Saturday, November 30, 2013

Quote of the Day

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Once again SOYMB takes the opportunity to emphasis that hunger and starvation is a problem of capitalism, not of over-population and lack of available food supplies.

 “The problem isn’t that there is not enough food in these countries, it is that they cannot afford the food...” -  Professor Charles Godfray, Hope Professor of Zoology at Jesus College at Oxford, explained. 

The Colour Of Our Flag Is Red

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How is it possible to account for several socialist parties in  one country with different programmes and different tactics? What and where is the common ground?

Socialists believe the working class can and must have its own political party, a party that will serve its own interests, not those of the exploiter class. Socialists understand that politics is essentially a war between the two main classes in modern capitalist society: those that work (the working class) and those that exploit those who work (the capitalist class).

Common ground of action to be effectual cannot be furnished by unity conferences, no matter how earnest those attend are. The ghost of all the rivalries and jealousies aroused by the past years of acrimony will arise dashing any hopes of a lasting amalgamation of the existing parties. There are too many leaders. Too many saviours of the working class whose reputations have been built upon disunity; too many petty personal ambitions. The realisation of unity must prove greater than the prejudices or rivalries of the leaders of the Left.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is pledged to the principles of socialism and is primarily concerned with analysing the capitalist system, pointing out its defects and advocating the replacing of the capitalist system by the common ownership and democratic administration of the means of production and distribution. The success of the socialist movement and the rapidity of its progress will depend very largely upon the method of education and the political tactics of the Socialist Party. Mere industrial militancy in itself cannot bring the cooperative commonwealth. The political case of the Socialist Party is essentially constructive. There is no place in it for cataclysmic transformation. Socialism does not advance necessarily in response to or because of great industrial distress. These economic crises may point out the fact that something is wrong, but the suggestion of the remedy and the cure for these ills is quite a different proposition.

The Socialist Party is a party that knows what it wants to get, and how it means to get it. But then there are the others -  sham “socialist" parties of opportunism and social reform which are prepared to sacrifice all things for party success or office. That the latter should call themselves socialist we cannot prevent. We have no monopoly of the word. But in the end the cause will know its own. But, nevertheless, the members of the Socialist Party understand and await the real political party of the working class to fully manifest itself.

It is urged by some outside our party that we should encourage alliance with self-styled leftists because they are inclined in our direction. Their advice, if followed, would wreck our party. If our socialist case is the right one, then they should join the Socialist Party. If they are not ready to do this they are not socialists, and hence opposed to socialism and a fusion of groups would result in inevitable disaster. The only object of such fusion would be the securing some sort of political advantage. We are not after political positions. We want socialism. We care nothing about office except in so far as it represents the triumph of socialism. Therefore, be it understood, once for all, that the Socialist Party will not merge with any party that does not stand for genuine socialism, and there will be no departure from this policy. The issue is socialism or reformism.

Socialism is the hope of the workers but the hope will never be attained if the workers are turned aside from their purpose by those whose object it is to whittle away the socialist aim, substituting various temporary reliefs. Nor can we subscribe to any type of organisation where decisions becomes the handing down of decisions by the higher committees to the lower ranks with the air of a royal decree or infallible papal bull.

 The confusion on the existing Left is so great there is at least now a chance the existing “Left” movements and its accompanying ideological baggage will disintegrate completely and there will be room for something new and genuinely revolutionary to emerge. The task of the Socialist Party is exposing and undermining the anti-socialism and therefore reactionary ideology of the present “Left”. But we need to at least think about construction at the same time. The aim of criticism is to open the way for a revolutionary workers movement that is fighting for progress and that is quite serious about winning political power to actually implement the social changes it is fighting for, instead of whining about the present rulers of society. Too many “parties” talk about “revolution” and none at all seem to understand what it really means. These days people are rightly cynical about political parties, whether “revolutionary” or not.

We need to go beyond denouncing what the government is doing and start offering constructive alternatives, even though our proposals are bound to be seen half-baked at this stage. Reformists will make constructive proposals as to how the capitalism should deal with problems, with or without a change in the political parties administering the regime.

The Socialist Party simply propose socialism as the solution.

AJJ

Our Town...

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Middlesbrough is the third most deprived local authority in the UK with an average child poverty rate of 37 per cent, this rises to 61 per cent in the worst affected ward, Thorntree. One in five children die as infants in Middlesbrough who would not have died if they live elsewhere. More than 10 per cent of babies have low birth weight which has been linked to the rising trend for children with complex needs. Children’s hospital admissions due to injury are 58 per cent above the national average. The number of Child Protection Plans in place in Middlesbrough is double the national average and the number of ‘looked after children’, or those in care, is 88 per cent higher than the national figure. The average lifespan for a boy is two-and-a-half years less than the national average.

“The current state of the national economy, ongoing cuts in public spending and welfare reforms means this position may yet worsen.” explains the report produced by Middlesbrough Council’s Children and Learning scrutiny panel.

“Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town”
Iris Dement

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fact of the Day

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In his book The Haves and the Have Nots, Branko Milanovic tries to discover who was the richest person who has ever lived. Beginning with the loaded Roman triumvir Marcus Crassus, he measures wealth according to the quantity of his compatriots' labour a rich man could buy. It appears that the richest man to have lived in the past 2,000 years is alive today. Carlos Slim , who vies each year with Bill Gates on rich lists as the richest man in the world, could buy the labour of 440,000 average Mexicans. This makes him 14 times as rich as Crassus, nine times as rich as Carnegie and four times as rich as Rockefeller.

Brainy Boris

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The Idiot
Boris Johnson is right, we are not all equal when it comes to the brain department. Some are gifted and some are not. A good well-bought education such as Eton always helps though.

The world needs dumb people. People who follow blindly without question, people who are easily persuaded, people who are only capable of doing menial jobs, who don’t question or challenge the system, who, instead, are addicted to social networks and reality shows and participate in them. If it weren’t for these people, the rich would not be where they are now. Look at Facebook's Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey. Without the stupid people they would not be living in their mansions and have billions in the bank.

Simon Cowell, a self confessed stupid person has proudly announced to all that he has never read a book in his life yet he has amassed a huge fortune by dangling a carrot in front of stupid wannabees who he exploits on his shows and ridicules for profit. This shows some level of manipulation on his part therefore he’s not completely stupid, of course.

The super wealthy can be stupid too. But, at least, they can employ clever people to run things for them, and as long as they don’t do anything too stupid while pretending to be clever, they can pass as clever people to the stupid people watching.

World religions also thrive on stupidity because the myths they extol defy any form of logic or science. Therefore to follow these fairy tales blindly and without question is inherently stupid. Religious leaders love stupid people. The more gullible fools in their flock the better they like it.

