin Hood effect backwards – taking from the poor to give to the rich.

"If we destroy our financial system, we will become a kind of Liverpool, but with a worse climate," claims Manx Prime Minister, Alan Bell. During the last G8 meeting, he promised to participate in the fight against tax fraud and to "take into account the concerns of London and the European Union," but did not commit to anything concrete. The financial sector accounts for a quarter of the Isle of Man’s economy, there is an advantageous corporate tax rate and the highest tax level is 20 per cent, capped at €125,000 annually no matter the amount of revenue declared. There is no estate tax, not even on capital gains – all a boon to the millionaires.

The wages of the 80,000 residents are close to those of the UK, but the cost of living is clearly higher. Rents are higher and food must be shipped in by boat or flown in by airplane. Budget cuts totalling €35m  will affect seasonal workers (five years of residence are required to benefit from health care).  As for raising taxes on the wealthy, that is clearly out of the question. "This is the worst crisis I've ever known, and I'm no spring chicken," says pensioner Norma Cassell

 Jersey and Guernsey are not part of the EU or of the UK. They are neither overseas territories, nor colonies but are British crown dependencies, with their own flags and national anthems. They swear alliegience to the Queen, pay London a fee for services linked to defence and to diplomacy but they make their own laws, especially regarding taxes.

 Jersey alone, holds €600bn of revenues that are evading taxes, hidden in the accounts of some 50 international banks. More than half of the 98,000 residents are bankers, accountants, lawyers or financial advisors. It is like a giant country club in which, to join, you have to live on the island for 11 years, be worth at least €8m and own a property costing at least €2m.

 Those that are not millionaires or do not work in finance are furious at the 3 per cent hike in VAT, aimed at compensating the drop in revenue due to the greater pressure being put on tax havens. "If we were in France, there'd already have been a revolution. It's unbelievable that we, the poor, have to subsidise the millionaires," complains pharmacist Edith Newman.

 ‘If tax havens exist it's because the elites and the governments have decided that they will," says a fund manager operating out of an office on Royal Square. "We are steeped in hypocrisy. Jersey alone provides €200bn in liquidities to the British banking system, a release valve that was very useful during the financial crisis. If States need money, they will get it from pensions and wages, without touching the very wealthy," he explains.

 Globally, there is said to be about £25 trillion sitting in accounts in these tax-sheltered treasure islands.

Germany's Job Miracle is Low Pay

In Germany there is a growing poor-rich divide as well as increasing resentment among those who see German prosperity being built on the exploitation of the downtrodden. Statistics from Germany's employment agency show that at the top end German workers' wages rose by 25% between 1999 and 2010 while salaries in the lowest fifth rose by a mere 7.5%, when inflation was 18%. That has led to what economists refer to as internal devaluation, significantly reducing their purchasing power and doing damage to the German economy.

A survey for the European Central Bank in April showed that Germany's median net household worth was much less than that of Greece. In terms of GDP per head, Germany is faring reasonably well. But, contrary perhaps to popular belief, it is only just above the eurozone average. According to the Institute for Employment Research, the research arm of the federal employment agency, 25% of all German workers earn less than €9.54 (£8.15) per hour. In Europe only Lithuania has a higher percentage of low earners – those earning less than two-thirds of the national average wage.

Sometimes referred to as McJobs, mini-jobs are a form of marginal employment that allows workers to earn up to €450 a month tax-free. Introduced in 2003 by the then Social Democratic chancellor Gerhard Schröder as part of a wide-ranging labour market reform when Germany's economic doldrums earned it the title "sick man of Europe", they keep down labour costs and offer greater flexibility to employers. But critics say they have helped to expand the disparity between rich and poor and undermined many of the values that have traditionally underpinned Germany's social-market economy. Not only do they give employers no reason to turn them into proper jobs, but mini-jobs offer workers little incentive to work more because then they would have to pay tax. As a result, many remain trapped in marginal work and detached from Germany's much-hailed jobwunder, or jobs miracle.  Employers enjoy the fact that they can get a work force for just €450 a month.

Anette Krame, labour market expert for the Social Democrats said "Mini-jobs are destroying ordinary workplaces, and for most people they do not provide a living wage. It can't be that even in the US most states have a minimum wage, while Germany, one of the world's richest countries, has none."

Friday, August 30, 2013

Double Standards

From Mark Curtis 'Web of Deceit'

"According to David Leigh and John Hooper writing for the Guardian in 2003, a chemical plant, a key component in Iraq’s chemical warfare arsenal was secretly built by Britain in 1985. Documents show British ministers knew at the time that the £14 million plant, called Falluja 2, was likely to be used for mustard and nerve gas production. 

Senior officials recorded in writing that Saddam Hussein was actively gassing his opponents and that there was a “strong possibility” that the chlorine plant was intended by the Iraqis to make mustard gas. At the time, Saddam was known to be gassing Iranian troops in their thousands in the Iran-Iraq war. 

But ministers in the then Thatcher government none the less secretly gave financial backing to the British company involved, Uhde Ltd, through insurance guarantees. Paul Channon, then trade minister, concealed the existence of the chlorine plant contract from the US administration, which was pressing for controls on such exports. 

He also instructed the export credit guarantee department (ECGD) to keep details of the deal secret from the public. The papers show that Mr Channon rejected a strong plea from a Foreign Office minister, Richard Luce, that the deal would ruin Britain’s image in the world if news got out: “I consider it essential everything possible be done to oppose the proposed sale and to deny the company concerned ECGD cover”. 

The Ministry of Defence also weighed in, warning that it could be used to make chemical weapons. But Mr Channon, in line with Mrs Thatcher’s policy of propping up the dictator, said: “A ban would do our other trade prospects in Iraq no good”." 

It i not often that SOYMB can agree with a Tory MP

Sarah Wollaston (Totnes, Conservative) 

"Where was the world’s policeman in 1985 when Iran was under sustained attack from chemical weapons? It suited the west to support Iraq in that situation. Why did we allow the world’s policeman to weaponise white phosphorus? When white phosphorus contacts the skin and burns as it oxidises, it burns right down to the bone. If that is not a chemical weapon, what is? Why is the world’s policeman allowing the USA to sell cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia? The point about cluster bombs is that they continue to kill and maim children long after the combatants have left the field. We need to be very clear. Why is the world’s policeman not calling a coup a coup in Egypt?...To be wary of war is not to stand idly by, but a realistic appraisal of the risks and learning from past experience. The British people are not standing idly by; they are delivering humanitarian aid, but they do not feel that humanitarian aid from the west is best delivered in the form of a cruise missile."

