Saturday, February 28, 2015

Combatting Climate Change Means Changing The System

Numerous newly discovered massive craters across Siberia—believed to have been formed by methane gas exploding through a thawing permafrost—may be the latest visible signs that climate change is here, and it's changing the very contours of the earth's surface.
A 100-foot crater was first spotted last summer in Yamal peninsula, a freezing cold land 2,000 miles north of Moscow, and two other funnels were discovered soon after. While it is not entirely clear what caused the blowholes, the dominant theory is that global warming has thawed the permafrost causing methane trapped inside the icy ground to explode.
In a new development, the Siberian Times reported this week that such funnels, in fact, are "more widespread than was first realized."
"We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area," Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the paper. "We must research this phenomenon urgently, to prevent possible disasters."
The bursts of methane—a highly flammable gas—are themselves dangerous, and many researchers are frightened to study the funnels as a result.
This phenomenon has long been warned about by climate scientists and now what the funnels reveal about the rising temperature in the Arctic is that it is heating twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

A new Reuters/IPSOS poll has found that a significant majority of Americans say combating climate change is a moral issue that obligates them – and world leaders - to reduce carbon emissions.
The poll of 2,827 Americans was conducted in February to measure the impact of moral language, including interventions by Pope Francis, on the climate change debate. In recent months, the pope has warned about the moral consequences of failing to act on rising global temperatures, which are expected to disproportionately affect the lives of the world’s poor.
The result of the poll suggests that appeals based on ethics could be key to shifting the debate over climate change in the United States, where those demanding action to reduce carbon emissions and those who resist it are often at loggerheads. Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said that world leaders are morally obligated to take action to reduce CO2 emissions. And 72 percent said they were “personally morally obligated” to do what they can in their daily lives to reduce emissions.
“When climate change is viewed through a moral lens it has broader appeal,” said Eric Sapp, executive director of the American Values Network. “The climate debate can be very intellectual at times, all about economic systems and science we don’t understand. This makes it about us, our neighbors and about doing the right thing.”

'Moral' and 'ethical' to most people means conforming to notions or accepted standards of what is 'right' and 'good', to recognised standards based on fairness and equity, something akin to treating others as one wishes to be treated oneself. With that in mind, and recognising that this was a poll of very small numbers, respondents concurred that there is a need to seriously address the challenges of climate change, both at the national and personal levels. Socialists would point out that acting at a personal level by changing daily use habits or shopping for green alternatives actually makes minimal difference to the overall problem BUT that when the majority of us come to the realisation that the system which exploits us and our planet's resources can't function without our compliance, then together, overcoming any superficial differences, we are in a strong position to make the difference we choose. It is global capitalism that we must overcome together to have any realistic hope of averting climate disaster.
Bringing together people who are prepared to make changes at the individual level to protect future generations with those global populations who are demanding national and international structural change leads to the ability to implement the results the vast majority is seeking.

There is an alternative to the current system, another way of organising society -  one which is built on the concept of democracy, with access for all to the necessities of life. Isn't that what people are clamouring for world wide - to live in societies run by the people for the people? That alternative is socialism.

info from here and here

What about the NHS?

Election candidates are being asked by the campaign group Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) for their views on what is happening to the NHS. Naturally, as socialists we see nothing wrong with the idea that health care should be provided out of the resources available to society as a whole and that people should have free access to health care and medicines as and when they need them. It's what will happen in a socialist society.

Attempts to achieve this within capitalism run up against all sorts of problems, as the history and current state of the NHS show.

The basic problem arises from the fact that, as far as the minority who own society's resources are concerned, there is no such thing as a free service. Anything provided free has to be paid for out of taxation and in the end taxes fall on their property and their profits.

So, the free service gets undermined at both ends. The funds to finance it are cheese-pared and charges are introduced. Some services remain free at the point of use but come to be provided by profit-seeking enterprises. Given capitalism, the service cannot be run democratically but has to be administered by a bureaucracy whose remit is to save money by cutting costs, including the cost of paying the wages and salaries of those who work for the service.

It's a never-ending battle by trade unions and pressure groups to try to stop this happening. A defensive and often losing struggle just to stop things getting worse.

A free health service in the midst of an economy based on production for profit will always be insecure. The NHS was introduced in the first place because it suited the minority owning class to have a relatively healthy and productive workforce that, when sick, could be quickly treated and got back to work as soon as possible. Now that more and more of those needing health care are retired the owning class are less interested in paying for the NHS and it shows.

The only way to secure a lasting free health service is as part of a socialist society where there will no longer be class ownership of society's resources or production for profit. Then, all services and not just health care will be both free and democratically administered. Where will the money to pay for this come from, the clever dick interviewer will ask? Nowhere, as there won't be any money, just resources and these exist in sufficient quantity especially after the artificial scarcity and organised waste of capitalist society have been removed.

The Ten Candidates
Jacqueline Shodeke - Brighton Kemptown;
Howard Pilott - Brighton Pavilion;
Robert Cox – Canterbury;
Steve Colborn – Easington;
Andy Thomas - Folkestone and Hythe;
Bill Martin - Islington North;
Kevin Parkin - Oxford East;
Mike Foster - Oxford West and Abingdon
Brian Johnson - Swansea West;
Danny Lambert – Vauxhall.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Think globally, act globally

Our candidates have received, along with the other candidates standing in the same constituency, the following invitation from an organisation calling itself Simpol (Simultaneous Policy) 

“As candidates in the forthcoming General Election, we invite you to pledge your early support to the Simultaneous Policy (Simpol) campaign. Simpol is an international association of citizens who use their votes to encourage their political representatives to implement solutions to global problems that individual nations, or groupings such as the EU, cannot tackle alone; problems such as global warming, financial market re-regulation and other transnational issues. (….) The global problems Simpol addresses are not being dealt with adequately by national governments, or by the EU, because of the fear that acting unilaterally will harm their economic competitiveness. That is why, under Simpol, solutions are to be implemented by nations simultaneously, only when all or sufficient nations have signed the Pledge.”