Here at the SOYMB, we’re as stupid as f**k, because we say the truth that no one wants to hear and get nothing for it while the stooges of capitalism rake it in by writing propaganda for the wealthy that the stupid believe.

Ahhh, well...

Based on this


Fact of the Day

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27 percent of British adults said they found it harder to feed their family than a year ago.
40 percent of households in the UK believe their ability to put food on the table worsened over the last year.
37 percent of British families admitted choosing between heating and eating this winter.
30 percent of households also said they have either skipped meals, gone without or relied on friends or family for food.
At least 60,000 adults will rely on food banks to feed their families this Christmas.

 http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/11/28/337082/25-of-uk-adults-in-food-poverty/

A fifth of young people under 20 live in poverty in Wales. The poverty figure rose to a quarter in the south Wales valleys. 

No Happy Thanksgiving

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In 1637 Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop was proclaiming a thanksgiving for the successful massacre of hundreds of Pequot Indian men, women and children, part of the long and bloody process of opening up additional land to the English invaders. The pattern would repeat itself across the continent until between 95 and 99 percent of American Indians had been exterminated and the rest were left to assimilate into white society or die off on reservations.

The Declaration of Independence, refers to Indians as the "merciless Indian Savages"
George Washington, in 1783 compared Indians to wolves, "both being beasts of prey, tho' they differ in shape."
Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1807 from writing to his secretary of war that in a coming conflict with certain tribes, "We shall destroy all of them."

Theodore Roosevelt defended the expansion of whites across the continent as an inevitable process "due solely to the power of the mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct, and which by their expansion are gradually bringing peace into the red wastes where the barbarian peoples of the world hold sway." He also once said, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."

History does matter, which is why people in power put so much energy into controlling it.

Taken from here 


WTO - Protecting Profits Not People

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 India’s ‘famine-avoidance’ strategy is to provide farmers with an assured price support for their produce, and  a food procurement system that provided for a guaranteed market and at the same time helped get food to the poor in the deficit regions through a network of ration shops. Developing countries must find some way to ensure their citizens' food and livelihood security. Many countries try to do so by introducing measures to make food affordable for low-income consumers or by encouraging domestic food production, particularly through supporting small farmers. The trouble is that such measures sometimes come up against existing World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. Thus, India's recent law that seeks to provide food security to one of the largest undernourished populations in the world has been challenged by the US in the WTO

 “Forth-seven years after it was launched, India is being directed at the WTO to dismantle its food procurement system as well as withdrawing the price support for farmers or freezing it at a lower level of 10 percent as applicable under the Agreement on Agriculture will make farmers vulnerable to the vagaries of the market. In India, as per WTO calculations, farmers are getting 24 percent more minimum support price for paddy crop since the base period of 1986-1988

Numerous U.S. farm groups have written to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman as well as U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack objecting to price support programmes. Not finding anything wrong in legitimate domestic food aid programmes, 30 US farm commodity export groups have however expressed concern at the “price support programmes, which have more to do with boosting farm incomes and increasing production than feeding the poor. A few multinational agribusinesses have increased their domination of global trade and food distribution. Speculation in commodity futures markets is creating volatile price movements that do not reflect true changes in demand and supply.

U.S. farm subsidies are therefore unquestionable. These are considered to be non-trade-distorting, and are not even on the negotiating table. The U.S. has more than doubled its subsidy from 61 to 130 billion dollars between 1995 and 2010, while the EU’s subsidy of 90 billion euros in 1995 came down to 75 billion euros in 2002, but rose again to hover between 90-79 billion euros between 2006-2009.” According to the U.S.-based Environmental Working Group, the U.S. had paid a quarter of a trillion dollars in subsidy support between 1995 and 2009. These subsidies have not been reduced in the 2013 Farm Bill.

Moreover, the U.S. does not find its own 100 billion dollars in support for its various food aid programmes in 2012 as trade-distorting, but has problems with 20 billion dollars in support that India is expected to provide to feed its 830 million hungry people. Since Indian farmers do not receive any direct income support (as producers do in the U.S./EU), this move alone will destroy millions of livelihoods and force farmers to abandon agriculture and migrate to the cities. Already, with agriculture becoming economically unviable, close to 300,000 farmers have committed suicide in the past 15 years.

The meagre palliative that India offers 67% of its hungry population is not acceptable to those businesses who wish India to import its food.  Putting more income into the hands of Third World farmers is not acceptable, as it makes developing country agriculture economically viable and therefore deals a blow to U.S. agribusiness trade interests.

From Here

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Wildcat Strike

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The Western Socialist, July-August, 1953