Another World IS Possible

Link to video: Israeli soldiers dance to Gangnam Style at Palestinian wedding
  A group of Israeli soldiers has danced up a storm of criticism after they were filmed boogying alongside Palestinians while on patrol in the West Bank.
The soldiers were making their rounds in the city of Hebron when they entered a dance hall and joined dozens of Palestinian men dancing to South Korean rapper Psy's hit Gangnam Style.
The Israeli military said on Thursday that it considers the incident serious, adding "the soldiers exposed themselves to unnecessary danger and were disciplined accordingly," without elaborating.
Footage aired on Israeli Channel 2 TV shows the solders in uniform, flak jackets and carrying guns.
One was shown hoisted on the shoulders of Palestinian dancers. Other soldiers joined hands and grooved with the partygoers. The channel said the incident occurred on Monday.
Hebron has been a flashpoint of violence between Israelis and Palestinians for decades.

Everything is possible. 
"The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human." Aldous Huxley 

Black, White? Socialists Are Colour Blind

In 2011, the median income of Black households was about $32,000; that is, half of Black households had income above this figure, and half had incomes below this figure. This was 61.7% of the 2011 median income of White households. In 1970, before the general increase of income inequality, the figure was 60.9%, just a smidgen lower. Not much change. Also, there has been virtually no change if mean incomes are used for the Black-White comparison. (The “mean” is the average—the total income all households in the group divided by the number of households.)

This lack of change over the last 40 years might come as a surprise, contrary to visible indicators of improvement in the position of Black people. We see, for example, many Black professionals in fields where 40 years ago there were few. There are also more Black executives—even a few CEOs of major corporations. And there is Barack Obama. How do these visible changes square with the lack of change in the relative income positions of Blacks and Whites?
The answer to this question is largely that the distribution of income among Black households is very unequal, even more unequal than the distribution of income among White households. So many of the prominent Black people who appear to be doing so well are indeed doing well. At the other end are the Black households that are doing worse. Between 1970 and 2011, the upper 5% of Black households saw their average (mean) incomes rise from about $114,000 to about $215,000 (measured in 2011 dollars), while the incomes of Black households in the bottom 20% saw their average income fall from $6,465 to $6,379.

Among White households, the pattern of change was similar but not quite so extreme. The average income of the top 5% of White households rose by 83% in this period, as compared to the 88% increase for the top Black households—though that elite White group was still taking in 50% per household more than their Black counterparts. The bottom 20% of White households saw a 13% increase per household in their inflation-adjusted incomes between 1970 and 2011.

Income distribution is only one measure of economic inequality, however. The Great Recession had a devastating impact on the wealth of Black households, largely explained by the impact of the housing crisis. In 2004, the net worth of White households was about eleven times that of Black households (bad enough), about the same as it had been since the early 1980s (with a slight improvement in the mid-1990s). But by 2009, though both Black and White net worth fell from 2004, White net worth was 19 times Black net worth.

taken from here

Male, female; native-born, immigrant; black, white, yellow, brown; - just some of the categories used to divide us, to keep us divided. When the majority of us begin to realise that this is one of capitalism's ways of controlling us, of keeping us from thinking of more important things, we can then move forward together to an equitable multi-coloured, multi-cultural, multi-faceted socialist world.

The Diplomacy of Death

The vote against a British attack in Syria by the UK parliament is a victory for democracy, albeit a small and temporary one but a very welcomed one.

It doesn’t matter whether or not Syria’s Assad used chemical weapons. Even if the accusations are more-or-less true, one cannot lose sight of the fact the Great Powers are not acting out of altruism, but are exploiting other peoples' tragedy and horror in the service of their own geopolitical ends.  Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the “War on Terror,” or spreading “democracy/ human rights,” and so-called WMD claims are used to justify interventions.  Western powers are more than happy to cooperate and collaborate with agents carrying out the very atrocities they are condemning when geo-politically expedient.  They are eager to turn a blind eye to astonishing human suffering when to do so is in their nation's interest. These moral stances are used to justify rather than determine policy. Often more lives are lost under R2P than stood to be lost without intervention, greater oppression follows Western “liberation,” greater atrocities unfold as a result of Western “punishment” for “crimes against humanity,” more extremists are created as a result of the “War on Terror.” History offers sufficient proof. In Kosovo, the Serbian ethnic cleansing of Albanians increased, not decreased, once NATO commenced its attacks. In Afghanistan and now Libya, so called fighters for democracy turned out to be Islamic  fundamentalists who turned their American-supplied weaponry on Americans. Nor can we forget the US support of the Nicaraguan Contras as "freedom fighters" and not the drug-running murderers they were.

 It has been argued by informed commentators that the West does not actually want the civil war in Syria to end but hope that it continues for a long time whereupon  Hezbollah, the Syrian Army, and al-Qaeda will continue to tear each-other apart and they point to the half-hearted pursuit of a diplomatic resolution and insistance upon unreasonable and unacceptable preconditions to them, forever delaying the start of peace talks.

If America decide that the air-attacks should proceed there will be no doubt many will believe the official statements that it will be only against military targets. They will be unaware that speaking under oath,  the U.S. military chief described the inevitable “collateral damage” (military words for civilian casualties) the coming attacks will cause. Poor souls who had absolutely nothing to do with the alleged chemical weapon attacks allegedly carried out by Syrian government will be on the receiving end of missiles and bombs. Human life is rarely treated with very much sanctity by politicians sitting in debating chambers thousands of miles away from the the horrors of war.

When the ruling class talk war it is more than ever necessary for the workers in this country to remember that the workers in other countries have as little direct responsibility for their callous ruling class and bloody-minded military as we have for ours. Almost no wars in history have ever been decided on by the people who were called on to fight them. It has been the politicians. War can now be conducted remotely from a bunker in California via armed drones using real-time video by those no more capable of relating humanly and emotionally to their targets than playing a computer game. The blunting emotional impact of mass murder had finally attained schizophrenic proportions in the minds of the war-makers. The agents of the capitalist class of today have acquired an absolute and terrible decision-making power that autocrats and emperors could once only have dreamed.

