Sunday, March 31, 2013

Socialist Party 2013 Summer School

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From Friday, 12 July 2013 - 5:00pm
To Sunday, 14 July 2013 - 2:00pm

Our lives are shaped by our relationships with other people – from our closest loved ones to acquaintances we barely know. Often, our relationships depend on our personalities and interests. But there are wider social factors which influence who we know and how we get on with them. The structure of family life has changed over time, with relationships affected by economic pressures. At work, our relationships are defined by job roles and office politics. Also, technology now plays a greater part than before, especially with the spread of social networking sites. And across society, how we relate to others is still dictated by status and damaged by prejudice.
Our weekend of talks, discussion and workshops will examine capitalist society’s influence on how we all fit together. We will also consider how socialism can make relationships more equal and fair
Venue
Fircroft College,
1018 Bristol Road, Selly Oak,
Birmingham, B29 6LH

Costs
Full residential cost: £150
Mid-rate concession: £120
Low-rate concession: £90
Non-residential cost (including meals): £50

The Mirage of Bankers Guilt

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The 2008 banking crash was triggered by the sub-prime mortgage scandal in America. As the real estate boom was peaking, millions of poorer US citizens were lured into home ownership on the back of easy-to-get, low-interest mortgages. Seemingly ever-rising house prices held out the promise of realising their own American dream. These burgeoning sub-prime loans were then bundled together, sliced and diced, and sold on as investment grade securities all around the world. But when American interest rates started rising again and mortgage defaults soared, the music suddenly stopped.

Three economists – two at the University of Michigan, one at Princeton, Cheng, Raina and Xiong sampled attendees at the 2006 American Securitisation Forum, the largest industry conference of its type in the US. These were vice-presidents, managing directors and other executives on both sides of the trade in securitised mortgage products at the heart of this story. Using public databases covering such things as deed transfers and property tax assessments, the researchers were able to track the personal property transaction history of their entire sample. They also compared it with two other control samples, one of S&P 500 equity analysts who did not cover housebuilders, the other a random sample of lawyers who did not specialise in real estate law.

They found little evidence that their sample of these experts in securitisation knew the crash was coming. Typically they increased, rather than decreased, their own housing exposure as the boom peaked. Buying second homes. Upgrading main residences. Moving into up-market areas like Southern California. They were more caught up in grabbing their own slice of the housing action than either of the other two control samples. The homes they bought between 2004 and 2006 were among those most aggressively sold after the bubble burst. In terms of their own housing exposure, those on the sell side of securitisation plunged in deepest. Even the people purportedly orchestrating the sub-prime boom held the belief that the bubble would still grow. Confirmation to socialists that the causes of capital crises can only be detected in retrospect and that those involved and instigating them are as blind to pending crashes as everybody else.

Sunday sermon - The "Life" of Jesus

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Since it is Easter SOYMB thought it appropriate to discuss Jesus. Millions of people claim that they belong to the Christian religion, but few of them know anything about the alleged life of the founder of their religion, a fellow named Jesus. Why is this so? Since secular history is silent on the historical actuality of the alleged life and teachings of Jesus, our only source of information on him is the Bible. The Bible is claimed to be the very word of god, but few Christians have ever read the Bible to see what it says. If they would read the Bible, most of them would probably be surprised and shocked as to what it says.

 The new Pope sticks to fantasy to promote the existence of Jesus using a rare television showing of the Turin Shroud, that supposedly depicts the image of the crucified Jesus but which has been scientifically proved to be of medieval origin, rather than biblical. "The face of the shroud communicates great peace," the pope said "It is as if he is saying: 'have confidence, do not lose hope, the power of God's love, the force of the resurrected, conquers all'." All that from an image that is barely discernable except in the negative!

"If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is groundless" Paul, 1 Corinthians 15.17

Christianity is patently untrue. Its basic premise—that an all-powerful god who had created the universe caused a virgin to have a son by him who became a religious preacher and miracle-worker in an obscure border area of the Roman empire, was killed and then rose from the dead and eventually ascended into the sky and disappeared—is not only ridiculous but also biologically and physically impossible. It just never happened.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

It's Asda's price

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Birmingham council, which represents around 1 million people, said that from 1 April Monday it would give out crisis welfare payments in the form of prepaid cards that could be redeemed only in Asda (The UK name for Walmart ) supermarkets. Birmingham appears to be the first local authority to pair up with just one supermarket chain which of course offers Asda a captive market.

In the US its national share of the market is 25%. Walmart has made it harder for farmers and food workers to earn a living. Its rise as a grocer triggered a wave of mergers among food companies, which, by combining forces, hoped to become big enough to supply Walmart. Today, in America food processing is more concentrated than ever. Four meatpackers slaughter 85 percent of the nation's beef. One dairy company handles 40 percent of our milk, including 70 percent of the milk produced in New England. Today, food processing is more concentrated than ever. With less buyers, farmers are struggling to get a fair price.

Between 1995 and 2009, farmers saw their share of each consumer dollar spent on beef fall from 59 to 42 cents. Their cut of the consumer milk dollar likewise fell from 44 to 36 cents. For pork, it fell from 45 to 25 cents and, for apples, from 29 to 19 cents. Food production workers are being squeezed too. The average slaughterhouse wage has fallen 9 percent since 1999. Forced unpaid labor at food processing plants is on the rise. Last year, a Louisiana seafood plant that supplies Walmart was convicted of forcing employees to work in unsafe conditions for less than minimum wage. Some workers reported peeling and boiling crawfish in shifts that spanned 24 hours.

One might imagine that squeezing farmers and food workers would yield lower prices for consumers. But that hasn't been the case. Grocery prices have been rising. For most foods, the spread between what consumers pay and how much farmers receive has been widening. Food processors and big retailers are pocketing the difference. Even as Walmart touts lower prices than its competitors, the company's reorganization of our food system has had the effect of raising grocery prices overall.

A study published in 2008 in the Journal of Urban Economics examined about 3,000 Walmart store openings nationally and found that each store caused a net decline of about 150 jobs (as competing retailers downsized and closed) and lowered total wages paid to retail workers. Other research by the economic consulting firm Civic Economics has found that, when locally owned businesses are replaced by chain supermarkets , local businesses and jobs suffer.These shifts may explain the findings of another study, published in Social Science Quarterly in 2006, which cut straight to the bottom line: neighborhoods where Walmart opens end up with higher poverty rates and more food-stamp usage than places where the retailer does not expand.

Is there much difference here in the UK?

 In December 2010, Asda's share of the UK grocery market stood at 16.5%, the second biggest supermarket chain in the UK after Tesco. pressure groups such as Labour Behind the Label and War on Want have argued that Asda and other budget retailers use unethical labour practices in the developing world to keep UK prices low. The National Farmers' Union, representing UK farmers and growers, has argued that Asda and other major supermarkets have made large profits and kept consumer prices low "by squeezing suppliers' margins to the point where many of them have gone out of business". In December 2007 Asda, Sainsbury's and other retailers admitted to price fixing dairy products between 2002 and 2003.

Asda shares its parent corporations anti-union policies.

Fact of the Day

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Diarrhea kills over 1.5 million children every year. The World Health Organization says that diarrhea is the second most common cause of death and the leading cause of malnutrition in children worldwide, primarily affecting children under two years old.As deadly as diarrhea, it is both a preventable and treatable disease. Those 1.5 million lives need not be lost.

For a socialist world

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A WORLD OF MUTUAL AID
 The world-wide peasant movement La Via Campesina, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Ibrahima Coulibaly of Mali, part of La Via Campesina network, described at the World Social Forum in Tunis the threat of multinational corporations:
“Agribusiness and transnational corporations are a major threat to the world. They consume too many resources. They control the best land, and are grabbing even more land everywhere. Instead of producing food for people, they produce crops for export markets– bio-fuels for cars or animal feed for industrial meat factories. But farmers are also uniting globally and we will defend our lands.”


Another world isn't just possible; it makes sense. Our world feels like it is becoming smaller. Distances seem to be overcome faster. National borders easier to cross, family and friends even though spread all over the world, seem to be just a click away. There are global media networks, where people from all over the world are not only consuming news, but are also contributing by social networks. Companies are working on international levels, due to online communication it doesn't matter whether employees work from their computers in Nanking, New York or Nairobi. They work together as if they were in one office. People from all corners of the planet are taking part in educational online courses. They join from various cultural backgrounds to study one specific issue. We living in "one world", in a single world community. At theWorld Social Forum participants from all over the world are thinking about how they can help to create initiatives that deal with global problems. They seek goals that do not separate them - but rather seek solutions for common problems.