The workers mill around in small groups. A buzz of excitement sweeps through the room and spreads rapidly. The huge steel-cutting machines lapse into silence. The conveyor lines halt as if struck dead by some unseen hand. Everything is at a standstill. A wildcat strike is being born. The workers await its delivery
A chief steward has been fired. Or perhaps the line has been speeded up, and the workers walk off in protest. Or perhaps. . . rumors. . . facts. . . confusion. . . unrest. . .
A group of men push their way through the workers. These are the committeemen, perhaps accompanied by local union officials. They listen to the workers’ complaints. Go back to work. We will settle this through the regular grievance procedure.
Some of the workers nod in agreement. But they are pulled back into the circle by those who voice defiance and protest. We have followed the grievance procedure before and got nothing. This time we are going out.
The officials try another argument. The walkout has not been approved by the International Executive Board of the union. The workers answer: Hell, we voted 98 % to strike three months ago, and the International still hasn’t authorized the strike. We’re hitting the bricks.
The situation is getting beyond the control of the local union officers. They deal one last card. They tell the workers: you will be violating the Taft-Hartley Act. The union will be sued, its treasury wiped out. This has even less effect than the other arguments. Washington is a long way off to these workers. Their immediate grievance looms larger. Suddenly someone cries what are we waiting for. Let’s go. Survey the scene as if you were seated in a high crane with a view of the entire shop.
Large knots of workers formed here and there in the various departments begin to break up into small knots. The workers are arguing, discussing. Then they begin to leave the plant.
They merge like so many rivulets into small streams, then into large rivers, until finally all are swept out through the gates in a mighty flow. The company enters the scene. Telegrams are sent out to the workers. Return to work or be considered as having voluntarily quit your jobs. Still the workers remain away, in sullen defiance.
Momentarily the company has lost control of the workers. The union goes into action. A mass meeting is scheduled. The “big guns” from the International union scold the workers. They spend most of the meeting, talking, repeating, talking, and repeating. Very little time is left for the rank and file. When a rank and filer speaks, his limit his five minutes, while each International man speaks for half an hour, often longer.
The International tells the men: you will lose your jobs. The plant will move out of town. Other companies will get the work. The arguments have a telling effect. Thousands of workers have come to this meeting for one purpose only: to vote to go back to work. The motion is made and passed to return to work and “continue negotiations.”
The militants who argued in favor of continuing the strike are defeated, the conservatism of the workers prevail. On this the International office had pinned their hopes to end the stoppage.
Wait. All is not over. The men return, but the following week other cats take place. The International officers apply a heavy foot. An administrator is placed over the Local union. Bargaining continues with the company, but the administrator has the final words on everything. The democratic right of the workers to make their own decisions has been abolished.
Despite this dictatorship over their affairs, the workers continue to strike. The “instigators” are fired. The union remains silent, in approval of the company’s action. Gradually the strikes fade out until the administrator leaves. Then the process begins all over again. . .
THE PATTERN
Not all wildcat strikes follow this pattern. The one above – an actual situation which took place in the auto industry recently – enables us to view a wildcat strike from beginning to end.
Some strikes never reach the point where the workers leave the plant. They are in the nature of sit-downs, where the workers stay at their machines without turning a hand, or let jobs go by until a jam piles up at the end, and the line must shut down. Still other actions take the form of slow-downs. The workers let every other job on the line go, or if running a machine reduce the speeds and feeds. They are working, but not producing their quotas. Both the company and the union terms this a strike.
Why do these wildcats take place? What significance do they have toward developing the thinking of the workers?
To some these wildcats are the work of an “irresponsible few,” of a “small dissident element,” or even of “Communists.” This is the attitude, not only of union leaders, but also of many workers.
There is no use denying the facts. In certain isolated cases a few individuals might agitate for a wildcat and succeed in bringing it off, but can a few lead thousands, if the conditions are not present for these thousands to be led? What becomes of the “communist” arguments when wildcats break out in plants where there are no known “communists” and where the participants are all “loyal American workers”?
ORIGIN OF WILDCATS
The point is that the wildcat walkouts, the sit-downs, the slow-downs have their origin in the economic system we have today. To allege the cause of these works stoppages to “leaders,” and not to conditions, is to cover up the real nature of capitalism. Labor leaders do it from ignorance or from plan – because of their belief in and collaboration with the capitalist system – but the workers do it out of sheer ignorance of the real conditions.
In a system of society such as we have now where one class works for wages and another class reaps the profits from their labor, a struggle goes on continually between the two classes over the fruits of production.
Socialists call this the class struggle. This struggle embraces a multitude of matters. It takes place over wages and hours at work. It takes place over working conditions, safety, speedup, etc. It takes place over firings, penalties for being late and absent, even over the location of a time clock.
The outlets of this struggle are numerous and varied. Already we have mentioned the wildcat, the sit-down, and the slow-down. Other forms exist. When the worker reaches up and flips the counter on his machine a few dozen times without increasing his production, when he turns in production figures beyond what he actually produced, when he spends half an hour beyond that time necessary to perform his biological functions, he is engaging in a struggle against those who exploit him. When he tightens up a nut, takes it off, and then puts it on again to kill time on the line, he is carrying on a struggle against his capitalist employers.
The wildcat strike is just another manifestation of the class struggle. When workers have grievances over speed-up, these grievances arise out of the fact that a class is seeking to make more profit from them. When workers have grievances for higher wages, these grievances stem from the fact that the workers must struggle for their standard of existence against the class which seeks to keep wages down.
The wildcat takes place when the workers feel that the grievance procedure is too slow, when on-the-spot action is necessary, or when they have no confidence in the ability of their leaders to solve their grievances through the regular procedure.
The labor leaders may clamp down hard, may place one administrator after another over one local union after another, but the conditions of capitalism continuing, wildcats are bound to result. Not a day passes that a wildcat does not take place in some shop throughout the country. Still the union leaders are foolish enough, or ignorant enough, to believe they can suppress the class struggle. Even Hitler could not stop strikes under his dictatorship, nor as recent events in East Germany showed, could the armored tank divisions of the Red Army.
POLITICAL MEANING
What is the political significance of these wildcat strikes? One school of thought in the working class political movement sees these wildcat strikes as bona fide rebellions, not only against the labor leaders, but against the capitalist system itself. This school views the wildcats as the beginnings of a real rank and file movement which will eventually result in the workers throwing out the union bureaucrats, taking over the factories, establishing workers’ councils and ultimately a “workers society” based on these councils.
If one reads the newspapers – and at one time half of Detroit’s auto workers were idle because of wildcats – he might gain the impression that a tremendous political movement of the workers was under way. To one directly involved in these struggles, and in daily contact with the workers, another, more accurate, picture enfolds itself.
These wildcats are purely economic struggles on the part of the workers. They have a grievance arising out of the conditions of their work, instinctively they bring to bear their only weapon, withdrawal of their labor.
For a brief period the workers are aroused. They assail their union leaders in no uncertain terms. But they learn nothing of the role of these union leaders in support of capitalism because they do not understand the society under which they live. In a few days, after the wildcat is over, the workers return to their routine thinking.
A LEVER TO EMANCIPATION?
Another school of thought believes these wildcats can be used as a lever to push the workers along a political road, towards their “emancipation.” How is this possible if the workers do not understand the political road, and are only engaging in economic struggles? The answer is that “leaders in-the-know” will direct the workers, much as a Seeing Eye Dog guides a blind person.
But these leaders can also lead the workers in the wrong direction, toward the wrong goals (nationalization and state capitalism), as the workers later find out to their sorrow.
The socialist approach of education- rather than the non-socialist approach of leadership – is much better.
Through education it can be pointed out to the workers that wildcat strikes arise out of the nature of capitalism, but that they are not the answer to the workers’ problems. These economic struggles settle nothing decisively because in the end the workers still wear the chains of wage slavery. It is the political act of the entire working class to eliminate the exploitative relations between workers and capitalists which can furnish a final solution.
Is not this giving leadership to the workers, to point these things out? In a sense it is, but it is a leadership of a different type. It is not the non-socialist leadership of a minority which knows (or thinks it knows) where it is going over a majority which does not know where it is going, and merely follows the minority.
It is the socialist leadership of educating workers to understand the nature of both capitalism and socialism, so that, armed with this understanding, the workers themselves can carry out the political act of their own emancipation.
The non-socialist leadership is based on lack of understanding among the workers. The socialist leadership is based on understanding among the workers.
This is the lesson of the wildcat strike and all other outbursts of class struggle among the workers. These struggles can be used as a means of educating workers to the real political struggle – socialism. They should not be used as a means to gain leadership over the workers, or to lead them along a political path they do not understand.
KARL FREDERICK
(EDITORIAL NOTE: A wildcat strike is a work. stoppage which has taken place in violation of a contract with management, or which has not received official sanction from the authority – usually the International Executive Board – established under the Union’s constitution. The author of this article has participated in dozens of wildcats in the automobile industry, and thus writes from first-hand observation.)