To which we have replied:

The Socialist Party fully agrees that global problems such as, precisely, global warming can only be dealt with by action on a global scale. However, we think that, because of capitalism's nature as a system of production for profits by competing enterprises and states, the sort of simultaneous political action you advocate to deal with these problems just won't happen as long as capitalist continues to exist. The most that will happen would be far too little far too late. This, for the reasons you yourself outline of concern for profits and competitiveness on world markets.

The only framework within which the required global actions can be taken is a world community without frontiers where the resources of the Earth, natural and industrial, have become the common heritage of all humanity. Then, the vested commercial, economic and geopolitical interests that impede such action under capitalism will no longer exist. Humanity will be free to find a solution to the various global problems (as indeed to regional and local problems) in a rational way and in the common interest. Purely capitalist problems like unregulated financial markets would not need to be dealt with since in a non-capitalist world there would no longer be any financial markets.

I pledge to work towards the establishment of such a world socialist system by democratic political action.

The Socialist Party Candidates
Bill Martin - Islington North; Danny Lambert – Vauxhall; Brian Johnson - Swansea West; Steve Colborn – Easington; Kevin Parkin - Oxford East; Mike Foster - Oxford West and Abingdon; Robert Cox – Canterbury; Andy Thomas - Folkestone and Hythe; Howard Pilott - Brighton Pavilion; Jacqueline Shodeke - Brighton Kemptown

If there is no Socialist Party candidate in your constituency, that doesn't stop you helping via the internet and social media. We are reaching out to people who are interested in socialist ideas and trying to draw them closer to our movement. 

The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?

World leaders decided that global warming should be limited to 2 degrees Celsius. Achieving that target, though, would take nothing less than a miracle. It is becoming increasingly clear that mankind has failed to address its most daunting problem. Since 1880, when global temperatures began to be systematically collected, no year has been warmer than 2014. The 15 warmest years, with one single exception, have come during the first 15 years of the new millennium. Indeed, it has become an open question as to whether global warming can be stopped anymore -- or at least limited as policymakers have called for. Should greenhouse gas emissions continue as they are today, the world will likely reach the 2 degree Celsius maximum within 30 years. Indeed, in order to have any chance at all of stopping global warming at 2 degrees Celsius, emissions would have to fall by 10 percent per year starting in 2017 at the latest, says Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency.

Take Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. He’s extremely proud of his country's wonder of the world, the Great Barrier Reef. At the same time, though, Abbott believes that burning coal is "good for humanity," even though it produces greenhouse gases that ultimately make our world's oceans warmer, stormier and more acidic. In recent years, Australia has exported more coal than any other country in the world. And the reef, the largest living organism on the planet, is dying. Half of the corals that make up the reef are, in fact, already dead.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Capitalism versus the Climate

Our candidate for Oxford East, Kevin Parkin, has received the following enquiry as to our policy on climate change:

“To have some chance of keeping future climate change from moving into unknown and possibly catastrophic levels, climate scientists agree that global temperature increase must be restricted to below 2˚ C. Accordingly, at the Copenhagen Conference in 2009, 167 of the world’s governments – representing countries responsible for 87% of carbon emissions and including our own – subscribed to that figure. To keep within that limit, it is calculated that the world can afford to pump only one trillion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere – that is the total global carbon budget. It doesn’t matter exactly when this is done but the limit must not be exceeded. This in turn means leaving 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
On behalf of Low Carbon Headington, Low Carbon South Oxford and Global Justice Oxford, we are writing to all prospective parliamentary candidates to ask the following:
•         Does your party accept the need to leave 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground?
•         Which of your party’s policies will ensure the rise in global temperatures is restricted to below 2˚C and how will they achieve this level?
•         What is your personal commitment to ensuring these limits are adhered to?”

We have replied:

The Socialist Party accepts that global warming is slowly taking place and that the past and present release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels is largely responsible. So, yes, there is a need to cut back on this by employing alternative methods of generating energy.

As this is a global problem, to deal with it requires co-ordinated action on a world scale but this is proving impossible under capitalism because of vested commercial interests and the security of energy supply considerations of the various competing states into which the world is divided.

As Naomi Klein has pointed out in her recent book ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate’, it is the capitalist system of production for profit by competing enterprises that is responsible both for the existence of the problem and for impeding effective action to deal with it. Some timid and wholly inadequate measures may be agreed at international level but that’s the most that will happen under capitalism, as we explain in this article “Too Little, Too Late”

This is why we say that the only framework within which the problem can be rationally and lastingly dealt with is where the Earth’s natural and industrial resources have become the common heritage of all humanity. To make this point, and to encourage action to bring about such a world, is one of the reasons why we are standing in this election.

We have no specific policies for dealing with the problem within capitalism. In fact we think this is a waste of valuable time – fiddling while Rome burns – as the problem continues and gets worse. We know that the scientific knowledge and the technological ability to deal effectively with the problem exist and are confident that they would be rapidly applied once world capitalism has been replaced by a world of common ownership, democratic control and production directly for use not profit.

