Saturday, January 31, 2015

To those who have, more is given

0 comments
A study tracking 634 rare surnames, such as Pepys, Bigge and Nottidge, has shed new light on how wealth has been handed down since 1850. Researchers studied a variety of sources – including the censuses of 1841–1911, records of births, marriages, probates and baptisms, apprentice contracts, ship passenger lists and newspaper announcements – and concluded that, down the generations, the “iron law” of inheritance had consistently trumped all efforts to improve social mobility in England and Wales. There is no evidence that wealth and status between the generations has declined since the Victorian era. The economists say that, despite the introduction of wealth taxes early in the 20th century, the arrival of mass education and the opening of the universities and professions to a modern meritocracy, social mobility rates have not changed “one iota”.

Attempts to improve social mobility in Britain throughout the last 150 years have failed to make any material difference, according to new research. After examining the records of 18,869 people, and dividing them into three categories, the rich, the prosperous and the poor suggest that the passing on of wealth is far more persistent over the generations than previously acknowledged, noting that there is a “significant correlation between the wealth of families five generations apart”. Put simply, the descendants of the wealthy of 1858 are still much wealthier than the average person in 2012.

The transfer of wealth between the generations carries additional benefits, according to the study. Not only are the descendants of those who were wealthy in 1850 still wealthy, but they have longer lifespans than average, are more likely to attend Oxford or Cambridge, live in expensive neighbourhoods, and go on to become doctors or lawyers. As Prof. Gregory Clark and Dr Neil Cummins observe: “What your great-great-grandfather was doing is still predictive of what you are doing now.” Clark and Cummins write “There is no more popular political programme than that which calls for enhanced social mobility. Our data suggests there is also no programme more guaranteed to fail.” They calculate it will take 300 years for descendants of rich 19th-century families to end up being of average wealth.

As Clark and Cummins, explain: “To those who have, more is given.”


The WSPUS - It's Position Outlined

0 comments
This 1935 pamphlet was first published by the then Workers Socialist Party of the United States (which later became the World Socialist Party).  It outlines the political position of the WSPUS and while it does not discuss everything it is re-submitted to the working class for their approval. It, of course, may well be worded differently to apply to today’s circumstances.

THE AIM OF THE WORKER’S SOCIALIST PARTY

The Worker’s Socialist Party Of  The United States is organized for the purpose of obtaining Socialism, the common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production in the interest of the whole community. The following is a statement on which this objective is based.

All economic wealth is the result of the application of human energy to the materials provided by nature. Neither mystical power nor biological difference endows a favored few with title to and control of the sources of wealth.

In the course of history various social system have arisen based on privilege. In modern times this form of privilege is the private ownership of the means of production by one class, the capitalists. As a result, society is split into two main classes: capitalists and wage-workers.

WEALTH PRODUCTION

The wealth on which all live is produced by workers who obtain a living by selling their bodily and mental energies to the capitalists. Any one whose principal means of living is secured by selling his energies to an employer is a member of the working class, whether he is a professor, dishwasher, engineer or a day laborer.

In selling their energies to the capitalists, the workers do so for a wage or salary which enables them to live according to the standard prevailing in their particular industry or profession.

The result of the social labor of the working class is the production of a quantity of wealth far greater than that which is represented by their wages and salaries. Out of this surplus wealth produced by them, the capitalist class lives. This surplus wealth takes the form of rent, interest or profit.

CLASH OF INTERESTS

The workers try to sell their labor power for as high a price as they can get. The capitalist class tries to buy the workers’ labor power for as low a price as possible. Thus the two classes, capitalists and workers, face each other with interests that are diametrically opposed. The basis of this antagonism is the private ownership of the capitalists of the means of production.

The wealth produced today is not distributed according to the needs of each member of the community. It is sold for the purpose of making a profit for the capitalists. In their effort to sell commodities produced by the workers, capitalists compete with each other on the world market. This competition often leads to war.

UNEMPLOYMENT

Workers are hired by the capitalist for the purpose of selling the product of their labor at a profit. The lower the wages the capitalist pays them and the more work he gets from them are important factors in making this profit. The army of unemployed is utilized by the capitalists, individually or collectively, to keep wages at the subsistence level. Between 20 and 30 million workers are unemployed in the capitalist world today. As more countries become industrialized, as industrial technique improves and more commodities can be produced by fewer workers, unemployment assumes larger proportions in capitalist society, especially during a depression. A certain amount of unemployment is essential to permit the continuous operation of capitalist industry, for then workers are always available to the employer whenever he needs them. In fact, unemployment is a normal condition of capitalism.

The steadily growing army of unemployed tends to make conditions worse for the working class by causing greater competition for jobs which usually results in lower wages and, consequently, a lower standard of living. This condition gives rise to the fine schemes of social reformers.

REFORMS NO SOLUTION

Reforms fail to solve the workers’ problems. They may ease some of the burden of a section of the working class for a short time. But in spite of a hundred years or so of reforms, the condition of the working class as a class remains one of poverty and insecurity. Regardless of the intentions of social reformers, their activity is in reality opposed to the interests of the working class. The sponsor measures which aid in the continuation of capitalism and divert the workers’ attention from the real cause of their problems. Reforms and reformers do not touch the cause.

SOCIALISM THE ONLY SOLUTION

The basic social problems, such as poverty, insecurity and unemployment arise from private ownership of the means of wealth production. From this it follows that the only solution is the conversion of the means of production from private or class ownership into their common ownership by the whole community. This is true for the entire capitalist world today.

“CONTENTMENT”

Naturally, the capitalist class dislikes anything that interferes with the orderly processes of production and the flow of profits. To insure the smooth running of capitalism, workers must be allowed to express themselves, “to let off steam”. Discontent that is suppressed too much is likely to explode in riots and disorder, the expense of which is usually a charge against profits.

Because of this and other factors, workers, men and women, now have the franchise. This gives them at election time the privilege of voting for officials and representatives in municipal, state or Federal elections. As the working class constitutes the majority of the electorate in the United States and in other highly developed capitalist countries, they could carry elections in their own interest.

At the present time they only express discontent at elections and remove from office those in power and replace them with individuals, (supports of capitalism) who they think will serve their interests or “who will do something for them now”.

POLITICAL POWER

Congress is the center of political power in this country and whoever controls it has control of the armed forces of the nation (army, navy, police, and so forth) and can use them to enforce its will. In the modern political state the capitalist class rules directly through universal franchise, which means that they must get the active or tacit support of the majority.

It should be clear, that up to the present the workers vote into office their employers, or their employers’ representatives, whether they vote for nominees of the Republican, Democrat, Fusion and “Progressive” Parties. Capitalism will last for a long time unless the workers cease to give the capitalist class the control of the powers of government.

Other political parties which seek the support of the working class on social reform measures, which can only deal with the effects of the capitalist system, also should not be supported by the workers.

THE WORKERS POWER

Workers are in a position to abolish the capitalist system only when they understand and desire to do so. Until they understand their class position and what Socialism means they cannot bring about the change.

When the workers understand their position in capitalist society they will organize into a political party to get control of the political machinery so that they can abolish capitalism and introduce Socialism.

For the aforementioned reasons the Workers Socialist Party Of The United States was formed. It has held, since its formation, consistently to its purpose because it is convinced that there is no other way to achieve Socialism.


If you think the above statements of our position is in accord with the fact, then why not join our ranks – for Socialism?

