Saturday, October 31, 2015

Will Hutton: Back to the Future, part 3/3

0 comments
Hutton’s prescription for the global economy is a Keynesian one with a ‘credit creationist’ twist, attempting to iron out the boom and bust inherent in capitalist production.  J.M. Keynes (writing in the slump of the 1930s) saw the instability of capitalist production, its tendency to boom and bust, as due to the fact that investment tends to stall because not every seller in a market becomes a buyer as there is a tendency for businesses to hoard a portion of profits rather than to reinvest it all in new production, which creates a deficit in market demand.  For Keynes, the state needed to step in order to provide the demand that was missing through direct investment and through redistributive taxation. 

To overcome the crises such as that of 2008 and the current crisis in China and other ‘emerging market economies’, Hutton urges international banking reform and demand stimulation in western economies.  He argues that global banking needs to be regulated by a ‘reinvigorated IMF’, reconfigured so as not to be dominated by western political right (those marauding Anglo-Saxons) in order to ensure ‘proper surveillance of global finance’.  This would involve restrictions on capital flows between countries and ensure that central banks regulate banks reserves to prevent banks ‘creating money’ by lending multiples of what they hold as fractional reserves.  This assumes that global banking has not arisen hand in glove with global trade and that banks can lend what they don’t have (which they can’t). 

 In order to divert ‘excess credit’ from flooding ‘emerging market economies’ Hutton also calls for western governments to ‘launch massive economic stimuli, centred on infrastructure’ and ‘new smart monetary policies that allow negative interest rates.’  This is Keynesian economics designed to stimulate demand by direct government investment and kick-starting investment by making it expensive for banks not to lend.  The problem with the first suggestion is that Quantitative Easing inflated the value of asset prices (stock-market prices) without stimulating inflation (because the new money created – by the Bank of England which can create money - did not enter general circulation as notes and coins).  The ‘economic stimuli’ mentioned by Hutton (what has been called ‘People’s QE’ by Jeremy Corbyn), on the other hand, would involve the creation of new money that would enter circulation as notes and money and therefore run the risk of creating high inflation (a rapid rise in the general price level).  The problem with the second proposal of negative interest rates (which is happening in several European countries) is that in the absence of the opportunities for profitable investment (i.e., in a recession) banks may not lend more but simply hoard, accentuating the fall in investment.

Keynesian economists often point to the post World War 2 period as evidence of the success of their policies of state intervention in the economy to increase demand.  However, sustained post war growth was due to the recovery of the global economy following the slump of the 1930s and reconstruction following the World War 2.  When this growth stalled in the 1970s Keynesian attempts to stimulate demand created double digit inflation.  This and high rates of taxation tended to stall investment even further and state borrowing came with conditions to reduce the policies that necessitated the borrowing.  These problems were faced by all governments following Keynesian strategies once the post war boom was over.  It was not Thatcher but Dennis Healey who started the process of spending cuts in the late 1970s.  In France Mitterand was elected in 1981 on a platform of increasing consumption through state intervention.  The higher taxation, government borrowing and inflation led not to stimulation of the economy but to lower growth - by 1983 the Mitterand government had taken the ‘austerity turn’ in an attempt to restore favourable conditions for profitable investment.  Bang up to date the failure of the Syriza government in Greece to reverse austerity in Greece by renegotiating the terms of its borrowing failed ignominiously, the government backing down rather than face even more uncertain prospects outside of the EU.  Austerity is not being imposed by the political right as Hutton would have it.  It is being enforced by the need to create conditions favourable to profitable investment.  Trying to go back to a time before Thatcher and Reagan to get to a non-austerity future is going back in time to face the same problems, pursuing policies that will require the same policy reversals enacted by Healey and Mitterand.  Hutton’s Keynesian and currency proposals to calm global economic turbulence could not be enacted (say by a Corbyn Labour government) without worsening the prospects for productive investment, requiring a return to the very policies blamed by the left for causing current economic stagnation.   A real end to austerity requires the success of the socialist campaign to abolish capitalism itself not repeating the disillusion of past attempts to save capitalism from itself.


 CSK

Friday, October 30, 2015

'Some Ideological Obstacles to Social Change to Socialism' (a talk by guest speaker)

0 comments
A talk by Yehudi Webster (Guest speaker from the U.S.)