Naomi Klein’s book is reviewed in the current (February) edition of our magazine here:

The Socialist Party Candidates

Steve Colborn - Easington; Robert Cox – Canterbury; Mike Foster - Oxford West and Abingdon; Brian Johnson - Swansea West; Danny Lambert - Vauxhall; Bill Martin - Islington North; Kevin Parkin - Oxford East; Howard Pilott - Brighton Pavilion; Jacqueline Shodeke - Brighton Kemptown; Andy Thomas - Folkestone and Hythe.

 Election Stickers

If there is no Socialist Party candidate in your constituency, that doesn't stop you helping. Those who do NOT have the opportunity of voting for the Socialist Party candidates in the ten listed constituencies, a sticker has been produced and available on request for members and sympathisers to freely make use of as they see fit.  

They Tell Us That This is Democracy

The legacy of 2014 will likely be that the world suffered a "historic failure" in human rights, according to Amnesty International's annual assessment.
Released Wednesday, the human rights report says that the year had been "devastating" for civilians caught in the cross-hairs of war and that governments "failed miserably" to protect those most in need.

The report broadly condemns violence and oppression, whether from international bodies or from violent extremists. Further, Amnesty charges that government crackdown in response to such violence further exacerbates the dangers by suppressing civil society and other human rights efforts. But one doesn't need to be living in a war torn area or a refugee camp to grasp the level of horror or simply the difficulties of day to day living in such places. Violence and oppression can also be witnessed around the globe in countries free from internal conflict or outright war, on the streets of towns and cities where peaceful demonstrations in support of many causes are trampled on by domestic 'security' bodies. National and local laws are regularly and incrementally being tightened to make any kind of protest by civilians a criminal act. Physical protest, written protest, spoken protest – more and more are assaulted, arrested, imprisoned and/or fined for trying to express disagreement. They tell us we live in democracies but what kind of democracy is it where dissent is disallowed?

"From Washington to Damascus, from Abuja to Colombo, government leaders have justified horrific human rights violations by talking of the need to keep the country 'safe'," states the report. "In reality, the opposite is the case. Such violations are one important reason why we live in such a dangerous world today. There can be no security without human rights."
The report cites such events as the ongoing crisis in Syria, the war against Gaza, the rise of non-state aggressors such as the Islamic State and Boko Haram, the Ukrainian conflict, and disappearances in Mexico as the more significant conflicts of the year. It says that millions of civilians were killed last year while the number of displaced people around the world exceeded 50 million for the first time since the end of World War II.

Within this international scenario each reader of this blog, from a variety of countries spread across the globe, will immediately be also aware of incidents much closer to home where millions have been displaced by economic reasons: loss of employment, home foreclosure, land rights grabbed, displacement by international corporations bent on profit from building mega-dams, mega-farms and mines, people losing access to securing their own futures while profits are accrued elsewhere. Millions die (or are they killed?) from poverty or from diseases related to poverty because poverty gives no access to necessary food and cures. Representation is sorely lacking on all levels.

The report also highlights the failure of Western countries to welcome and protect the millions of refugees. The human rights group particularly singles out the European Union's immigration policy, which Amnesty says has turned the continent into "fortress Europe, putting lives at risk."
"Those governments who have been most eager to speak out loudly on the failures of other governments have shown themselves reluctant to step forward and provide the essential assistance that those refugees require," the report states.
According to the report, by the end of 2014, only 150,000 of over 4 million Syrian refugees were living in EU states, while 3,400 refugees and migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea trying to make their way to Europe. And this number will surely grow now that the Mare Nostrum rescue programme has finished and rescue operations have been severely cut. The reason being it's too expensive to continue. That tells us quite clearly where people fit on the scale of desirables. But will these serious odds of drowning actually prevent those who can see no other way out from trying for a better life?

The human rights group also criticizes the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which include Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S.. Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said the countries have "consistently abused" their veto right to "promote their political self-interest or geopolitical interest above the interest of protecting civilians."
Backing a proposal agreed upon by roughly 40 other governments, Amnesty is calling for the UN Security Council to "adopt a code of conduct agreeing to voluntarily refrain from using the veto in a way which would block Security Council action in situations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity." Whether as individuals we would agree or disagree with this proposal, or indeed have any other proposals is not open for discussion. As with most decisions taken, at local, national or international level, we are not a party to be considered, except maybe when it's time to catch a few votes to further self-interest.

It is the depth and breadth of the lack of engagement civil society has in any meaningful manner with those who actually make our laws and who proceed with plans that, quite clearly in so many cases, majorities don't agree with is so astonishingly breathtaking when told that it is democratic. Democracy, self-determination, is being withheld by those who uphold the system which benefits the minority. Capitalism will never yield democracy to us. We have to take it for ourselves.

source material from here

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why are the Greens so green?

Why are the interviewers always catching Natalie Bennett out? Is it because the Leader of the Green Party is not up to it? Or because she was having a bad day? The second is her explanation for what happened yesterday. Maybe she did have one but there is another possible explanation -- that the Green Party's reformist programme is incoherent and doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

The Green Party supports capitalism and believes that under it people's needs can be made to come before profit-making. But history has amply demonstrated that this can't be done, that capitalism cannot be reformed so as to benefit the majority in society.

So, when the Green Party advocates that 500,000 new houses should be built (or any other expensive reform measure for that matter and there are plenty on the Green Party's wish list), "how are you going to pay for it?" is a question which revolutionary socialists can legitimately pose as well as pro-capitalist interviewers. The Green Party answers vaguely something along the lines of taxing the rich, corporations as well as individuals. But that means reducing profits and profits are what makes capitalism go round. So if you reduce them then you risk provoking an economic downward and you're back to square one.