Promoting Trade - A Race To The Bottom For The Lowest Barrier

0 comments
A new leak concerning the talks around the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) indicates that the floodgates could be opened even further for corporate influence. The leak has been analysed by the corporate watchdogs CEO and LobbyControl and shows that corporate influence on EU and US policies might dramatically increase via the chapter on so-called ‘regulatory cooperation’.
The leak of the EU draft negotiating proposal dated January 23rd makes unmistakably clear that the EU is seeking a very ambitious chapter that strengthens the role of business in future regulatory legislation possibly via a new institution, the Regulatory Cooperation Body (RCB). Its role would be to coordinate the process of regulatory coherence between the US and the EU and would effectively limit policy space and sideline the public and civil organisations.

Existing and future EU regulation would have to go through a series of investigations, dialogues and negotiations in this Council. This would move decisions on regulations into a technocratic sphere, away from democratic scrutiny. Also, there would be compulsory impact assessments for proposed regulation, which will be checked for their potential impact on trade. This would be ideal for big business lobbies: creating a firm brake on any new progressive regulation in the very first stage of decision-making.
Kenneth Haar of CEO says:
“The proposal fulfils the ambitions of some of the biggest business lobby groups. It will provide them with a big tool box they can use to roll back regulation adopted in the public interest.”
A December 2014 version of the draft indicates that there were even ambitions to include the municipal level in the list of those who are to report on planned regulations that affect trade. Even though this has been taken out of the proposal now, it clearly shows that there are desires on the EU-side to subjugate social and environmental legislation at all levels to international trade.
Max Bank of LobbyControl says:
“Trade Commissioner Malmström has to step back on regulatory cooperation in TTIP. Like Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), it strengthens big business and threatens democracy on both sides of the Atlantic.”
‘Regulatory co-operation’ is a ploy to open the door to massive influence by big business over future laws. The EC argues that its proposal for regulatory co-operation in TTIP is nothing more than a rational dialogue, for example to avoid duplication of laws on both sides of the Atlantic, and that it would not restrict the ability of regulators and legislators to pursue public interest objectives.
However, there has always been a gap between the EC’s documents for public consumption and the actual texts from the negotiations that have emerged via leaks. And the recent leaks of new proposals from December 2014 and January 2015 not only confirm the validity of the criticism but show that the EC’s true negotiating position is even worse than critics imagined.

In late 2012, BusinessEurope and the US Chamber of Commerce had several meetings with the EU Commission to push their agenda. Regulatory cooperation is promoted as a solution to the problem that agreeing on harmonised standards or mutual recognition of standards can prove difficult in the short term. Consequently, on issues such as food standards, chemicals and financial regulation, because negotiators might not be able to strike a deal on common rules between the US and EU while the trade negotiations are under way, regulatory co-operation can provide a space for business groups and regulators to reach results to their liking after TTIP is agreed, in the long term and without much public scrutiny.
Business Europe and the US Chamber of Commerce presented the EC with a series of proposals in 2012, which would enable them – in their words – to “co-write regulation”.

Despite claims by the EC that there is no secrecy concerning the negotiations, the notes of European Commission meetings with business lobbyists released to Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) under the EU’s freedom of information law some time back were heavily censored. The documents showed that the EC invited industry to submit wish lists for ‘regulatory barriers’ they would like removed during the negotiations. The documents showed clearly that removing differences in EU and US regulations is the key issue in the talks: in other words, a race to the bottom in setting the lowest barriers possible. It is therefore no surprise that the strong similarities between the EC’s proposals and those of the industry lobbyists sparked a backlash against the onerous privileges being awarded to business groups

When the EC talks about the involvement of interest groups in regulatory issues, it uses the neutral term ‘stakeholder’. The overwhelming majority of lobbyists in Brussels represent business: ‘involving stakeholders’ is another expression for opening yet one more avenue for corporate lobbyists to influence policymaking. Past experiences of involvement of ‘stakeholders’ in ‘regulatory co-operation’ between the EU and the US have demonstrated that these procedures are easily open to big business and often closed to other interest groups.

The agenda of regulatory co-operation is first and foremost about promoting trade – not about securing consumer rights, public health, or any other public policy objective.
And, as if to underline the stitch-up of the European public between officials and big business, the only way the public has access to what is really being negotiated is through leaked documents.

from here and a more detailed explanation of the issues surrounding regulatory cooperation here.

Balancing on a tightrope

0 comments
Despite reports of economic recovery, most Americans' household financial security is anything but secure. A report by Pew Charitable Trusts looks at three elements of a household balance sheet—income, expenditures and wealth—over the past several decades, and reveals the "financial tightrope" most families are walking. 70 percent of U.S. households face financial strains in at least one of those three areas, the analysis found, with many facing more than one.

"Our analysis finds that many American families, even those with relatively high incomes, are walking a financial tightrope," stated Erin Currier, director of Pew’s financial security and mobility project. "Many have little if any cushion to absorb an unexpected financial setback. It’s a precarious state…”

55 percent of all households have a month or less of liquid savings, referring to savings or checking accounts, if a financial emergency struck, while a typical household at the bottom has less than two weeks such savings. In the case of a financial emergency, many households would turn to any other assets they might have, either liquidating retirement savings or taking on credit card debt. Yet even doing that, the report states, "the typical household could replace only about four months of lost income."

Wage growth for a typical worker was 22 percent from 1979 - 1999, that growth was just two percent from 1999 to 2009. "Nearly half of households experienced an income gain or drop of more than 25 percent in a given two-year period," it states.



Friday, January 30, 2015

Thomas More and the Abolition of Money

1 comments
In an article in the 30th Jan Times on the Green Party's proposal for a "citizens income" , Philip Collins, their chief leader writer (and Blair's former speechwriter) claims:
“It was Thomas More, in his Utopia of 1516, who first suggested the idea of a basic income, paid as a right of citizenship to all.”

On the island of Utopia money was completely abolished so that any idea of people being "paid" a monetary "income" wouldn't make sense.

Right at the end of the tale, More's traveller says:
“The use as well as the desire of money being extinguished, much anxiety and great occasions of mischief is cut off with it, and who does not see that the frauds, thefts, robberies, quarrels, tumults, contentions, seditions, murders, treacheries, and witchcrafts, which are, indeed, rather punished than restrained by the seventies of law, would all fall off, if money were not any more valued by the world? Men's fears, solicitudes, cares, labours, and watchings would all perish in the same moment with the value of money; even poverty itself, for the relief of which money seems most necessary, would fall. But, in order to the apprehending this aright, take one instance:-
 "Consider any year, that has been so unfruitful that many thousands have died of hunger; and yet if, at the end of that year, a survey was made of the granaries of all the rich men that have hoarded up the corn, it would be found that there was enough among them to have prevented all that consumption of men that perished in misery; and that, if it had been distributed among them, none would have felt the terrible effects of that scarcity: so easy a thing would it be to supply all the necessities of life, if that blessed thing called money, which is pretended to be invented for procuring them was not really the only thing that obstructed their being procured!”

It is for this, not for proposing any pathetic scheme for a basic income, that More has been held in high regard by socialists.

Earlier the traveller had described the use the people of Utopia put gold and silver to:
 “They eat and drink out of vessels of earth or glass, which make an agreeable appearance, though formed of brittle materials; while they make their chamber-pots and close-stools of gold and silver, and that not only in their public halls but in their private houses.”

This, no doubt, is from where Lenin got his idea that in socialism public urinals would be made of gold (not that the Bolsheviks could or did do this, but then they weren't establishing socialism only state capitalism).


ALB

Recovery? Wot recovery?

0 comments
British workers are taking home less in real terms than when Tony Blair won his second general election victory in 2001, with men and young people hit hardest by the wage squeeze that followed the financial crisis, according to new research. The Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank said wages were 1% lower in the third quarter of 2014 than in the same period 13 years earlier after taking inflation into account.