One of the intentions of the United Nations was to stop war. The idea was that all the nations should come together in an international body and use their collective strength to maintain universal peace. A glance at history shows that in this respect the U.N. has failed miserably and slaughter and destruction in the defence of capitalist interests has continued. The governments that meet in the UN have behind them national conflicts of interest and because of the competitive character of capitalism the UN cannot help but be use by the big powers for their own strategic and commercial purposes. The conflicts do not disappear when they get together in a large group any more than when the diplomats of rival powers get together in a small group. The UN’s precursor the League of Nations was at one time labelled the league of bandits; the UN’s Security Council is little different. Workers feel that war is unavoidable and that it is better to win a war than to lose it. Nor has the Socialist Party any hesitation in rejecting the argument that workers should be prepared to support a war carried out under the auspices of the UN Charter. The workers have no interest in engaging in wars between capitalist groups because such an organisation is involved. Socialists hold that the menace of war cannot be done away with while its cause, the capitalist system, remains. The Socialist Party does not support armed intervention by any capitalist state.

Cameron, Obabama and Hollande endeavour with the complicity of the media to win over the reluctant support for actual war presenting it as humanitarian intervention, and promise no boots on the ground, so it is to be fought instead remotely from a distance, aircraft strikes and missile attacks but most of all by proxy armies.  Wars of capitalism have never protected human rights; in truth they have damaged those rights, at times, destroyed them. Diplomacy—one of the practised arts of the capitalist system—cannot be an affair of honour; it must function by double-cross, concealment, treachery and lies. When the Cameron government promotes “regime change” in Syria, it does so for strategic and economic reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with democracy.

War cuts across the basic identity of interest of the workers of the world, setting sections of them at enmity with each other in the interests of the capitalist class. Its effect is wholly evil. It depraves all the participants by forcing them to concentrate and commit misery and  killing upon each other. It elevates lying, and murdering opponents into virtues, it confers honours on those who practise these means most successfully. Men and women have the vile methods of warfare imposed on them and are filled with the idea that violence and not mutual understanding is the final solution in all problems. Many of those who have been subjected to the atmosphere and atrocities of war remain addicted to violence or traumatised by it when hostilities have come to an end. War cannot be humanised. Its brutalities will cease only when capitalism, which is the cause of wars, has been brought to an end.

The anti-war movement must not let the need to resolve the real cause of our problems slip through our fingers and lose  a lasting solution  as we protest against the barbarous civil; war in Syria and protest any escalation of it. Marches and demonstrations can never, in and of themselves, stop war. What is needed is a patient argument with the movement that capitalism itself engenders war. Needless to say this is exactly what the SPGB has always done.

We condemn not just either of the government or rebel forces, or the Shi’ites or Sunni sectarians. We condemn the system of social organisation that creates conditions in which civil wars can all happen — a system where it must always be "You or I" and rarely "You and I". Socialist point out and explain the war existing in society - the class war -  must be won before we can end  the cause of wars.  Wars are not about freedom and democracy. That's just a convenient slogan. Wars are part of the more violent ongoing competition for profit and power in the world. When negotiations finally break down, the ultimate form of competition is war. The only war — if you want to call it that — for freedom and democracy that British people have been involved in was against our own ruling class. Atrocities are going on all the time in different countries, and other nations do little or nothing about them — unless they want to use them as propaganda. Governments talk about human rights and freedom when it suits them, but if you look at their actions it's just hogwash. They are completely devoted to protecting and expanding possessions and profits and power — utterly regardless of human beings. Whoever wins a war, the people always loses — on both sides.

We can fully understand the desire to stop war and socialists are opposed to war in all its forms. But first and foremost we are opposed to the capitalist system which gives rise to war. Removing evils in isolation cannot be done. The phrase "national interest" is the mealy mouthed language of diplomacy. Much fallacious drivel has come forth from politicians and media hacks alike about "principles of international law". The hard fact is that wars are not fought for moral reasons – the only justice of significance to the ruling class is that which ensures their own power. The only way to stop it is to join us in campaigning to end capitalism. Wars will stop when people no longer support the social system that gives rise to them and replace it with one where wars are a thing of the past. The role of revolutionary socialists is not simply to declare abstract principles. There are plenty of pious and sincerely motivated people who are deeply committed to “peace". Such aims are utopian unless they are related to the historical possibility of establishing a classless, stateless society. Understanding that capitalism causes wars, socialists urge the need for conscious political action to end capitalism and thus eradicate war. The Socialist Party has often stood alone in condemning war from a class angle. Frequently alone among all political parties in Britain, the Socialist Party has never supported one capitalist interest against another in a war. We have refused to be tricked into support for legalised killing and consistently we have argued that workers have a material interest in opposing all wars. For workers there is but one way ahead and that will not be in the company of capitalists of any nation.

Capitalism’s war drums are never silent. They are always beating away in the background. At certain times they become more strident—now is one of those times.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Has Gang Rape To Do With Socialism?

The following post may be somewhat unusual for SOYMB, however its relevance to our daily struggle against capitalism and our efforts to advance the progress towards an international socialist society is striking. The capitalist system has long been steeped in patriarchy and property relations and there are scant signs of these withering away. Although we still have a way to go too, those who are reading this from western countries, Europe, North America, etc. may need to reflect on norms quite different from the ones to which we are accustomed and recognise some of the obstacles facing societies in what is often referred to as the 'majority world.'  The piece below was written in response to another recently reported gang rape in India probably not widely reported in the rest of the world.

Rape: Let's Unite Against The Enemy, Patriarchy

By Hannah Jayapriya 

from here

Ok, another gang rape, should we say, a reported one? If I remember right, per a survey that Outlook published some time ago, for every one rape reported in a big city, almost 64 rapes go unreported in any of the smaller cities. In any case, I don’t want to dwell on rape, for there’s enough and much more to spare written on rape. After all, who doesn’t want to look the defender of a woman’s modesty (sic!)?
Some of the words that people use to describe the act of rape are painful, horrendous, injustice, heinous, outrageous, irreversibly damaged, etc. Simply put, all these descriptors are laughable or even expressions of our misplaced angst, because all of our responses are colored, or rather dictated by our feudal mindsets that want our women to be untouched sexually, except by the man who is socially sanctioned to touch her on the day (err…night) of their wedding! And, that’s not all. The marital bed might even be examined for traces of virginal blood the following morning by the mother-in-law, who is again a victim and a stooge of patriarchy.
And, hence, virginity/chastity (karppu) is something that the woman guards with her life, heart, soul, mind, body, etc. A woman’s mind is dwarfed or rather mangled (like perhaps a bonsai with constant pruning, trimming, and wiring) to think that she’s around just to grow up into a beautiful young woman, who will be married off in her prime (read biologically just right to get pregnant) to a man her parents shall find, and she shall cook and clean for him and his family (and, of course, have a career if the man deems it fit or something to simply kill time or contribute to the family economy, if need be), beget him children, and raise them as chivalrous gentlemen or ladies like herself to continue this brilliant saga! Isn’t this outrageously horrendous? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