It's official Green Party policy that banks can create money out of thin air and Bennett could have answered that the money to pay for the 500,000 new houses could simply be magicked into existence. Which of course would cause massive inflation. Fortunately for her, she did not to give that answer as the interviewer would have torn her to pieces. Or perhaps in this case she decided that discretion was the better part of valour and that um... er ... was the best way out.

Twenty-five years ago Derek Wall, once a Green Party spokesperson (in the days before they had a Leader) described rather well what was likely to happen if ever a reformist, Green Party government were to be elected:
‘A Green government will be controlled by the economy rather than being in control. On coming to office through coalition or more absolute electoral success, it would be met by an instant collapse of sterling as 'hot money' and entrepreneurial capital went elsewhere. The exchange rate would fall and industrialists would move their factories to countries with more relaxed environmental controls and workplace regulation. Sources of finance would dry up as unemployment rocketed, slashing the revenue from taxation and pushing up the social security bills. The money for ecological reconstruction – the building of railways, the closing of motorways and construction of a proper sewage system – would run out’ (Getting There, 1990, p. 78).
The socialist idea is ecological

The conclusion is not that we can't do anything but that we should act to get rid of capitalism and its production for profit and establish a socialist system, based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. This, and only this, is the framework in which problems such as the housing crisis can be solved once and for all. Then, it wouldn't be a question of trying to put people before profits. It would be people instead of profits since production for profit, and so profits, would no longer exist.

Whoever wins the election workers will lose

Are you angry and frustrated with the usual kind of politics? But, nevertheless, still committed to a fundamental change to society. We have to confess, there does exist a certain amount of skepticism about voting but the Socialist Party runs candidates in elections as it is a time when people are more open to thinking about politics. For socialists, standing for parliament represents an opportunity to put forward the key elements of socialist principles.

The expansion of voting rights is one of the recurring themes of history. Many people understand the limitations of ‘democracy’. They see pro-capitalist parties imposing austerity upon the people and giving generous breaks to the plutocracy. Everyday people think the world is overdue for change. For those sickened by the whole affair, there is good news: there are candidates worth voting for, even if in just a handful of constituencies. The Socialist Party is the only party in this election which stands resolutely against the present economic system and for the overthrow of wage-slavery. The Socialist Party’s campaign is to show that the system doesn’t work and that the world capitalist system is rotten to the core and must be replaced before it’s too late for society. We say everything depends on the building a genuinely socialist party of the working class.

There’s barely a difference between the Labour Party and the Conservatives. Not surprising, given that both aim for the same thing: to manage the capitalist economy. Both are in the pockets of big business and the corporations. Both have zero to offer the working class. Neither party has the determination to genuinely address climate change. The jockeying between the two parties over who can be rougher on benefit claimants and tougher on immigration is a despicable. Regardless of which party gains government the majority of people in this country, the working class, will be worse off. Whoever wins will continue to oversee measures that will profit a tiny minority of rich, the capitalist class. Whoever wins will continue to promote the decline of the real wages of workers. Whoever wins will continue to subsidise wasteful environmentally and climatically destructive methods of production that ultimately threaten our very existence. Whoever wins will continue to exercise xenophobic immigration rules. Whoever wins will continue to protect the socially, economically and environmentally unsustainable system of capitalism, a system driven by consumerism rather than social need that enslaves the majority of the world’s population

The Socialist Party is committed to both democracy and socialism. In fact, the path to socialism has largely been one of winning battles for democracy. Socialism will widen participation and public engagement beyond even democracy’s best practices today. We have no illusions about capitalism; we will need to move beyond it and replace it. Basic change never comes from elections alone, but it almost always proceeds through electoral battles. We are not simply looking to redistribute wealth. We want to take down the structures of class.

One of the greatest obstacles to winning working people to the perspective of a socialist revolution is the widespread and deeply ingrained illusion — inculcated in their minds day-in and day-out— that through reforms passed in parliament, people can defend and advance their interests. On the contrary, parliament is an instrument of capitalist rule.  Socialism can only realistically be implemented with the wide public support of an awakened working class. The chief objective of the Socialist Party at the moment is educational, to enlighten the workers for the conquest of political power and to arouse working people to a realisation of the historic role they are called upon to play, namely, their self-emancipation from the yoke of capitalist exploitation.

The Socialist Party practices transparency. Not only members but non-members are welcome to attend all meetings of our administrative bodies, and we openly publish regular reports of discussions and our finances. Those granted with special responsibilities are all elected. If you feel these views are in tune with your own, we strongly urge you to make contact. The more politically conscious workers are becoming increasing aware that politics is not about choosing the lesser of two evils at the ballot box: it’s a year-round class battle in our workplaces and in our communities. Voting for a lesser evil does not bring relief to working people. There is a better way of doing things, and it is called socialism. To achieve this, we must convince the majority that socialism is not only preferable, it is possible.  A society based on satisfying human need is totally realistic.

The anarchist slogan “Don’t vote, it only encourages them” must now be replaced by the not-so-cynical slogan “Not voting only reinforces them” when there is a genuine socialist candidate in the race, for a change.