The world capitalist economy is neither sustainable, nor just. Sharing is anathema to capitalism, the explicit purpose of which is to amass large sums of money and property and decidedly NOT share very much of it. Capitalism controls our lives it forces us to do things that can only be described as sociopathic. The reason millions people starve to death in the world each year is because we allow it to happen by supporting capitalism when there is a clear alternative .
For or a world community, socialists argue that we need much more than just seeking common ground. We need to abolish the borders of nation states, unite humanity and create common ownership.

Friday, March 29, 2013

"Omnia Sunt Communia"

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"Omnia Sunt Communia", or "everything in common", a quote attributed to the 15th century German rebel leader Thomas M√ľntzer

Rarely do the British get to learn about international history that does not directly involve the British kings and queens or their governments. Nevertheless in the recent Sussex University protest against privatisation of higher education a banner with the above slogan was unfurled.

The Peasants War in Germany from 1525 t0 1526 is an example of this unknown and hidden past of ordinary people. It was the largest popular uprising in Europe besides the 1789 French Revolution. A commentator from the time describes four orders of robbers in Germany — the knights, the lawyers, the priests, and the merchants.

In history there is no movement which starts up full grown from the brain of any one man, or even from the mind of any one generation of men. The ideals of the mass of men were still in the main the ideals that had been prevalent throughout the whole of the later Middle Ages. Men still looked at the world and at social progress through mediaeval spectacles. The chief difference was that now ideas which had previously been confined to special localities, or had only had a sporadic existence among the people at large, had become general throughout large portions of the population. The invention of printing was instrumental in effecting this change. The popularisation of doctrines previously confined to special circles was the distinguishing feature of the intellectual life of the first half of the sixteenth century. The most definite expression of new principles asserted itself in the religious sphere. The new religious tendencies in revolt against the mediaeval corporate Christianity of the Catholic Church were seized upon. Biblical phrases and the notion of Divine justice now took the place in the popular mind formerly occupied by Church and Emperor. All the then oppressed classes of society — the small peasant, half villein, half free-man; the landless journeyman and town-proletarian; the beggar by the wayside; the small master, crushed by usury or tyrannised over by his wealthier colleague in the guild, or by the town-burger; even the impoverished knight, or the soldier of fortune defrauded of his pay; in short, all with whom times were bad, found consolation for their wants and troubles, and at the same time an incentive to action, in the notion of a Divine Justice which should restore all things, and the advent of which was approaching. All had Biblical verses supporting their aspirations. Itinerant preachers openly aimed at nothing less than the establishment of a new Christian Commonwealth, or, as they termed it, “the Kingdom of God on Earth”, their harangueing sermons as much political as religious, and the tone of them all was the urgency of immediate action to bring about a change to the social or economic misery of the time.

The Origin of Easter nailed.

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Socialists are committed to a materialist world-view, materialist not in the sense of seeking acquisitions but understanding cause and effect by concrete (material) conditions and circumstances. Ancient civilizations' culture and livelihood centered around weather and the seasons. Autumn and winter marked harsh times and the death or hibernation of crops and food sources, while Spring was a time of rebirth. As a result, the changing of the seasons were marked with a wide variety of rituals.
When criticising religion socialists never need to make up ridiculous far-fetched stories – that task is already done for us by the churches.

Easter is the commemoration of the supposed resurrection of Jesus who became the Christ. The truth is that Easter has nothing whatsoever to do with the resurrection of Jesus .

Good Christian mums and dads have the awkward position of having to explain how it is that the torture, execution, and supposed resurrection of Jesus is celebrated with brightly decorated eggs and happy bunnies and chocolate and fancy Easter bonnets. Ever able to find a good cover story it is said painted eggs symbolize the rebirth of humankind after the resurrection of Jesus and the joy that humanity feels at the revelation that we were saved through the blood of Jesus, sacrificed for us on the cross. Of course, this is from the same theologians who also believe in people rising from the dead, walking on water, and floating off into the sky, so you have to be a bit dubious on its veracity.

The Irish Problem

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14,000 families in Northern Ireland cannot afford to eat two meals a day, new research has revealed.


Thousands of householders were living without the basics and found meat, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables too expensive to consume every day. Thousands more said they often skimped on food so that other family members could eat.

"These findings present a bleak portrait of contemporary life for the bottom third of households in Northern Ireland," said Professor Mike Tomlinson, School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen's University.
Job losses, pay freezes and spiralling food prices were blamed for the increasing levels of hardship which left 115,000 adults and children (6.4% of the population) not properly fed by today's standards. The proportion of families unable to heat their homes also hit an all time high of 13% compared to 3% a decade ago. Around 10% of people were living in a damp home and did not have enough money to fix the problem.
Families also spoke of the constant struggle to keep up with bills and 43% admitted they could not pay for an unexpected but necessary bill of £500. A further 6% said they could not afford a computer and internet access for children to do their homework while a third of adults were unable to regularly save at least £20 a month.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Charity begins at home!

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In 2007, despite growing hunger, food aid fell globally by 15%, the lowest level since 1961. This reflects the tendency of food aid to respond to international grain prices—and not to the food needs of the poor. When the price of cereals is low, Northern countries and transnational grain companies sell their commodities through food aid programs. When prices are high, they sell their grains on the global market. So, when people are less able to buy food, less food aid arrives. It provides US-based companies with dependable markets for the dumping of surplus food commodities when global grain prices are low.


In 2007, 99.3% of US food aid was in-kind (direct gifts of food.) Oxfam has been calling for an emphasis on the need for local commodity procurement. CARE, one of the three major NGO distributors of US food aid across the world, followed suit. Canada and Europe have shifted nearly all food aid resources away from in-kind distribution in favor of local procurement.

By law, 75% of food aid from the US must be purchased, processed, transported, and distributed by US companies. In 2002, just two US companies—ADM and Cargill—controlled 75% of the global grain trade, with US government contracts to manage and distribute 30% of food aid grains. Only four companies control 84% of the transport and delivery of food aid worldwide. Food aid functions as just another US agricultural subsidy. Hunger is big business. Food for Peace ends up looking a lot more like Food for Profit.

An anti-hunger coalition issued a joint statement saying: “Current regulations on the food aid program in the Farm Bill protect special interests at the expense of the hungry, and that more than a quarter of every dollar the U.S. spends on food aid goes to waste.”

For recipient countries food aid has a long history of displacing local production and the explicit expansion of markets abroad for US products. The effects of food aid are not limited only to local food production, processing, and distribution. It has also outcompeted national exporters, as in the case of Guyana and Jamaica. When US food aid rice poured in to Jamaica, Guyanese producers were unable to maintain a hold in the Jamaican rice market. This process shifts poverty from one country to another, effectively defeating the public premise of food aid. Food aid is perhaps most infamous for the practice of dumping, or disposing of surplus food commodities in vulnerable national markets. Food aid programs are some of the most effective, lowest-cost national security tools. By handicapping local food markets across the world, food aid keeps poor countries poor and compliant. Rice and wheat cost a lot less than bombs.


Taken from here








The alternative to food-in-kind, local and regional procurement of food aid, along with cash vouchers, could decrease US food aid costs by 50%, bolster the development of local food markets and long-term economies, and allow US food aid recipient countries to build their own assistance programs. Timi Gerson of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) told IPS that a switch to local procurement “would be able to reach 17 million more people – so we’re only getting to about two-thirds of the people we could be.” When sourced locally versus when sourced in the US and shipped across oceans, cereals cost on average 54% less and pulses 24% less. Average delivery time was also reduced by 62% or about 14 weeks. For victims of natural disasters, this time window could be the difference between life and death.










The state of the welfare state

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In an open letter more than 50 social policy professors warn that the welfare reforms, coupled with previous tax, benefit and public expenditure cuts, will result in the poorest tenth of households losing the equivalent of around 38% of their income and push a further 200,000 children into poverty.


"Welfare states depend on a fair collection and redistribution of resources, which in turn rests upon the maintenance of trust between different sections of society and across generations.Misleading rhetoric concerning those who have to seek support from the welfare state, such as the contrast between 'strivers' and 'shirkers', risks undermining that trust and, with it, one of the key foundations of modern Britain." The letter argues that such rhetoric does not reflect the reality of a UK where families move fluidly in and out of work and in and out of poverty.
A separate report compiled by academics from six UK universities concludes that Britain's poorest are worse off today than they were at the height of the cuts imposed by Thatcher in 1983. These include living in adequately heated homes, eating healthily, and owning basic clothing items such as properly fitting shoes.
"Despite the fact that the UK is a much wealthier country, levels of deprivation are going back to the levels found 30 years ago," says the report.
The report found:
• Around 4 million adults and almost 1 million children lack at least one basic item of clothing, such as a warm winter coat, while 3 million adults of working age (including over a fifth of those looking for work) cannot afford appropriate clothes for a job interview.
• Roughly 4 million children and adults are not fed properly judged against what most people consider to be a minimally acceptable diet – meaning they do not eat three meals a day, including fresh fruit, meat, fish and vegetables. Over a quarter of all adults skimped on meals so others in their households could eat.
• One-third of all adults can't afford to pay unexpected costs of £500 (such as if a cooker breaks down), 31% can't afford to save at least £20 a month, and 1 million children can't afford to join sports training or drama clubs.