A woman’s attitude towards anything and everything, be it her choice in clothes, career, stance, food, color, marriage, friends, etc . is influenced primarily by the societal expectations from her due to her biology. For example, even as a girl child is born, people start talking about putting money away for her dowry, make jewels for her, buy pink frocks, high heels, etc. Where is all this coming from? It comes from the basic idea that the woman is a womb, and hence everything about the girl child is only beauty (she will have to be beautiful for her man), fair skin, dolls (because she will be a mother someday, so start planning even as she is in the cradle!), kitchen sets (she’ll have to cook and clean for the household!), and anything and everything that would firmly peg her to the house, kitchen, and pregnancy! Now, I ask, aren’t all these heinous? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

I am not sure if there’s data to support how girl babies and boy babies DIFFER in their gyration towards violence or motherhood, irrespectively! Maybe they do too, but why should we as adults stand back and watch or rather applaud when your boy starts using expletives and thrash when the girl does the same thing? Why are girl children taught to cook while boy children are not? Is cooking done through ovaries, which is why men don’t cook? Why should girl children be taught to clean? Why should boys/men be handed out coffees by women every day? Do men suddenly become lame or crippled the moment they enter their homes? Or, is it the upbringing that makes Indian men take any woman to be a custom-made domestic worker, mother, and even a careerist (outside the home of course!). It just can’t get any better for Indian men, or can it? I ask, isn’t this a travesty of justice or a caricature of a just world? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

As a teenager growing in a metropolis like Chennai, I could never venture to the beach all by myself or even partake in the all-night parties that used to happen on the mount road on new year’s eve, because I, or any girl/woman, ran the risk of being gang raped! Even if the all-night party animals on that road came from ‘good’ families or on better days would be chivalrous too, wouldn’t think twice before actually getting down and having one helluva fuck, because such wayward women could, rather should be raped! Not only that, as a young girl travelling by public transport to school/college/work, I have been exposed to stares of all kinds (the approving, the disapproving, the disrobing, so much fucking more!!) and even harassment of all hues. And, believe me, the men guilty were anything like these ‘animals’(rapists) that all ‘good’ men of today seem to distance themselves from! These were boys/men who went to colleges like the ones I went to or even came from families who were our neighbors! Even today, as a fully grown adult, I can assure you that I don’t feel any less vulnerable while taking the public transport or am the only woman in a lift filled with men! All this and much more completely strangulate a woman’s very identity and crush/stonewall her into the bloody roles that patriarchy so confidently defines for her! Now, isn’t that horrifying? And, we are outraged by a gang rape! 

The outrage in my view is in itself outrageous or even hypocritical, especially because of the sheer number of men who seem have unleashed their unbridled sense of shame at this! I ask, where are these men and women, defenders of a woman’s modesty or proponents of women liberation, when the women’s reservation bill gets shot down or women bodies are objectified in mindless fashion shows or movies or when virginity tests are conducted on women? And, how many of these men haven’t whistled at a girl, brushed against a woman’s body when the opportunity presented itself, or didn’t enjoy a rape scene? And, will this outrage be of this scale if some men had gang raped a sex worker?
Where were all these people when the armed forces brutally raped and killed Thangjam Manorama? Where was the outrage when an entire village watched and cheered as the men of the village gang raped even the dead bodies of two women? I am sure it would be so much easier to distance ourselves from such things as ‘aberrations’ that happen in the hinterland! And, who’s going to utter or let out even a whimper when men rape men/young boys? 

Our outrage therefore is very selective: our very core is shaken and we are spurred into action (as in people who don’t give two hoots about protests/demonstrations or who even denigrate such protestors as some misguided, lazy nincompoops) ONLY when the chastity of a ‘good’ woman is outraged. It’s of course a different matter altogether if she’s murdered for dowry, honored killed for marrying outside caste, is killed because of invasive fertilization techniques, is killed because of unsafe termination of pregnancy (for carrying a female child), is killed because she defended her home and land, is killed because she refused to do menial labor and wanted to study, or becomes a mental wreck being nothing more than a glorified domestic help at her own home all her life, and the like! 

A day, a blog post, or even a bill may not be enough to change this situation, and any list of dos/don’ts may not even make the cut! What perhaps is needed is for us to internalize the fact that all of us born are equal, and because of the psychotic mistakes of our ancestors (hope you all burn in hell, if there’s one!) we live in a world that’s defined by various levels and each level is equipped with its own brand of weapons to keep the rest down under. Perhaps, we need to educate ourselves about the working of our society and the brutality it hides under the grab of morality, virtue, chivalry, and the like. Maybe then, we would organize and interrogate ourselves about why we need to be outraged and what we need to be outraged about. I know, not many people will have the time for all this, because it means taking collective responsibility of violence, especially the systemic kind, and working towards a solution. And, that would mean giving up of the many, many privileges that the powerful in the society (the men) have enjoyed for several centuries now. However, it’s time for the women and oppressed men, the victims of the systemic violence, to organize and agitate alongside in the long term. And, we can rest assured that our battle has just begun, and we have miles and miles to march before we can see a semblance of victory. Perhaps, our great, great grand daughters and sons might thank us for embarking on this journey. 

On a side note, for all the privileged men, more than responding to something that’s so far removed from your immediate reality or doling out some pearls of wisdom on how women should conduct and protect themselves, please introspect! Walk that extra mile, be a human, be defined not by your biology, but by your humanity! Don’t define a woman or her role or her identity or her ability by her biology, but by her right to exist on this planet as freely and happily just as you do. Maybe then, all of us can be united against the enemy; patriarchy!


Fast Food - Vast Profits

America’s restaurant industry employs nearly one in 10 Americans. Fast-food workers feed their families on a pittance while the big corporations resist fair pay and sick leave. The National Restaurant Association, was celebrating a string of political victories blocking state minimum wage increases and preempting local sick day laws. The restaurant business are at war with the industry’s workers.

The NRA boasted that its lobbyists had stopped minimum wage increases in 27 out of 29 states in 2013. In Connecticut, which increased its state minimum wage, a raise in the base pay for tipped workers such as waitresses and bartenders vanished in the final bill. A similar scenario unfolded in New York State: It increased its minimum wage, but the NRA’s last-minute lobbying derailed raising the pre-tip wage at restaurants and bars.

The NRA’s lobbying also blocked a dozen states this year from passing laws that would require earned paid sick leave, which is what New York City and Portland, Oregon adopted. It  boasted that six states, including Florida, passed NRA-backed laws that preemptively ban localities from granting earned and paid employee sick time.