There is food for 10 Billion

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Haroon Akram-Lodhi,  economist and Trent University professor who specializes in the political economy of agrarian change in developing capitalist countries, says equating a growing population with global hunger is not only incorrect, but creates a false moral imperative for intensive industrialized agriculture.

“The argument that population growth is faster than growth of food supplies… is simply wrong,” Akram-Lodhi told attendees at a recent Menno Simons College lecture titled ‘Feeding the World: Is Hunger Inevitable?’

 “The world, in terms of food production, has witnessed historically unprecedented increases in the amount that we produce,” he said, adding that according to United Nations World Food Program, the planet already produces enough food to feed more than 10 billion people. “Many people worry about a world of 10 billion people — I don’t think a world of 10 billion is to be feared,” he said.

“If we have record production, why do we have record hunger? And where do these record prices come from?” Akram-Lodhi  then asked.

He suggested that the expansion and subsidising of bio-fuels were partly responsible. “What’s happened over the course of the last decade or so, is that the Europeans and the Americans have used subsidies to try and create a market for biofuels… it’s massively expanded,” Akram-Lodhi said, noting more than 30 per cent of the U.S. corn crop now goes to the production of biofuels. “Grains that used to be used for food are now being used for fuel so that we can drive to the supermarket and buy our groceries,” he said. “And this very large expansion of biofuels has been a major driver increasing prices.”

He argued that financial speculation was partly responsible. Akram-Lodhi said the move by speculators from stocks to commodities after the financial crisis of 2008 was also a major influence on food price levels and volatility.

“You’ve got a change from food traders dominating the market for financial assets in food… giving way to food speculators,” he said. Many of the financial institutions directly tied to the global financial crisis actually benefited from increased commodity speculation, he noted.
 “In 2012, by betting on movements in prices, Goldman Sachs reported a profit of $400 million, just from food price movements,” Akram-Lodhi said. “Over the course of the past five years, we’ve seen the real farm economy and food production become unhinged from the financialized farm economy.”

He blamed our meat diet was partly responsible. Akram-Lodhi noted that more people are eating meat than ever before, resulting in more grain going to feed animals rather than people. In the U.S. and Canada, the average person consumes about 123 kilos of meat per year. And while countries like China see averages of about half that amount, those numbers are climbing as well. While not advocating vegetarianism, he said he tells his students that if they were to make one change in their lifestyle for the good of the planet, it would be to eat less meat. “The ‘meatification’ of global diets is, in strictly economic terms, a really poor use of resources,” Akram-Lodhi said.

 Akram-Lodhi said. “So biofuels, speculation, meatification; this over the course of the past six years has driven up these increases in global food prices, but it’s not population growth.”

He described these changes as part of a “corporate food regime.”

“It’s predicated on and requires the massive use of fossil fuels throughout industrialized agriculture; it’s a food regime which is dominated by global agri-food transnational corporations,” said Akram-Lodhi. “And these global agri-food transnational corporations are driven by financial market imperatives to pursue short-term profitability.” He said the commodification of food contributes to scarcity, as do poor distribution networks and lacking infrastructure. “Food retailers are the ones that really dominate this system,” Akram-Lodhi said, adding the emphasis has to be placed back on profitability for producers and the return of agricultural jobs.

Sadly Akram-Lodhi fails to recognise that it is the capitalist system which is at fault - production for profit. He  offers re-distribution of profits as the answer. Historically, he ignores that hunger existed before the days of bio-fuels, when meat was a Sunday luxury in the workers diet and when speculators in the Chicago markets determined the prices of food and not Wall St. Akram-Lodhi cannot simply lay the blame on certain features of capitalism and demand that these are regulated and reformed. He must face up to the fact that the whole system contributes to contradictions where only those who can pay can eat and only when there is a economic return and dividend will food be produced to sell. Capitalism is wholly responsible for hunger in the world!

The same old same or something completely different

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Election day in the Vassall ward of Lambeth has rolled around, and conscientious voters are busy weighing up the merits of the candidates.  How can they evaluate the claims and counter-claims? What credence should be given to their political promises, seeing how often they are made cynically with never an intention (nor even the possibility) of making good on them?

Many voters will be  discouraged and skeptical of the possibility that voting can have any real influence on the way our lives are run, that they will turn their backs on the whole electoral process and agree with some that it is a fraud. Others will vote with no real expectation of improving things, settling for the “lesser evil” in the hope of keeping the worst scoundrels out of public office. And they will feel that they have thereby made a realistic compromise.

Since Russell Brand’s criticism of voting the news media has resulted in the sanctimonious litany that “good citizens”  should support the party of his or her choice. and use his or her vote, and not waste it, even if it does strengthen the “two-party system”. Politicians throughout the country are resorting to all kinds of tactics and attention-getting gimmicks intended to demonstrate to the electorate that they are thoroughly honest and free of improper influence.

In Vassall the options will be to go with the flow and elect the guaranteed-to-win Labour Party candidate, or stay home, believing your vote will make no difference to the outcome.

But there remains another way.

Granted that politicians are corrupt; that the cost of campaigning favours the rich and the influential and that many of the important decisions are made not in council chambers but in corporation board-rooms but our votes need not endorse such a situation but challenge it. While some well-intentioned people will reject the electoral process and try other means, like lobbying, demonstrations and community-level activism, our candidate differs for we do not offer a cure for the ills of capitalism. We do not claim that legislative tinkering with capitalism can remedy the mess we’re in. Because the mess is the direct result of capitalism and cannot be cured by reforms, no matter who applies them.