• About 11 million people cannot afford adequate housing conditions and nearly one in ten households are unable to afford to fully heat their home.
The head of the project, Professor David Gordon of Bristol University said  "Moreover this bleak situation will get worse as benefit levels fall in real terms, real wages continue to decline and living standards are further squeezed."

Meantime the Independent reports that the cold weather being experienced will add £80 to heating bills.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

High Spirits

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1945 was a time of hope, after 6 years of War and the depression of the 1930s, in the late 1940s the SPGB had a surge in membership probably its peak so far, in 1951 we bought Head Office on Clapham High Street.


'Public ownership' of industries aka nationalisation is the wages system under new management, it is state capitalism, the working class continued to have its surplus value robbed, Loach does show that previous mine managers were basically transferred over to the NCB

The 1945 settlement shows the failure of political reforms to capitalism, reforms are at the whim of the capitalist class, and can be rolled back as is the case since 1979 and Thatcher but also bear in mind that within the early years of the NHS the capitalist state was reintroducing charges for some things

The welfare state is a' redistribution of poverty among the working class' from those without to those with dependants, the NHS created to to maintain a healthy and efficient workforce so they can sell their labour power to the capitalist class and their surplus value robbed. Keynsian economic intervention is a failed experiment in reformist capitalism leading to unemployment, inflation, even stagflation

The Labour Party was the creation of the trade union movement and Fabian middle class intellectuals who basically via clause 4 advocated state capitalism, from being a reformist party it is now after Blair and New Labour indistinguishable from the Tories, both do the bidding of capitalism and support laissez faire policies and not any form of state capitalism, the Labour Party is the enemy of the working class - it is one of three things that have been disastrous for the working class - the other two being the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution.

One positive from the film is that reformists like Benn and Loach have now reached the conclusion that nationalisation was a failure - it being to down centralisation and there being no workers control. There was no mention of Marx in the film, even John Rees (ex-SWP) mentions the Peasants Revolt, John Ball, the Diggers and Robert Owen in a lineage of Labour Party but no Marx which probably is correct, we are talking about a Fabian trade union party

The 87 year old working class Liverpudlian put it all in a nutshell at end of film; "the profit system is rotten and corrupt, and the quicker it goes the better".

Socialism, the abolition of the wages system as advocated by the World Socialist Movement of which the SPGB is part is the only way forward.

Steve Clayton







Income Inequality: 1 Inch to 5 Miles

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According to journalist David Cay Johnston, who got his figures from an analysis of the latest IRS data by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, income grew a measly $59 on average for the bottom 90 percent of Americans between 1966 and 2011 (adjusting the income for inflation, of course). Income for the top 10 percent, on the other hand, rose from an average of $116,071 to $254,864.


To put that in perspective, if you were to plot the numbers on a chart, with $59 representing 1 inch, the line for the top 10 percent would go up more than 163 feet. If you compared the vast majority’s income growth with that of the top 1 percent, the line on the chart would extend 884 feet. And if you measured it against the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent, well ... that would require a really, really big chart, as the line would be nearly 5 miles long.

The median wage has been stuck since 1999 at a bit more than $500 per week in real terms and job growth has lagged far beyond population growth. But capital gains and dividends have soared. Those at the top are pulling away from everyone else not because of hard work, but the shift of income from labor to capital and changes in federal income, gift, and estate tax rules. The oligarchs are sucking dry America's working class, while the rest of us are being left to feed off of their crumbs. Labor unions have seen their gains being wiped out. Health care and pensions were integral to the job as general wages, now they are luxuries to be lopped off. The politics of people and the politics of elites are opposed to one another. The workers interests are simple: a good and better life but for bosses their particular interest cannot be achieved without taking from the majority of people. And so the struggle between classes is carried on everyday. In their fight for survival people learn their aspirations, their struggle educates them, widens their perception and raises their spirit. Victories are few and set-backs are many for the working class but the war goes on.

Workers are imbued with a dream for a happier life, the hope for a society free from exploitation and a life liberated from the clutches of deprivation. The conflicting interests shape the mass psyche. Through sufferings, struggles and lessons learned, the working people seek and strive for socialist solutions even if it is not always articulated in a clear unambiguous voice.

To add to your reading list

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A new e-zine called Anti-Idealism has appeared on the internet and is well worth down-loading to read. A mix of Marx and music and popular culture. SOYMB wishes it well.

The PDF link is:
 http://goo.gl/emR8q




Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Socialism - a world without borders

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Blame the foreigner. Scapegoat the immigrant. Fines for employers who hire illegal immigrants will be doubled and landlords who rent out housing to illegal immigrants could also face fines. Visitors from selected "high-risk" countries will have to pay a cash bond to deter them from overstaying. Divide and rule is an age-old tactic and it is often effective, but not always. The key is for all workers, no matter where they were born, to see who their real enemy is - the bosses and politicians.
Just how many times does the ruling class expect to delude us. One more time according to Cameron’s latest scare-mongering to divert attention away from his government’s crack-down on workers’ conditions. Cameron vilifies those who come to the UK to work as sponging off the rest of us by stealing our jobs, our houses,and our hospital beds. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has accused Cameron of increasing intolerance.
Cameron insists that there would be no absolute right to unemployment benefit yet out of 2 million migrant workers just 13,000 applied for the Jobseekers Allowance. Scarcely a flood of claimants. He also said there had been a 40% increase in the number of social lettings taken up by migrants between 2007-08 and 2011-12, glossing over the fact that it was an increase from 6.5% to 9% in the proportion of such lettings. Mark Prisk, the government housing minister, said in a parliamentary written answer in December:

"Most foreign nationals who have recently come to England are not eligible for an allocation of social housing. Broadly speaking, European Economic Area nationals are eligible if they are working, self-sufficient, or have a permanent right of residence in the UK (after five years' lawful residence in the UK). Other foreign nationals are not eligible for social housing unless they have been granted leave to enter or remain in the UK with recourse to public funds (for example, people granted refugee status or humanitarian protection). Where foreign nationals are eligible, they will have their housing needs considered on the same basis as other applicants in accordance with the local authority's allocation scheme." Doesn’t sound like council house queue-jumping to us.
Cameron also said that Britain has a "free National Health Service not a free International Health Service". This claim was based on Department of Health figures that show that in 2011-12 the NHS was owed £33m by foreign nationals for hospital treatment. The NHS collected only £21m of this and the department estimates that it was owed at least double the £33m, giving a figure of £66m. This represents 0.06% of the £104bn NHS budget. Hunt, the health secretary, said he believed foreign nationals owed the NHS at least £200m a year, or 0.2% of the NHS budget. The Department of Health said the £200m figure was "speculation" based on a report by CCI insurance, published in 2003, which estimated the cost at between £50m and £200m. Compared to the billions being passed on to private companies, some foreign owned, under the many hospital PFI agreements , it really is chump change.
To make its profits, business goes back and forth between countries freely. They demand the right to produce its products wherever it wants, to send its goods to any country it pleases, and to move its capital wherever it wishes. Yet migrant workers are harassed and persecuted and turned into criminals. The corporations already have the benefit of open borders — why shouldn’t workers too! Immigrants require the same conditions and legal protections as the entire working class — including health-care,housing,living wages, quality education, and the right to organize on the job. At the root, the problem for immigrants is capitalism, a system that exploits the poor to benefit the rich. Capitalism needs workers with no rights on both sides of the border. Members of the working class should recognise that the divisions in society created between workers of different ethnicities or nationalities by the ruling class is the means to keep each group divided to conquer all.

Governments in many countries like to maintain the idea that "we" would be "swamped" by less fortunate neighbours if we didn't have immigration restrictions; such a view implies that "our" government deserves credit for maintaining conditions that are the envy of those around us. Of course, greater economic opportunity acts as a "magnet" for people, though not to the extent imagined by those who fear being "swamped" by immigration. The reality is that there are not large numbers of people in any country who are eager to go elsewhere (except in extreme circumstances to escape war, famine or similar catastrophes). For most people, in ordinary circumstances, the desire to move from one country to another is quite limited (based on individual situations such as family connections) and as likely to operate in one direction as the other. Why don’t we hear about restriction to halt emigration? After all, those who leave the country were reared and educated at “our” expense.

