Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nuclear Madness

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More than 17,000 warheads held by Russia, the US and the other seven nuclear-armed states.  Russia and the US still have an estimated 1,800 warheads on high alert, ready to launch between five and 15 minutes after receiving the launch order.  For as long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of an inadvertent, accidental or deliberate detonation remains.

Chatham House report lists 13 instances since 1962 when nuclear weapons were nearly launched. The Chatham House authors say the risks appear to be rising. Nuclear weapons are spreading – most recently to North Korea – and disarmament is stalling.

Richard Nixon and Boris Yeltsin both raised concerns among their top advisers with their heavy drinking. In May 1981 the French president, François Mitterand, left the French nuclear launch codes at home in the pocket of his suit. President Jimmy Carter did the same in the 1970s, and the suit as well as the codes were taken to the dry cleaners. The US launch codes went missing again when Ronald Reagan was shot on 30 March 1981. FBI agents had them, along with the injured president's bloodied trousers. From 18 to 21 August 1991, an attempted coup in the
Soviet Union resulted in President Mikhail Gorbachevlosing control of his nuclear briefcase for three days after it was confiscated by Minister of Defence Dmitry Yazov, one of the coup leaders. Yazov executed Order 8825, which stated that ‘all branches of the USSR Armed Forces on
Soviet territory shall move to Increased Combat Readiness’, described by Deputy Prosecutor General Yevgeniy Lisov as a state of ‘readiness for war’. Lisov later suggested that, in hindsight, one cannot eliminate the possibility that nuclear weapons could theoretically have been used.
Overall, between 1975 and 1977, 120,000 members of the US military forces had direct contact with nuclear weapons. Over the years, a large number of servicemen and servicewomen have been removed from their posts for alcohol and drug abuse, and delinquency.

In January 1961, a B-52 bomber broke up over North Carolina, dropping its two nuclear bombs over the town of Goldsboro. One of the bombs activated, engaging its trigger mechanism. A single low-voltage switch was all that stood between the eastern US and catastrophe.

In September 1980 in Arkansas, a maintenance engineer dropped a socket wrench into a silo holding a Titan II nuclear missile, igniting its fuel and triggering an explosion which sent the warhead flying. It landed near a road but did not detonate.

In the early 1960s, NATO weapons handlers  pulled the arming wires out of a Mark 7 nuclear warhead  while they were unloading it from a plane.  When the wires were pulled, the arming sequence began – and if  the X-Unit charged, a Mark 7 could be detonated by its radar, by its
barometric switches, by its timer or by falling just a few feet from a  plane and landing on a runway.

In another incident, on 16 January 1961, at the Lakenheath  Air Base in Suffolk, England, when the pilot started the  engines of his F-100D fighter carrying a Mark 28 hydrogen  bomb, the underwing fuel tanks were mistakenly jettisoned, and ruptured when they hit the runway.

Washington, June 1980 A faulty computer chip triggered a nuclear attack warning on the US, giving the impression that more than 2,000 Soviet missiles were on the way.

Cuba, October 1962 Four nuclear-armed Soviet submarines were deployed in the Sargasso Sea at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. US warships had warned Moscow that they would be practising dropping depth charges, but the message did not reach the submarines. With his communications cut off and believing himself under attack, one commander ordered a launch of nuclear warheads, declaring:  “We’re going to blast them now! We will die,  but we will sink them all – we will not disgrace our navy!” He was unable to communicate  with the Soviet General Staff at the time, and therefore  was under pressure to retaliate without being able to clearly assess the nature and context of the risk that the  submarine faced: “Maybe the war has already started up  there, while we are doing summersaults here" He was persuaded to desist by his second-in-command. In a similar situation, the commander of submarine B-130, Captain Nikolai Shumkov, ordered torpedoes to be readied in an effort to give his crewmen the impression that he was  ready to launch a nuclear response to US bombardment. However, this was primarily because he was concerned that the political officer on board would report to superiors any reluctance to do so under crisis circumstances.

Soviet Union, September 1983 Shortly after midnight on 25 September an alert sounded at a Soviet satellite early warning station. The data suggested five intercontinental ballistic missiles were heading towards the country. Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich defied protocol by not reporting the incident to his superior, gambling that it was a false alarm. It turned out that sunlight glinting off US territory had confused the satellite. (another version here)

Russia, January 1995 On 25 January Norwegian scientists launched a rocket to study the aurora borealis over the Svalbard region. They warned Moscow but the message never reached the radar operators at the Russian early warning stations, who mistook the rocket for an incoming Trident submarine-launched missile. President Boris Yeltsin was discussing his decision with his top military commander when the rocket fell wide of Soviet territory.

The first time that Israel considered a ‘nuclear  demonstration’ was on the eve of the 1967 war when  it assembled two or three nuclear explosive devices. The second episode when Israel considered nuclear use was during the early days of the 1973 Yom Kippur war. According to Arnan ‘Sini’ Azaryahu, an aide to Yisrael Galili (a senior adviser to Meir), some of the Israeli leadership considered  nuclear deployments during the 1973 war. Azaryahu relates how Dayan requested that the prime minister  authorize the head of the nuclear agency, Shalheveth Freier, to initiate the preparatory steps for creating ‘immediate operational options of nuclear demonstration’

In 2001 and 2002, India and Pakistan went into a renewed cycle of hostility as a result of the unresolved Kashmir conflict and additional provocations. For 10 months, between December 2001 and October 2002, India and Pakistan kept one million soldiers in a state of high readiness.  India had rejected the first use of nuclear weapons, but President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan refused to do the same and stated that the “possession of nuclear weapons by any state obviously implies they will be used under some circumstances”.

From here

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

THE ROYAL ECO WARRIOR! (poem)

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THE ROYAL ECO WARRIOR!

(Prince Charles, who has criticised the global food
industry for exporting, “vast quantities of commodities
around the world”, has been shipping Duchy
Mineral Water 6000 miles to the Middle East.)

That Eco-warrior, Prince Charles,
His Green credentials shining through;
Has gotta lotta bottles on,
Some ships way east of Timbuktu.

Friends of the Earth describe the act,
As simply madness and insane;
The Prince’s carbon-footprint loss,
Offset by his large profit gain.

It typifies the Greenwash that’s,
Put out by all the world’s elite;
Who suck up good things, in exchange,
For all the crap that they excrete.

Lip service is paid to this cause,
By business everywhere, each day;
As if, by lying, climate change,
Will, by itself, just fade away.

It demonstrates the iron law,
That in a world where profit’s king;
It’s clenched fist dominates the Earth,
And Capital pulls every string.

The System is itself the source,
Of most pollution on the Earth;
Retain the same and all the world’s,
Green policies have little worth.

© Richard Layton


We Will Resist

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Working people, along with the rest of humanity, are faced with a future that is unsustainable economically, socially, and environmentally. It will take more than a revolt to put that future on a sustainable basis. Ultimately it will take a transformation of human civilization.

 In the era of globalization and neoliberalism, strikes by particular groups of workers have turned out to be less and less successful at wresting gains from immediate employers. Instead, strikes have increasingly ended with contract concessions at best, if not the shutting down of workplaces or the hiring of permanent replacement workers. When employers can shut down their workplaces and produce elsewhere around the world, or receive government sanction for laying off an entire workforce, the power of the strike is greatly diminished. The problems facing working people individually and collectively are less amenable to solution by the action of individual employers. Even the best union contract can do little to rectify global recession, growing inequality, economic insecurity, the global race to the bottom, degradation of democracy, debt, war, ecological devastation, and deteriorating life prospects. Either people must acquiesce in those problems or develop new forms of action to contest them.