 Unemployment, poverty, racial discrimination, urban decay and  pollution will continue not because the people don’t care but because the capitalists don’t care, or rather, they care more about their profits. These problems that make living so difficult today have been with us for a very long time and are not peculiar to this neighbourhood. They exist in varying degrees in every part of the city, country and the world.  Recall the politicians promises made 5, 10 or 20 years ago and ask yourself — Has the general quality of living improved since then? Or has it worsened? Are the streets safer? Is there less crime? Is the air we breathe less polluted? Are our jobs more secure? Has poverty diminished? Has racism been eliminated? On the contrary, hasn't every one of these grown worse? Few, if any, will deny that workers, whatever their race or ethnic origin, are being subjected to more discomfort, more over-crowding, more inconvenience, more exploitation, greater insecurity and physical danger than ever before. The politicians blame each other. These social evils have been present and worsening for years and years and the political parties have always promised to do something about it. Some have even tried. Reform after reform has been enacted in efforts to alleviate them but conditions have gone right on getting worse and worse. All of which demonstrates that even with the best of intentions no politician or set of politicians could prevent conditions for workers from worsening. WHY?  Politicians persist in dealing with effects and ignoring the cause. The cause must be something that exists in every city. After all, the politicians who hold office in Lambeth do not administer the affairs of the other cities in the nation. Yet the other cities have the same problems we have. The basic cause of our problems is the capitalist system under which we live.  Consequently, the solution to our problems is not to be found in politicians, but in a whole new concept of society— a society for which the material basis exists right now.

Your choices boil down to two.

1. Support capitalism either by voting for the Labour Party or simply not voting.

2. Vote Danny Lambert and work for socialism which is nothing short of actual day-to-day popular control of the decision-making process that determines your life. The struggle for freedom requires building a political party of socialism to contest the power of the capitalist class on the political field, and to educate the majority of workers about the need for socialism.

Your vote can be used to demand a socialist democracy by casting them for the only candidate who makes that demand, the Socialist Party (GB) candidate.


The Methane Threat

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Our planet has experienced five major extinctions over the past billion or so years when more than half of all life has died in a geologically brief period of time, and the common denominator of each one has been a sudden pulse of global warming. Increasingly, it appears that a rapid release of methane played a primary role in each one.

Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and there are trillions of tons of it embedded in a sort of ice slurry called methane hydrate or methane clathrate crystals in the Arctic and in the seas around continental shelves from North America to Antarctica. If enough of this methane is released quickly enough, it won’t just produce “Global warming.” It could produce an extinction of species on a wide scale – an extinction that could even include the human race. While methane does eventually degrade into carbon dioxide, when large amounts are released over a short time period, their effect on global warming can be dramatic, since methane is such a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has passed 400 ppm, a number never before seen in human history, but we’ve also never seen methane releases on this order in human history. And, to a large extent, the naturally occurring methane releases are the result of that 400 ppm of carbon dioxide.

 Geologists had by-and-large come to the conclusion that a sudden release of methane led to the death of over 95% of everything on Earth during the Permian Mass Extinction ( 250 million years ago). That methane is back, probably in even larger quantities, as life has been so active since the last mass extinction. More and more of it leaking from oil wells, fracking operations, melting permafrost, and even stirred up by Arctic storms. The EPA reported they may have been underestimating by half the amount of methane being produced by human activity.  Meanwhile, the National Science Foundation just released a report that methane releases from the Arctic have also been underestimated.

If we want to avoid an extinction that could approach or even rival some of the five past extinctions that have wiped out so much of life on earth, we must get control, quickly, of our man-made carbon dioxide and methane releases. It requires taking responsibility for our planet, and place its interest and our own before profits. It means changing the system. It is capitalism that is destroying the planet not some bizarre and unfounded belief that humans are somehow trying to commit collective suicide. Capitalism must devour everything. All hail the profits. Meanwhile, politicians have been paying lip service, at best, to the risk of climate catastrophe. The planet is rapidly and dangerously overheating, but elite economic and financial interests, with bought-for governments under their corporate thumbs, will nevertheless continue to do whatever they can to retain profit and power. The latest Warsaw “agreement “ proposes  a ‘global carbon market “toolbox” ‘ thus ‘making climate change targets more achievable’. The farce quickly becomes evident on further reading: ‘governments have proposed launching a framework‘ to create ‘a single voluntary platform to share ideas, with a view to eventually launching a global market to battle climate change.[SOYMB emphasis]

Adapted from here

China and Japan square up

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In defiance of an imaginary line drawn by the Chinese, the Americans flew B-52 bombers across it to assert the imaginary line drawn by the Japanese. And what lies slap dab in the middle of the disputed area, uh-huh, gas fields.

The Senkaku Islands standoff has implications for other countries of the region, including Vietnam and the Philippines, which have their own island disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea - which possesses untapped oil fields.

Japan is providing 10 coastguard vessels to the Philippines to help ward off Chinese incursions. Improved security and military-to-military co-operation with Australia and India form part of its plans.

But all good news for the US armament industry. Japan is  expected to buy American advanced weapons systems such as the F35 fighter-bomber and two more Aegis-equipped missile defence destroyers.

Abe's government agreed a revised pact in October with the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and the defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, providing for a "more robust alliance and greater shared responsibilities". "The US welcomed Japan's determination to contribute proactively to regional and global peace and security," a joint statement said. The pact reflected "shared values of democracy, the rule of law, free and open markets and respect for human rights".

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Quote of the Day

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‘Future of the UK in world affairs: Note of a meeting held in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 5 December 1957′
"What are our essential interests overseas? The following suggestions (not in any order of priority) were made: (i) maintenance of our position as a world power, (ii) the strength of sterling, (iii) ensuring continued United States participation in world affairs, (iv) the importance of our trade, (v) safeguarding our oil interests".
From the National Archives, T234/768

They haven't essentially changed over the last half century regardless of the colour of the party in power.

http://markcurtis.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/what-are-our-essential-interests-overseas/

Fact of the Day

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The six heirs to the Walmart fortune are worth as much as nearly half of all American households, $89.5 billion in 2010, the same as the bottom 41.5 percent of U.S. families combined, according to Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute. That's 48.8 million American households in total. 

Neoliberal Universities - A Different World Is Possible

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Until the neoliberal university collapses under its own dead weight, we need to look to free universities to remind ourselves that another world is possible.

When I chose to enrol for a PhD, I did so because I thought — first and foremost — that this would be my way to a right livelihood, to a life lived in alignment with my passion. Reading. Writing. Thinking deeply. Engaging in open-ended, endless discussions about fine points. Bringing forth beauty by giving names to the endless qualities of the moving social.
This is still what I expect of that choice, which is why I spend most of my time toiling in anger about the schizophrenic institutional world I have come to inhabit. There are two ways, in particular, in which I feel that life as an academic — and specifically as a PhD student in one of many Wannabe U‘s around the world — dashes that hope: the strain of (and on) teaching, and the lack of pluralism. Mercilessly reminding me that what I thought was an enclave somehow sheltered from the contradictions I was trying to subtract myself from, is in fact just as much part of those broader tensions (how silly of me to think otherwise in the first place!).