Instead of falling for the Cameron line, why not ask yourself this; we live in a world which has the potential to adequately feed, house and provide clean water and decent medical care for every single man, woman and child on Earth so why don’t we? How much longer must the price of capitalism’s failure be inflicting misery upon others? Many who oppose immigrants say they are a drain on the country's resources. They claim that there just isn't enough money for education, healthcare, etc., to go around. If that is the case, the fault does not lie with those in-coming workers but with the system of resource allocation. Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, "The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere." Now is the time for humanity needs to move to our next stage — not simply just corporate globalization, but peoples’ globalization, in which the needs of all will be met. We will have no use for national borders; people will not be forced to uproot their entire families from their homelands just to survive. Movement from place to place will be the free choice of free people. We deserve better than the system we live under today -- a world where no one is an “immigrant”, a socialist future. It will take a socialism to bring about the dream of one world.

Workers of the world unite!
For a world without borders!
For a world without capitalism!

An unequal world

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Ford chief executive Alan Mulally has restored Ford to profitability. Or did the pay cuts its workers did?Entry-level workers at Ford used to make $28 an hour. That rate fell by half when the auto industry financial crunch first hit five years ago and now sits a bit above $19. All Ford workers, not just entry-level workers, have given up cost-of-living wage adjustments and health benefits.


Mulally’s pay package for 2012 was nearly $21 million. His personal rewards for the year almost doubled the pay that went last year to his chief German rival, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, and even more stunningly dwarfed the $1.48 million Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda took home. Last year,Alan Mulally pulled in over 500 times the pay of Ford’s lowest-paid workers. CNN Money reports, Mulally “has amassed holdings valued at more than $300 million.”
The two Koch brothers each saw his investments grow by $6 billion in one year, which is three million dollars per hour based on a 40-hour 'work' week.
Who is paying for the recession?

Fact of the Day

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An analysis of data from the World Health Organisation suggests that around 40,000 people die every day (15 million per year) simply because they do not have access to the essentials of life such as food, water and healthcare.

This is not a political broadcast!!!

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In January 2009, when Operation Cast Lead was in full swing with Gaza being reduced to rubble, and its inhabitants had nowhere to flee, the Disasters Emergency Committee issued an appeal on behalf of the Gazan people. DEC is made up of 14 leading UK aid charities. When some major humanitarian crisis occurs they combine their fundraising efforts. The appeal is broadcast on all major TV and radio stations and large adverts appear in the press. The BBC refused to air the appeal and the other channels felt they had to follow suit.


The Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, made the following statement, justifying his decision:
“Inevitably, an appeal would use pictures which are the same or similar to those we would be using in our news programmes but would do so with the objective of encouraging public donations, …The danger … is that this could be interpreted as taking a political stance on an ongoing story. When we’ve turned down DEC appeals in the past on impartiality grounds, it has been because of this risk of giving … the impression that the BBC was taking sides in an ongoing conflict.”

Fair enough, SOYMB supposes...but wait a moment. Hasn’t the BBC just broadcast an appeal by the DEC on the current Syrian humanitarian crisis? Isn’t there an on-going conflict there that surely the impartial BBC does not want to take sides on? Apparently not, it seems.

Monday, March 25, 2013

We were all doomed. Or were we?

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When the website of a wacky Christian outfit (www.ebiblefellowship.com) asks not to be sent further donations you rub your eyes in disbelief and take a second look. But there it is in black and white. Of course now that 21 May has come and gone they may need your cash again. But what did they have planned for 21 May that meant they no longer wanted your money?

It was the date of Judgement Day. After a massive earthquake all true believers in Jesus were carried up to heaven and the rest of you were sentenced to endure a final 153 days of “horror and chaos beyond description” before God ends the world on 21 October. Actually “horror and chaos beyond description” is pretty much what we’re used to under capitalism, but apparently it’s going to get even worse.

The date was worked out by the 89 year-old radio evangelist Harold Camping from California. This was his second attempt (he originally calculated that the world would end on 6 September 1994) but this time, he says, he is absolutely certain he has it right.

“God has given so much information in the Bible about this, and so many proofs, and so many signs, that we know it is absolutely going to happen without any question at all”.

However, in spite of the ‘proofs’ and ‘signs’ in the bible, and the mathematical genius of those who have calculated dozens of different doomsdays for us, the day of judgement has still not arrived. The ‘word of God’ doesn’t seem to be a very reliable document for prophesising the future. A few of the more interesting dates forecast for our demise so far have been :-

992AD. The arrival of the Antichrist was widely expected. In Germany a new sun rose in the north and 3 suns and 3 moons were seen fighting in the heavens.

1284. Pope Innocent III calculated this date out by adding 666 years to the date that Islam was founded.

Between 1669 and 1690 20,000 Russian believers burned themselves alive in an attempt to escape the Antichrist.

1809. Mary Bateman, a fortune teller, had a chicken which laid eggs with the date of Christ’s return inscribed on them. She was later hanged. (Not because of her unreliable chicken, but for poisoning a client).

1830. Another prophetess Margaret MacDonald announced that Robert Owen, the social reformer was the Antichrist.

1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994. Each were predicted in turn as the date of Armageddon by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

1988. Edgar Whisenant a NASA scientist computed this date. (He of all people should have got it right. It’s not rocket science is it?)

1991. An Australian group worked out that Jesus would return via Sydney Harbour on 31 March 1991 at 9.00 AM.

21 December 2012. Having survived this doomsday, donations to the ebible fellowship can be made by credit card or paypal! PTL!*

Fortunately Isaac Newton calculated that doomsday would not occur until 2060. If we want a Socialist society we’ve got 48 years left to get it.

*Pass The Loot!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Playing the Game

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On 21 September 2010 the Guardian ran an editorial singing the praises of Gaelic football as a game of the people. Even at a match before a crowd of 80,000 there was no need to segregate supporters or have police in attendance. 85 percent of the money paid out by supporters is reinvested in grassroots clubs. It is a purely amateur sport, like hurling. The paper’s correspondence column on 25 September added to this: both sports are run by local communities, which helps keep them alive. The Cork hurling goalkeeper has come out as gay and continued playing at the highest level. One letter-writer predicted that commercialisation would inevitably have its way, but for the time being the amateur and voluntary ethos survives.

It’s difficult to avoid a comparison with professional football, where the top stars receive ludicrous ‘wages’ and have their own agents, where conning the referee is a way of life and money talks much louder than fair play. The obvious current contrast is with Liverpool Football Club, where boardroom battles have spilled over into the courts and the team is out of sorts and out of form. Two rich Americans borrowed millions to buy the club, with lavish promises of a new stadium and renewed success on the field. But after the bank began calling in the debts, they have been forced to sell to another American, who is making similar grandiose promises. The previous owners will lose plenty and have called the deal ‘a swindle of epic proportions’. They seem to have failed to notice that in the rough, tough world of business, the rich must occasionally expect to lose out. After all, isn’t that part of the capitalist mantra, that profit is the reward for risk?

And the supporters, sadly, seem to be taken in by the new owner. It’s like when Manchester United was sold to the Glazers in 2005. Fans then claimed ‘Our club is not for sale’. But of course it was, as it did not belong to them in the first place. Sports like hurling and Gaelic football may show that another way of doing things is possible, but professional sport is big business, especially for those who own the clubs, and it’s like everything under capitalism: profit first, other considerations last.
PB

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Food Junkies

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Howard Moskowitz, the man who re-invented Dr Pepper, explained “I’m not a soda drinker. It’s not good for your teeth.”
As every reader of this blog is probably already well aware, most of the food we eat today is crap. Books, films, news stories and television programs in recent years have drawn attention to the fact. The link between our poor diet and rising rates of obesity heart disease and diabetes is now well known and the numbers inflicted has grown into a pandemic.