The 2006 immigrant-rights demonstrations, one of the largest ever in the world with nearly five million participants, drew in unions, churches, students, legal immigrants, and the entire Latino community, as well as the legally undocumented immigrants themselves. The Wisconsin Uprising of 2011 protests  against the dismantling worker rights in the public sector public employees were supported by private sector workers, farmers, students, and a wide swath of the public. The Occupy movement took over parks and other public spaces in 600 US cities and towns and refused to leave which  initiated solidarity demonstrations on a global scale in more than a thousand cities in eighty-two countries.  All were colored not just by immediate grievances but by concern about the future well-being and prospects for working people in general. The realization that very different people had parallel thoughts and feelings and were prepared to act on them collectively led to the rapid escalation of revolt. All made visible the pervasiveness of discontent and the possibility of collective action.

These mini-revolts have manifested self-organization and self-management on the part of their participants. These events did not happen because somebody gave orders for them to happen; they happened because people developed ways to collectively control their own activity. Occupy its General Assemblies. The anti-WTO protests, the Wisconsin Uprising, and Occupy Wall Street all improvised ways to provide food, shelter, medical care, sanitation, and other necessities.

The future tendency of these mini-revolts is difficult to predict. But the conditions that gave rise to them seem unlikely to go away. So some kind of popular response to those conditions is likely to continue. Such response could lead primarily to chronic internecine conflict and demoralization. It could lead to something like the Tea Party, a pressure group within the political party system. It could conceivably lead to some kind of insurrectionary climax—a “Tahrir moment”—followed perhaps by repression and authoritarian rule.

Alternatively, these mini-revolts might develop into low-level but ongoing nonviolent insurgencies. Movements like the fight for public education in Chicago might establish growing power within institutions like schools, communities, and eventually workplaces. These insurgencies might win victories that would improve people’s lives long before they were able to challenge more central institutions of power. They might make successful appeals for the minds and hearts of the 99%. Like Occupy Wall Street, this resistance might link up horizontally around the country and around the world. Eventually they might undermine some of the pillars of support for inequality and domination. Whatever may happen in the future, the heritage of worker self-organization will therefore continue to be a resource that we can draw on to construct collective responses to the problems we face.

Abridged and adapted from an article by Jeremy Brecher

The UK Elite

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George Monbiot once again surpasses himself with a very illuminating essay on the privileges of the rich in this country.

David Cameron has intervened to keep the cost of gun licences frozen at £50: a price that hasn't changed since 2001. It costs the police £196 to conduct the background checks. As a result  £17million a year is lost by subsidising the pursuits of the exceedingly rich.

The Country Land and Business Association complains that it's not fair to pass on the full cost of the licence to the owners of shotguns; unlike, say, the owners of passports or driving licences, who are charged on the basis of full cost recovery.

 The government has also announced it would raise the subsidy it provides for grouse moors from £30 per hectare to £56. Yes, the British government subsidises grouse moors, which are owned by 1% of the 1% and used by people who are scarcely less rich.

When pheasants are reared, they are classed as livestock: that means the people who raise them are exempt from some payments of value added tax and certain forms of planning control, on the grounds that they are producing food. But as soon as they're released they are classed as wild animals. Otherwise you wouldn't be allowed to shoot them. But if you want to re-capture the survivors at the end of the shooting season to use as breeding stock, they cease to be wild and become livestock again, because you aren't allowed to catch wild birds with nets. If, however, pheasants cause damage to neighbouring gardens, or to cars, or to the people travelling in those cars, the person who released them bears no liability, because for this purpose they are classed as wild animals – even if, at the time, they are being rounded up as legal livestock.

 In the treatment of pheasant and grouse shoots we see in microcosm what is happening in the country as a whole. Legally, fiscally and politically, the very rich are protected from the forces afflicting everyone else.  The United Kingdom is a plutocrats' paradise, in which the rich are scarcely troubled by laws or taxes, while the poor are plunged into a brutal world of casual labour, insecurity and legal restraint.


Super-fast Speculation

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 High-frequency trading is a process that uses computers and fast communications to buy and sell a variety of things, normally shares, at high speed. And we mean high speed. The speed for a trade to be done in the US is at 98% of the speed of light.

The boss of a hedge fund complained that it was taking him 43 milliseconds to do a trade (a millisecond is only a thousandth of a second so a blink of the eye is 300 milliseconds). He moved his operation from Kansas to New York and cut that time from 43 milliseconds to 3.9. And in the first few days of trading after that, he'd made $450,000 of additional profit.

Whoever has the fastest cable stands to make the most money, by buying stocks and shares just as someone else is about to buy them, and then selling them on to that original buyer for a small profit.

Imagine a big institution wants to buy a million shares in a company, so one of its people presses a button on a computer to authorise that deal. Now slow down time. Imagine that the electrical signal to buy those shares, from all sorts of different places, is whizzing down a line. It knows that those shares are up for sale at all sorts of places, and they cost, say, £1 each. So you're expecting to spend £1m.

Now freeze time. Your first purchase has just landed - let's say you've bought 10,000 shares for £1 each. You're about to buy the other 990,000. But hold on... because something very sneaky is about to happen.

My computers have instantly worked out that you're buying these shares, and that you want to buy loads more of them. And because my computers are faster than yours (thanks to these super-fast  fibre-optic cables) - I'm going to buy them ahead of you. And then I'm going to sell them to you at a slightly inflated price. And what's more - you probably won't even know it's happening.

So your remaining 990,000 shares might each cost you an average of a penny or two more. You might not even notice, but I've just made a £20,000 profit out of buying and selling shares within the same second.

Now imagine that happening hundreds, thousands - tens of thousands - of times a day. And whoever has the fastest cable can make the most money. It's the institutions - the pension funds and such like - who are losing money.

Remember what the text-books tell us. Stock markets are supposed to be there to help companies to grow, and not to enrich traders or marginalise all those who can't afford the latest technology.

From the BBC

Monday, April 28, 2014

LOOKING BACK (4) - The Salient

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The Salient

As the bus from Roulers draws near to Ypres it runs along a wide street of rather expensive houses. Strung along the top of a low ridge, it is a village, but like so many others in this motorcar age it has become a detached suburb of Ypres. A quiet ordinary scene; children cycle home to lunch, people stand at bus stops or potter in front gardens while the usual mid-day traffic passes through. Away to the right the land drops downhill, revealing green fields and woods, with the spire of Ypres in the distance. A scene that would look just right on the cover of a glossy magazine. Hazy autumn sunshine completes the picture. So it is with a shock that one reads the road sign—Passchendaele. This was the village pounded by heavy shells to the point that it could no longer be called rubble but dust. This was the prize for which tens of thousands of men died. This was the place that was to give its name to one of the most squalid bouts of butchery in the history of warfare. In those pleasant fields for four months men were shot, gassed, blown to pieces or drowned in water-filled shell holes. This is the edge of the Ypres salient. It is ringed by huge cemeteries, but that whole area is one great graveyard. Under those fields lie the remains of at least 40,000 people. The full casualties are not known but even today the ploughs and ditching machines still bring up bones and skulls.

As it proceeds the bus comes to the main road, where once to stand up straight meant instant death. Then through the terrible Menin Gate, a huge building that runs the width of the ramparts. Juggernaut lorries pass through it with ease. It is faced with white stone, and every inch has a name, 55,000 in all. These are men whose bodies disappeared in the Ypres salient in the period up to June 1917; near Passchendaele there is another memorial with 34,000 names of men who disappeared from June 1917 onwards. These are only British Empire troops and do not include French, Belgian or German. Then on to the end of the ride in the main square of Ypres.

Ypres (today usually called by its Flemish name of Ieper) is a bustling town dominated by its great Cloth Hall and Cathedral. The impression is of an ancient town, somewhat heavily restored; but this is all a reconstruction for the town was painstakingly rebuilt in the early 1920s. Again, a pleasant scene. Buses and coaches stand in the main square disgorging their tourists while the shops and bars are full. People fish in the moat or go off to play some game or other. It is only when you visit the Salient Exhibition under the Cloth Hall that you realise what a shambles Ypres was.

Ypres was the greatest of the medieval Cloth Towns and dominated the Flemish Plain. Once more important even than Bruges or Ghent, it slowly lost its prominence and sank into obscurity. Pre-1914 photographs show it as somewhat run down. The war was to give it a grim immortality.