Men’s pay fell by 7.3% in real terms between 2008 and 2014 while women’s average hourly pay, relatively cushioned from the worst of the wage cuts because they are more likely to be in public sector jobs, fell by 2.5% , the IFS found which also indicated that the relative advantage gained from working in the public sector would be reversed in the years ahead because both major parties were promising to press on with public sector pay restraint.

Younger workers were among the biggest victims of the falling living standards that have become widespread in post-crash Britain. During the 2009-11 period, when wage declines were most pronounced, the earnings of 22- to 29-year-olds fell by 10.6%, compared with just under 7% for older age groups. By 2014 it remained 9% lower than in 2008.

Jonathan Cribb, an author of the report, said: “Almost all groups have seen real wages fall since the recession.” 


Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trade Union Congress said the government must do more than rely on a “lucky” run of low inflation numbers to boost salaries.

Capitalist Criminals Or Criminal Capitalism?

0 comments


Many critics of capitalism suggest that capitalism is not the main problem in the world. They do not want to appear, in the eyes of the people and the ruling elite, as too radical or ‘ideological’. But the forces for social change must embrace revolutionary engagement with robust ideological clarity: Capitalism is the problem.

"The ideological deficiency, not to say the total lack of ideology, within the national liberation movements — which is basically due to ignorance of the historical reality which these movements claim to transform — constitutes one of the greatest weaknesses of our struggle against imperialism, if not the greatest weakness of all." - Amilcar Cabral [1]

What is it about the term ‘capitalism’ that inspires many of us to not call its name in vain and in the public square? Why is it that many of us will openly and forcefully critique ‘classism’ but enthusiastically shy away from condemning capitalism in the same way? After all, we do publicly name and slam racism, homophobia or heterosexism, ageism, patriarchy or sexism and ableism. How effective will we be in organising and rallying the oppressed against economic exploitation without naming the system that is brutalising the majority?

It is rather telling that Occupy Wall Street’s (OWS) first public document studiously refrained from explicitly naming the system that is the source of economic exploitation and domination:

‘As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.’[2]

Some of the oppressive facts of the economic system outlined in Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration of the Occupation of New York City can be reformed, in the eyes of many people, without destroying capitalism. Therefore, most participants and supporters of the Occupy Movement did not see their embrace of its ‘We are the 99%’ slogan as an indictment of capitalism:

‘…the results of our 453 interviews at seven Occupy locations indicate that OWS movement demands are not mutually incompatible with capitalism. Moreover, for the most part, the OWS movement is neither calling for abolishing capitalism, nor is it demanding a massive overhaul of capitalism as an economic system -- less than 5% of all the respondents we interviewed in the seven Occupy locations made any reference to ending, abolishing or getting rid of capitalism. Instead, the key demands we kept hearing in this regard are: elimination of corporate personhood; the need for campaign finance reform and getting money out of politics.’[3]

There were other voices early on in the movement who realized that many supporters of this protest movement had no grievance with capitalism, but were upset with ‘corporate greed’ or the excesses of the ‘corporate forces.’ Ha-Joon Chang, an open supporter of capitalism had this to say about the London occupiers, ‘It is routinely described as anti-capitalist, but this label is highly misleading. As I found out when I gave a lecture at its Tent City University last weekend, many of its participants are not against capitalism. They just want it better regulated so that it benefits the greatest possible majority.’[4] William Bowles noted Occupy Wall Street’s focus on ‘capitalist criminals rather than criminal capitalism’ as well as the general avoidance of mentioning ‘socialism’ ‘except from the tiny Left contribution itself.’[5]

The tenuous claim or perception of the Occupy Movement being ideologically committed to placing capitalism in the dustbin of history was promoted by many media outlets.[6] On the international front, the Occupy Movement was also seen as an entity with a strong anti-capitalist outlook.[7] It is quite instructive that a movement whose spokespersons did not indict capitalism as the perpetrator or ‘person of interest’ in the economic suffering of the working-class was still seen as an anti-capitalist phenomenon. This state of affairs speaks to the ‘ideological deficiency’ or lack of understanding of the nature of capitalism that exist in society.

Based on the manner in which some political progressives frame their critique of capitalism, one could reasonably form the opinion that there are benign or redeeming forms of capitalism. Let's make this clear, all forms of capitalism are unacceptable and revolting to justice, solidarity and equity.

There are moments when critics denounce ‘unfettered capitalism,’[8] ‘corporate capitalism,’[9] ‘crony capitalism,’[10] ‘finance or financial capitalism’[11] or ‘unregulated capitalism’[12] as the source of the current economic and social exploitation experienced by the masses or societies across the globe.

These erstwhile critics of capitalism are implicitly or unwittingly suggesting that capitalism is not the main problem. As such, the actual message being communicated to the people is that the derivative forms of this dog-eat-dog economic system are the real issues of concern to the people’s well-being.

Sam Gindin, former researcher director of the Canadian Auto Workers (now Unifor after a merger with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada) and current adjunct professor, recently called attention to the above problem in his review of Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate:

‘Klein deserves enormous credit for putting capitalism in the dock. Yet she leaves too much wiggle room for capitalism to escape a definitive condemnation. There is already great confusion and division among social activists over what “anti-capitalism” means. For many if not most, it is not the capitalist system that is at issue but particular sub-categories of villains: big business, banks, foreign companies, multinationals.’

‘Klein is contradictory on this score. She seems clear enough in the analysis that pervades the book that it is capitalism, yet she repeatedly qualifies this position by decrying “the kind of capitalism we now have,” “neoliberal” capitalism, “deregulated” capitalism, “unfettered” capitalism, “predatory” capitalism, “extractive” capitalism, and so on. These adjectives undermine the powerful logic of Klein’s more convincing arguments elsewhere that the issue isn’t creating a better capitalism but confronting capitalism as a social system.’[13]

Many individuals and organizations have taken the above pragmatic approach to critiquing capitalism, because we do not want to come across, in the eyes of the people and the ruling elite, as too radical, irresponsible or ‘ideological’. In the case of the Occupy Movement, the use of its widely popular slogan ‘We are the 99%’ pandered to the ruling-class’s ideological bill of goods that Europe and North America are predominantly middle-class regions with the working-class being a minority.[14] The 99 per cent category feeds into the narrative of a largely middle-class population being confronted with greedy bosses and politicians who have deviated from the social and economic practices that defined the golden age (1945-1974) of the capitalist social welfare state.

With the capitalist ruling-class reduced to a mere 1 per cent of society and isolated as the spectre haunting the rest of us, the working-class and liberal petty bourgeoisie were not forced to confront and interrogate their own ideological support for capitalism. The ruling-class has imposed its economic and political ideologies onto the consciousness of the oppressed as natural, self-evident ways of seeing reality.

It is for the above reason 86 per cent of Americans could support the Occupy Movement’s position that lobbyists and the economic elite have too much influence in Washington, while 71 per cent of the people wanted the prosecution of business officials who caused the Great Recession, and 68 per cent of them desired the rich to pay more taxes[15] without being opposed to capitalism.

The Occupy Movement unwittingly advocated class collaboration by including members of the ruling-class within its 99 per cent category. In 2012, it was reported that the 1 per cent pulled in a yearly average income of $717,000 while those outside of that income bracket generated $51,000.[16] President Barack Obama is a member of the ruling-class but the combined 2012 income of he and Michelle Obama totaled $608,611.[17] The employment income levels of the American Supreme Court justices, the Vice-President and members of Congress are below $300,000.[18] Are we to believe that Obama, the Supreme Court judges and most of the politicians in Congress are members of the 99 per cent?