Sunday, 1 November at 3pm

The Socialist Party's premises,
52 Clapham High Street,
London SW4 7UN


A talk by Yehudi Webster  (Guest speaker)
Political movement and organisation to change the socio-economic order, to de-commodify goods and end class conflict, are stalled by particular beliefs.
Four such beliefs, systematically disseminated in educational institutions and media, may be cited, as follows:
1. Human nature is innately flawed, that human beings are evil, sinful, irrational and not in control of their fate. 
2. There is an indomitable scarcity of natural resources that necessitate markets for labour, goods and capital.
3. Violence is ineradicable, and a natural feature of governance.
4. The Soviet experience proves that capitalist commodity production cannot be eradicated.
These beliefs populate, indeed, dominate, the intellectual world and thereby freeze the social order. They are ideological obstacles to the change into a classless, stateless, wageless, moneyless society based on the common ownership of the means of life.
Yehudi Webster holds degrees from British and Polish universities; he has also published on critical thinking and social problems. His works are easily accessed on the internet.

Only Socialism Can Save The World

0 comments
For many, climate change is too far removed from the present context to be of immediate concern. People say, 'It’ll be a problem 20, 30 years down the road, but I’ve got bigger problems today’. It’s not the immediacy of now. Climate change is already upon us, and it’s hitting fragile countries the hardest with changing drought and flood patterns. We can’t ignore it. Drought used to hit Somalia, for example, once a decade. Now about every three years, families are forced to abandon arid lands and move their sheep and goats – or camels for those better off – to areas with more water and forage, or where they can grow crops, experts say.
“The more that these cyclical shocks prevent people from having sustainable livelihoods, the more we’re seeing migration of people, which is leading to a lot of inter-clan violence” said Dustin Caniglia, who works in Nairobi for Concern Worldwide, a humanitarian organisation. “That’s where the peace building starts to break down,” he said. The struggle for scarce water resources along the Kenya-Ethiopia border, for example, led to clan violence spanning both countries in 2012. A new dam being built at Lake Turkana, which stretches into both countries, is predicted to trigger more clashes, according to Human Rights Watch.

In Mali, rainfall has dropped by 30 percent since 1998, leaving almost two million people in need of food aid according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. Furthermore, the vast Sahara desert is expanding southwards at a rate of 48 kilometers a year, according to a 2011 study by the University of Ohio. “Mali has good environmental laws, but the country does not implement them as it lacks the means to do so,” said Ravier, chief of the Environment and Culture Unit at the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Unit in Mali (MINUSMA)

 In a few weeks, the world’s leaders will meet in Paris to discuss global climate change. Some countries could be devastated. “If the sea level rises by 1 meter (about 3.3 feet), the whole Mekong Delta will be underwater,” said Pham Quang Vinh, Vietnam’s ambassador to the United States. “That’s the rice basin of Vietnam.” 

It’s particularly upsetting because these are the poorer, smaller countries that have contributed little in the way of global carbon emissions. Experts anticipate that food and water shortages could trigger not only enormous suffering, but also mass migrations. Citizens of devastated warmer countries will try to move — legally or illegally — to places where they have a chance to survive.

Climate change shows capitalism's short-term, irresponsible attitude towards the environment.  Already the world is getting warmer; sea level is rising; extreme weather events are increasing. We all depend on Nature for food and water and for all the goods we use which originate from the natural resources around us. Capitalism avoids the responsibility for the damage it does to the environment by pushing the costs onto others, now and into the future. Capitalism is a system that by its very essence must expand. The capitalist system requires continuous accumulation of capital and operates in a circuit of constantly expanding production. There is no political will to respond to the climate and ecological crisis we face. A real solution would require profound social and economic transformations. And we have seen, clearly, there is no will to carry them out so false solutions to climate change arise such as techno-fixes – geo-engineering. The idea that capitalism can be is fairly typical of the environmentalist movement. The destruction of the planet is rooted in the capitalist system of production and cannot be solved without a break with capitalism.