The war on the Western Front opened with the German invasion of Belgium and Luxembourg as well as France. Militarily and economically the invasion of Belgium was beneficial to Germany because it gave its army greater room to manoeuvre and placed the coal mines and factories of Belgium at their disposal. But politically it had the disadvantage of bringing Britain into the war. It was touch and go as to whether Britain should enter the war on the side of the Allies or stay in a state of armed neutrality. The British ruling class had for a century largely kept out of European conflicts, preferring to use diplomacy to maintain the Balance of Power—in other words to keep their rivals divided. Thus they had supported Prussian aggression, being in favour of a united Germany. They had sympathised with Prussia in the Franco-Prussian war and applauded the formation of the German Empire.

It was not until the end of the last century that British capitalists began to wake up to the fact that Germany was developing into their major rival—flooding world markets with cheap, mass produced goods and beginning to muscle in on the colonial scene in Africa and elsewhere. The German programme of naval expansion was also seen as a threat to British naval supremacy. France had always been the traditional enemy; the Entente Cordiale had been signed only in 1904. Throughout the Edwardian period large sections of British public opinion remained anti-French, anti-Russian and pro-German. The invasion of Belgium tipped the balance. Much was made of Britain's obligations under the Treaty of Neutrality and Germany's violation of it, but the real cause for concern was control of the Channel ports. It had long been a cornerstone of British foreign policy that the Channel ports facing London should not be controlled by a great power. This was seen as a major threat to the Port of London, and, of course, "gallant little Belgium" made an excellent propaganda ploy.

So Britain was in the war and soon British troops, alongside French and Belgians, found themselves in headlong retreat. Germany opened the war on the Western Front with a massive attack aimed at encircling Paris and knocking France out of the war. The Germans had massed 12 armies—about a million and a half men—on their frontiers. When they attacked the sheer weight of numbers, aided by French miscalculations, brought them to the outskirts of Paris, where they were held in the battle of the Marne. Unable to break through in France, the German army began a push through Flanders with the intention of outflanking their opponents and seizing the Channel Ports of Dunkirk and Calais. In this they were nearly successful but were held in the vicinity of Ypres; the Belgians had managed to flood low-lying land between the city and the sea. This stopped the German advance to the North of Ypres, and there ensued a period of heavy confused fighting that lasted from 12 October until 11 November. This had been called the first battle of Ypres, although battle is hardly an appropriate description of what was in fact a campaign lasting a month. It was the last time that any kid of movement or manoeuvring was possible on the Western Front. In November the Germans dug in on the ridges that surrounded Ypres. The line of trenches extended from Switzerland to the sea but there was a bulge at Ypres, with the city in its midst, only a few miles deep and a few miles wide. This was the Ypres salient, the most exposed and dangerous patch of land in the world. For four years the fighting never stopped. It was the worst killing ground of all.

The second battle of Ypres opened on 22 April 1915. It began with the bombardment of the city which sent the civilian population streaming out along the roads. In the late afternoon a new horror was added to the scene—chlorine gas. "A strange green vapour" was seen drifting down onto the Algerian troops who were holding this part of the line. This was the first time that this foul weapon had been used, but the next four years were to see even nastier forms unleashed. Everybody is familiar with photographs of blinded men queuing up for treatment; 60,000 men died in the second Ypres. At the end the Allies withdrew to a mere two miles from the ramparts of Ypres. The salient was now small, and for the next two years was pounded by shells almost without interruption. The sane thing for the British to have done would have been to withdraw behind Ypres and straighten the line, but this was no longer just a military matter. The workers at home had been fed a never-ending stream of propaganda about the importance of the Ypres salient and its "glory", so that to have abandoned it would have hit morale. In the popular press this was Britain's own battlefield, ignoring the fact that thousands of Belgians and Frenchmen had also died there. It was to break out of this death-trap that the Third Battle of Ypres was launched. This was its official title, but the world knows it as Passchendaele.

This century has been called "a century of horror", and there has been no shortage of it: Hiroshima, Dresden, Viet Nam, and now Ethiopia to name just a few of the worst, but even among these Passchendaele can still shock. Even by the cruel standards of warfare, in which the loss of human life is acceptable and human beings are measured against territorial gain, it was inexcusable. The declared aim of the offensive, which the British Commander in Chief Haig and the High Command used to convince the government that the plan was reasonable, was to punch a hole in the German defences, pour through into the land beyond and capture Ostend and Zeebrugge to stop the U boat attacks in Allied shipping, and to capture Roulers, the great railway junction through which men and materials passed to the line. This was a complete pipedream because, even if they had succeeded in making a complete breakthrough—something that nobody had managed to do in more than two years—Ostend and Roulers were 40 miles apart. A more realistic aim was to capture the ridges that surrounded Ypres and extend the salient.

The prelude to the attack was the capture of the Messines ridge on the southern rim of the salient. It began by the explosion of 19 mines under the German positions, followed by a barrage of 2266 guns and howitzers and an attack by 80,000 troops. This was a "success" as "only" 1,700 men were killed and the attack achieved its aim. This was one of the factors that bolstered up the illusions of the High Command in the months to come.

In the continuous saga of mindless slaughter that ran from 1914 to 1918, three highlights stand out: the Somme, Verdun and Passchendaele. But of these the one that arouses the revulsion—because of the massive loss of life and the unbelievable conditions under which it was fought—was Passchendaele. The area had been reclaimed from marshlands over many generations. Most of it was too wet for cultivation and was used as pasture. Farmers were required by law to keep their ditches clear. This delicate balance was shattered by the unprecedented bombardment in which nearly 4,000 guns pounded the German lines for ten days. Four and a quarter million shells, or 4¾ tons to every yard of the front, were fired. This resulted in the complete destruction of the drainage system. The attack began on the 31 July in torrential rain, and it poured with rain during most of the following three months. On 4 November Canadian troops captured the mass of shell holes that had been the village of Passchendaele. The line had been extended by five miles. The cost? Nobody really knows but the most often quoted figure is 300,000 Allied casualties and 200,000 German.

However, it is the conditions that the armies endured which made this campaign so horrific. A vast area of foul-smelling mud that sucked everything down into it, and water-filled shell holes in which not only men and horses but guns and even tanks sank. Every new shell threw up rotting corpses that had sunk, only to sink again. Overall drifted a new weapon being tried for the first time—mustard gas. Six months later, in April 1918, the big German spring offensive recaptured all the ground which had been gained. In Britain war weariness was spreading. Gone was the wild enthusiasm of 1914; the never ending casualty lists, the ever receding hopes of victory were taking their toll. The old regular army was destroyed in the first few months of the war. Kitchener's Army, the volunteers who had flocked to the recruiting offices in the early days of the war. had been destroyed on the Somme. The British army was scraping the bottom of the barrel, the very, the old and the unfit were dragged in.

The final collapse of Germany in 1918 rolled back the battle lines from the salient. It left behind a scene of utter destruction, a land in which everything was unrecognisable; a place where every landmark had been wiped out. Shattered tree stumps began to throw out leaves again, and the ground was covered with the poppies that became the trade mark of the new "Remembrance" industry. The poppy is a plant that flourishes wherever soil is disturbed, so it would naturally take root in such a place. Incredible as it may seem, within a few months of the Armistice, Ypres became a tourist centre. While the town was still in ruins and teams were still searching for bodies in the area, trains were bringing visitors to the battlefields and tours were being organised in Britain.

Nearly seventy years have passed since the end of that war, and there are few people remaining who took part in it. The landscape has been restored, the trees and hedges have grown again and the fields have been out back. Apart from the cemeteries, one could walk through this place and not know what had happened. But in those seventy years other landscapes have been shattered and millions more have died. Only twenty years after peace came to this area, another, even bloodier, war broke out and in forty years of "peace", so-called local wars like Viet Nam and Cambodia have claimed yet more lives.