The food industry are well aware that sugary, fatty and salty foods stimulate the same pleasure centers in our brains that cocaine does but they avoid using the word “addictive”. Instead they talk about “crave-able” foods that have a “bliss point” of sugar and “mouthfeels” of fat. Yes, food companies engage in false or misleading advertising. And yes, they target kids. And no, Wall Street really doesn’t care if you die eating this stuff. The bottom line is that junk food is an easy sell because we are hard-wired to respond to it. Salt, sugar and fat are addictive substances. And they employ insidious tactics and tricks of advertising to keep their “heavy users” using and to hook new consumers, especially children. Food companies exploit our built-in urge for salt, sugar and fat, by aggressively marketing junk food not just to children but also to the poor.
If the use of the word “addiction” brings to mind the lawsuits against the tobacco companies of recent memory, that’s no coincidence. The people running the big American food companies also appreciate the similarities and, in the case of Philip Morris (the giant tobacco company that owns both General Foods and Kraft), they are in fact the same people. They’ve been down this road before and aren’t looking for a replay. And so, some of the strategies they employ, including paying their own experts to blur the science and generally blaming the consumer, are familiar.
Cleverly marketed to working mothers and priced affordably (yet loaded with high levels of saturated fat, sodium and sugar), fast food is a huge hit. Convenience, it seems, overrides parents’ health concerns, and companies know this all too well. Cooking and preparing meals has increasingly become either a specialized hobby or a draining, time-consuming and thankless chore to be avoided at all costs.
Big Food executives know that eating their products causes severe health problems, and yet they work hard to make them as irresistible as possible. Once-wholesome foods such as yogurt and spaghetti sauce are being laced with astonishing amounts of sugar and sodium. “No sugar, no fat, no sales.” as one excutive put it.
The book “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” by Michael Moss makes clear, “it’s simply not in the nature of these companies to care about the consumer in an empathetic way.” That is the true essence of capitalism. Profits come first before ethics or morality.

Fined but still fine

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$16 billion is how much JPMorgan Chase has paid in fines, settlements and other litigation expenses in the last four years alone. More than half of that amount, $8.5 billion, was paid out in fines and settlements as the result of illegal actions taken by bank executives which is almost 12 percent of the net income the mega-bank brought in during the same period. The bank executives who committed those crimes haven't paid a penny in restitution, nor have they been charged with crimes. Those fines have been paid by the bank's shareholders, who in some cases were the victims of the very crimes that led to the fine in the first place! Life is still good for Dimon and some of the other senior executives at JPMorgan Chase: Shareholders can't fire them and risk a drop in stock value. The government won't prosecute them in case the knock-on effect undermines other financial institutions. The global financial octopus is squeezing the life out of society and making the world pay the price for its profits.
Are the banks the only corporate criminals getting away with it? Are the energy industries innocent? Big Pharma? The agriculture and food businesses? The mining companies? All are guilty.
We have no choice but to destroy them utterly as a class. One day the have-nots will wake up to the reality of the world and dispossess the haves.

Friday, March 22, 2013

It is class war

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Workers hung out to dry
 A new study by five economists, including one from the U.S. Treasury and two from the Federal Reserve,concludes that the rich became permanently richer and the poor permanently poorer from 1987 to 2009. The deepening divide between rich and poor in the US is spread across the whole lifetime of workers.


“This is even more reason to worry about inequality. It’s not just year to year ups and downs that have gotten worse. It’s actually the rich are getting richer and staying richer. The poor, [getting] poorer and staying poorer,’’ explained Justin Wolfers, co-editor of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, which published the new study.

Nearly five years after the financial crash when the stock market lost more than half its value, the big corporations are enjoying profits that are at their all-time record level. Earlier this month the Dow - the supposed blue-chip barometer of America's fiscal health - bulled through its 2007 closing high of 14,164 and kept going higher. No doubt champagne corks popped in some board-rooms of corporations that have stashed away an astonishing $1.45 trillion in cash - more than half of that overseas - while average CEO pay continued to rise, even during the bleakest years of the economic crisis. But for many workers it was a side-show.

"I could care less," said Tracy Mulvehill, of Northeast Philly, 50 and unemployed for the past year, when asked about the upbeat reports from Wall Street and of a gradual recovery in the job market. "It doesn't pay my bills." Mulvehill will see their long-term unemployment benefits slashed by nearly 11 percent in 10 days, and she's busy calculating how she'll live with an additional $200 less every month. "Now I've dropped my Internet," she said, "and for all my other bills I'm going to have to rob Peter to pay Paul one month, and the next month I'll rob Paul to pay Peter."

The children of lower-income parents are ever more likely to become, in turn, the parents of lower-income children. It has become much harder to make a living without a college degree. Right-wing conservatives say that men have become “less industrious.” But it is much more plausible that in the working world there is just less and less use for these folks. Employers have downsized and have discovered they can get by with fewer employees. Employers can take advantage of intractably high unemployment to keep wages at depressed levels. This period of high unemployment is basically undermining the bargaining power of the typical worker. And labor unions that may have struck for higher pay in the 1950s or 1960s have been weakened and are unable to exert any strength.
According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, “The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year” and control 40 percent of the nation’s total wealth. The bottom 80 percent of Americans own just 7 percent of the nation’s wealth and Stiglitz notes that “while the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall.”

The phrase “class war” is appropriate and accurate. The capitalist class has declared war upon the poor. They claim business-friendly (read worker-unfriendly) policies are necessary to fix the economy (in their favor). Jared Bernstein, the former top economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, said that the bottom line is that the affluent - thanks to favorable tax codes and the long slide in the influence of labor unions - have been crushing the working class, and then accusing anyone who complains about inequity of waging "class warfare." He said "If you're on the side that's winning the class warfare, nobody wants to bring it up,"

Independence for Greenock

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18th September of 2014 has been decided for the Scottish separatism referendum.
The Socialist Courier companion blog suggested that if Scotland successfully got its independence there is no reason why Shetland or for that fact Castlemilk in Glasgow cannot demand its own sovereignty.
The film-makers too have taken on-board this possibility and have released a 10 minute mockumentary, The State of Greenock, a satire of an independent Greenock in the year 2020 with a local postman as its president. It won the first place for best entertainment at the Bafta New Talent Awards. There is the promise of a spin-off series.

The short video can be viewed on You Tube and is well worth a watch for a chuckle.



Get less, pay more

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Birds Eye beef burgers reduced from 16 to 12 in a pack while the price has risen by 33p.


Fry Light Extra Virgin Olive oil, the contents of which have shrunk by 24% but the price has stayed the same.

Patak's Tikka Masala sauce has reduced from 500g to 450g while the price is unchanged.

When faced with rising production costs food comapnies have decided to shrink the package size rather than push up the price. The wholesale prices have not fallen as the goods have got smaller. It is hidden inflation.
Shopper Andrea Morris, said: "The marketing gurus are trying to get more money for their companies and I don't think it's right”


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Budget Blues

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Budget 20th March 2013 – the new Child Care Allowance
For working class families the new Child Care tax allowance sounds good. But both parents will have be working and paying income tax, or if a one parent family the lone parent will have to be working. So those on low pay, working part-time, on benefits, or 'stay-at-home mums' will not be able to get help with child care.

 The budget benefits employers, businesses of the capitalist class by reducing Corporation Tax, reducing employers contributions to National Insurance as well as the top rate of Income Tax coming down.

As usual the working class get little from the Budget in capitalism.

SPC

From the horses mouth

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“In so many other ways, these are good people. But, little by little, they strayed from the honorable business of feeding people appropriately to the deplorable mission of “increasing shareholder value” by enticing people to consume more and more high-margin, low-nutrition branded products...I left the industry when I finally had to acknowledge that reform would never come from within. I could no longer accept a business model that put profits over public health” confessed  Michael Mudd former executive vice president of global corporate affairs for Kraft Foods.
The United States costs more than it does anywhere else. Two of the five most profitable industries in the United States — the pharmaceuticals industry and the medical device industry — sell health care. With margins of almost 20 percent, they beat out even the financial sector for sheer profitability.

“In my view, health is a business in the United States in quite a different way than it is elsewhere,” says Tom Sackville, who served in Margaret Thatcher’s government and now directs the the International Federation of Health Plans — a global insurance trade association. “It’s very much something people make money out of. There isn’t too much embarrassment about that compared to Europe and elsewhere.”

Banking companies engage in accounting fraud. Food companies are virtually drug-pushers, knowingly striving to hook us on dangerous combinations of fat and sugar. Pharmaceutical companies withhold information about the toxic risks of medications to which they hold patents and then continue to spend more to market those drugs than to discover new medications. Fossil fuel companies fund efforts to create doubt in scientifically well- established climate science.
In a capitalist world profits and wealth are the ends in themselves. Anything that maximizes profits is regarded as fair business practice.

There ain't any justice

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Barclays has been accused of trying to bury news that it paid its nine top bankers an "extraordinarily greedy" £39.5m in bonuses by sneaking out the pay details when most of the City was distracted by the budget.
The bank, which promised it was "changing" after being fined £290m last year for its role in the Libor-rigging scandal, gave £17.6m worth of shares to Rich Ricci, the head of its investment banking division. Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins, who last month called for a new era of restrained bankers' bonuses, was awarded 1.8m shares worth £5.3m.
Ricci's bonus is worth 656 times the average UK salary. Ricci, who owns 11 horses that raced at the Cheltenham Festival last week including one named Fatcatinthehat, immediately cashed in all of the shares. Budget day tax changes including the government's decision to scrap the 50p top rate will result in Ricci taking home an extra £27,149 from his basic salary of £700,000 from next month.