The Socialist Candidates 
Steve Colborn - Easington;
Robert Cox – Canterbury;
Mike Foster - Oxford West and Abingdon;
Brian Johnson - Swansea West;
Danny Lambert - Vauxhall;
Bill Martin - Islington North;
Kevin Parkin - Oxford East;
Howard Pilott - Brighton Pavilion;
Jacqueline Shodeke - Brighton Kemptown:
Andy Thomas - Folkestone and Hythe.

If there is no Socialist Party candidate in your constituency, that doesn't stop you helping us via the internet and social media.

Capitalist Choice?

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food." -  Hippocrates

Selling food is big business, with big profits. Masses of farmers and small producers compete to supply a smaller number of processors, manufacturers, and wholesalers. These supply the handful of large retailers who sell directly to the global population of consumers.

The current global food crisis is simple to fix. Simple because all we need is sufficient, healthy food to eat, simple because it's technically possible to have an abundance of healthy food. Globally, we produce double the amount of calories required for the current population, or 4,600 kcal edible food per person per day, which is the right amount for the future peak population of 14 billion. However the world isn't 'being fed'. In fact the recently published Global Nutrition Report shows that almost all countries are facing a serious public health risk due to malnutrition. Malnutrition isn't surprising, given that the chief goal of the majority of players in the food system, from farmers upwards, is not to produce nutritious healthy foods for the people, but to make a profit.

In 2011 in the European Union, the largest five retailers in every country had a combined market share of more than 60 percent in 13 member states (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom), with market concentration exceeding 80 percent in both Denmark and Estonia. In most countries, however, market concentration among two or three major retailers is the norm. Two supermarket chains—Coles and Woolworths—control over 70 percent of the Australia’s food retailing sector, while Wal-Mart and Kroger made 43.2 percent of grocery store sales in the United States in 2013. In Canada, 55.5 percent of the grocery and food retail sector was held by three retailers in 2011. Similar consolidation can be observed in South Korea, Brazil, and elsewhere.

Food retailers’ unprecedented power as buyers within national and global markets gives them the ability to set the terms under which the food supply chain operates. Their ability to impose contracts and prices with tough deadlines is key to understanding the growing demand for sub-minimum wages in the food industry. In order to meet their obligations, stay afloat financially and weather the efforts of retailers and processors to lower costs, producers and suppliers often subcontract labour and other low value-adding business activities. For example, farmers, who rarely have the labour capacity to harvest time-sensitive crops, may hire large numbers of workers through agencies for short periods of time.

These agencies may in turn outsource their activities to a third party, either because they are unable to meet their obligations or because they want to take advantage of a lower cost provider. Labour supply chains operating through multiple intermediaries and stages of subcontracting are particularly vulnerable to forced labour. Slavery in the Thai fishing industry, forced labour in American and British agriculture United States and the United Kingdom agriculture, child labour and human trafficking in the chocolate industry, and forced labour in palm oil plantations in Malaysia are just a few examples of the ever-growing number of food commodities produced—in part or in whole—for supermarkets through forced labour.

Retailers’ hold over global food production and their ability to command low prices not only breeds cheap, flexible and casual labour in food production; it also creates the conditions of insecurity under which forced labour flourishes. Forced workers are not victims of greedy and morally bankrupt individuals. They are the living reality of a violent economic environment where food retailers’ rising profits and market power go hand in hand with food producers’ chronic insecurity and poverty. Tinkering around with ‘ethical’ audits, labour codes and corporate social responsibility has done little to address the relationship between retail business models and forced labour. There can be no sustainable solution to forced labour in the food industry without challenging food retailers’ ever growing power and control over the conditions of production of the essential elements of life.

US expenditure on food and non-alcoholic beverages (2012)
$672.6 billion
Total food retail revenue in 2013
Germany: $204.1 billion (€180.4 billion)
United Kingdom: $146.1 billion (£95.9 billion)
France: $172.7 billion (€152.7 billion)
Top five global retailers by retail revenue in 2012
Wal-Mart: $469.1 billion
Tesco: $101.3 billion
Costco: $S99.1 billion
Carrefour: $98.8 billion

Kroger: $96.8 billion

Tuesday, February 24, 2015



The Institute of Economic Affairs has accused the Chancellor
of the Exchequer, George Osborne, of cynical electioneering
after he announced the issue of extra Old-Age Pensioner bonds

The Chancellor is sucking up,
To wrinklies for their vote;
In a quite sneaky ruse to keep,
His government afloat.

As geriatrics are the ones,
Who’ll vote the Tory way;
Along with anti-immigrants,
And the now married gay.

The I.E.A.’s passed judgement on,
The Chancellor’s crude scam;
A government that is TODAY,
Providing folk with jam!

Now as the oldies in their plots,
Rub fungus off their Fronds;
At least they know they’re quids in with,
Their Old Age Pension Bonds!

© Richard Layton

What Future For Civilisation?

 Can civilisation continue? An Earth system scientist explains

The Conversation organised a public question-and-answer session on Reddit in which James Dyke, a lecturer in Complex System Simulation, discussed planetary boundaries and whether global industrialised civilisation is headed for collapse.

If the world has a finite amount of natural resources, and these resources have been diminishing steadily since the industrial revolution, how is the model of infinite economic growth possibly expected to continue? Doesn’t it have to end eventually?
This is a good question, however I think it’s possibly something of a red herring. That is, we don’t have to worry too much about ultimate or absolute limits to growth. What we need to worry about is how we move towards such limits from where we are right now.
We have an increasingly narrow space within which to operate, to organise ourselves on Earth. Essentially, we have seriously eroded our choices.