Most Americans are unaware that millions of people who work in the industry—especially the 2.5 million fast-food preparers and servers who earn an average of $8.74 an hour, according to federal labor statistics—are not just teens in their first job, but adults with families to support. Many do not know there’s a separate minimum wage for tipped workers, $2.13 an hour, that hasn’t changed in 22 years—although 32 states have raised it slightly.

The NRA routinely tells legislators its industry cannot afford to pay better wages or basic benefits yet almost every national chain—from fast-food outfits such as Yum! Brands Inc. (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC) and McDonald’s to full-service dining such as Darden Restaurants Inc. (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille)—have reported higher revenues, profits, margins and cash holdings to Wall Street despite the recession. McDonalds had 7.8 percent revenue growth over the past decade.  Yum had 10-year revenues of 8.7 percent, and Darden’s 10-year revenues grew 9.1 percent. The NRA was predicting another profitable year, where revenues would be up 4 percent compared to 2012. “Restaurant and foodservice sales are expected to reach a record high of $660.5 billion this year,” another 2013 revenue forecast said.


Lying is the trade of politicians and the military. Workers are lied to from the cradle to the grave: at school with distortions of history and myths about God; in the workplace, as producers, lied to by their bosses and at home as consumers bombarded with the lies about what we buy  perpetuated by the advertising industry. The entire capitalist edifice depends on the promotion of lies, half truths and the distortion of facts. So powerful is the distortion machine that it takes all our powers to separate the lies from a resemblance of the truth.

We can demonstrate against all kinds of things that we consider ‘unfair’ but unless we recognise and tackle their cause the problem will only remain. Capitalism is a war-prone society in that built-in to it is perpetual conflict between rival states over markets, raw material sources, trade routes and investment outlets, for the profit-seeking capitalist corporations they exist to protect. You can't have capitalism without wars, the threat of war and preparations for war. The anti-war stance of the Socialist Party is well-known, as is  its view of how to remove the causes of war. Once again, well meaning people are protesting capitalism’s war- policies.

Each group of capitalists, ruling in a particular country, does whatever it thinks is best for its own interests. Lots of advice is given, but the decision rests with each country's ruling class. In Britain, there may be a lot of feeling against going to war. David Cameron, in his present role as right-hand man to the British ruling class, and administrator of British capitalism, will ignore whatever anti-war feeling there is  and will do what he thinks  the British capitalist class want him to do.

There is no such thing as a "surgical strike". There will be “collateral" damage on civilians. It should be clear that the planned western powers air-strikes aren't about saving Syrian lives. It is all about saving face. If these heads of state really cared about  Assad killing his own people they would have "done something" constructive much sooner. They would have exerted the necessary pressure on the rebels to get them to agree to peace talks at the negotiation table with Assad, rather than providing them with the reasons not to parley. If they really cared about innocent Syrian lives, the US/UK/France would not be engaging in a proxy war to destabilise the new "axis of evil" of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

Despite claims of little doubt that Assad used these weapons there is, in fact, significant doubt at thi moment in time but that still is not the real point. We must ask why the crocodile tears shed over the “inhumane” use of relatively and strategically ineffective chemical weapons and just why are they considered fundamentally different from blast and shrapnel and incendiary weapons in countries arsenal? Why does the use of chemical weapons justify international retribution with military force, in a way that two years of brutal repression by the Syrian people with tanks and planes does not? Could it be that the Great Powers have a monopoly on the possession of conventional weaponry and chemical weapons are a cheap easily-made alternative to sophisticated cruise missiles and stealth bombers?

While it is important that workers oppose war, it is just as important that we recognise just why armed conflicts between states break out and in whose interests wars are waged. If you think about it you'll be hard-pressed to think of a single war that did not have its roots in the desire of small elites to make profits. All wars, even small-scale conflicts – and the conflict in Syria is no exception – tend to be fought over foreign markets and areas of influence, trade and geo-political  routes. To end war – and the need to demonstrate against each war as one war succeeds another – capitalism has to be ended and replaced. The choice is to protest endlessly against each and every new war which inevitably arises or campaign for a new world of common ownership, democratic control, peace and human welfare.  Even in times of peace – as the armed truce between wars is called – capitalism's pursuit of profit pollutes and plunders the planet. We can bomb the world to pieces but we cannot bomb it to peace.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Class, Entitlement and Narcissism of the Wealthy

And so another study shows that the more wealth one has, the more one feels entitled and becomes narcissistic; i.e., the more they become an arrogant prick.
“The studies in the paper measure narcissism in a whole host of ways, including measuring how likely someone is to stare at their reflection in a mirror (wealthier people do that more often). Even students who come from wealth, but have done little to create their own wealth (yet), report more entitlement. This suggests that wealth shapes an ideology of self-interest and entitlement that’s transferred culturally from one generation to the next.”

Piff conducted five experiments to investigate the associations between social class, entitlement, and narcissism.
The first experiment consisted of a survey that measured levels of entitlement and socioeconomic status. Piff found higher social class was associated with an increased sense of entitlement. Upper-class individuals were more likely to believe they deserved special treatment and feel entitled to “more of everything.” They were also more likely to believe that if they on the Titanic, they would deserve to be on the first lifeboat.
In the second and third experiments, Piff used other surveys with different measures of entitlement and socioeconomic status to confirm his initial findings.
In the fourth experiment, Piff discovered that upper-class individuals were more likely to look at their own reflections in a mirror, even when controlling for self-consciousness. The final experiment found that exposing upper-class individuals to egalitarian values reduced entitlement and decreased narcissism.
Of course we knew that wealth makes people more selfish and self-centered.
In a recent article in the New York Magazine, Lisa Miller describes how psychological research indicates that wealth erodes empathy with others. Miller cites one researcher who says that:
“The rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.”