A man set himself on fire in Bulgaria on Wednesday, becoming the sixth person in a month to protest in this way against the poverty.


" There is no bread and I cannot stand it anymore," the man, married with one child , told doctors at his local hospital.
People in the the European Union's poorest member country of 7.3 million earn an average monthly wage of 400 euros ($520) and pensions of less than half that.





Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bono's mistake

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Bono in his recent talk inspired headlines claiming extreme poverty will be zero by about 2030 based upon World Bank numbers that those living on less than $1.25 each per day roughly halved from 1990 to 2010 to about 21%. Bono suggests that it is just a matter of keeping up the good work to maintain the trend. Globally, and again assuming accurate and meaningful data, it is true that there has been a half-billion-plus decline in the number of extremely poor people. But it’s clear that those people have remained very poor indeed. As the World Bank acknowledges: “There has been less long-run progress in getting over the $2 per day hurdle.” The number of people in this category remains, after three decades, around 2.5 billion. Move the threshold upwards and you very quickly embrace the majority of the world’s people – 80%, for example, living on less than $10 a day.


Even the slight upward movement at the bottom may not tell us very much about how people live, since recent decades have seen massive population displacements from rural areas into urban slums, where you might be be a lot hungrier on the notional $2 a day than you were on half that money in the countryside.

The main findings from the World Bank’s show it was in Bono-free east Asia that dominates these improved figures. In sub-Saharan Africa in 1981 had 10.5% of the world’s extremely poor, in 2008 that number was 30%. In east Asia and the Pacific the number of extremely poor fell by almost three-quarters between 1981 and 2008. Latin America and the Caribbean the number fell by more than 40% just between 2002 and 2008.
In sub-Saharan Africa, where Bono’s agenda has been concentrated, the absolute numbers below every poverty threshold have skyrocked since 1981, with the number of extremely poor rising from 205 million to 386 million in 2008; at the below-two-dollar-a-day threshold the sub-Saharan numbers have almost doubled in the same period, to 562.3 million. This is in the context of a large population rise, of course. Bono from the now toothless Celtic Tiger Irish Republic cherrypickss some sub-Saharan countries called the “Lions” to bolster his claims yet the UN Conference on Trade and Development declared that their “the current pattern of growth is neither inclusive nor sustainable” – that the growth is, in short, unequally shared and largely driven by the extraction of quickly depleting natural resources.

Despite the self-congratulatory pats on the backs Bono gives to his backers in governments, multi-nationals and charity foundations, the world has a distribution problem, not a production problem. Bono come with “good news” that distracts from the struggle towards a world where the genuine eradication of poverty is possible and not just a presentation of skewed facts and figures.

Based on this

Cast off the chains

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"Chained CPI" is the new favourite piece of economic political jargon.


The consumer price index (CPI) is a measure of inflation that is used to calculate cost-of-living-increases for programmes like Social Security. The "chained CPI" is a different method of calculation that presumes that when the price of one product goes up, people will simply buy something cheaper. Using this formula to calculate Social Security, veterans' benefits, and other programmes would amount to a benefits cut. Economists and politicians make pretend that it is just a technocratic adjustment, really, instead of what it is.


What it actually does is change the adjustments for cost of living according to "behaviour". If the price of beef goes up, and some people start eating cheaper chicken instead, then instead of measuring actual inflation (as reflected by the rising cost of meats), the Chained CPI measures the behaviour of moving from beef to cheaper chicken and lowers the cost-of-living adjustment. In other words, screw what you want to eat, what you like. You're buying the cheap stuff (and in Europe it is probably horsemeat !)


It is austerity politics of “personal” choice imposed on the elderly and lower-income rather than just straight-up cutting their monthly allowance. What if people do not want to eat chicken instead of beef? What if you want a steak? Those desires are simply off the table for people living on government programmes. You forfeit your right to prefer the tastier better food or the pleasure of fresh organic vegetables from the farm, or a night out at a restaurant. Subsistence level is good enough for the poor! The poor do not get to want nice things - if they have nice things, they are not really poor, and they must be cheating the system. The wealthy want to place a stigma upon those of us relying on government hand-outs bit not on those who got bank bail-outs from the government.
Our rulers want to change the meaning of the word"entitlements" to one that conjures up the image of people who are mooching off the rest of us, feeling “entitled” to our money without having worked for it. People are being demonised for daring to want nice things while relying on government assistance. The rich praise the virtues of sacrifice and the willingness to live on less, not for themselves but just for us lesser mortals.

The hopelessly hopeful

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Conquerors always call themselves liberators. Dictatorial rule is often justified as necessary to restore law and order.
Tony Blair said Iraq today is not what he hoped it would be when he opted to invade 10 years ago. However, he insisted that the situation under Saddam Hussein was far worse and the world is safer than it would be if he had remained.
Blair confesses that he has given up any attempt to justify his decision to go to war in Iraq - "I have long since given up trying to persuade people that it was the right decision," he said - yet he still does defend his actions as the Newsnight interview amply proves .
William Hague, the current foreign minister has advised his colleagues not to drawn into the controversial issues of the UK's invasion of Iraq. After all, the Tories strongly supported Blair and would prefer not to be reminded of that fact

SOYMB however won't make it easy on those politicians who prefer to forget the past.

It has been ten years since "Shock and Awe". Blair and Bush now blame flawed intelligence on their supposed motive for going to war - to make Saddam Hussein give up his Weapons of Mass Destruction that turned out to be non-existent. The TV news programmes and tabloid and broad-sheet papers were full of accusations from the UK and the USA about aluminum tubes that could be used in centrifuges to enrich uranium, of Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa and mobile chemical and biological weapon producing trailers. Despite providing actual proof of their existence, Blair and Bush engaged in a carefully orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public opinion to gain approval. They told us that war was absolutely necessary for the security of all. Apart for a few exceptions politicians fell in line (who can forget hawkish Ann Clwyde's war-mongering contributions of imaginary atrocity stories). The media dropped any pretence of investigative reporting and relayed the government propaganda uncritically. Those who now claim they were "misled" about Iraq's alleged military threat have failed to explain why they found the government’s claims so much more convincing than the many other more objective reports made available to them. Despite serious doubts being raised by arms control specialists about Iraq having proscribed weapons contradicting the government claims, politicians in justification of their pro-war votes to authorize the invasion, falsely insisted that Iraq's possession of such weapons was not in doubt and was undisputed and that everyone in the world thought he had them, regardless of the weapon inspectors negative reports. All of the anti-war protesters predictions ended up being exactly what transpired - the invasion of Iraq set back the struggle against al-Qaeda, alienate the United States and Britain from much of the world and precipitate bloody urban counter-insurgency warfare amid rising terrorism, Islamist extremism, and sectarian violence.


Defeating Saddam's army was however the easy part. After years of sanctions and repeated air attacks to enforce a no-fly zone victory of the invasion was assured but however, the war dragged on. No newsreel scenes of grateful civilians welcoming liberators with flowers except for the staged toppling of the Hussein statue in Baghdad. Sunnis and Shiite engaged in a civil war but both also turned their guns on the invaders. In the years 2006 and 2007, 3000 Iraqis were being killed a month.


As journalist Patrich Cockburn points out the Iraqi political system was in large part a US creation and many of its leaders owed their careers to US backing. This includes Maliki who was appointed as Prime Minister by the US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, because he was one of the few Shia politicians acceptable to the US and Iran. “The Great Satan (US) and The Axis of Evil (Iran) had come together. The rule of Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister since 2006, has become a near dictatorship with highly developed means of repression, such as secret prisons, and use of torture. He has sought to monopolise control over the army, intelligence service, government apparatus and budget, making sure that his supporters get the lion’s share of jobs and contracts. One study of Iraqi officials revealed that on average they put in just 17 minutes’ productive work during the average day. His State of Law Coalition won only 24 per cent of the votes in the 2010 election – 2.8 million votes out of 19 million registered voters – but he has ruled as if he had received an overwhelming mandate. Maliki for exacerbates and exploits political divisions to keep power in his hands. As a leader of the Shia, three-fifths of the population, he alarms them by suggesting that their political dominance is under threat from the Sunni, a fifth of Iraqis, once in charge under Saddam but now marginalised. Last year, Mr Maliki sought to unite Sunni and Shia Arabs against the Kurds, another fifth of the population, by massing troops and threatening to invade Kurdish-controlled but disputed areas. Maliki has a million men in different branches of the Iraqi security forces. In most countries this would guarantee government control, but in practice Maliki only has full authority in about half the national territory. He has no power in the northern third of the country held by the Kurds and increasingly limited influence in Sunni areas. Nevertheless he still has the money, the jobs, the army and intelligence services plus the international electoral legitimacy.