Do you agree that it is already too late to prevent global catastrophe caused by global warming?
No. There is nothing physically insurmountable about the challenges we face. I think it’s very important to continually stress that. Yes, in about a billion years time the increase in the size of the sun will mean the death of the biosphere. We have plenty to play for until then.
Sometimes people talk about social transitions. For example in the UK, drink driving and smoking in pubs/bars. It’s become the norm to do neither and that happened quite quickly. It always seems impossible before it is done.

Best estimate. How long do we have to spend all our savings before this hits?
I find it hard to be optimistic about the welfare of some people around the middle to the end of this century if we continue as we are. If we maintain business as usual with regards carbon emissions, biodiversity loss, biogeochemical inputs (we keep exceeding planetary boundaries) then I find it hard to see how our current connected, distributed, industrialised civilisation can function in the way it currently does.
There is no natural law, no physical principle which means the tremendous increases in wellbeing, industrial output, wealth etc observed over the past 300 years have to continue. Consider the broader historical context and you realise we live in extraordinary times. But we have become habituated to this and simply expect the future to resemble the past – and that includes future rates of change.
What largely keeps our current civilisation aloft is fossil fuel use and an unsustainable consumption of natural capital (sometimes discussed in the context of ecosystem services). There are end points for both of these and these end points are decades not centuries away.

I don’t see the connection between a loss in biodiversity and its impact on human civilisation. We depend heavily on crops, raw materials, minerals etc. What does human society depend on which is created by other species?
We do rely on biodiversity. Ecosystems provide all manner of services to us. They provide clean water, pollinate crops, stabilise slopes and coastal regions, house fisheries, regulate climate … If you were to add up how much it would cost us humans to provide such services you produce a ridiculously large number.
But, because these services are “free” we have happily ignored them or rather assumed that we can do pretty much what we want and the ecosystem services will continue to flow. They will not.

Won’t most of the negative effects of ecosystem disruption be disproportionately levelled on poor countries?
Yes. This needs to be continually stressed. This chart scales country size to carbon emissions (top) and increased mortality due to climate change (bottom):

Causes vs consequences. A) shows distribution of carbon emissions 1950-2000, B) shows climate-sensitive malaria, malnutrition, diarrhoea, and flood-related fatalities. UCL/Lancet
Click to enlarge
The great irony with climate change is that those countries that contributed least to the problem are those same countries that will be most affected.

On a more positive note, are there any planetary boundaries that we are likely to stay in safe limits of?
I think stratospheric ozone depletion looks under control. That was a great example of international coordination and effective management of the commons.

Why does the scientific community seem so afraid of geoengineering? Won’t there eventually come at point where that is our only choice?
Our understanding of the Earth’s climate has increased tremendously over the past couple hundred of years. But we are not in any position to be able to say we have a sufficient understanding of it to be able to conduct global-scale climate alteration in the ways that we want. We’ve got ample evidence we can change the climate, we’ve been enthusiastically pulling all sorts of levers. But we cannot give any assurance that explicit attempts to manage the climate would not in fact lead us closer to disaster.
For example one of the concerns with solar management geoengineering is that it completely ignores ocean acidification. That’s a good example of only looking at one element of the problem. These global challenges are very often closely linked and interact.

from here with links to further information

And one final question and answer (from this poster): With regard to all the questions above and considering all of the responses, as this is obviously a global, not a national or regional problem, what would the best, most appropriate global action to take in order to enable us to move forward in an egalitarian manner in the right direction for both people and planet?
Considering all of the above responses from James Dyke what is required is a global system of organisation which takes into consideration the needs of both population and that which it relies on for subsistence and well being, ie the planet. This is best achieved by the removal of artificial and unnecessary incentives which currently allow a minority to take decisions undemocratically and accumulate wealth from the common store to the detriment of the vast majority. Global capitalism is damaging our common heritage while a tiny minority tune their violins and look the other way. Egalitarianism can only spring from universal access to our common wealth and that can only be achieved by the inclusiveness of a socialist system. 

Tax-dodging by the super-rich not our problem

Our candidates in Swansea and Vauxhall have received between them nearly a hundred identical emails, apparently via 38 Degrees:
“I'm concerned about the recent revelations that HSBC has been helping the super-rich dodge their tax, and that the government has not been acting to stop this. As a prospective parliamentary candidate in my area, can you let me know what you pledge to do to crack down on tax dodging and prevent scandals like HSBC from happening again?”

To which we replied:
“The Socialist Party is not particularly concerned that the super-rich dodge paying their taxes. We are more concerned with the existence of a class of super-rich within society. Their income and wealth derives from the exploitation of the rest of us who, by our work, produce all the wealth of society. Socialism will put an end to this by making the means of wealth production common property under the democratic control of the community. There will be no rich or super-rich nor poor or super-poor, just a classless society of free and equal men and women cooperating to produce and distribute what they need in accordance with the socialist principle of "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs".”

On the same issue, the Morning Star (14-15 February) published a letter from Nick Long, who is standing in the general election in Lewisham for “Lewisham People before Profit”, in which he expressed a common view amongst left-wingers:

"Taxing the super-rich and getting tax-dodging corporations to pay their taxes can bring an end to austerity".

But would it? It might make things worse by provoking an investment strike. The problem is not tax-dodging by the super-rich. That's par for the course as Lord Fink has admitted. The problem, as we told our 38 Degrees enquirers, is the existence in society of a class of super-rich. To which the answer is not to tax them but to dispossess them by bringing the means of production into common ownership under democratic control.