Socialist analysis has a great potential not only to explain the economic processes leading to environmental destruction, but to change them. Socialism is a necessary condition for optimising harmony between society and nature. The entire system of production based on wage labour and capital needs to be replaced with a system which produces for human needs. A serious critique of capitalism is essential to adequately address the current world environmental crisis. The environmental movement can no longer afford to adopt green capitalism. Businessmen know that to maximise profits environmental concerns are best kept on the product label and out of the production process. While it is perhaps theoretically possible that capitalism can reform itself to redress some of the problem of global environmental crisis, it cannot do so without some serious in-fighting between opposing vested interests and internecine sabotage of policies. Presenting solutions to save capitalism from its own ill effects would fall upon deaf ears. Capitalists will plead “If I don't do it someone else will' and if they do choose to act upon their ecological convictions, they will be quickly replaced by someone less willing to go green.

Many mainstream environmentalist organisations promote public events such as Earth Day and advocate lifestyle changes under the slogans like ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ yet individuals and household contribute a relatively miniscule amount to either waste or pollution. Global warming is, as the phrase denotes, a global phenomenon. As global temperatures rise and the frequency and severity of extreme weather events increases, more of the world’s population is at risk. Nearly 40 percent of the global population lives near the ocean and climate change will increase the risks associated with hurricanes and flooding. Likening the planet to a human body afflicted by illness, Nobel laureate Professor Anthony Chen has prescribed urgency in treatment. "Planet Earth is very sick. If we do not start treatment as soon as possible, it may never recover to its former self," he warned. 

The physicist said a course of treatment that includes adaptation to the impacts is essential. However, he cautioned that adaptation is "treating symptoms, not the cause". What is critical then, he said, is mitigation, which is about "removing greenhouse gases caused by fossil fuels", such as oil and coal, from the atmosphere and which is equivalent to "treating the cause and curing the illness". It is, therefore, past time, Chen said, that the world listen to the scientists. "We should accept their verdict as we accept the second opinions of our doctors," he said.

And does his recommended remedies go to the cause of the illness and cure it? Of course not. As a non-socialist he cannot perceive a future beyond what we already have – capitalism. Chen choice of therapy for our sick planet is not to remove the cause but to apply palliatives. He suggests: Carbon dioxide capture and storage, nuclear energy; and renewable energy. He prescribes that “governments of the world form consortiums and establish research centres to bring the price of renewables and storage down quickly." He concludes that these “may be our last chance to save the planet Earth as we know it." 

If that is his solution, then the prognosis for the planet is inevitably terminal because these options simply do not possess curative powers.    







Thursday, October 29, 2015

Will Hutton: Back to the Future, part 2/3

0 comments
Hutton’s view is that lax regulation around the cash reserves that banks are required by law to hold (the fractional reserve) and the abandonment of other controls on capital flows between countries (previously part of the responsibilities of central banks) are responsible for an excess of credit being ‘created’ in the global economy.  Hutton argues that the ‘emergence of a global banking system’ means that ‘central banks are much less able to monitor and control what is going on’.  Because ‘few countries now limit capital flows’ the result, says Hutton, is that ‘cash generated out of nothing can be lent in countries where the economic prospects look superficially good.’  This leads to a ‘false boom’:
‘Property prices rise. Companies and households grow overconfident about their prospects and borrow freely… all seems well until something – a collapse in property or commodity prices – unravels the whole process.  The money floods out as quickly as it flooded in, leaving bust banks and governments desperately picking up the pieces.’ 
Hutton argues that the current problems in China follow on from the financially induced crisis in 2008 and that crises in other ‘emerging market economies’ are a knock on of the same process of ‘sky-high commodity prices… fuelled by wild lending’ that create ‘super-high but illusory growth rates.’

But the crash of 2008 was not a ‘false boom’ caused by finance but a particularly far-reaching crisis in the history of the business cycle that is inherent in capitalist production.   This cycle has played out numerous times in the past couple of centuries in capitalist economies, a process of capitalist production that Marx described as moving ‘through periodical cycles. It moves through a state of quiescence, growing animation, prosperity, overtrade, crisis and stagnation.’  In an expanding economy banks see a plethora of opportunities to lend at relatively low risk.  This lending greases the wheels of the productive economy which continues to expand at an even faster rate.  At some point in the process of expansion a sector of the economy overproduces relative to the demand.  Production slows in this sector, questions are asked and glances are exchanged.  Production slowing in one sector knocks on to another and then another, doubts begin to grow and confidence is dented.  Before long what seemed like a never-ending process of expansion turns into economic contraction as panic sets in and investment slows or stops.  This is what happened in 2008 as house building in the US outstripped demand leading to a collapse in prices.  This knocked on to the global financial system because the risks of default for US mortgages were bundled up in financial institutions around the world, a contagion that caused panic to ripple around financial markets and confidence to collapse.  Lending contracted, investment stalled.  It wasn’t caused by banks and credit but the global nature of banking did allow the results of overproduction to spread widely and rapidly (just as global banking facilitates investment and economic expansion widely and rapidly). 