The correlation between money and insensitivity perpetuates itself, says Kathleen Vohs, a professor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Vohs was inspired to study the effects of money on social behavior when she landed a job that increased her salary five times. Suddenly she was no longer asking her friends for rides to the airport. She hired a personal shopper. “I was becoming more independent and less interdependent,” she says. This led her to the next thought: “We need to understand at a theoretical level what happens to people’s minds in the context of wealth,” Miller writes.
This was the main theme to many – if not most – of Dickens’ novels and stories. Such as A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield, wherein Uriah Heep shows how the mere lust for wealth, and the power and privilege that goes with it, can corrupt one completely.  And how capitalism breeds this contempt for positive human characteristics such as compassion and charity and selflessness and humility.
One of the main problems with capitalism is the absence of democracy in the workplace. The accumulation of wealth and the bestowing of privilege on any who attain it is another.
from here

SOYMB is here to promote democracy, the elimination of privilege and power, and the abolition of the wages system. Capitalism is a system of division and works well only for the wealthy - together we can get beyond it. JS

The Syrian Intervention

American, British and French air strikes by planes and missiles looks increasingly probable. The forthcoming  attack on Syria has nothing whatsoever to do with bringing “freedom and democracy” to Syria any more than freedom and democracy were reasons for the attacks on Iraq and Libya, neither of which gained any “freedom and democracy.” The attack on Syria is unrelated to human rights, justice or any of the fine sounding causes with which the great powers seek for the moral high ground.  It is difficult to believe that those highly educated journalists of television and newspaper a sufficiently gullible to believe that the agenda is to bring democracy to Syria or to punish Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons yet they leave the real agenda unasked and unanswered, questions any genuine reporter should be interested in. Washington, London, and Paris support any number of dictatorial regimes with brutality and cruelty exceeding Assad’s record. The act of asking such probing question would help make the public be aware that more is afoot than meets the eye. Such as why is it that the main nations in the “fight against terrorism” are so prepared to topple a once ally in this war against terrorism and hand it over to Jihadist terrorists aligned with America’s mortal enemy Al Qaeda. Why is America now supporting terrorism? Why is France who went to war in Mali to stop Jihad rebels now also supporting similar terrorists?

The explanation of Assad’s seemingly irrational crossing of America’s  “red line” is said to be that it demoralises the rebels, underscores the impotence of their external financiers and suppliers, and confirms to Assad’s own patrons that he is committed to fight to the bitter end. For the Iranians, Assad’s CW use makes Syria — not Iran’s nuclear facilities — the battlefield to test American resolve.

It seems clear that the weapons were used, perhaps not on the command of Assad and possibly by a military commander who took it upon himself to give the order. Maybe we’ll never know for sure, and it will be lost in the fog of war. But even if turns out to be true that Assad’s government used poison gas that killed hundreds of people in the suburbs of Damascus, we in the Socialist Party will continue to oppose the war option, and resist the siren calls of vengeance and retaliation. If the Syrian government have made limited use of chemical weapons but suffer the full consequences of that then they just might decide it is as well be to be hung for a sheep as for a lamb and deploy them remorselessly.

 The British and French governments has declared that Syria can be attacked without UN authorisation, just as Serbia and Libya were militarily attacked without UN authorization. By announcing the forthcoming attack, there is no incentive for the rebels to participate in the peace talks with the Syrian government now that  the West’s military is coming to their aid. At first, Britain said that President Assad would not be part of any political transition in Syria and there were propagandistic discussions in the foreign media about where he and his family might seek refuge. The US refuses to invite Iran to attend a peace conference, as Russia insists, though negotiations which exclude any major player in the Syria crisis are not going to achieve anything.

The rebels also do not want to negotiate with government because they are so fragmented that they would find it difficult to agree a negotiating team which represented the different strands of opposition. There are 1,200 different rebel military units in Syria by one estimate, varying in size from family bands of a few dozen fighters to small armies of well-organised and heavily armed militiamen deploying tanks and artillery. The most powerful of the latter are the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Speaking of the Free Syrian Army, to which the US and its allies  send arms, a diplomat in Damascus expressed, saying: “How can they support the FSA, which doesn’t really exist inside Syria as an institution with any command and control?”

Humanitarian interventionism is to “justify”  Western countries taking on the role of global policeman. Might is Right. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons and as long as it was for gassing Iranian’s it was fine with the USA. Obama is the Commander-in-Chief of a military that, within recent years, has used napalm, white phosphorous and depleted uranium shells, along with a host of other conventional and non-conventional horrors.  These weapons are not illegal under international law if used against combatants which is often ignores and civilian casualties put down to collateral damage, but they are no less terrible than sarin gas. Why the special revulsion to chemical weapons?  Is it worse to be attacked with sarin gas than with cluster bombs or cruise missiles or drones?  Why does it matter whether people are killed by explosives made of depleted uranium or with chemical agents or any other weapon. The U.S. has not joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions and instead continues to produce and sell cluster bombs, and used them as recently as seven years ago.  According to the Cluster Munition Coalition, from the 1960s to 2006, the U.S. dropped cluster bombs on Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.Napalm was not only widely used by the U.S. during the years of the Vietnam War but also in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq. White phosphorus was used in 2004 during the assault on Fallujah, and tas recently as 2011 in Afghanistan.

Assad’s forces appear to be prevailing in the war. The US/UK/France powers have invested much political capital into the conflict; if they back down now, they lose political credibility. If they don’t back up his threats, they look weak; and "projected strength" is now a backbone of US foreign policy, which keeps weaker nations aligned and "rival" nations submissive.  An action in Syria will remind the region that the U.S. and its allies are intent on staying dominant, and that its threats are to be respected.  It demonstrates their willingness to defend "national interests" in the region. And in the end, it is national interests that determine foreign policy, not the deaths and suffering of the Syrian people.

No War On Syria

Downing Street, 
5—7pm, Wednesday 28th

 “This revolution erupted against the tyranny of the Assad family but the Sunni rebels proved to be more barbaric than the Assad army could ever be.” Hisham

 “Maybe 10 per cent support the rebels, 10 per cent the government and 80 per cent just want the war to end. “People are saying ‘We don’t care who rules us. We just want to live’.” Anonymous 

“I wish the Free Syrian Army and the government would leave ordinary people out of it and go and fight each other.” Khalid 

The Syrian conflict is a civil war with all the horrors traditionally inflicted in such struggles wherever they are fought, be it Syria today or Russia, Spain, Greece, Lebanon or Iraq in the past. For Obama Cameron or William Hague to pretend that this is a simple battle between a dictatorial government and an oppressed people is to misrepresent or misunderstand what is happening on the ground. To pretend it is not a civil war or to support the rebel side as the  real representatives of the Syrian people flies in the face of the facts. Although weary of war, Syrians do no expect the civil war to end soon.

The recent escalation of tensions in Syria with the alleged use of chemical weapons against the civilian population is a cause of concern for all. There is, of course, one problem.  Both sides claim the other did it. The war in Syria has become a battleground as much for Syrian factions split between Sunni and Shia as between various countries who see an interest in either overthrowing the regime of Assad, or finding a replacement more amenable to the “West”. Obama and Cameron in previous statements have insisted regime change and the removal of Assad had to be part of any peace settlement. Assad has to agree to negotiations for which a pre-condition is capitulation by his side in the conflict. And they dare call such a peace process.  When ceasefires or agreements for rebels to put down their weapons in return for an amnesty are much easier to arrange when all the rebels are Syrians. When there are foreign fighters present, as  an agreement is almost impossible.