Whatever the US and British invasion and occupation of Iraq 10 years ago was meant to achieve it has not created a peaceful and prosperous country. Nor has it achieved security for it neighbour. An al-Qa’ida fighter is a terrorist when he is shooting and bombing in Iraq. But should the same al-Qa’ida member travel a few miles up the Euphrates, cross the Syrian border and fight the Syrian government army, he is transformed into a freedom fighter and benefits from American and British military aid.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Anti-Capitalism or Anti-Imperialism?

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A previous blog post elicited a comment that we should be supporting anti-imperialism. It deserves a reply.

Rule from Edinburgh is no better than rule from London or Brussels; it’s all capitalist rule. We cannot ever support a nationalist struggle. The logic of capitalist accumulation continually works to refashion the state as it develops and changes its needs.


In capitalist society there are two classes - the capitalist class (or bourgeoisie) and the working class (or proletariat) whose interests are diametrically opposed. The capitalist class is the ruling class everywhere. The working class are the exploited class of wage slaves, those who produce yet own nothing except their labour power, which they must sell to the capitalists for a wage to survive. This exploitation leads the working class to wage class struggle against the capitalists.


The concept of the nation is a useful device for the capitalists. It leads the workers of a particular geographical area to think they have a common interest with the capitalists of that same area, and that they have a conflict with workers in other areas. Nationalists argue that it is necessary to unite all classes within the oppressed nation against the imperialist oppressor. Nationalists tend to deny the importance of class differences within the oppressed nation, arguing that the common experience of national oppression makes class divisions unimportant, or that class is a "foreign" concept that is irrelevant. Capitalism forces us to choose: be loyal to your nation and betray your class or be loyal to your class and betray your nation. (By “nation,” the capitalist class means its own interests, of course).Thus nationalists seek to hide class differences in a quest to found an independent nation-state.


"National liberation " and “anti-imperialism" are simply versions of this same lie in radical form. It maybe hidden behind high sounding words “internationalism” or “progressive nationalism”, but in the end it is merely supporting one country against another. Society is divided into classes. What is the “right of nations to self-determination” but the right of the state, and the bourgeoisie to dominate the working class. The claim that independent from their class position, every member of a nation is on the same boat only serves to destroy the revolutionary potential of the working class by joining two antagonistic classes on an ideological level. The liberation of the working class can only be achieved by raising the flag of class struggle against every kind of national liberation struggle.


Establishing new nation-states means, in effect, establishing new capitalist states that, in turn, serve the interests of the local elite at the expense of the working class. When the working class is deceived into supporting such a movements, it means they are fighting to replace one lot of bosses with another lot. That is the only change; there is no change for the workers. Furthermore, all such movements, if they are to succeed in gaining independence from one imperialist power, can only do so by switching to another, as for example Cuba did in changing from U.S. client state to Russian client state. Many countries toppled colonialism and set up their national governments. Some overthrew puppet regimes close to the western powers through revolution or military coups and established their “independent governments.” Others nationalized their national resources, industries, banks and etc. However, the lives of people in the countries under their “national and independent governments” did not change for the better, and in some cases, they got worse. New brutal and repressive regimes replaced colonial powers. The ruling bourgeoisie elite in these countries, despite their complaints against “the unfair international economic system” continue to benefit from the same system, prosper greatly, and fill their pockets at the expense of their own people. Independent nation-states are part of the international capitalist system, a system in which the power of imperialist states continues to set the rules of the game. The local capitalists soon find themselves unable to fundamentally challenge the domination of foreign capital and instead set about trying to advance their own interests within the overall framework of capitalism. In practice, the most effective way for the local ruling classes to develop local capitalism is to crush labour in order to be able to sell cheap raw materials and manufactured goods on the world market.







Nor did the ascendancy of these new governments hamper the ability of the US and other world powers from dictating their will on the people of the world. Many “anti-imperialist" countries maintained close ties with the US and the West, often acting as their proxies, hoping, eventually, to graduate to imperialist status themselves.


Local cultural identity peculiar to geographical areas is used as a part of the statist ideology of nationalism. While borders are becoming more porous to the movement of goods and capital, they are becoming more controlled in terms of the movement of people. This works to capital’s advantage as capital needs to control and divide labor in order to increase exploitation. Without borders the poor could move from the third world where the rate of capitalist exploitation is highest and to areas where the living standards of the working class are much higher. Thus nationalism actually works hand-in-hand with capitalism to insure the maintenance of borders and the control and division of labor.


To all militant activists who honestly wish to fight for working class interests, but who have illusions in nationalism we say: Abandon these ideas - socialism is the movement of the working class for its own historic interests. We reject all forms of nationalism, as this only serves to redefine divisions in the international working class. Working people must unite across national borders. We say that workers have no interest in dying on behalf of “their” countries, no interests in fighting beneath a “their” national flags. The working class has no country and national boundaries must be eliminated. We seek to build a global movement to work with other socialists throughout the world. Only socialism can lead to the social revolution necessary for the re-construction of the world. Social revolution, socialism, and eventually communism are an effect of the anarchist struggle. If we struggle for nationalism or reformism we lose sight of the socialist struggle. Capitalism must maintain divisions in order to preserve itself, and socialists must create unity to destroy capitalism. Socialist revolution can only come from within the masses themselves and when the masses organise themselves to struggle. The socialist focus is to link their struggles to other worker's struggle thus creating solidarity and mutual aid. We have to win workers away from any form of nationalist ideology and to a socialist understanding of the world. This is a long process of building today, one by one, but these ones will hopefully become multitudes.The workers interests are humanity's interests. Socialism is not inevitable; it can only be won if we organise and fight for it. There is only one world. The internet allows people to communicate from anywhere on the planet in seconds. Our rulers insist that people in different nations have little in common. Socialists say the opposite is true.The division of the globe is not between the West and the Third World but between those above and those below.

















Islington By-Election Junction Ward

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There is no candidate standing on anti-cuts programme promising to oppose all cuts.  This passage from an introduction to a reprint a couple of years ago to a pamphlet Unwaged Fightback: A History of the IslingtonAction Group of the Unwaged, 1980-1986 makes the same point as us against this strategy:


"In Islington itself, Labour councillors implement savage cuts to services one day and lead the 'anti-cuts' marches the next. During the 1980s rate-capping struggles many people invested much support and hope in their elected representatives; disillusion was probably bound to follow, partly because brave lefty leaders get cold feet, or end up sacking workers and making cuts in the end ('with a heavy heart'), usually on the grounds that it's better for them to be in charge than someone worse, they have no choice. In reality they do have little choice, because their real room to manoeuvre IS limited, by central government funding, legal obligations, and so on, even more now than in the '80s."
What to do, then? Harry Lynch, the author of the 2011 introduction, says:
"It would be great to have an independent workers movement, that answered both austerity and attempts to co-opt rebellion by Labour councillors, union full-timers, and professional lefties with the proper politeness: occupy the lot, strike, not for a day but for good, and lets run the world ourselves. Time will tell as to if that develops, and how."

Yes, of course. If such a movement existed, then socialism would be just round the corner, not that staging a syndicalist General Strike to try to overthrow capitalism would be the most intelligent way of proceeding.

Still, it is true that, given capitalism in an economic crisis, there is not much that workers can do other than protest in the hope of getting a few exemptions or slowing the cuts down.

The real lesson is that, since all that capitalism has to offer is austerity and cuts, we should concentrate on organising to bring it to an end by political action aimed at ushering in a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production so that there can be produce for directly for use and not for profit, and distribution on the principle of "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs". Socialism.

Nationalists Against Workers

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Nationalism has often been hostile to the cause of labour. This was particularly clear in the case of Ireland. Daniel ‘the Liberator’ O'Connell revered as one of the founders of Irish nationalism was a consistent enemy of the working class. He voted against a bill to limit the hours children under the age of 9 could be employed in factories and limiting those under the age of 13 to a 48 hour week. He stated that it infringed the rights of industry and condemned the "...ridiculous humanity, which would end by converting their manufacturers into beggars" and declared "There was no tyranny equal to that which was exercised by the trade unionists in Dublin over their fellow labourers. " He supported the rights of property and prevented the spread of Chartism in Ireland, "I shall ever rejoice that I kept Ireland free from this pollution." During the Famine years his son pronounced "I thank God I live among a people who would die of hunger rather than defraud their landlords of rent."