I came from the industry, with bright job prospects and a fat check every month. A life many (probably beyond the readership of this magazine) would find a very ‘safe’ option, to be pursued without thinking twice. However, it eventually became clear to me that — from within that professional setting — I would hardly sustain an existence from which I could derive any fulfilment, being led astray from the parameters within which I situate the ‘meaningful’. I left the industry pulled by books, ideas, and the joyous oblivion that is a Master’s degree, when you pay and are left alone to write (almost) whatever you want, and get a piece of paper to mark the achievement at the end.

As soon as I embarked in the first step to an academic career as a PhD student, however, the interest of Wannabe U towards me has shifted significantly. The joyous intellectual freedom of taught postgraduate days has gone. I am now a ‘trainee’ for co-option (by two older members, in keeping with the admission rituals of many elitist organisations around the world) into the world of academia. Well into the process, I can now see that the type of subject that is supposed to come out at the other end is one that can do two things well: contribute to the ‘satisfaction’ of students, entertaining them along the path to a degree along the path to a job, and know that the REF (Research Excellence Framework) is sacred, and that one should try to please it.
If you smile at students and mark them generously, they won’t perhaps feel that the education — which they’re condemning themselves to a life in debt for — is run on a shoestring, with a copious casualisation of labour onto PhD students. Compliant absorbers of the shocks that ripple from the widening divide between the expectations that a neoliberal framework imposes on academic work and what — to many still inside that world – research and education should be about. Vice-Chancellors want students to enjoy a passively happy experience as consumers of educational services. They also want their money.

At the end of the line, the hot potato comes to me, with too many hours and too many students to handle (the time limits set by university regulations breached, in the knowledge that I probably won’t complain), faced with a crowd of people that want from me what I cannot give them. What I do give them is the sense of moving along a syllabus I have not had any input in, and certify their progression to the next stage of this pointless ordeal. On some days I feel like a steward in a low-cost airline, having to smile at customers and feign courtesy and interest for the sake of keeping up appearances, despite having to even pay for the uniform I wear at work. As long as I smile to students, they will never suspect that teaching them is directly antagonistic to the completion of my PhD in the period I have received funding for.
To my institutional condition, they speak as a nuisance that delays research and, in so doing, puts me closer to the point of running out of funding without yet having a PhD (at which point, however, I will be an even hungrier sucker for the systematic outsourcing of teaching onto casual academic labourers!). Despite all that, I still do make an effort to resist this drift towards indifference in the small everyday exchanges with students, trying to remember how passionate I was about university when I was an undergraduate myself. By now, however, it is also clear to me that I am just a cog that will cover a flexible amount of teaching hours, in the sure knowledge that I will not take arms against the tenured staff in the department who decide how much I should teach, and interpret limits in generous ways, probably under similar pressures to balance their own research with a burgeoning teaching load, and offloading undesirable work to the pariahs of this monde a l’envers.

This leads me to my second point. When I signed up for this, I thought academia was a place where ideas could flourish and flurry. And each would stand on the dignity of its nuances and elegance. I thought it did not matter much who you described yourself as, or what the name of the department was. All that mattered is that you motored through the world with a sense of marvel and a curiosity to know more. Here, again, my hopes have been dashed. What I am seeing is a real drive to ‘focus’ research onto the ‘strengths’ of the department, sacrificing every episteme that does not immediately serve the greater cause.
I see this in the fact that new hires increasingly work in the same area of expertise, which means that — when I do have to present my research to them, outside of their narrow focus — there’s increasingly little either of us gets from that exchange. To them, what I do is possibly irrelevant and un-REF-able. To me, their indifference is fascism. I now understand that, as I get out of here (with a PhD, I hope), this will be the expectation I will find elsewhere as well. To please the REF by making my research immediately recognisable to other ‘peers’. So that we can all give each other high marks and then orgasm together in a sterile intellectual bukkake. Forget about looking for the unusual and the subversive in the folds of the world, in conversation with ideas that can make those qualities speak.

While, of course, the disciplining comes to me through colleagues (who either don’t get the irony of preaching revolution and practicing blatant conformity, or are maybe eaten up by frustration just as much as I am), I am aware that there’s little point waging battles against them. It is this model of education that needs to be addressed. The university cannot hold much longer an image of discovery, pluralism and earth-shattering insight when it clings to the empty figures of ‘student satisfaction’ and REF scores. I see universities today as some of the most controversial institutions of our times, where dis-empowered political subjects are churned out, with a piece of paper certifying the success of a disciplinarian process. And where disgruntled academics — for lack of better options — lend their thinking to a system that idiotically ranks epistemes and marginalises dissident views and dissonant experience.

This is why I am becoming increasingly supportive of the free university movement. The neoliberal university pits PhD students against each other, PhDs against tenured academics, younger academics against older ones, academics against students. The potential for infighting is immense and, with it, the increasing sense of despair and that ‘there is no alternative’. Until the behemoth of the neoliberal university collapses under its own dead weight, we need to nurture ourselves — as academics, intellectuals, students — with experiences that remind us that a different world is possible: free universities are the place where we can start doing just that.

by Bran Thoreau

An insight into the effects of the capitalist neoliberal system on education in general and the dissatisfaction and pessimism felt by many of those involved. It also offers some clues as to how this unrepresentative system could be totally overhauled when the principle of profit from every transaction is removed as it would be in a world socialist system.
JS

US - World's Largest Cancer Economy?

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Is the US emerging as the world's largest cancer economy? Well, when I say a cancer economy what I mean is an economy sustained to a larger extent by the growing incidence of the killer disease. The more is the incidence of cancer, the more is the medical costs involved, and that adds on to the country's GDP. It's obviously a drain on the society but at the same time for the medical industry it provides an immense business opportunity. And some would say a profiteering medical industry will provide for more jobs !

In 2008, the US National Institute of Health (NIH) estimated the total annual cost that cancer was causing to the economy at $ 201.5 billion, which included $ 77.4 billion of health expenditures and $ 124 billion as the indirect mortality costs. After all, in a country where more than half a million people are expected to die of cancer this year, and that works out to 1,600 every day, nearly 75 per cent of the health care costs revolve around the cancer epidemic.

This startling analysis is presented in a blog Inspired Bites written by Robyn O' Brian (Link: http://blogs.prevention.com/inspired-bites/2013/11/18/how-the-cost-of-cancer-is-eating-our-economy/) that I came across yesterday. 
Quoting a report of the President's Cancer Panel she writes: " (The Panel) is urging all of us to do our part to reduce the burden of this disease.  Most notably, they encourage all Americans to reduce their exposures to contaminants like pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals now so pervasive in our food.  Why? Because 41 per cent of us are expected to get cancer in our lifetimes, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women. It did not used to be this way.  And can we really eat to beat this disease as the President’s Cancer Panel suggests? It’s tough to do with a food supply so dependent on synthetic chemicals.  In the last fifteen years, new ingredients, synthetically engineered in laboratories to withstand increasing doses of toxic weedkillers, have quietly been inserted into our food.  And while correlation is not causation, the soaring use of these chemicals corresponds so directly with the soaring rates of certain cancers that at the very least, it merits an investigation."