There are all the signs that an alliance of US/UK France and Turkey are preparing for a unilateral military strike on Syria after the chemical weapons attack.  The most likely action would see sea-launched cruise missiles target Syrian military installations and possible air attacks from aircraft deployed att he British base in Cyprus, over-flying Turkey air-space. A recent poll  by Reuters/Ipsos , taken August 19-23, found that 25 percent of Americans would support U.S. intervention if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces used chemicals to attack civilians, while 46 percent would oppose it.

 Still, no firm proof has emerged as to who exactly was behind the attacks. Anti-Assad countries accuse the Syrian regime and his allies suggest Syrian rebels could have perpetrated the attack, though neither offer any evidence.  Russia and Iran, with their specific naval and military interests, provide the regime with support.  Qatar and Saudi Arabia have made no secret of their backing of anti-Assad forces even those organisations which are known terrorist ones in total disregard of international law.

Even Obama concedes: “If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it.”

To side-step the need for UN Security Council authorisation the US/UK Pact are building a humanitarian legal case for military action against Syria, rooted in the proposition that an "undeniable" chemical attack has broken international codes of war. "The use of these weapons on a mass scale, and the potential risk of proliferation, is a threat to our national interests," said White House spokesman Jay Carney, a position echoed by Britain’s foreign mininster William Hague.

The precedent for action by an international coalition without such a mandate was set by the 1999 Kosovo conflict. Forcible intervention to serve humanitarian objectives is a claim which is only open to powerful States to make against the less powerful. Many states have problems of separatism and terrorism but it depends upon the geo-political agenda and not a humanitarian agenda if foreign intervention takes place.

Nicholas Burns, a George W. Bush-era undersecretary of state, writing in March 2011 about U.S. support for anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya, noted, “This is the first time in American history when we have used our military power to prop up and possibly put in power a group of people we literally do not know.” On this occasion, they know full well that substantial elements of the rebel opposition are Islamic Jihadists. Al-Qaeda has proven that it thrives on U.S. interventions.

It is also worth remembering that recently declassified documents show that in 1988, the U.S. gave key intelligence to Saddam Hussein's Iraqi military, which enabled the gassing with chemical weapons of Iranian troops. The U.S. was reportedly well aware of plans to use the nerve agent. It is estimated that gas inflicted about 5 percent of Iran’s casualties in that war.

Sarin is a colorless and odorless liquid, and it is “volatile”—that is, it quickly turns into a gas. Even in small concentrations, it is very deadly and can kill within minutes. It is absorbed through the skin or lungs and can contaminate clothing for up to 30 minutes. Sarin is considered a “weapon of mass destruction” under UN Resolution 687. While chemical weapons are scary, they are no more indiscriminate in what they kill than HE shells and cluster bombs. Small arms, for instance, inflict 90 percent of civilian casualties.

War will only produce more war.

Socialism is not a Dream. It can be Reality. It's up to You...

Socialism is the great beacon light of hope for humanity. The working class, black and white have been seared in the flames of withering capitalist injustice. Socialism will be the joyous daybreak to end the long night of capitalist exploitation, inequality, and poverty in the midst of  material prosperity. Socialism is not an end, but a beginning, it is the beginning of the real history of humankind, an awakening to the the emergence of the bright day of socialist justice. Socialism means the free development of each man and woman, black and white as the condition of the free development of all black and white men and women.

The black and white working class cannot walk alone, they are united together at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood. In socialist society all black and white men and women will be able to join hands and shout we are free at last. The working class need to realise that they create the world's wealth and that their interests are in common irrespective of  race and opposed to the interests of the capitalist class. When the united black and white working class recognise their own immense potential power to transform society, act in conscious unity to solve their problems by abolishing capitalism, then they will be truly in touch with their own emancipation. There is an urgency now to rise from the dark and desolate valley of  capitalism and  move forwards to a world socialist society through cooperative, revolutionary political action.

Capitalism fosters inequality, prejudice, unfairness, racism, injustice, unemployment, homelessness, police brutality and the criminalisation of our young people. Racism thrives when capitalism is in a slump and adopts austerity. Racism results from the economic anarchy of capitalism, the prejudice diverts the working class from facing the real cause of modern society's problems which is the existence of capitalism. Capitalism promotes and aggravates conflict such as racism. The cure for racism is the abolition of capitalism.

Socialism is organised on the basis of human co-operation for the common benefit of all humankind  where things will be produced solely to meet human needs.  Socialism will mean the greatest flowering of imagination, creativity and achievement in history, it will be a world  of abundance and freedom. People will relate to each other as equals, as sisters and brothers. Co-operation will be the norm and  an established reality, not an impossible dream. Socialism will be the end of racism; it will be a world free of social conflict in which human beings live and work in unity without distinction of race.

Get in touch to help bring an end to the capitalist system.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Filthy Rich - And The Rest Of Us

Following on from the previous post (Monkeys, Apes and Human Nature) the information below identifies the sector of humans who don't seem to know what sharing or the common good are all about. JS

The facts to follow are primarily about the richest 1%, with occasional dips into the groups scrambling to make it to the top.

As evidence of the extremes between the very rich and the rest of us, the average household net worth in the US for the top 1% in 2009 was almost $14 million, while the average household net worth for the bottom 47% was almost ZERO.
The extremes are just as filthy at the global level. The richest 300 persons on earth (about a third of them in the U.S.) have more money than the poorest 3 billion people. Out of all developed and undeveloped countries with at least a quarter-million adults, the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of wealth inequality in the world, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.

Thanks in good part to the derivatives market, the world's wealth has doubled in ten years, from $113 trillion to $223 trillion, and is expected to reach $330 trillion by 2017. The financial industry has figured out how to double or triple its buying power while most of the world has proportionately less.

If the richest 1% had taken the same percentage of total U.S. income in 2006 as they did in 1980, they would have taken a trillion dollars less out of the economy. Instead they tripled their share of post-tax income.

According to the New York Times, the nonprofit Independent Sector found that households earning less than $25,000 a year gave away an average of 4.2 percent of their incomes, while those with earnings of more than $75,000 gave away 2.7 percent.