Les Dale
April 1985

Vote for yourselves

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The local newspaper , Canterbury Times, has published the election statement of the Socialist Party

I am one of the candidates on the Socialist Party list in the European elections on May 22 but I am just a name as for us it’s the case not the face that counts. We are standing — not so you can vote for us — but so you can vote for yourselves.
While UKIP and the BNP seek to gain votes with nasty ‘racist’ blaming of immigrants and “foreigners”; while Labour, Tories and Lib-Dems irrelevantly froth about being in or out of Europe; and while Greens futilely dream of nicer, greener capitalism, we offer you the chance for real change.
Millions of people no longer bother voting since nothing changes. And nothing ever changes because, no matter who gets elected, those given power always leave capitalism to continue.
If you seriously want to see an end to unemployment, long working hours for inadequate pay, a rapidly deteriorating health service, zero-hour contracts, insufficient decent housing for those who need it, grotesque inequality, pothole-strewn roads, the rising cost of living, insufficient and unaffordable nursing homes for the elderly, and numerous other economy-based problems, then show you want to end all this misery by selecting the only anti-capitalist list of candidates standing in the May 22 election.
Capitalism is obscene. It enables a tiny few to own all the vital assets (natural resources, factories, power stations, transport systems etc) which provide all the food, goods and services we need.
And through this totally unjust ownership — and with assistance from politicians bought with big party ‘donations’ and personal bungs — this capitalist elite are able to profit by forcing everyone to buy from them, even though it is working people (forced to toil for a wage) who do the actual labour.
We pledge that Socialist Party candidates who become MEPs will do everything possible to denounce and end outdated and immensely damaging capitalism, and work with you to replace it as quickly as possible with a genuine socialist system where we all directly own and control the vital assets for producing what we need.
Production within a real socialist economy will be carried out solely to meet needs.
Money will then be obsolete, since when we all collectively own what we produce, everything produced is ours, and you don’t have to buy what’s already yours.
There will then be free access to what is needed. This socialist system has never existed anywhere before.
Work within moneyless real socialism will be far easier, since without production for profit, there will be no unemployment (or employers).
Additionally, millions of people currently doing fundamentally unproductive money-related work (banking, insurance, sales, accountancy, welfare benefits, taxation, cash manufacturing etc) will also then be available to contribute something of real benefit to society.
The capitalist demand on people to work as hard and long as possible, in order to maximise their profits, will be gone forever.
Please don’t waste your vote. If you want a real change, and something infinitely better than capitalism, vote for The Socialist Party/World Socialist Movement and then get in touch with us at www.worldsocialism.org/spgb to work for this.
Socialist GB aka The Socialist Party of Great Britain are fielding ten candidates: Dave Chesham, Les Courtney, Rob Cox, Sean Deegan, Max Hess, Claudia Hogg-Blake, Danny Lambert, Andy Matthews, Howard Pilott, Mike Young

UKIP Have No Idea

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I had my first leaflet through the door today in connection with the European elections to be held on 22 May. It was from the UK Independence Party (UKIP), who advocate that Britain leave the European Union.

According to UKIP 'We have no control over our borders, but we also have no control over who we trade with, how much we pay to heat our homes and feed our families or how we just get on with our lives.'

Their use of 'We' here is confusing, since questions of borders and trade are for the one percent who own the means of production. But heating and eating and daily life are issues for the workers, the overwhelming majority who produce the wealth but get to enjoy very little of it. Do UKIP really believe that, if Britain left the EU, we would be much freer to live our lives as we wish? Do they really think that before the days of the EU or the Common Market most people were much better off than today? That there was no unemployment or homelessness or other examples of poverty?

UKIP are completely unaware that the problems of workers derive from the capitalist system, not from arrangements of borders and the reach of individual governments. But in thinking that they are, after all, no different from Conservatives, Labour or the LibDems; or for that matter from the SNP, Plaid Cymru or the Greens. 

PB

Keep on Grabbing

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The rich are buying up poor countries. In recent years at least 500 million acres—an area nearly three times the size of Texas—has been sold, leased, or claimed globally.

It’s a familiar story in Cambodia, where land disputes have disrupted the lives and livelihoods of half a million people. Many of the affected are small-scale farmers who grow their own food. “Without land, they no longer have the means to provide themselves with the basic requirements for a decent life,” according to Naly Pilorge, director of the human rights group LICADHO. In the years since Cambodia’s wars, many villagers don’t bother to seek land titles until they want to sell, says LICADHO’s Vanna. And then it’s often too late—a wealthy investor has already eyed the property or even bought it without the villagers knowing. Locals can’t compete. In this environment, village farms become a “marketable commodity, available for external acquisition by those with the most money and lawyers,” according to the Oakland Institute, a California-based policy think tank.

This is a global humanitarian crisis. An unprecedented worldwide scramble for land—predominantly for agriculture—has spurred a new era in the “geopolitics of food scarcity,” according to Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute. That scramble escalated dramatically with the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent rise in food prices. Countries that export food began to limit how much they would sell. Countries that import food “panicked,” Brown writes, and started buying up or leasing other countries’ cheap land on which to produce their own food. Hardest hit were poor countries like Cambodia, where the elite eat abundantly and the poor already struggle to feed themselves. Globally, the rush to turn small family farms into commercial enterprises isn’t aimed at feeding the needy, many policy experts say. As Oxfam reports, two-thirds of agricultural deals with foreign investors take place in chronically hungry countries.

There’s a big push for “big ag” in the developing world. But shifts toward mechanized agriculture with amped-up production “will not solve the problem: it will make it worse,” writes Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. specialist on the right to food. Large-scale investments in farmland do less to reduce poverty “than if access to land and water were improved for the local farming communities.”

Full story here

Workers Memorial Day

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Workers' Memorial Day, International Workers' Memorial Day or International Commemoration Day (ICD) for Dead and Injured or Day of Mourning takes place annually around the world on Monday, April 28, an international day of remembrance and action which honours workers killed, disabled, injured or made sick by their work.

The latest statistics for the UK from the Health and Safety Executive reveals that 13,000 people lost their lives during 2012 and 2013 through work-related illness such as mesothelioma, which is caused by exposure to asbestos and other occupational cancers.

According to statistics, between 2011 and 2012, 1.1 million working people were suffering from a work-related illness and another 78,000 people had reported being injured at work resulting in 27 million working days being lost.

Each and every workplace death has a devastating impact on the victim’s family, friends and work colleagues. Unions have won laws and protections that have made workplaces safer for all.
But we still have a long way to go. There has been a drive to cut red tape for businesses in recent years but this can’t be at the expense of putting people’s lives at risk.

Every day in America, on average, 12 people go to work and never come home. In addition, another estimated 50,000 die every year from occupational diseases — an average of 137 a day, bringing the total worker fatalities to 150 a day. Each year nearly 4 million people suffer a workplace injury from which some may never recover. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, 4,383 workers were killed on the job and in 2011 4,693 work-related deaths were reported.

On March 25, 1911, 146 workers burned to death behind locked doors at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. We would like to think that something so terrible could never happen today, but over the past years, a series of major workplace tragedies proved us wrong. By now, the names are infamous: the April 2010, the BP oil spill that killed 11 oil rig workers; the October 2011 Bartlett Grain Elevator explosion in Atchison, Kansas, that killed six workers; the April 2013 ammonium nitrate explosion at the West Fertilizer Company in Texas, that killed15 and injured 160. Last week SOYMB recalled the tragic and totally preventable Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 garment workers.

Many immigrant workers, who often work in the most dangerous and exploitative jobs, have no union protections and are afraid to speak out. In the public sector, many workers have no OSHA protection. Hundreds of workers are fired or harassed by their employers each year simply for voicing job safety concerns. And although there are dozens of whistleblower protections and anti-retaliation laws, many are simply too weak and remain unenforced. Too often these safety problems make themselves known in the form of large-scale catastrophes.