Although, as she says, while correlation is not causation, there is a definitely a growth pattern that is clearly visible. Food contamination is certainly linked to the growing incidence of cancer. And if the Panel itself is suggesting to people to be watchful of pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals in food, the indications are loud and clear. I would have however expected more serious efforts visible in America to curb the use of chemicals, including pesticides and insecticides, based on the recommendations of this report. The failure to take the report seriously is not only disappointing but if I may be allowed to say so it is reflective of a criminal neglect. 

Especially at a time when US President Barack Obama has been trying to push for medicare, I thought the best way to prevent the disease from taking such a massive human toll in future would have been to go in for safe food. When Michelle Obama launch organic gardening in the White House complex, she obviously conveyed a powerful statement, but her husband failed to get the message right. As Charles Benbrook has conclusively shown that between 1996 and 2011, an era when GM crops proliferated in the US, the application of pesticides has risen by 404 million pounds. This data alone should have forced the US Department of Agriculture to come down heavily on the industrial farming systems. 

While the USDA continues to push for more of the same, the US President has been trying his best to push the harmful technologies to the developing world. His global food security initiative promotes the faulty and harmful technological approach as the mankind's saviour. This is where the US President fails, and fails miserably. In his desperation to find ways and means (even if these are harmful in the long run) to jack up the economy, he is trying to create conditions for the US health care industry to profit. He is aggressively using the g-20 to push his flawed economic approach. And that makes me wonder when will the world get a political leader who looks beyond the financial capital; who goes all out to build on the human capital.  

Till then, I can only pray for the well-being of Americans. If 1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women is expected to live with cancer in the years to come, God save America. But please don't pass on this deadly killer to the developing world. We already have enough problems at hand. 
 


Global Food Dominance - Profits Before People - This Is Capitialism

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Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s.  “Control food and you control the people.”

Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity with GMO (genetically modified) seeds that are distributed by only a few transnational corporations. But this agenda has been implemented at grave cost to our health; and if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passes, control over not just our food but our health, our environment and our financial system will be in the hands of transnational corporations.

Profits Before Populations

Genetic engineering has made proprietary control possible over the seeds on which the world’s food supply depends. According to an Acres USA interview of plant pathologist Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, two modified traits account for practically all of the genetically modified crops grown in the world today. One involves insect resistance. The other, more disturbing modification involves insensitivity to glyphosate-based herbicides (plant-killing chemicals). Often known as Roundup after the best-selling Monsanto product of that name, glyphosate poisons everything in its path except plants genetically modified to resist it.
Glyphosate-based herbicides are now the most commonly used herbicides in the world. Glyphosate is an essential partner to the GMOs that are the principal business of the burgeoning biotech industry. Glyphosate is a “broad-spectrum” herbicide that destroys indiscriminately, not by killing unwanted plants directly but by tying up access to critical nutrients.
Because of the insidious way in which it works, it has been sold as a relatively benign replacement for the devastating earlier dioxin-based herbicides. But a barrage of experimental data has now shown glyphosate and the GMO foods incorporating it to pose serious dangers to health. Compounding the risk is the toxicity of “inert” ingredients used to make glyphosate more potent. Researchers have found, for example, that the surfactant POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. But these risks have been conveniently ignored.
 
The TPP and International Corporate Control

As the devastating conclusions of these and other researchers awaken people globally to the dangers of Roundup and GMO foods, transnational corporations are working feverishly with the Obama administration to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that would strip governments of the power to regulate transnational corporate activities. Negotiations have been kept secret from Congress but not from corporate advisors, 600 of whom have been consulted and know the details. According to Barbara Chicherio in Nation of Change:
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to become the biggest regional Free Trade Agreement in history. . . .
The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddique.  If ratified the TPP would impose punishing regulations that give multinational corporations unprecedented right to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.
. . . They are carefully crafting the TPP to insure that citizens of the involved countries have no control over food safety, what they will be eating, where it is grown, the conditions under which food is grown and the use of herbicides and pesticides.

Full article here


Unnecessary disaster

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 "When I built my beach house I used the US NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) storm surge guide for coastal buildings and built the house twice as high as the recommended 17 feet above sea level for storm surges. And then added two more feet for extra measure. It's just common sense and a little research." said Antonio Lilles, a residential home builder.

"We need to invest in technological solutions like low-cost housing with climate-proof materials. We've seen this in places like Guam."  said Toby Monsod, an economics professor at the University of the Philippines in Manila.

Roberto Lilles, Antonio's older brother and a successful architect, agrees that much of the wreckage from dozens of typhoons that strike each year could be greatly reduced if low-cost, brick-and-mortar housing replaced the traditional flimsy wood and tin-roof homes.
"There is low-cost housing that can resist the storms. But most people in those rural areas are so poor, they still can't afford them," he explained.

But if private builders like the Lilles brothers find low-cost housing schemes unprofitable, why doesn't the Philippine government subsidise them? The poor are not a priority for capitalist governments.

Revolution the only solution

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Our candidate's 300-word statement for the BrixtonBlog:-

In that interview with Paxman, Russell Brand called for a revolution against the present system of elite rule and neglect of people’s needs. I agree. 

But no more than Brand’s is our idea of revolution one of riots, barricades and blood on the streets. It’s about a complete change in the basis of society. From the present minority class ownership and production for profit to common ownership, democratic control and production to meet people’s needs.

The present system can never be reformed to work in the interest of the majority. All the other candidates disagree and are promising to reform it in one way or another. But reform has been tried many times and look where we still are.

The present system can only work by putting profits before people.

That’s why, faced with an economic crisis, the government has been reducing services and cutting benefits. And why local councils have been forced to do the same. It’s to leave businesses with more profit in the hope that this will lead them to start expanding again. That’s how capitalism works and can only work.

I make no apology for raising this in a local election. It’s not what local councils, or even national governments, do that shapes how we live. It’s the economic system. And that’s what got to be changed.

Brand says we shouldn’t vote. I agree we shouldn’t vote for parties that are out to run the system. I don’t either. But we shouldn’t allow them a free run. That’s why the Socialist Party is contesting this election. To give people a chance to show they want an essentially peaceful democratic majority revolution to replace capitalism with a system in which productive resources have become the common heritage of all to be used for the benefit of all.