India just approved a program to spend $4 billion a year to feed 800 million people. Half of Indian children under 5 are malnourished.
In 2012, three members of the Walton family each made over $4 billion just from stocks and other investments. So did Charles Koch, and David Koch, and Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison, and Michael Bloomberg, and Jeff Bezos.

The 400 richest Americans made $200 billion in just one year. That's equivalent to the combined total of the federal food stamp, education, and housing budgets.

Even all that is not enough for the very rich. About two-thirds of nearly $1 trillion in individual "tax expenditures" (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes) goes to the top quintile of taxpayers. An astounding 75 percent of dividend and capital gain subsidies go to the richest 1%.

The filthiest fact, in terms of detestable extremes, is that much of Congress wants to cut the $4.35 a day food benefit to hungry Americans, almost half of them children, so that money can keep flowing to the top.

More from Paul Buchheit here

Monkeys, Apes and Human Nature

According to new research, when you share your food with others, you may be subconsciously using a strategy to insure that others will share their food with you one day if you find yourself down on your luck.

In order to take a closer look at food sharing, researchers at the University of California in Santa Barbara examined food sharing activity in monkeys, apes, and humans. Adrian Jaeggi, one of the lead researchers, said that humans and other primates form long-term relationships for mutual gains, and that benefit given to others are more likely to be returned when these long-term relationships are formed and maintained. This study demonstrates, for example, the value of the food stamps program. By using our taxpayer dollars to help struggling Americans get the food they need to survive, we could be trying to ensure that if or when we are also in need of assistance, that assistance will be there to help us get back on our feet. So, as Conservatives continue to wage war against food stamps, maybe they should think a little more about what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot.

Whilst this comes across as a bit of a partisan dig or parry, and it's certainly detail-lite, how heartening it is to recognise once again that cooperation can win out over competition! JS

The war drums beat louder

Another year, another war. Tragedy and propaganda often are close companions in war. Atrocities happen and more often than not, committed by both sides. The Syrian government may well be guilty of the chemical attack for all this blog knows. But many do not seek the truth but simply look for a pretext for war.

 How many times now has the media reported the statements of politicians and military experts” that there is ‘little doubt’ the Syrian government used chemical weapons. If you want absolutely proven atrocities, all you need to do is look at Egypt and the hundreds of unarmed and defenceless protesters killed by the Generals. No threats of cruise-missile salvoes on Cairo. Known, undeniable mass-murders, of which there is no doubt, and whose culprits are known and undisputed, bring no outrage. An alleged mass-murder, whose perpetrator is not proven, is the subject of huge outrage.

 Much of the media continue to assume that the statements of “our"government officials and politicians are characterised by what Mark Curtis calls a 'basic benevolence'. They may lie here or there, or they may act in a foolish or misguided way, but to advance the proposition that they are calculating liars, fully consciousness of the outcome of their policies is beyond the pale. If one were to question the basic assumption that the leaders of “liberal democracies” are basically good people and our foreign policy is both helpful and benevolent, one could start an avalanche of other questions. How can democracies allow men who are little more than lying criminals to assume positions of such power and take us to war over and over again based on lies? Soon one would be questioning the basic core assumption that we live in a democracy at all, and who in the media or public life want to go down that very dangerous path? They don't see Blair as a bloodthirsty criminal mastermind, but a good man who made mistakes and was led astray by his understandable desire to help the people of Iraq and deliver them from tyranny. The Russians and Chinese have selfish interests that they pursue with no regard for morality. Our side, on the other-hand, have noble values that we want to defend, even if we might sometimes be misguided in doing so. The golden assumption is that Obama, Cameron and Hollande care about the lives of the people of Syria, that they care so much that they willing to go to war to help them, and any other motive is never and arguably cannot be suggested or examined .

 What's frightening is that people have accepted the dogmas behind their own oppression, which is quite a trick, if it can be pulled it off! Any criticism or alternative view automatically becomes a conspiracy theory and can be dismissed almost out of hand. Chomsky explains one underlying reason why journalists are fully compliant with government propaganda - you mustn't bite the hand that feeds you.

Rare will the report be exposing the true motives of the capitalist Great Powers but Reuters let the mask slip in one article “France's active support of rebels in its former colony stems in part from a wish to secure trade interests.”

In the case of Iraq they produced lots of false evidence before the war, like Blair's Dodgy Dossier or Colin Powell's  misinformation at the UN. After the invasion no WMDs were found the US and UK governments were badly discredited. This time it seems that the plan is for a limited strike without evidence except for hearsay. So there will be no proof or disproof , just claims and counter claims.

There is evidence, none of it direct so far, that a chemical attack did happen.  But we are far short short of an independently verified account clearly establishing responsibility. It is difficult to think of any action by the Syrian government more self-destructive than the Syrian army launching a massive chemical-weapons attack on rebel-held districts in its own capital within several minutes car-ride of th UN inspectors. Assad is well aware that such an atrocity would allow the USA, Britain, France and others to bypass the UN Security Council, and the vetoes of China and Russia against any UN-sponsored intervention.

So was it the work of one of the rebel groups, desperate to provoke a response against the Assad regime?  Turkish police were reported to have found sarin gas with members of al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda associate fighting in Syria, and had made a number of arrests last May. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Nusra allies have actually carried out chemical attack in Iraq. The Syrian government claimed that its troops had entered "the tunnels of the terrorists" and discovered "chemical agents". In an earlier chemical weapon attack Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria suggesting that the rebels, rather than the government,  had used chemical weapons. The independent  Del Ponte, after lengthy investigations, interviews with victims and doctors,  made a cautious statement suggesting the rebels may have been responsible. The US/UK brushed aside such counter-arguments. And shortly after the announcement of the UN inspections rebels returned to the site of a previous chemical attack and murdering locals,  Hague made no condemnation of them or accuse them of killing potential witnesses and interfering with a crime-scene.

Nevertheless, the US/UK/French position is that the "burden of proof" lies with President Assad to prove his innocence. We, of course, had the exact same obligation placed upon Saddam Hussein in demanding proof from his regime that it did not possess any WMDs and proving a negative is rather problematic. The hawks find a precedent for  a “legal, humanitarian” war without a UN mandate against Syria in the 1999 Kosovo war, a NATO 78-day bombing campaign much of it against civilian infrastructures like bridges and the infamous bombings of the Serbian TV station and the Belgrade Chinese embassy. Many of the victims were women and children. After seven weeks of the bombing at least 1,200 civilians had been killed and 4,500 injured.  The US/UK created a spurious theoretical “right to protect” in an effort to get around the UN Charter in order to clear the way for wars whose final purpose is regime change. It was again used to good effect to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya.

Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.