Highway incidents continue to be the leading cause of on-the-job fatalities, and truck drivers suffer more on-the-job fatalities than any other individual occupation.  Ergonomic hazards cripple hundreds of thousands of workers and musculoskeletal disorders remain America's biggest workplace safety and health problem. Mesothelioma strikes close to 3,000 Americans each year, and those who develop the disease were likely exposed to asbestos on the job. Workers most likely to develop mesothelioma are those who had direct contact with asbestos in an industrial setting or a factory, such as pipefitters, electricians, plumbers, foundry workers, machinists and mechanics. With an extended latency period before displaying mesothelioma symptoms, many workers are not diagnosed until decades after exposure. Workers continue to run the risk of being exposed to asbestos at work. Approximately 125 million workers worldwide are still regularly exposed to asbestos, according to the World Health Organization.

May the memory of fallen workers inspire us to continue and strengthen the fight for workplace safety but also for socialism. In the words of Mother Jones, “Mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”


Fact of the Day

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50 % of Pakistan’s population is living under poverty line, media reported.

Anyone who earns less than Rs 200 a day is poor and it turned out that almost 50 % of Pakistani people don’t make Rs 200 per day.

The Racialized Society

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It is true people of color are more likely to be poor than white counterparts, but let us not forget that more than 31 million whites also live below the federal poverty line. 42 percent of those struggling financially in America are white while 35 percent are black and 31 percent are Hispanic. In truth, welfare recipient rates among whites and blacks are similar.
“Blacks are not the primary recipients of assistance through federal benefit programs, including SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid, two of the largest public benefit programs,” Brennan Center for Justice policy associate Sophia Kerby wrote.

Nevertheless, according to the American Psychological Society, African-American children are three times more likely to live in poverty than white children. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics are more than twice as likely to live in deep poverty. In 2012, 12.7 percent of blacks (almost 5.1 million), 10.1 percent of Hispanics (almost 5.4 million) and 4.3 percent of non-Hispanic whites (8.4 million) lived in deep poverty, defined as people with income 50 percent below the poverty line. (The poverty line is $11,670 for a single person, $23,850 for a family of four.)

Race still is a factor shaping poverty in the United States. According to new research by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “The index scores for African-American children should be considered a national crisis. Although they vary across states, regions and domains, in nearly all states African-American children face some of the biggest barriers to success.” Children of color often grow up in blighted neighborhoods with higher levels of violence causing toxic stress and developmental delays. Result: glaring disparities in income, wealth, housing, education and health.

We still live in a “racialized” society which each of us views differently based on one’s race and background.

Abridged from here

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Utopian Dreamers

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Orignally posted on the Countercurrents website

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one
John Lennon

Is it possible to mobilise people to fight oppression without fashioning models for a socialist economy for people to fasten on to? The capitalist slogan ‘There is No Alternative’ was answered by ‘Another World is Possible’. We need to know and say much more about this other world. Socialist thought has to deal in prediction, but only in broad terms. We live in dark days. One often has to aim at objectives which one can only very dimly see. Socialism is a vision of the future, while its advocates are actively at work in the present.

Socialists have typically avoided the tactic of the utopian blueprint. One reason for this was that no matter what your utopian vision is, you won’t be able to achieve it under capitalism. The other reason was that after capitalism is overthrown, it will be up to the people to determine how to run their society. Some people may prefer a return to Nature. Other people may want robots tending to their every need. Why should one person’s lifestyle preference determine how society should be run for everybody else?

Marx and Engels also avoided ‘the politics of dreaming’ yet scattered throughout their works are numerous references to life in communist society. Marx and Engels differed from the utopian socialists not in terms of their visionary goals, but on the basis of how such goals might be achieved. The ‘utopian socialists’ were ‘utopian’  in the way that they believed socialism might come about. For Marx, capitalism does not collapse thereby necessarily bringing about socialism. Marx's breakthrough was to wed such utopian visions to a concrete, scientific analysis of the dynamics of capitalism and class struggle. As Marx observed, no society has imagined itself into existence, which is to say, women and men do not set out to build their society according to some pre-conceived blueprint. The social relations resulting from human action appear to us in later times as the pre-conceived ideas of the creators of those social relations when, in fact, the ideas never existed until the social relations had already come into being.

In their critique of utopian socialism, Marx and Engels made two charges. First, that the method was wrong: a socialism imposed from above, reliant on altruistic benefactors. Second, that it was not sweeping enough, that it failed to recognise the need to replace the system as a whole. They disagreed with Fourier that a new society could be broadly realised without class struggle, and that ideal projections could come real in capitalist society. In Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Engels points out that early socialists were Enlightenment rationalists who sought not 'to emancipate a particular class, but all humanity at once.' Thus, the revolutionary theory of Charles Fourier is largely without a concrete revolutionary agent to carry out the revolution. Claude Henri Saint-Simon  was explicitly counter-revolutionary. He did not want to 'excite the poor to acts of violence against the rich and government.'

Most utopian philosophers differed greatly in their ideals, but they all strove to create a world that is utopian in its nature, a paradise for people to live in. For Marx and Engels, as worthy as such communal experiments might be, projections like Owen's New Lanark were doomed to eventual failure. They were propagators of  political and economic fantasies. of the "...wouldn't it be nice if..." type. Robert Owen wanted compassionate capitalism with some collectivity. He built a neighbourhood in and around New Lanark in Scotland, which had schools to train the young and a place where the older generation could retire. Owen went on to set up small communities of workers’ co-operatives such as New Harmony in America. Unfortunately, these co-operatives were not economically self-sufficient and were dependent on the rest of the world economy, which was still based on capitalism. The result was that the co-operatives either collapsed or abandoned their ideals. This same problem has affected such movements as the kibbutzim movement in Israel.

Marx gives many guidelines to achieve the ultimate goal that he writes about. He teaches not only of the happy ending, but the work to be done in between. Socialism comes about through revolutionary struggles, not as the result of action inspired by flawless plans. The main difference between scientific socialism and utopian socialism is the 'getting there'. The utopians do not think of the long term, or how difficult it will be to create the worlds that they envision.

 The reason for the current upsurge in utopian thought is in some ways similar to that of the early 19th century. There was a lot of change, and a lot of societal growth. The utopian thinkers, for the most part, were responding to a social disconnect, and a society that no longer held traditional values. The industrial working-class were not a powerful actor in politics. Engels observed when Saint-Simon’s Geneva letters appeared in 1802 ‘the capitalist mode of production, and with it the antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, was still very incompletely developed.’ The revolutionary capacity is not there to execute ideals which have been represented abstractly. Isn’t this in a way similar to the problem we face today? Even though the working-class makes up a larger percentage of the world’s population than ever before, we have not seen a radicalised working-class in the advanced capitalist countries. In the absence of a revolutionary working-class, utopian schemes are bound to surface. In the absence of genuine struggles, modern re-hashed utopian fantasies, of which there are many, are seductive. The utopians are still among us, with their artful models for bringing universal peace, prosperity, and brotherhood to mankind by outwitting the capitalists and building a socialist society behind their backs. They have to construct the outlines of a brave new world out of their own hearts and heads rather in the real world of real struggles and we read them on numerous Left websites, in articles by the likes of Richard Wolff and Ger Alperovitz.

That being said, while there are dangers in utopian thinking, there also exists a danger is their absence. The truth is that we don’t 'talk Utopia' nearly enough. We need the attraction of a possible future as well as being repulsed by the actual present. If people are to make the sacrifices required by any struggle for social justice, then they need a compelling idea of the world they’re fighting for. Utopias provide a perspective from which the assumed limitations of the present can be scrutinised, from which familiar social arrangements are exposed as unjust and irrational. We need utopian thinking if we are to engage successfully in the critical battlefield of ideas over what is or is not possible, if we are to challenge what are presented as immutable economic realities. Without a clear alternative – the outlines of a sustainable society – we cede the definition of the possible to those with a vested interest in shutting our eyes to a better future.