The socialist message for the voters of Vassall ward of Lambeth council from Danny Lambert

It's not all papal bull

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James Connolly wrote an article on the Catholic Church and its relationship with socialism where he explains that:
“...the Church ‘does not put all her eggs in one basket,’ and the man who imagines that in the supreme hour of the proletarian struggle for victory the Church will definitely line up with the forces of capitalism, and pledge her very existence as a Church upon the hazardous chance of the capitalists winning, simply does not understand the first thing about the policy of the Church in the social or political revolutions of the past.”

 He went on to describe how the Catholic Church in Ireland denounced all the revolutions of 1798, 1848 and 1867 yet permitted some of its priests to preach sermons eulogising them and when it realises that the cause of capitalism is a lost cause:
 “...it will find excuse enough to allow freedom of speech and expression to those lowly priests whose socialist declarations it will then use to cover and hide the absolute anti-socialism of the Roman Propaganda. When that day comes the Papal Encyclical against socialism will be conveniently forgotten by the Papal historians ”

Today, we appear to have an anti-capitalist Pope in the Vatican and it is worth quoting his latest statement at length:-

“Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and na├»ve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

 While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule....

....Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear....

....Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. This serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.” - Pope Francis

He may be espousing anti-capitalist sentiments and there is much to praise in the Pope’s words, unfortunately what he calls for is not socialism but instead for the rich should share their worldly goods with the poor:
 “The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.”

He is advocating the (and failed) remedy of good old fashioned christian charity.  Capitalism and charity have worked hand in hand to turn us into a world of few benefactors and millions of beggars.

 The Catholic Church, like the protestant churches, is a whole-hearted supporter of private property. Christianity seeks to alleviate some suffering but never to abolish poverty yet it will use the Pope's words to once again cast its net for fresh adherents. Fine words make fine bait.

Perhaps, heeding the observation of Connolly, socialists should read into the Pope's pronouncement that he and the Church see the end-days coming for capitalism and hope a return to its earlier beliefs before the rise of capitalism and its anti-usury laws as a chance for survival.
Neither God Nor Master,
 Banish Gods from the Sky and Capitalists from the Earth

"your dad works for my dad"

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Britain’s elite universities are “just as socially exclusive as ever”, according to the outgoing head of one of the UK’s most highly respected think-tanks, Bahram Bekhradnia, the director general of the Higher Education Policy Institute.

“The recent increases in participation by students from poor backgrounds - up 40 per cent in six years - have almost entirely been to the less prestigious universities.”

Figures show that - despite a major increase in students from disadvantaged backgrounds opting for university - the numbers obtaining places at the 24 leading universities has actually fallen.

“Posh students go to posh universities because they do better at school and less posh students to less posh universities because they do less well at school,” said Dr Bekhradnia. The social gap, he said, was illustrated at a rugby match between Manchester University students (posh) when they turned en masse to face their opponents from Manchester Metropolitan University (not posh) and chanted “Your dad works for my dad".


Fact of the Day

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An estimated 31,100 excess winter deaths occurred in 2012/13 - a 29% increase on the previous winter. The Office for National Statistics data, which compares deaths in winter months with averages in other seasons, shows most of the deaths involved people over 75. While excess winter deaths are linked to low temperatures, hypothermia is not the main cause. Experience shows that the majority of such deaths are due to heart disease, stroke and respiratory illness.

Cold weather and flu largely explain the trends. SOYMB would also suggest poverty had a bit to do with it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Capitalism At Its Worst? Or Just Business As Usual?

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The Empire Strikes Back 
How Wall Street Has Turned Housing Into a Dangerous Get-Rich-Quick Scheme -- Again 
By Laura Gottesdiener

Here is an article, far too long to post here, that reveals the lengths and depths to which wealth seekers will go in order to continue to accumulate at whatever cost to those unlucky enough to be caught in the trap - and there will be many caught in this one. The irony of the whole thing is that it is almost a mirror image of the housing bubble that caused so much damage such few short years ago in the US.

Reports of a housing boom are correct, prices are going up, but the new owners of most of the properties are not individuals but big businesses looking to make another killing, with the willing assistance of the very banks that foreclosed on millions of Americans. This time those who lost their houses due to foreclosure could well end up losing their rented accommodation too even if they don't fall behind in their payments.

The stark facts and research involved are here

This is business as usual. Accumulation goes to the top. Citizens count for nothing. Get used to it or decide to join those determined to change the system.


US Corporations Spy On NonProfit Groups

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A new report details how corporations are increasingly spying on nonprofit groups they regard as potential threats. The corporate watchdog organization Essential Information found a diverse groups of nonprofits have been targeted with espionage, including environmental, antiwar, public interest, consumer safety, pesticide reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups. The corporations carrying out the spying include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wal-Mart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald's, Shell, BP, and others.

According to the report, these corporations employ former CIA, National Security Agency and FBI agents to engage in private surveillance work, which is often illegal in nature but rarely — if ever — prosecuted.

 Gary Ruskin, author of the report, "Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations," and director of the Center for Corporate Policy, a project of Essential Information talks to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now here.

Remembering Laura and Paul

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On this day in 1911, Laura Marx and Paul Lafargue committed suicide together, having decided they had nothing left to give to the movement to which they had devoted their lives. Laura Marx was 66 and Paul Lafargue was 69. Laura and Paul first met on the landing of the Marx’s house in London: the  young medical student was bringing  Marx documents for the development of the newly found International Workingmen’s Association in Paris, whereas she was hurryingly taking her father some books she had just brought from the British Museum.

Paul Lafargue and Laura Marx got married by civil ceremony in London. Witnesses to their wedding were Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Paul Lafargue left a suicide note saying:
“Healthy in body and mind, I end my life before pitiless old age which has taken from me my pleasures and joys one after another; and which has been stripping me of my physical and mental powers, can paralyse my energy and break my will, making me a burden to myself and to others. For some years I had promised myself not to live beyond 70; and I fixed the exact year for my departure from life. I prepared the method for the execution of our resolution, it was a hypodermic of cyanide acid. I die with the supreme joy of knowing that at some future time, the cause triumph to which I have been devoted for forty-five years will triumph. Long live Communism! Long Live the Second International.”

The Socialist Standard commented at the time:
 “Readers know the circumstances in which Paul Lafargue and Laura Marx have ended life together, with their last words expressing their belief in the early triumph of the cause for which they laboured. We bow before death. Nevertheless we rejoice that, although Lafargue has laid down his pen, his words still fight on behalf of the workers.”