If we use net worth to determine inclusion within the 1 per cent, many members of capitalist ruling groups would find themselves within the 99 per cent. The 2010 average net worth of the 1 per cent stood at $16.4 million[19], while the median net worth of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate came in at $1,008,767 in 2012.[20] The Obamas’ net worth was estimated at $1.8 – $6.8 million in 2012.[21] Some members of Congress are clearly within the top 1 per cent of wealthy Americans.

It is only an uncritical grasp of political economy or an underdeveloped class analysis that would put Barack Obama, the Supreme Court justices, all members of Congress and even many chief executive officers within the ranks of Fanon’s ‘wretched of the earth’. How is it possible for the political and economic foxes of American capitalism (ruling-class elements) to be placed in the same henhouse as the chickens (the 99%)? We do not need to wonder about the identity of the group that is going to end up as breakfast, lunch or dinner in such a Kumbaya-like scenario!

Many progressive individuals and organizations seek acceptance as credible voices or representatives of the people in their attempt to get a seat at the negotiation table of the oppressors. There are political actors who are infatuated with the common sense adage ‘You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’ Therefore, they will not publicly name and confront capitalism as a system of class exploitation and economic oppression in the global North. It is foolhardy of individuals and organizations that want social change to crave the blessings of the forces of oppression by throwing ideological softballs at capitalism and other systems of domination.

The above path will only lead to collaboration, betrayal and the undermining of movements for social emancipation. It is fundamentally necessary to speak truth to power and the powerless, because it is needed in our organising, mobilising and educational work to end capitalist exploitation. Further, the agents of revolutionary transformation ought to play the long game, and not ponder to opportunism and pragmatic politics.

In many, if not most, social movement organisations, there is a tendency to give insufficient attention to the systematic ideological development of their members. In order to get around the low level of class analysis or understanding of capitalism, it is necessary to organise study groups to correct this area of ideological deficiency. Furthermore, the public education work that is carried out with and among socially dominated groups ought to develop creative ways to foster class consciousness, class solidarity and a sound understanding of capitalism.

The forces for social change ought to approach the process of revolutionary engagement with the oppressed with disciplined patience, robust ideological clarity and an infatuation with truth-telling. They must be clear in their understanding and articulation of the basic fact that capitalism is the problem as expressed below by the Black Left Unity Network (notwithstanding the reference to the 1%):

‘The Black left is fighting on all fronts against all forms of oppression. A central point of unity is that all of our struggles can advance only to the extent that we mount a full assault on the capitalist system. Capitalism is the basis for the 1% control of this society and the source of our misery.’[22]

By Ajamu Nangwaya from here with footnotes

Succinctly put, bravo! There are multiple ways to foster class consciousness, class solidarity and a sound understanding of capitalism, so let's forge ahead as we are individually able and solidify the shared aim to bring an end to the capitalist system for the benefit of all humanity.

 

Gun Runners Inc.

0 comments
The sales of weaponry and other kinds of war equipment are big business for a range of American companies, and the US government is more than happy to assist.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA)  notified Congress of several pending arms deals for Iraq. DSCA is the Pentagon office responsible for coordinating arms agreements between American defense contractors and foreign buyers.

Iraq's Shopping List

 Here's part of what the US is getting ready to sell to Iraq right now:
* 175 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks;
* 15 Hercules tank recovery vehicles (you can't have a tank without the tow truck);
* 55,000 rounds of main gun ammunition for the tanks (the ammo needed to get the biggest bang for your bucks)
And the cost? Just under $3 billion. But earlier deals included in July, General Dynamics $65.3 million contract to support the existing Iraq M1A1 Abrams program. In October, the US approved the sale of $600 million in M1 tank ammunition to Iraq. There have also been sales of all sorts of other weaponry, from $579 million worth of Humvees and $600 million in howitzers and trucks to $700 million worth of Hellfire missiles. There are many more examples. Business is good. The Iraq order should keep General Dynamics' tank business running well into 2016.


The United States has already donated 250 Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) armoured vehicles to Iraq as well as $300 million in weapons handed over free-of-charge by the Department of Defense in 2014. Congress passed $1.2 billion to spend in future training and equipment for Iraq.


Prosperity...What Prosperity?

0 comments
Still the research arrives describing the inequality of America, this time from National Bureau of Economic Research and a paper by Edward N Woolff

Between 1983 and 2013 US net worth rose considerably over that period, which is what you would expect to see. Technology has improved and productivity increased, so society has a greater capacity for wealth building. America was also quite a bit older on average in 2013 than it was in 1983, so average wealth should have gone up.

But all of these gains went to the top 20 percent of the population. It's worse than that, actually. Over 100 percent of the gains went to the top 20 percent, because the bottom 60 percent of the population got poorer.

Median wealth plummeted by 44 percent over years 2007 to 2010, almost double the drop in housing prices.

For wages the recession began much earlier than the financial crisis. Real wages then rose very slowly from 2001 to 2004, with the BLS mean hourly earnings up by only 1.5 percent, and median household income dropped by 1.6 percent. From 2004 to 2007, real wages remained stagnant, with hourly earnings rising by only 1.0 percent. From 2007 to 2010 median household income in real terms declined sharply over this period, by 6.7 percent. The stagnation of median wealth from 2010 to 2013 can be traced to the depletion of assets. In particular, the middle class was using up its assets to pay down its debt. The evidence suggests that middle class households, experiencing stagnating incomes, expanded their debt (at least until 2007) mainly in order to finance normal consumption expenditures rather than to increase their investment portfolio.

The Great Recession hit African-American households much harder than whites. Hispanic households got hammered by the first half of the Great Recession. Young households got pummeled by the Great Recession.

Between 1983 and 2013, the top one percent received 41 percent of the total growth in net worth, 43 percent of the total growth in non-home wealth, and 49 percent of the total increase in income. The figures for the top 20 percent are 99 percent, 98 percent, and 103 percent, respectively – that is to say, the upper quintile got it all! Stock ownership is also highly skewed by wealth and income class. The top one percent of households classified by wealth owned 38 percent of all stocks in 2013, the top 10 percent 81 percent, and the top quintile 92 percent.

The average American household is poorer today than it was in 1983.


Remembering Elisabeth Dmitrieff

0 comments
One female comrade chided some fellow members of the Socialist Party for holding only male personalities from history as heroes. Of course, there are many women in the socialist echelons such as Rosa Luxemburg but she did make her point. Many other deserving women have been forgotten or not offered their proper dues.

One such activist is Elisabeth Dmitrieff. 

Élisabeth Dmitrieff, had helped organise cooperatives in Geneva and then arrived in Paris Commune in late March 1871 as a representative of the International, stated, "The work of women was the most exploited of all in the social order of the past….It's immediate reorganisation is urgent."

Dmitrieff, born Elisavieta Koucheleva in the northwestern Russian province of Pskov in 1850, was the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat and a German nurse twenty years his junior. Élisabeth entered into a mariage blanc (a marriage of convenience) to get out of Russia, after having been active in a student group in Saint Petersburg. She carried funds from her sizable dowry into exile in Geneva in 1868. Dmitrieff went to London, where she met Karl Marx and his family. Immediately following the proclamation of the Commune, Marx sent her to Paris, and she sent reports on the situation back to him.

Dmitrieff cut quite a figure. She wore a black riding costume, a felt hat with feathers, and a red silk shawl trimmed in gold. A police description put her at about five feet, three inches tall, with chestnut hair and gray-blue eyes. Léo Frankel was one of the Communards who fell in love with her. Dmitrieff combined a precocious feminism with a socialism influenced by Marx and a firm expectation that revolution would some day come to Russia.