The Workers’ Choice
Brighton Kemptown - Jacqueline Shodeke
Brighton Pavilion - Howard Pilott
Canterbury - Robert Cox
Easington - Steve Colborn
Folkestone and Hythe - Andy Thomas
Islington North - Bill Martin
Oxford East - Kevin Parkin
Oxford West and Abingdon - Mike Foster
Swansea West - Brian Johnson
Vauxhall - Danny Lambert

Monday, February 23, 2015

Labour ‘anti-business’? You’re having a laugh

It’s quite amusing really. The Labour Party has long since given up any opposition to capitalism and its profit-making and merely offers itself as an alternative manager of the capitalist state and economy in Britain.

Yet some capitalists and their mouthpieces in the media don’t believe them – or feign not to – and accuse Labour of being ‘anti-business’. Labour politicians protest. And grovel, the worst example to date being the historian Tristram Hunt, their spokesperson on education, who wrote a rather disparaging biography of Engels. Under the headline ‘We’re furiously pro-business, Labour MP tells private sector’, the Times (9 February) reported him as saying.
‘I’m enormously enthusiastic about businessmen and women making money, delivering shareholder return, about making profit’ (Times, 9 January).

Former Labour Leader Neil Kinnock was not so gushing but still reassured business corporations that Labour was not proposing to increase the tax on their profits:
‘Lord Kinnock also said that the business world has nothing to fear from Labour.”Nobody’s talking about raising corporation tax”, he said.’ (Times, 18 February)

There is a certain logic in this position. If you accept capitalism and that productive activity under it is driven by the need for firms to make a profit, then you have to accept that they should, and not do anything that might discourage or endanger this. Otherwise you will provoke an economic downturn.

Not that anything Labour is saying or proposing to do is anti-business or anti-profit. Miliband might have been unable to disguise his boredom when meeting capitalists but the most Labour has done is to criticise and say that they will put a stop to the practices that some capitalists and capitalist firms have engaged in to boost their profits such as tax-dodging, customer-cheating, supplier-bullying and market-rigging. This is to go no further than Ted Heath, when as Tory Prime Minister in 1973 he labelled one action of the businessman Tiny Rowland as the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’.

Which of course is not a criticism of capitalism as such but merely of the way some capitalists behave, a criticism that can be shared by other capitalists such as that of tax-dodging capitalist firms by other firms which don’t have the chance to do this and so have to pay more tax. Though Hunt, with his enthusiasm for profits not just as the driving force of the capitalist economy but also as ‘delivering shareholder return,’ can’t logically complain about this because the various sharp practices that capitalist firms engage in do increase ‘shareholder return’, at least in the short run,  and are engaged in precisely to do this.

That the Labour Party is in any way anti-capitalist, anti-business or anti-profit is a joke as the capitalists who are raising this spectre must know full well.  Labour has thoroughly absorbed enterprise culture.

Your Top Ten

Jacqueline Shodeke - Brighton Kemptown;
Howard Pilott - Brighton Pavilion;
Robert Cox – Canterbury;
Steve Colborn – Easington;
Andy Thomas - Folkestone and Hythe;
Bill Martin - Islington North;
Kevin Parkin - Oxford East;
Mike Foster - Oxford West and Abingdon
Brian Johnson - Swansea West;
Danny Lambert – Vauxhall.

We Refuse to be Enemies

Marx and Engels, by saying that “the workers have no country” were only stating a fact. Since the workers do not own their right share of the country, it can be argued that they are without a country. Socialists look upon the world as belonging to all the people on earth. The capitalists have no right to seize resources, because they do not aim at using them for the benefit of the world’s peoples but for themselves and their own class. Capitalism, indeed, has in view only gain for the benefit of one class, and not the prosperity of all. Socialists try to convince workers who are ready to fight for nationalism that they are mistaken and vainly expending their energy in a wrong direction, and that only the class war can emancipate them; that only the abandonment of every kind of national or state sovereignty and the disappearance of all exploitation of man by man can produce the conditions necessary to guarantee a permanent state of peace in the world.

The attitude of socialists towards national independence resembles that of a doctor who sees a naïve faith-healer treating a disease with ridiculously absurd means. If such a doctor is charitable he or she feels compassion for the patient who is being so dealt with, but he cannot assist in such treatment. The doctor then suggests suitable medicines and is grieved if the attendant will not accept his advice. The agitation for the independence of peoples is, indeed, essentially reactionary, is opposed to that unification of the world which is so desirable, and causes an enormous loss of energy, time, and blood. The real significance of the nationalist struggles is that the capitalist class in those countries want to exploit the workers themselves, without the competition of foreign capitalists, with whom they have to share the surplus value.

The interest of ALL workers lies in the class struggle, in organising to that end, and in linking up their activity with that of other workers. The nationalist struggle is essentially reactionary; the class struggle is indubitably revolutionary. The class struggle, furthermore, makes the exploited recognise the necessity for universal solidarity, whereas the national struggle perpetuates in the masses those patriotic feelings which are a very strong subjective barrier impeding the unity of the workers of different countries. Nationalist struggles may have had some justifiable significance many years ago, when autonomous national economic systems existed. That era has passed away. Experience shows daily that the class struggle can be successful only if it is organised on a world scale. The existing international method of organising the workers is no longer the most suitable for bringing the class struggle to victory. The present problem of the emancipation of the working class is very simple though of vast extent; it is to overthrow the capitalist class, and to organise and administer the economics of the world. The objective conditions for this are already in existence. Those who desire, consciously and purposefully to work for world socialism must wage a ceaseless, uncompromising fight against all kinds of nationalist myths.  