Charles Parnell also feared that the working class. He believed that the growth of Trade Unions would "Frighten the capitalist liberals and lead them to believe that a parliament in Dublin might be used for furthering some kind of socialism. You ought to know that neither the Irish priests or the farmers would support such principles."

The Ancient Order of Hibernians, a catholic version of the Orange Order, shared its opposition to socialism. It was involved in anti-trade union activity in Dublin and Cork where it drove Connolly out of Cobh/Queenstown. It published the pamphlet 'Socialism: A warning to the workers'.
Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Fein wrote of the strikes of 1911 that "Against the Red Flag of Communism...we raise the flag of an Irish nation. Under that flag will be protection, safety and freedom for all." Which, of course, they meant the businessmen and merchants.

During the 1913 Dublin Lockout employers led by William Murphy locked out tens of thousands of members of the Syndicalist ITGWU in order to smash the union. During the lockout the Irish Times of the 4th October observed, "Today Mr Murphy's press and the official Nationalist press are at one in condemning Larkinism." (Larkinism is defined by historian Emmet O'Connor as “a workerist mentality, a technique in conflict based on sympathetic action, and a broad ambition to promote class solidarity").

The class struggle is not an invention of the socialists, but the very substance of the facts and acts of history in the making that are daily taking place under our eyes. Nationalist ideas promotes the idea that people are "all in this together" and ignores these class divisions in society and argues that independence, without breaking from capitalism would be a solution to problems that fundamentally are a product of capitalism i.e private/state ownership of wealth and the means to produce wealth in society. Even James Connolly had to expose such naivity before he too made the ill-judged decision to participate in the nationalist putsch that was the 1916 Easter Rising.
“If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country....”

Nationalism’s function is to persuade people to be loyal to a state. Governments use nationalism to make people think that they are not just obeying a particular group of men - the government - but perfoming their ‘loyal duty’ to the nation. We're bombarded almost daily with the media’s message that we belong to a nation and that this nation must compete with other nations. Workers have often been asked to accept cuts in wages and services, or participation in wars, but never for the benefit of capitalism, always for the benefit of the nation and “the national interest” It helps them to portray the major divisions in our society as being between different nationalities competing for jobs, resources and political dominance – rather than being between workers and employers - and to take a contrary position risks being labelled unpatriotic.There are no good and bad nationalisms. Nationalism is always an illusion. Nationalism shackles us to a particular nation-state.

Rather than strengthening the forces of socialism such a "popular front" as we currently witness of various leftists joining together with hedge fund managers for Scottish independence serves only to weaken the movement for socialism while bolstering the nationalists. The Socialist Party refuses to align ourselves either with London or Edinburgh but instead advocates workers’ unity rather than division along national lines. It has always been the bosses tried and tested strategy to divide and rule. Workers have no country. Our fight is a fight against the capitalist class who use us to maximise their profits – and against the system that is only too happy to play off one group of workers against another in the pursuit of that profit. International capital pursues its own ends with stern remorselessness. In order to lower national wages and gain greater profits, the capitalist does not hesitate to deprive his fellow-countrymen of work, to out-source jobs or import, migrant workers accustomed by greater poverty to a lower standard of living, and therefore able and willing to work for lower wages to compete with them on the labour market. For the indigenous work-force it is not to strive to prohibit them from employing foreign workers but to thwart them from paying them less than the national rate of wages is the only effective means of meeting this evil.

The socialist movement has its roots in the shared oppression experienced by all workers and the international character of the capitalist system itself. Capitalism has created a genuinely world society, where all our lives are entwined together in a common history and a common fate. Materially, socialism will build on that achievement, extending and developing our mutual solidarity with working people in every corner of the globe. Faced with the international domination of capital, the working class of all countries has come to understand the common character, the oneness, of their own interests. They are everywhere the victims of the same kind of exploitation, due everywhere to the same cause. The same facts have suggested to them the same demands, the same means and tactics to attain the same goal. International exploitation has thus given birth to an ever growing international solidarity among the workers who resist its encroachments. World capitalism will only be transformed into a different world through the global actions of workers.
Whether or not the revolution arrives, the challenge for socialists consists in educating our fellow workers, in rendering them conscious of their condition, their task and their responsibility, of organising them in readiness for the day when the political power shall fall into their hands. To win for socialism the greatest possible number of supporters, that is the task to which socialist parties must devote their efforts, using all peaceful and legal means. In today’s times any sort of action except peaceful and legal is sure to have a detrimental influence on the spread of socialist ideas.





Monday, March 18, 2013

The Paris Commune

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In 1871 workers briefly ruled Paris from the 18th of March to May the 28th.


France had been defeated by the armies of Germany. On March 18 Adolphe Thiers chief executive of the recently elected French government attempted to disarm the National Guard militia of Paris and sent in the regular army, but, through fraternisation with Paris workers, they refused to carry out thier orders. Generals Claude Martin Lecomte and Jacques Leonard Clement Thomas are killed by their own soldiers. Many troops peacefully withdraw, some remain in Paris. The French government lost control of Paris and a siege commenced and it is continually bombarded. A municipal council — the Paris Commune — is elected by the citizens of Paris on March 26. The Commune consisted of workers, among them members of the First International and followers of Proudhon and Blanqui. Foreigners elected to the Commune were confirmed in office, because "the flag of the Commune is the flag of the World Republic" and its banner was the Red Flag They proclaimed the Emancipation of Labour. The Paris Commune was first and foremost a democracy. Never before had any government even claimed to represent the interests of the working class; never before had so many workers taken part in the political administration of a large city. What happened was indeed unprecedented. Engels’s remark, “Look at the Paris Commune — that was the dictatorship of the proletariat,” should be taken seriously in order to reveal what the dictatorship of the proletariat is not, such as various forms of state dictatorship over the proletariat in the name of the proletariat.


The Commune abolished conscription and the standing army; the National Guard, in which all citizens capable of bearing arms were to be enrolled, was to be the sole armed force. Rents from October 1870 until April 1871 were cancelled. None of its Communes administrators were paid more than the wages of a skilled worker. It did not expropriate the property of the bourgeoisie, but it handed to associations of workingmen all closed workshops and factories, whether the capitalist owners had run away or simply had decided to stop work . Factories which had been closed down by the manufacturers were to be organised in co-operative societies and one great union. The Mechanics Union and the Association of Metal Workers stated “our economic emancipation… can only be obtained through the formation of workers' associations, which alone can transform our position from that of wage earners to that of associates." They also advised the Commune’s Commission on Labour Organisation to support the following objectives: “The abolition of the exploitation of man by man... The organisation of labour in mutual associations and inalienable capital.”


The last stand of the Communards took place at the cemetary of Montmartre, and after the defeat troops and armed members of the capitalist class roamed the city, killing and maiming at will. 'The French army brutally suppressed the Commune and slaughtered at least 20-30,000 of the Communards. About 50,000 were arrested. Many died in prison. Those who managed to escape went into exile. (Two in fact ended up marrying two of Marx's daughters in Britain, Longuet and Lafargue ). The immediate consequences of the defeat of the Commune were disastrous for the French labour moment as a period of severe repression followed the blood- letting of the last week. Paris remained under martial law for 5 years and the International Working Men's Association was outlawed. Armed with new political powers, the police were active in rounding up political activists who were given heavy sentences. The International was practically forced out of existence. The leading activists of the working class were either dead, imprisoned or in exile.


Karl Marx had no input into the creation or running of the Commune and the Commune took nothing from Marx. He did write The Civil War in France in defence of the Commune, and from this the press mistakenly claimed that Marx was the mastermind or at least a strategist behind the Commune, conferring on him the title 'red terror Doctor'. Marx for the first time became notorious – but for an event which owed absolutely nothing to him.
Marx, however, held it up as an example of how the working class should exercise political power once they had won control of it writing:

"The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time...In a rough sketch of national organization, which the Commune had no time to develop, it states clearly that the Commune was to be the political form of even the smallest country hamlet, and that in the rural districts the standing army was to be replaced by a national militia, with an extremely short term of service. The rural communities of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates in the central town, and these district assemblies were again to send deputies to the National Delegation in Paris, each delegate to be at any time revocable and bound by the mandat imperatif (formal instructions) of his constituents."


The legacy of the Commune lives on. It lasted for 71 days and despite its failure, it remains a symbol of a vision when workers in Paris, to use Marx's phrase, “stormed the heavens” to give to the world, for the first time, the "political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour". The workers anthem “The Internationale” was penned by a French in June 1871


For more see the previous 2012 post