Utopias tend to be the target of derision. And yet, despite being subject to dismissals, Utopia never goes away, partly because the criticism of the present draws on the notion of a future which has eliminated the conditions of the present that make life so difficult, sometimes impossible, and unfulfilling for so many. Here Utopia operates in disguise, not going by its own name but providing a resource against which to measure a present that fails to match up, either to its own ideal expression of itself or to the inspiring visions of the future for which people have struggled throughout history.

You cannot simply interpret people's consciousness from their material conditions, or  really understand people unless you understand their particular utopian projections -- because such projections, while they are not material, are a real component of people's lives, part of the ‘now’ in which they live. The materialist philospher, Josef Dietzgen, frequently stated ideas are concrete. The ‘utopian’ tendency provides us with an understanding of those visions of a better world that people have been fighting for and will continue to fight for. We can draw on a rich tradition of history going back to the Diggers and Gerald Winstanley, William Morris and even John Lennon.

Utopian visions of communism are presented as powerful critiques of actually existing capitalism. Projecting the communist future from existing patterns and trends is an integral part of Marx's analysis of capitalism. Marx knew that something would come after capitalism and he made some projections about what it could be like, and those are very famous pieces but they're very small compared to the majority of his work, which is just about understanding capitalism. Marx constructed his vision of communism out of the human and technological possibilities already visible in his time

Marx never actually provided a blue print for how a communist community was supposed to look like. He did not even impose some necessary model of the unfolding class struggle on the class struggle. He decried sectarianism within the working class movement, which he described as those who, 'demanded that the class movement subordinate itself to a particular sect movement.' By not leaving a blue print, Marx thought that people would be able to create a communist community free from the prescriptions of an antiquated era, that people would eventually evolve away from capitalism once it had reached its peak and instead search for a better way of living.

 For now, capitalism reigns, but a collective consciousness changes things. In the past some ideas seem far-fetcheded. The idea that civilisation would reach a point where slavery was not commonplace may have seemed unlikely. The thought of having civil liberties and not living under an autocratic monarch was once far-fetched, but humanity evolved. The idea of basic civil rights for women and minorities was also unimaginable. But a gradual, historical shift in consciousness changed things. One of our last hopes for a better planet in the future may very well rest in a maturing, developing human consciousness. In light of changes in class consciousness, we may one day find a socialist society on the immediate agenda. What is important to see is that the fact that many of us prefer capitalism does not give capitalism any greater credibility.

A socialist is of necessity social – hence the name. We wish to be social – that is, to live in a society formed of social beings like ourselves. Socialism means a reconstruction of society. It is a product of social evolution. We have had slavery, feudalism, capitalism and – socialism is the next stage. Marx and Engels did not see revolution as the inevitable triumph of a would-be ascendent class. Sometimes revolutions issue in ‘the common ruin of the contending classes’ whether it be by nuclear annihilation or ecological suicide. Socialism, for Marx and Engels, was not inevitable but very possible. It's never over until it's over, as it is said.

What would the genuinely socialist society of tomorrow look like? The Utopia that any group of people project depends to some extent upon the exact material conditions in which they exist. Trying to predict what socialism would be like in the future to that of a serf on his Lord's manor in feudalistic times trying to think of what capitalism would be like. If we want to play the role of the serf on his lord's manor predicting what the next stage of history would be like, socialism could very well end up looking a lot like capitalism. We might see skyscrapers  and mass-transit systems as we do today. This would be like how a late-feudal society might look a bit like an early-capitalist society. Later on, a socialist economy may look completely different with very different other structures, just like how our contemporary society looks very different from the 1600s in Great Britain. Just as the serf would have probably been unable to see highways, automobiles, and computers, there are, of course, probably other elements to the next epoch that we are missing.

 We lack a meaningful sense of the future, and as a result we lack hope, because hope demands a future envisioned as an achievable immediate possibility on which may be realized. Utopia is not the 'no-place' of the word's Greek origins, but rather something present in the here and now, although available only in glimpses. The power of utopian images radiate. Urban industrial and office workers may be attracted by the escapist fantasy generated by peasant modes of life, even though they themselves certainly cannot simply take up a peasant life. The oft-derided pleasures of window-shopping provide people with a fragmentary access to those greater pleasures and fulfillments only to be realised in a post-capitalist, post-scarcity world. In so far as these pleasures are enmeshed within capitalism, they are irrational. We need to find ways to connect to the utopian yearnings that move millions of people, and which the advertising industry know too well how to exploit. We have to offer something more participatory, that will be a process and a journey. By describing how people would live if everyone, utopian socialism does two things: it inspires the oppressed to struggle and sacrifice for a better life and it gives a clear meaning to the aim of socialism. However, the main difference between socialists and utopians is the getting there. The utopian socialists do not think of the long term, or how difficult it will be to create the worlds that they envision.

The media have gone out of their way to present socialists in an unfavourable light as dangerous dreamers. It is claimed that socialists are unrealistic dreamers for imagining that things will change overnight and people work together for the common good without being made to.

'We who once were fools and dreamers, then shall be the brave and wise.' said William Morris. He also explained that 'At the risk of being considered dreamers therefore it is important for us to try to raise our ideals of the pleasure of life; because one of the dangers which the social revolution runs is that the generation which sees the fall of Capitalism, educated as it will have been to bear the thousand miseries of our present system, will have far too low a standard of refinement and real pleasure. It is natural that men who are now beaten down, by the fear of losing even their present pitiful livelihood, should able to see nothing further ahead than relief from that terror and the grinding toil under which they are oppressed.'

It was Eugene Debs who said that 'The men and women who have had visions, who have  dreamed dreams, have led in the world’s progress toward higher and better things. These prophets and seers — for such they have been — have always been regarded in their day as dreamers  and enthusiasts, visionary and harmless, and but little attention  has been paid to their visions and dreams until in a latter day and generation they were triumphantly realized.'

It is as Helen Keller stated 'I may be a dreamer, but dreamers are necessary to make facts!'

A look at history and we find that the 'impractical dreamers' have been shown to be realistic, and the 'realists' have been shown to be impractical dreamers. We hold that the co-operative comonwealth cannot be reached till capitalism is overthrown by the workers. Poets and dreamers alone cannot make a revolution but the day is not far distant when the dreamers of the world will reap their reward.

The world socialist movement has to take a maximalist position accepting and understanding where the majority consciousness is now and try to, as a magnet attracts iron filings, attempt to draw the masses in our direction. It declines to outline exactly how the revolutionary transformation would take place, or what the new society would be like, because it is the workers who are the revolutionaries. They will create the socialist society themselves.

For additional information listen to this talk by Glenn Morris

Election Leaflet

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Native America

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 American history, in the minds of many, started just 500 years ago, when Columbus "discovered" the New World. Shunning electricity, 3,000 Pueblo Indians live today in Acoma atop a mesa in the high New Mexico desert. The town's adobe apartments have been inhabited since the 12th century, through droughts, Apache raids and a brutal occupation in which the enslaving Spaniards chopped off one foot of each adult male. Acomans are reluctant to promote the fact that their settlement is nearly twice as old as St. Augustine, Florida., the Spanish-settled city that is generally considered the nation's oldest community. The people of Acoma figure they have had enough visitors.

On Interstate 70, across the Mississippi from present-day St. Louis, there was once a town that boasted a trade network that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Dakotas and probably had as many residents as did London at that time. Its 15-acre  ceremonial mound is 2 acres bigger than the Great Pyramid of Egypt. But modern textbooks barely take notice. Those who found thousands of abandoned mounds in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys refused to believe they had been built by Indians. ''The natural indolence of the Indian and his averseness to any kind of manual labor are well known,'' wrote author William Pidgeon  in 1858. Other 19th-century writers speculated that the mound builders were stray Vikings, Phoenicians or a lost tribe of Israel, obviously an intelligent people who were annihilated  by Indian savages. Settlers liked that theory, because it seemed to justify the treatment they inflicted on the Indians on the frontier.