On April 8, Dmitrieff sought to rally citoyennes in defense of Paris in the tradition of the women who had marched to Versailles in October 1789. Three days later, mothers, wives, and sisters, including Dmitrieff and Nathalie Le Mel, published an "Appeal to the Women Citizens of Paris": 
"We must prepare to defend and avenge our brothers."

That evening, the Union des Femmes was constituted, led by a council of five women, with Dmitrieff as general secretary. The union called on women to form branches in each arrondissement. Saluting the Commune as representing "the regeneration of society," the organisation asked women to build barricades and to "fight to the end" for the Commune. The Commune gave women in the Union des Femmes, which included perhaps as many as 2,000 women, unprecedented public responsibilities. It set up committees in most arrondissements as recruiting centers for volunteers for nursing and canteen work and barricade construction. The Union des Femmes also took the fight for equal rights to Paris's factories. The manufacture of National Guard uniforms, the vast majority of which women produced, was one Parisian industry that kept going full steam. The Commune had first signed contracts with traditional manufacturers for the production of uniforms, but a report determined that under this arrangement female workers were earning less than under the Government of National Defence. The Union des Femmes demanded the award of all future contracts to workers' producers' cooperatives and that the Tailors' Union and delegates from the Commission of Labour and Exchange negotiate piece rates. 

After having fought on the barricades during the Bloody Week, she fled to Russia. Once arrived in her native country, she married a political prisoner in order to help him avoid death penalty, and decided to follow him in deportation in Siberia, where she ended her days.

A small square in Paris, between the rue du Temple and the rue de Turbigo (close-by to the Place de la République) has been named in her honour.


Details from Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune, by John Merriman.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

20% of US Children Dependent On Food Stamps

0 comments
The economy may be picking up, but more children depend on food stamps now than they did at the start of the Great Recession. Around 16 million U.S. children under 18, or about 20 percent of the child population, received food stamps last year, according to a new report from Census Bureau on Wednesday. At the beginning of the recession, 9 million children received food stamps.
150128-census-food-stamps-chart
U.S. Census Bureau
Read it at Wall Street Journal


The Population "Problem"

2 comments
Shanghai authorities are urging couples to have more children

For decades, most urban Chinese families could have only one child. China’s birth rate is among the lowest of developing countries, nearly four decades after the country restricted most urban couples to having one child. An ageing society threatens to slow down China’s booming economy and overload its pension system when too few workers will be supporting growing numbers of the elderly.

“It’s very clear that the next 10 to 15 years down the road will not be so good-looking,” said Yong Cai, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “China should have changed this policy at least 10 years earlier when the economic and social situation was quite different. My view is quite pessimistic, that the policy change announced last year was too little, too late.”


Many Chinese couples are refraining from having more than one child as education and other costs soar, Yong said. Birth rates in neighbouring Asian countries, as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan have also dropped.

Workers Of The World - 29

0 comments
Death From Economic Inequality - Shuffling Three Jobs

It is rare for a corporate media outlet to focus on those killed by the grindstone of economic inequality. That is why a profile of the final hours of 32-year-old Maria Fernandes's life, chronicled in The New York Times last year, still stands out. The victims who die from economic inequality are not abstract collateral damage in public policy debates; they are real people.

The cause of death among those struggling to survive might be stress, punishing manual labor, inadequate diet or a variety of other factors. In the case of Maria Fernandes, The New York Times' headline observed, "For a Worker With Little Time Between 3 Jobs, a Nap Has Fatal Consequences."

No one directly killed Fernandes, but she died as a result of the circumstances of living on a minimum-wage income that forced her to often live out of her SUV in order to juggle part-time jobs at three different Dunkin' Donuts in and around the Newark, New Jersey, area.
Last summer, a convenience store employee noticed Fernandes slumped over in her car:
Emergency responders found a gas can open and overturned in the cargo hold and the S.U.V. filled with fumes, in what police said appeared to have been an accident.
Technically, Fernandes died because of an "accident," but it was an "accident" that was precipitated by her Sisyphean struggle to survive on three part-time jobs that paid minimum wage. She was a casualty of economic inequality, which is not an accident. It is a deliberate financial policy of Congress, the executive branch, and a ruthless Ayn Randian economic system. And, by all accounts, the income gap is widening, not narrowing.

The reason that The New York Times article about Fernandes is so memorable is because such personal accounts in the mainstream media are so infrequent. The Times noted that Fernandes earned just a bit more than the New Jersey minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, but portrays her as an upbeat worker who even paid the check of a homeless man now and then.

George W. Bush, when he was president, implied that holding two or three jobs was all part of the "American Dream." That is also what Rep. Paul Ryan, the austerity GOP "budget guru," suggests. Of course, it's not a "steppingstone" that either of them have had to endure. And in this economy, in which compensation for labor is continually deflated, that steppingstone often leads to a cul-de-sac - not a path "upwards."
The New York Times describes how Fernandes dreamed of having only one job, of being able to sleep a full night, of moving to Pennsylvania with her boyfriend.
Caught on the wrong side of the economic divide, however, her dream turned into a nightmare. She was killed by a financial system that values the profit margin on donuts and coffee over a livable wage.



Manifesto For Change - Socialism Is Gender-Proof

0 comments
News that the West End musical Made in Dagenham will close in April is disappointing on two fronts. Ignore for a moment what it says about the viability of new theatre productions in the capital, and consider that we will lose a valuable reminder of the fight for workplace gender equality in Britain. And it is a fight for which we need all the help we can get.
On December 16 last year the musical’s star, Gemma Arterton, led a group of Dagenham veterans and other activists on a protest outside the House of Commons to highlight the UK’s continuing gender pay gap. It was well timed.

The UK has traditionally had among the highest rates of employment, including female paid employment, in the European Union. However, the trend in rising women’s economic participation has gone into reverse since the onset of the economic crisis. It is one of the reasons the UK’s position in global gender equality rankings has been slipping in recent years.
Since the World Economic Forum began compiling surveys on the issue in 2006, the UK has dropped from 9th to 26th place in terms of gender equality. Similarly, the UN’s annual human development indices show that Britain is still a very highly developed country overall but has slipped down the league tables for gender equality, to 35th in 2014.


In November last year, a conference held at Kings College London focused on the Working Women’s Charter signed 40 years ago in the wake of the Dagenham strike. Participants noted that although there has been progress in women’s legal position since the 1970s, workplace support for working women remains woefully inadequate and their pay still lags behind that of men. In particular, they highlighted the fact that many women are trapped in low-paid, insecure employment, often on zero-hours contracts or other types of marginal hours.
Official labour market statistics published in November 2014 confirmed this analysis. Overall, the unadjusted gender pay gap (the difference in median hourly pay between men and women) has fallen from 27.5% in 1997 to 19.1% in 2014. But this is still fairly high in comparison with many other European countries.

Higher paid women working full-time have been doing relatively well in the private as well as the public sector. But the pattern of the overall gender pay gap appears to be strongly constrained by the high proportion of women in the UK working on relatively low hours, since part-time work is lower paid. Where they are compared like for like, women are closing the pay gap on men. But women are still not adequately represented in top jobs, and they are disproportionately located in lower paid occupations and jobs. These lower paid jobs have become more common since 2008.

Women’s labour market participation, their pay and conditions are linked to the amount of support they receive for their caring responsibilities: British women on average do about twice as much as childcare as their male partner. Initiatives introduced in 2014 to make parental leave more flexible for both fathers and mothers, and to extend the right to request flexible hours, have been hailed by family campaign groups as a step in the right direction, but the Catch-22 here is that their uptake is likely to be limited by the continuing discrepancy between male and female earnings.