The Socialist Party, therefore, declares quite openly that they are unwilling, to take part in any agitation or struggle for any “independence” movements. They warn the workers that they can in no way free them. National “freedom” struggles are a delusion and a snare for the workers. The only advantageous fight for the workers must be the class struggle, not the national struggle.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Why I wouldn’t make a good MP

On 8 February Mike Foster, the Socialist Party candidate for Oxford West & Abingdon was invited to address a group of electors in Oxford. Here is what he said.

Thank you all for taking the time to come along this evening to hear why I wouldn’t make a very good MP. Definitely don’t put a cross in the box for the Socialist Party of Great Britain if you somehow come to the conclusion that I would play the Westminster game for the benefit of everyone. Because I couldn’t, even if I tried. No-one can. The state, and the very way that our society is put together, can’t be made to work in the interests of the vast majority of people. MPs who start out with good intentions about reforms and representing their constituents soon get stifled by the cumbersome bureaucracy and made to follow vested interests or the dictates of the elite. MPs who don’t start out with good intentions probably have an easier job.

If you vote for the Socialist Party, you wouldn’t be voting to put me in that position, thankfully. Instead, you’d be making the point that the whole system which we live under has to be replaced.

We would say that to aim for a better world, we first have to understand how our present society is arranged. For the last few hundred years, society has been divided into just two main groups, or classes. There’s the overwhelming majority of us –well over 90 percent – who don’t own much in the big scheme of things and can only get what we can afford through our wages, savings or state subsidies. If we’re able to find employment, we get our money by selling our time and our abilities to companies and organisations. These same companies and organisations then sell the services we run and the products we make back to us. But collectively, we don’t get back all that we put in. It’s a lop-sided arrangement. All the economic clout is with the corporations and landowners, owned by a tiny minority of people, possibly around 5 percent. Owning the means of production allows them to cream off a profit or a surplus for themselves, and they do this by exploiting the rest of us. Their economic power is backed up by political power. The state is there to try and manage the status quo, and protect the interests of those with all the wealth. This doesn’t mean that they have control over the economy, though. Market forces fluctuate between growth and slump regardless of what politicians and corporate strategists want. Instead, they’re more likely to be playing catch-up and trying to keep things financially viable in a shaky economy. It’s like being on a fishing boat on a choppy sea, struggling to stay afloat while the boat’s owner, Captain Birdseye, relaxes on a desert island.

This arrangement leads to massive inequalities in wealth, not just within this country, but across the globe. Goods and services only go to those who can afford them, not to those who need them. Those who can’t afford the basics risk falling into a lifestyle of poverty it’s hard to escape from. Living in an unequal world where everything is rationed creates divisions between us, leading to prejudice and discrimination. Even those of us with a reasonable standard of living never have enough real involvement or sense of ownership in where we work and live. Although we’ve all got our own role in making society tick along, we’re never really satisfied with it. We often feel powerless to influence what really matters to us. We end up stuck in unfulfilling jobs, stressed about whether we can afford to pay the bills, or frustrated by our lack of independence.

Reform or Revolution
Other political parties support the basic way society is structured, or just assume it’s the only way things can be. They would say that it can be improved from within, by changes to the law, or finding more funding for public services. Reforms or increased public spending may help some people in the short-term. But they only last as long as they’re financially viable or politically acceptable. A reform has to fit in with the economy and the political climate, which run in the interests of the elite. The needs and wishes of the vast majority of people aren’t as important.

People have been campaigning for higher wages or increased funding for the NHS for decades, without long-lasting, satisfactory resolutions ever being found. It’s the same with campaigns to protect the environment. Concerns about reducing pollution or preserving wildlife tend to be over-ruled when there’s money to be made. Our society treats the environment as a commodity, as something to be exploited to make a profit. Whereas surely the environment should be treated as a precious resource which shouldn’t be squandered? The same problems keep resurfacing again and again: funding shortages, low pay, climate change, terrorism, war, famine. This shows that they haven’t been addressed at their cause.

We would say that to solve the problems in society, we have to change the way society is structured. This means going from our world where the means to produce and distribute wealth are owned by a minority, to one where those resources and facilities are owned by everyone in common. Then, goods would be produced and services would be run directly for anyone who wants them, without the dictates of the economic market. Industries and services would be run just to satisfy people’s needs and wants. This doesn’t mean that resources would be squandered. Our present society is much more wasteful, not only in its exploitation of the environment, but also in the effort and energy used up by the bureaucracy of pushing money around. The new world we advocate would be able to manage our natural resources in a sustainable way, as the waste and short-term profitability which lead to environmental damage wouldn’t be there.

All this could only be achieved by fundamentally changing the way society is organised, a revolution. The kind of revolution we want is one which involves the vast majority of people across the world. Every country now is part of an integrated global economy and class structure. So, people across the world would have to want to change society. The only legitimate and practical way this could be achieved is by organising equally and democratically. This means voluntary, creative work, with decisions and responsibilities agreed through everyone having an equal say. This would mean a much broader and more inclusive use of democracy than we’re used to today. Different democratic organisations or procedures would apply in different circumstances. This doesn’t mean having leaders or groups with more authority than others.

The kind of society we aim for is reflected in the way the Socialist Party is organised. We don’t have leaders or hierarchies, all work is voluntary, and our principles are decided on democratically. This approach has worked for us for over a hundred years. We publish literature and audio-visual materials, hold discussion groups and talks, and we also stand candidates in elections, hence me being here. We do this to use what limited democracy we have in our current society to advocate a better world for everyone.