For  years the Native Americans lived and died throughout the vast, rich continent of North America. The burgenoning United States balanced brute military force with one economic transaction after another, on one hand slaughtering entire tribes, on the other "buying" enormous tracts of land for exploitation. Tribe after tribe were massacred or driven off their ancestral homelands and were forced onto reservations. With control over nearly all Native American land, leaving only small plots for "reservations", the Native American way of life was destroyed and the clear choice became: be assimilated into "modern" life, or rot in "irrelevance" on the reservation.

371 treaties were made by the US government with Native Americans. The United States govenment violated 370 of those treaties, to date. Millions of Native Americans have been killed by the US (and Canadian) government. Entire villages were wiped out by diseases such as measles, smallpox, cholera and pneumonia to which the Indians had no inbuilt immunity. Others, forced to leave their traditional hunting and farming lands found it difficult to re-establish themselves elsewhere and suffered malnutrition and death. Within two centuries, Old World diseases killed probably two thirds (a conservative estimate) of the New World's natives, and America did indeed seem empty.  Four years before the Mayflower landed, disease killed tens of thousands  of Indians on the New England coast, including the inhabitants of a village where Plymouth would stand. John Winthrop, admiring the abandoned cornfields, saw the epidemic as divine providence. ''God,'' he said, ''hath hereby cleared our title to this place.''

Tribes escaped the white man’s expansion and moved west, pushing whatever band was in their way. The Chippewas pushed the Sioux out of the woods of Minnesota into the Dakotas. The Sioux  pushed the Cheyenne into Nebraska. The Cheyenne pushed the Kiowas into Oklahoma. Yet not every Indian fled. The Comanches, with horses descended from Columbus's stock, thwarted Spain's colonial designs on Texas with frequent raids on Spanish outposts. Apaches did the same thing in Arizona and New Mexico. Parts of Pennsylvania and New York today might be part of Quebec had the Iroquois submitted to the French.

Many who didn't move perished. A generation after their gifts of corn saved England's
toehold settlement at Jamestown, the Powhatan Indians were systematically wiped out,
their crops and villages torched by settlers who wanted more land to grow tobacco. Florida's Timucuas -- of whom it was said ''it would be good if among Christians there was
as little greed to torment men's minds and hearts'' -- vanished in the early 19th century,
victims of epidemics and conflicts with the Spanish, English and Creeks. Natchez's Great
Sun wound up with his feet on the ground, enslaved in the West Indies by the French,
who eradicated his tribe. California's Chumash shrank from 70,000 to 15,000 toiling for
the friars. Soon after the Gold Rush, the tribe, like most in California, ceased to exist. The
four-century clash of cultures made 2 of every 3 tribes as extinct as the Carolina parakeet.

 The late Pete Seeger observed that “The American Indians were Communists. They were. Every anthropologist will tell you they were Communists. No rich, no poor. If somebody needed something the community chipped in.”  Some were. Some weren’t. Marx and Engels used the research of Lewis Henry Morgan in their study of how social systems and societes can be defined in stages.

Most of the hundreds of languages the Indians spoke were as different from one another
as Farsi is from French. Some Indians loved war. Others hated it. After every reluctant
fight, Arizona's Pimas subjected their warriors to a 16-day cure for insanity. Some tribes
banned women from their councils. Others were ruled by female chiefs, like Georgia's
''Lady of Cofitachequi,'' who greeted Hernando DeSoto with pearls from the Savannah
River. (He ungraciously kidnapped her.) Puppies were a gourmet's delight in some huts.
Elsewhere, Indians would rather die than eat dog meat. Premarital sex was unthinkable
among the Cheyenne. But Mississippi's Natchez tribe encouraged teenagers to have
flings while they could. Once a Natchez girl wed, an extramarital affair could cost her her
hair or even an ear.

With torches and stone hatchets, the Nootkas and Haidas of the Pacific Northwest toppled giant redwoods and turned them into whaling  canoes. In the eastern forests, Indians slashed and burned to clear the way for cornfields  fertilized by the ashes and to create meadows for grazing deer and elk. Every autumn, Indians burned huge chunks of woodland to clear away underbrush. The sprouts that poked each spring through the charred ground boosted populations of game animals, which the Indians could easily spot in the open forests. The trees that survived flourished,  too. Sycamores in Ohio grew seven feet in diameter, and the white pines of New England  towered 200 to 250 feet

The white man's Bible taught that it is better to give than to receive, and the Indians couldn't agree more. Long after the Arawaks showered Columbus with birds, cloth and 'trifles too tedious to describe,'' natives were offering Europeans virtually anything they had, from fish and turkeys to persimmon bread and the companionship of a chief's daughter. Colonists interpreted the Indians' generosity as evidence they were childlike. That they had no desire to accumulate wealth was seen as a symptom of laziness. The Indians, concluded one New Englander, must develop a love of property. ''Wherever this can be established, Indians may be civilized; wherever it cannot, they will still remain Indians.''  The Indians felt quite civilized with what they did own, often things a Puritan wouldn't appreciate. Colorado's Pueblos kept parrots that came from Mexico. The Cayuse of
Eastern Oregon swapped buffalo robes for the shells of coastal Indians. The Ottawas, whose name meant ''to trade,'' traveled the Great Lakes exchanging cornmeal, herbs, furs and tobacco. The Chinooks of the Northwest even developed their own trade jargon. Their word hootchenoo, for homemade liquor, eventually became the slang word ''hooch.''

Indians were religious. They saw order in nature and obeyed elaborate  sets of rules for fear of disturbing it. Land was to be shared, not owned, because it was  sacred and belonged to everyone, like the air and sea. Animals also were precious. A  hunter risked stirring the spirits if he killed two deer when one was all his tribe needed. Europe's view of nature, though rooted in religion, was much different. Man should subdue the Earth, Genesis dictated, ''and have dominion ... over every living thing.''

Rituals surrounded each important Indian event. To prove their courage, the Arikara of
North Dakota danced barefoot on hot coals and, with bare hands, retrieved and devoured
hunks of meat from pots of boiling water. Timucuan leaders started council meetings in
Florida with a round of emetics brewed from holly leaves. The Hurons of the Great Lakes
carried smoldering coals in their mouths to invoke a spirit to cure the sick. But often the
rituals were painless. From New York to New Mexico, tradition allowed a woman to end
her marriage by putting her husband's belongings outside their door -- a sign for him to
live with his mother.

Three centuries before the U.S. Constitution took shape, the Iroquois League ran a
Congress-like council, exercised the veto, protected freedom of speech and let women
choose officeholders. The New Yorkers ran a classless society, as did many tribes across
America. But ancient caste systems also endured. The Great Sun of the Natchez, a
mound dweller like Cahokia's Great Sun, used his feet to push his leftovers to his noble
subordinates. The nobles were not about to complain; below them was a class known as
''Stinkards.'' Besides, the chief's feet were clean. He was carried everywhere, a French
guest reported, and his toes never touched ground.

Long before the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act transformed tribal government, before nepotism and retaliation became plagues upon reservation life, there were nacas. Headsmen, the Lakota and Dakota called them. Men designated from their tiospayes, or extended families, to represent their clans when they came together for larger tribal matters, such as where to hunt that year. Their meetings could last for days, said Richard Iron Cloud, who teaches Lakota leadership at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge reservation. But then reaching consensus was a given to their way of life.

“This wasn’t a system where majority rules,” Iron Cloud said. “Wherever majority rules, there will be three or four people who walk away really upset or mad because things didn’t go the way they wanted. But the nacas met until they came to a resolution that everyone could live with.”

It was different in the old days, when grandfathers ruled over their extended families, said Victor Douville, acting chairman of the Lakota Studies program at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud reservation. Each spring, eight to 10 families would gather to form a band, make plans for the hunt or a war party, then put forth leaders to help govern them, Douville said. It was common back then for the chosen leaders, the nacas, to rely on elderly women within their tiospayes for guidance, said Valerian Three Irons, a retired educator who spent 15 years at South Dakota State University as a diversity officer and teacher of Native Studies. “That’s even true today,” Three Irons said. “The elder female would often be the one the family came to for advice. Often the young man who was the representative really was a mouthpiece for the elderly woman who held the power.”