The lack of affordable childcare is another factor inhibiting women’s ability to sustain full-time, better-paid employment. The UK compares badly with its European neighbours. Recent reports found that in around one in ten British families, one parent is in effect working for virtually zero pay because childcare costs take such a substantial portion of income. The Working Families charity’s own annual survey of working parents show that childcare availability is a source of concern for many, and shapes individuals' choices about employment, careers and working time.

The obvious question, of course, is whether the 2015 election can see women’s work and care battle its way onto the political agenda. Speaking at a round table on fathers and fatherhood in Oxford last week, David Lammy MP (chair of the parliamentary all-party group on fathers) referred to a “horrible conspiracy” among the main parties to “take Britain back to the 1950s”. At Working Families' national policy conference on Tuesday, representatives of the three main parties argued that the steps taken so far go in the right direction, but they also acknowledged the challenges that still remain to be tackled if workplaces are ever going to take employees' caring needs seriously.

And yet so far, all parties seem reluctant to do more than look at increasing paid childcare hours for three to four year olds. If Liberal Democrat equalities minister Jo Swinson is right, shared parental leave and the right to request will start a process where workplaces will increasingly have to take account of employees' demands. But should the parties not be taking more decisive action now, given the size of the problems they need to tackle?

from here

The article highlights some of the inequalities to be found in Britain and shows them to be a long-established and inexcusable state of affairs, but 'gender issues' themselves are merely a diversion from the bigger defect in the system. Yes, females have some grievances which are directly related to how they are treated by the system because they are female (different) in a similar way to how immigrants may be treated because they are immigrants (different) or how UK-born blacks and Asians come up against similar discrimination. It's about 'the other' - a manipulated position to set one section of society against another. The more differences that can be identified the more scope there is to keep society or community divided and under control. 
The most important aspect of this is that we are all human beings, that is our commonality and that is our biggest asset when we choose to use it. Socialism is a system for all humanity, a system that recognises as equals and welcomes all minorities, all ethnicities, all genders. 



Apple of the capitalist's eye

0 comments
Apple, the US technology giant recorded a surplus of $18bn (£11.8bn) in the last three months, topping the $15.9bn made by the oil major ExxonMobil in the second quarter of 2012.
Apple’s sales totalled $74.6bn; now the world’s most valuable, company.
Apple is sitting on $178bn in cash – enough to run the NHS in the UK.

Apple's total revenue for the first quarter was $74.6bn. If this trend continues for the next three quarters, that would bring total revenue to at least $298.4bn, which is a larger figure than the GDP of Hong Kong. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Accumulation - This Is How It Works Against You

0 comments
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put the food industry ahead of consumers by refusing to block the biggest supermarket merger in history. The FTC allowed the Albertsons-Safeway merger to go through almost completely unobstructed after the chains divested a paltry number of grocery stores in a handful of cities.
The merger creates the third largest grocery retailer (behind Walmart and Kroger) and leaves supermarket shoppers vulnerable to price gouging. 
The FT approved a divestiture plan that is simply inadequate to protect consumers. It largely permits supermarkets to tighten their stranglehold on consumers at a time of rising grocery prices and stagnant wages. Albertsons and Safeway agreed to shed a modest 7 percent of their combined 2,400 stores.

The FTC did not require the chains to divest a single store in twenty metropolitan areas where the merger combined local rivals. In these markets, the four largest retailers will sell two-thirds of all groceries, and 12 million consumers will face higher prices and reduced choices.

Even in the areas where stores will be sold, the divestiture plan is unlikely to protect consumers. The merger entrenches Albertsons as the biggest grocer in 13 markets and the second biggest in six more, controlling about one-fifth of grocery sales, according to figures from Deutsche Bank.

The FTC should have blocked this supermarket mega-merger. Unfortunately, the FTC abandoned its mission to protect consumers and allowed continued consolidation of the grocery industry, increasing the power these grocery store goliaths have over consumers and their food.

taken from here


Capitalism Will Not End Inequality - Change The System

0 comments
A new report by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indisputably confirms what many scientists had predicted: 2014 is officially the hottest year on record. And this past year is not an anomaly—the previous ten hottest years on the books have all occurred since 1998. This announcement adds to the urgency expressed just last month in Lima, where political leaders and business tycoons from around the world met for the 20th yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The gathering in Peru was historic in that it was the last time the decision-making body would meet before COP 21 in Paris next December, where an international and legally binding agreement on climate will be signed.

However, growing movements of those on the frontlines of climate disruption argue that the high-level political remedies touted at venues such as the COP amount to false promises and leave out marginalized voices. Via Campesina is perhaps the most prominent of these movements, with more than 250 million peasant, pastoralist, and indigenous members from around the world. Along with allies ranging from labor to environmental networks, Via Campesina organized the Cumbre de los Pueblos (Peoples Summit) in its own grassroots rendition of the COP 20 process in Lima to promote bottom-up solutions to the climate crisis and refute the corporate-driven and exclusionary nature of the official negotiations.

Two policies highly promoted at COP 20 were Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and Climate-Smart Agriculture, both aimed at reducing temperatures worldwide through carbon trading. At a first glance, REDD and Climate-Smart Agriculture appear laudable actions—especially given what are seemingly climate-friendly names. But under the surface, these programs create chaos within already volatile ecosystems and sabotage humble livelihoods.

Take REDD for example. In a nutshell, REDD allows wealthy industrialized countries and corporations to continue polluting by buying forests in the Global South to offset the carbon they release into the atmosphere through their practices elsewhere. These forests, meticulously managed by generations of indigenous people, are folded into the market—often resulting in the forced eviction of communities. Even worse, REDD makes no distinction between natural forests and industrial tree plantations—meaning that its implementation often results in massive loss of biodiversity.
“There is no excuse to turn nature into a commodity,” said Tom Goldtooth, director of the U.S. and Canada-based Indigenous Environmental Network, a close ally of Via Campesina. Both groups are strongly opposed to REDD and work together in spaces such as the No REDD in Africa Network. Goldtooth spoke powerfully at the Peoples Summit in Lima, warning against the interconnected nature of imperialism, militarization, and market-dependent strategies. “We reject the WTO of the sky,” he concluded.

Climate-Smart Agriculture, another centerpiece strategy to the COP proceedings, basically takes the tenets of REDD and applies them to farmland. Between 44 and 57 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are from food production, and the overwhelming majority of these discharges are the direct result of wasteful industrial agriculture. Climate-Smart Agriculture builds on staples of the Green Revolution—modified seeds, chemical pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers in the name of intensification and productivity—to impose new biotechnology on farmers around the world, creating yet another wave of dependency on markets. Just as with REDD, investors from the Global North will receive carbon credits from their contribution to Climate-Smart Agriculture projects in the Global South, thus increasing speculation within the food system by expanding its profit value.

 “There’s absolutely nothing smart about it,” said Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian Via Campesina leader who coordinates the movement’s work around climate change, in a critical workshop on Climate-Smart Agriculture in Lima. “The climate crisis is rooted in capitalism, which is also in crisis as an economic system,” he explained. “Entrepreneurs are trying to emerge from this crisis, and as a way of doing so are creating green capitalism, of which Climate-Smart Agriculture is typical.”

The slogan of the Peoples Summit in Lima—“change the system, not the climate”—is one that will persist throughout the year and into next December’s COP 21 in Paris, where a parallel Peoples Summit will again accompany official negotiations. Via Campesina and its tight network of allies are committed to their cutting-edge alternatives, particularly food sovereignty and agroecology.
Food sovereignty assumes the fundamental principal that rural working people and their urban counterparts—not market institutions and corporations—should govern the global food system. Agroecology is the key practice for realizing food sovereignty, building local markets through ecological methods grounded in tried-and-true ancestral knowledge. In that process, carbon is sequestered in the soil—helping to curb global warming patterns while protecting territorial rights. “Agroecology can double food production in entire regions within ten years, while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty,” stated Olivier de Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food upon presentation of his March 2011 report to the Human Rights Council.

REDD and Climate-Smart Agriculture are experimental programs with irreversible implications on the environment, while food sovereignty and agroecology respect the earth’s natural systems. “Food sovereignty is our struggle against capitalism and the way it shapes our land,” said Nivia Regina da Silva, representative of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil. MST is a founding member movement of Via Campesina that, among other initiatives, runs political training and agroecology schools throughout the country. Along with other Via Campesina members and allies, MST organized a lively conference on food sovereignty that was a focal point of the Peoples Summit in Lima.
Peasant agriculture can feed the world and cool the planet,” affirmed Jean-Baptiste.
Via Campesina’s activism around climate is integral to its obligation of representing those most affected by systemic injustice. And this year, while high-level negotiations further unfold, the movement and its allies will be sure to turn up the heat every step of the way.

from here

No, we are not promoting peasant agriculture for the whole world BUT we do respect different approaches to food production around the world in order to achieve sustainability and a planet safe for all humanity. We are in strong agreement here with the struggle against capitalism and the commodification for profit of anything and everything, including food and nature. Movements like these are to be applauded for drawing wider attention to crucial matters at hand. This 'systemic injustice' can be overcome only by a global change to socialism.


More Popular Resistance To Undemocratic Decisions Across India

0 comments
Oppose And Resist The Undemocratic Land Acquisition, Rehab, Resettlement Ordinance

Bhoomi – a Forum for Protection of Land in India (FPLI) resolved on 22nd January 2015 at Visakhapatnam meet to call upon people of India to oppose and resist the undemocratic Land Acquisition, Rehab, Resettlement (LARR) ordinance to take away the democratic rights of the farmers, tribals given in the Act 2013. The soul of the new Act was that the acquisition could not be done without consent of 80% land owners and Social Impact Assessment on which the public hearing was must. 

But without consulting the public, people and organizations and political parties and Parliament members the Union Government’s ordinance to end the democratic action of land acquisition process is nothing but to establish despotic corporate rule in our country at the cost of life and livelihood of millions of farmers, agriculture workers, Fishers, Adivasis and Dalits. This arbitrary anti-people decision is the gateway of corporate governance which will also mill the Forest Rights Act 2006 and the autonomy of Gram Sabha, PESA CRZ regulations, environment protection on laws by which the Fishers, Adivasis, Dalits all the marginalized people depending on natural resources like sea, forest, land of any category, rivers in name of so called development.

As main opposition party BJB had extended support to the LARR in two houses of parliament to be smoothly passed but its newly elected government did not hesitate to murder a democratic people’s law made after more than hundred people sacrificed their lives resisting forceful land acquisition under 1894 law. As a result of this ordinance, corporates will continue to take over the common and people’s resources for their own growth in the name of nation development that will further aggravate the trend.
It is an attack on constitutional fundamental rights of the people of our country who have right to resources for secured life and livelihood with dignity guaranteed by the constitution. Unless and until we resist this corporate fascist move to handover our resources to the corporates of gluteal imperialism and build united struggle to make our polity and development model free from corporate power, our great constitution will be irrelevant. So to campaign and resist all the anti-corporate and anti-communal people’s organizations and democratic movements have to come together to discharge a historical responsibility for a rational struggle for reconstruction of sovereign, socialist, democratic and republic and secular nation as per the preamble of our constitution.

We call upon on all the organizations and alliances to protest the ordinance and force the government to withdraw it as well as appeal to the members of Parliament irrespective of political parties to force the central government to withdraw it. We also call upon the various communities to pass resolutions in the gram sabhas against the draconian LARR ordinance as well as to protest in state, district and village levels to establish democratic right.
A massive campaign for awareness and mass protest rallies will be organized to demonstrate the people’s power to reclaim and protect the rights as ensured in the constitution.

Bhoomi – a Forum for Protection of Land in India (FPLI)

from here


India Resists - No Democracy Without Participation

0 comments
























We are shocked by the conspicuous absence of the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ from the Indian constitution’s preamble used in the customary advertisement in newspapers of 26th January, greeting people of India on the Republic Day. The advertisement has been issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Ministry and also carries a quotation by the Prime Minister.

At the time when the people of India, and even the global community, have genuine apprehensions about the secular character of the Indian democracy, which stands threatened by a right-wing government formed with less than one-third of the popular votes, this omission is utterly condemnable.
Secularism has been pivotal to the post-independent India, binding all communities together as equal citizens. Similarly, the word socialist was added to emphasize the social committments of the state in a country like India. These two values are non-negotiable and any attempt to dilute them would face strong resistance. We condemn the I & B Ministry and demand an apology from the govt for this mischievous advertisement on Republic Day.

www.indiaresists.com

taken from here

Haiti is open for business

0 comments
Yet another post revealing the dire state of democracy and accountancy in Haiti. 

The World Bank, the Haitian government, and international mining company representatives walk into a hotel lobby to discuss the future of mining in Haiti. A two-hour gathering was held in a luxury hotel to assess a 100-page document which was a draft mining law stipulating how the Haitian government expects to deal with companies that want to begin extracting the estimated $20 billion worth of gold and minerals that is believed to lie in the mountains to the north.

This investor-friendly mining bill would replace a decades-old convention that has stymied foreign exploration of the country's untapped mineral deposits. The document is consistent with the President Michel Martelly administration's slogan, "Haiti is open for business," welcoming an influx of foreign capital that would bring much-needed tax revenues and new jobs to the struggling country — but at the risk of significant social and environmental cost.

The draft mining law was written with assistance from the World Bank, which supports the Haitian operations of Canadian mining company Eurasian Minerals through its private-sector investment arm, the International Finance Cooperation. The World Bank became involved in redrafting the Haitian mining convention in 2013, and has worked in close consultation with North American mining companies that have already secured mining permits in Haiti. In an effort to streamline the infusion of foreign investment, the draft contains a number of provisions that Haitians are concerned will further marginalize communities most affected by mining activity in the north.

 For example, the proposed law would formalize a 10-year confidentiality period for any "reports, documents and data pertaining to… work undertaken within the context of a mining title," including geological discoveries or topographical information gleaned in the course of mining operations.

The draft law makes it easier for the government to expropriate land to enable mining installations if they are deemed to be in the "public interest." As the complaint notes, the bill "does not make clear whether landowners and land users have the right to refuse to allow mining companies to enter onto and use their land."

According to the draft law, the country's Environment Ministry will have 180 days to evaluate a company's environmental assessment of a given project in its application for a mining permit. Six months might seem like a reasonable amount of time, but complainants point to the inefficiency of Haitian governmental bureaucracy getting in the way of timely assessments. They fear that the cap will compromise the ministry's authority and inhibit critical oversight of environmental concerns. A statement of "no objection" will be assumed after the period lapses, allowing mining activities to proceed regardless of any potential dangers.

Opponents argue that the bill's provisions fall short of World Bank environmental safeguards that weigh a project's benefits against its degradation of natural habitat. Critics bemoan the lack of clarity surrounding the Environment Ministry's authority, and questions the adequacy of the rehabilitation measures outlined in the bill. World Bank operational policies require a discussion with "project-affected groups and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) about the project's environmental aspects." They should be provided relevant material in a timely manner, in a form and language that is "understandable and accessible." Between 90 to 95 percent of Haitians speak only Creole, so French-language documents are useless as far as engaging with the general public. Most of the affected communities, which are largely made up of subsistence farmers, also don't have email addresses or access to the internet. The public's lack of awareness makes plain that the World Bank's requirements haven't been met.