It’s a different world today, tribal observers attest. When the federal reorganization act in 1934 instilled the white man’s model of rule to the reservations, traditional governance disappeared. In time, what they found was that millions of dollars flowing into Indian Country because of treaty obligations turned leaders into despots — even criminals — in places where poverty makes every job a lifeline. Today, poverty and social breakdown on the reservations have changed everything.

 As a result, “tribal government gets to do what it wants,” Douville said. In the days of BrulĂ© Lakota tribal chief Spotted Tail 150 years ago, leaders were effective because they took care of their families but understood their obligation to the bands and tribes as well, Douville said.“There was a really fine line where you walked,” he said. “Spotted Tail mastered that technique by keeping control of the non-relatives but helping them out, too. Other leaders, Red Cloud, were able to control nepotism. Now, nepotism spreads pretty largely throughout many reservation systems. It’s rampant in all of them.”

Of course, malfeasance occurs at every level of government, tribal leaders are quick to point out. But they aren’t blind to how pronounced favoritism appears in the isolated microcosms that are the reservations. In these poorest pockets of America, it isn’t unusual for jobs, housing and justice to be gained or lost depending on who rises to power as tribal president or council member.

“What the IRA did was centralize the power base and impose a real hard system of bureaucracy,” said Victor Douville. “Under the IRA model, the tribal government has absolute power to do what it wants. You get injustices; one side takes sides over another. And as it is in places like Rosebud, the nepotism runs wild.”

Iron Cloud said the Iroquois Confederacy still operates with a traditional form of government. The women in that system, called clan mothers, are heavily involved in the placement and removal of leaders, he said. You still have to deal with technology and fast-paced business and economic development, Iron Cloud said.“But then have this other part,” he said, “where the culture needs to be valued also. Creating a mechanism that can satisfy both of those, I think that’s out there. We just need to sit down and create it.”

Taken from here and here 

Abolish Capitalism Petition

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Abolish the capitalist mode of production

While the capitalist mode of production has done a great deal to accelerate the development of technology and increase the availability of consumer goods in the last few centuries, it has outlived its usefulness and has in fact become destructive. Inequality, unemployment, financial crises, and environmental devestation all point toward one inevitable conclusion: we must get rid of capitalism, once and for all.
Hence we ask that the President work with Congressional leaders to develop a more just and sustainable economic system not based on the profit motive or the exploitation of waged labor. 

Legal Power V Nuclear Powers

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The tiny Pacific nation state of Marshall Islands with a population of a little over 68,000 people is challenging the world’s nine nuclear powers before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague in a lawsuit.

 The ICJ in 1996 held unanimously that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control. The Marshall Islands nearly 18 years after will put to the test the claims of the nine states possessing nuclear arsenals that they are in compliance with international law regarding nuclear disarmament and cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date. The lawsuit contends that all nine nuclear-armed nations are still violating customary international law.

The suit also says the five original nuclear weapon states (P5) are continuously breaching their legal obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Article VI of the NPT requires states to pursue negotiations in good faith on cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and nuclear disarmament.

Far from dismantling their weapons, the nuclear weapons states are accused of planning to spend over one trillion dollars on modernising their arsenals in the next decade. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “We must ask why these leaders continue to break their promises and put their citizens and the world at risk of horrific devastation.”

Tony de Brum, the foreign minister of Marshall Islands, was quoted as saying, “Our people have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of these weapons, and we vow to fight so that no one else on earth will ever again experience these atrocities.” The continued existence of nuclear weapons and the terrible risk they pose to the world threaten us all, he added.

Underneath UKIP

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Partly due to the rabble-rousing of UKIP, on average, Britons believe that one person in three is a migrant. The true figure is closer to one in seven. They also overestimate the amount of benefits claimed by EU migrants by a factor of six.  The number of immigrants from the EU each year is almost exactly balanced by the number of Britons go and live in the EU.

Politicians want us to blame our fellow workers for the problems which capitalism causes. They try to turn us against ourselves - blaming immigrants, or Muslims, or non-whites instead of understanding that it's the profit system itself which is the problem.

UKIP like to pose as an alternative to the mainstream parties of Labour, Conservative and the Lib-Dems. The fact that these parties seem united in regarding UKIP as 'beyond the pale' serves to bolster UKIP's image. But what neither they nor the mainstream can ever acknowledge are some fundamental things which they share in common. Chief among these is that in supporting one variety of capitalism or another, all these parties are fundamentally anti-working class.

The mainstream parties have long used the tactic of 'divide and rule' to keep us - the majority - in our place. Instead of realising what we have in common as a class, we are taught to regard our fellow workers as being the enemy, or the cause of our problems. UKIP's version of this, of course, is its rabid nationalism. But when the UKIP talk of putting 'Britain' first, it simply means putting the interests of the ruling class first! You can't just wish away the reality of class division, and the interests of Cameron, Boris Johnson, or Branson are most certainly NOT the same as the interests of the working class in Britain. We have far more in common with our fellow workers elsewhere than we have with those who rule over us, and swapping Labour or Tory for UKIP won't alter that.

UKIP hits out at symptoms but fails to understand causes. Take immigration from Europe for instance. Migrants are, quite simply, our fellow workers. They are NOT the cause of unemployment, they are NOT the cause of overcrowding, they are NOT the cause of crime. These things are caused by the system of production for profit; in fact, capitalism itself. It is the profit system which forces employers to drive wages down by importing cheaper labour, but UKIP have no wish to tackle this system - in effect, they think it's okay for the ruling class to exploit the rest of us.

 Many British workers speak of a country changing beyond their recognition. We, in the Socialist Party, reject the view that things should always stay the same. We argue for change, hoping to build a new society run for the benefit of everyone. We all have the ability to work together in each other's interests. All it takes is the right ideas and a willingness to make it happen.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Give Capitalists the Boot

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In a strike that has been going on for more than two weeks, since April 14th, more than 40,000 workers at the Yue Yuen shoe factories located in Dongguan, Guangdong province, are still refusing to return to work. Sports and casual shoe brands including Nike, Puma, and Timberland are made by Yue Yuen, the world’s biggest branded footwear maker and operator of the 1.4 million-square-meter (15 million square-foot) Dongguan complex. Adidas, the company's largest customer, has already moved some of its business to other nearby Chinese factories. Teresa Cheng, an organizer with the International Union League for Brand Responsibility, slammed Adidas for moving some of its orders. "This is the typical behavior of Adidas," she said. "Adidas systematically withdraws its orders and moves them to factories with more exploitative conditions, essentially punishing workers who dare to stand up to sweatshop abuse."

Yue Yuen had 423,000 employees as of 2012 and factories in China, Vietnam and Indonesia. Nike has plenty of flexibility in its supply chain to make up for any production lost by the strike. The company contracts with more than 740 factories, including almost 200 in China. Plus, one of the reasons to use Yue Yuen is because it can shift orders to its other factories in countries like Vietnam.

Workers are pushing Yue Yuen's Taiwanese parent company, Pou Chen, for increased social benefits, compensation for overtime and housing benefits. Some workers are also pushing for a 30% salary increase.

"This is a result of the long-term exploitation of this big enterprise," said Suki Chung, the executive director of Hong Kong nonprofit Labor Action China. "Workers' demands are very clear."  According to Suki Chung, workers in southern China are now worried about long-term job security, leading them to ask for more than just higher wages. "Workers are in a very insecure position," she said. "They are paranoid they will lose their jobs. If they don't fight at the moment, the factory could be gone very soon."

Strikers say that they are not being paid the full amount of social insurance and housing benefits owed to them. Additionally, they say their work contracts are fraudulent, preventing them from enrolling their children in local schools.

Luo, one of the striking workers, explained "No matter if we will succeed or not, it will be recorded in history. It will be effective in improving workers working conditions and social benefits in the future."