Nixon Boumba, an organizer from the Mouvman Demokratik Popilè (MODEP) attended a consultation meeting in June. Invitations were sent out by email, in French, and Boumba noted that the hotel hosting the event was inaccessible by public transportation. The meeting was well attended by representatives from mining companies, the Bureau of Mines and Energy, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Boumba counted just seven civilians, himself included. A 45-minute delay gave them little time to react to the 100-page document written in what Boumba described as "legal jargon." "If you're going to consult people, you have to consult them on something they can understand," he said.

"This is an industry that even extremely well-developed regulatory states like those in the US have had problems with," Meg Satterthwaite, a lawyer and professor at New York University, "The idea that a place that doesn't have a functioning regulatory state would be capable at this stage of really regulating and monitoring such an inherently dangerous industry seems facially questionable."



Buying Democracy

1 comments
"A handful of deep-pocketed donors gets to determine who runs for office, what issues make it onto the agenda, and too frequently, who wins," said Dan Smith, democracy campaign director with U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

For presidential contenders, appealing to the handful of wealthy donors is as important as building support among voters.

It is apparent that the people don’t rule. They are ruled over and managed and manipulated by various vested interests, but above all, by the monied interests. The primary method this is done is divide and conquer. The right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch plan to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaigns, an amount on par with both the major political parties, the Washington Post reported. The Kochs are longtime opponents of campaign disclosure laws. Unlike the parties, their network is constructed chiefly of nonprofit groups that are not required to reveal donors. That makes it almost impossible to tell how much of the money is provided by the Kochs — among the wealthiest men in the country — and how much by other donors. The Kochs will have free rein in 2016 not only to pour astonishing amounts of money into U.S. elections, but--in contrast with traditional parties--to do so in secret, without disclosing the financial interests behind the spending.

Those resources will go into field operations, new data-driven technology and policy work, among other projects, along with likely media campaigns aimed at shaping the congressional and White House elections. That network aims to advance a conservative platform that prioritizes austerity, deregulation, and privatization while opposing efforts to address climate change.

"The $1 billion the Koch network plans to spend in 2016 should dispel any doubts that the Kochs are operating their own secretly-funded shadow political party," read a post on the PR Watch blog published.

"We have never seen this before," Sheila Krumholz, who runs the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, told USA Today. "There is no network akin to this one in terms of its complexity, scope and resources."


A great deal hangs in the balance with regard to the feasibility of advancing democratic socialism while under the continuous attack. The organized expressions of popular power will probably be decisive in determining the outcome of the present economic and political crossroad. Our class enemy out-spend us and buy their publicity and advocates. We have truth on our side. 

War for Resources

0 comments
The Socialist Party has long insisted that many of the modern wars revolve around natural resources such as oil. Now research suggests they do play an even bigger role in conflicts than some pro-capitalists have tried to deny. The study confirms our view.

Research from the Universities of Portsmouth, Warwick and Essex found foreign intervention in a civil war is 100 times more likely when the afflicted country has high oil reserves than if it has none. The research is the first to confirm the role of oil as a dominant motivating factor in conflict, suggesting hydrocarbons were a major reason for the military intervention in Libya, by a coalition which included the UK, and the current US campaign against Isis in northern Iraq. The study, published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, analysed 69 civil wars between 1945 and 1999, but did not examine foreign invasions. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, led by the US and the UK, wasn’t covered in the research because it wasn’t a civil war. However, the report notes previous claims that a thirst for oil was “the alleged ‘true’ motivation of the US invasion of Iraq”. It noted that civil wars have made up more than 90 per cent of all armed conflicts since the Second World War and that two-thirds of these have seen a third-party intervention. It found that the decision to intervene was dominated by the third-party’s need for oil, far more than historical, geographic or ethnic ties.

“We found clear evidence that countries with potential for oil production are more likely to be targeted by foreign intervention if civil wars erupt,” said one of the report authors, Dr Petros Sekeris, of the University of Portsmouth. “Military intervention is expensive and risky. No country joins another country’s civil war without balancing the cost against their own strategic interests.”

“After a rigorous and systematic analysis, we found that the role of economic incentives emerges as a key factor in intervention,” said co-author Dr Vincenzo Bove, of the University of Warwick. “Before the Isis forces approached the oil-rich Kurdish north of Iraq, Isis was barely mentioned in the news. But once Isis got near oil fields, the siege of Kobani in Syria became a headline and the US sent drones to strike Isis targets.”

The US maintains troops in Persian Gulf oil producers and has a history of supporting conservative autocratic states in spite of the emphasis on democratic reform elsewhere, the report says.

 Britain intervened in the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War, between 1967 and 1970. During this period the UK was one of the biggest importers of oil in the world, with North Sea oil production only starting in 1975. BP’s presence in the oil-rich eastern region of the country meant stability in the area was of critical importance. David Cameron was instrumental in setting up the coalition that intervened in Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya in 2011, a country with sizeable oil reserves. Britain watched on as Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front, with support from Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia, attempted to overthrow Joseph Momoh’s government. The resulting civil war lasted 11 years (1991 to 2002) and enveloped the country, leaving more than 50,000 dead. The UK also opted not to intervene in the Rhodesian Bush War between 1964 and 1979 – a three-way battle between the Rhodesian  government, the military wing of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

TPP: Protecting Big Pharma Profits, Putting Public Health At Risk

0 comments
Braving snow and blizzard warnings, health, labor and environmental activists rallied outside a New York City hotel on Monday where industry leaders met with international trade representatives to commence the "final negotiations" over the secret text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Leading the protest and carrying signs that read "Hands Off Our Medicine," protesters with health groups Doctors Without Borders and Health Global Access Project (GAP) warned that the TPP will undermine efforts to ensure access to affordable, life-saving medicines in both the United States and abroad.
Roughly one hundred people, including the Teamsters and the Raging Grannies, joined the health activists in chanting "Derail Fast Track," in reference to the Administration's push to pass the agreement quickly without Congressional interference.

"The TPP would create a vicious cycle. The provisions currently proposed will allow for fracking and other practices that fuel environmental degradation and make people sick. Strengthened intellectual property rules will then prevent people from accessing life- saving medicines," said Michael Tikili, national field organizer for Health GAP, in a press statement. "Thirteen million people living with HIV depend on generic AIDS medicines and another 20-plus million are waiting line for treatment. By protecting Pharma’s bloated profits, the Obama administration is undermining its own global AIDS initiative—this isn’t a trade agreement—it’s a death pact."

 As Tikili further explained to Common Dreams, national efforts to end epidemics such as HIV and Hepititis C are being thwarted by the prospective trade laws which would threaten generic manufacturers in countries with patent suits. For instance, Tikili says, the U.S. government says it is "going to war on HIV" while at the same time pushing laws that limit drug production and access in certain countries.
"It is a public health issue, a global health issue," Tikili said. "Countries are trying to fight epidemics and this really limits that. It puts the process over people."

Most of the agreement details have been so kept in the shadows that many members of Congress have not seen the text. What little is known has been revealed through leaks.
According to Health GAP, leaked drafts of the TPP revealed that the U.S. is seeking stronger, longer, and more accessible patent monopolies on medicines and new monopolies on drug regulatory data that would prevent marketing of more affordable generic equivalents. The TPP will reportedly also place some of the "most severe intellectual property rules ever demanded in international trade," including strict price control measures and enhanced investor rights that would permit Big Pharma to sue governments when they expect profits will be undermined by government policy.

from here