The cause of the crisis then is not banks or even overproduction as such but production as it is carried on in capitalism.  Goods are produced not for direct use but for exchange, for sale on the market, rather than being consciously planned in the light of social need.  Inevitably, at some point, more goods will be produced than can be sold at a profitable price causing a dislocation in the expansion of production, the consequences of which (depending on its magnitude and inter-connections) may remain only local or may ripple out to affect regional, national or even the global economy. Frederick Engels referred to this process of production in capitalism as the ‘anarchy of social production’.   The situation is not caused by banks ‘creating credit’ but rather the opposite, an increase in investment in the productive economy causes a rise in lending, which facilitates and accelerates this growth by lending to apparently relatively risk-free borrowers.  Conversely the restriction of credit does not cause an economic downturn but is a reflection of it as borrowing for investment declines and lending is relatively more risky.  Credit accentuates the business cycle by inflating bubbles in times of growth and deepening downturns by restricting credit but it does not cause it. 

So too, the Chinese financial downturn is a tale many times told of rapid growth followed by a crisis and a recession (establishing the conditions for renewed growth).  In an attempt to reverse a slow-down in the productive economy the Chinese government cut interest rates in an effort to stimulate the economy.  Borrowing increased and the Chinese stock-market boomed for a while.  All that happened was that the gap between the reality of a slowing productive economy and stock-market prices grew larger.  At some point the two had to come together again and so they have. Banks did not cause the crisis by creating credit they only delayed and accentuated it.  More regulation of banks will not solve the problem of the cycle of boom and bust inherent in capitalist production.  Banking regulations of the sort that Hutton want aim to reinstate, it is argued, prevented crises in the past and will iron out the instability caused by the psychological flaws of bankers who ‘create money’.  It did not work before and it attributes to banking a power of the economy that it does not have.  Like many on the left Hutton wants to return to a time before Keynesian interventionism was ousted by free market ideologues.  Socialists argue that capitalism, not the form that it takes, that is the problem.  The future lies not in going back in time to a world of more regulated banking but forward to a world where the anarchy of production (indirect social production where goods and services are for sale and realised only when exchanged for money) is replaced by consciously planned production for meeting human needs (directly social production where goods and services are consumed without exchange) and where the conditions of production that give rise to banks will have been abolished.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lambeth Socialist Group - Public Meeting

0 comments

Lambeth Socialist Group


'All Coppers are Workers: The Police, the State and the Working Class'

Thursday, October 29, 2015 - 7pm

Venue: The Socialist Party's premises, 
52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN


Will Hutton: Back to the Future, part 1/3

1 comments
It was with a sense of irony that I read Will Hutton in the Comments and Debates section in a copy of Guardian Weekly (16.10.15).  It was the previous week’s edition and the irony was that I was reading it on Back to the Future day (21/10/15), which summed up the economic views that I was reading.  Hutton wants to go back not to 1985 but to any date before the rise of what Hutton calls the ‘Anglo-Saxon political right’  in the US and UK which put Keynesianism out in the cold (usually identified by the left with the bogeymen of Thatcher in Britain and Reagan in the US).  Now I thought that the political reach of Anglo-Saxons had ended a thousand years ago but I will leave that particular question mark to one side.  Hutton argues that the roots of the 2008 financial crisis and current crises in China and other ‘emerging market economies’ lie in a ‘world financial system that has gone rogue’.  At the heart of this argument is Hutton’s claim that the power of banking to ‘create money out of nothing has been taken to a whole new level.’ 

This is an up to date version of a theory that has been doing the rounds since the early 1930s, that of fractional reserve banking; the argument that banks by holding on to a fraction of its deposits (to ensure that withdrawals can be met) can create multiples of credit, that they can essentially ‘create money out of nothing’.  The crude version of this theory assumes that multiples of credit can be created from an initial deposit of £1000 with a fractional reserve of, for example, 10%, £900 could be lent (paid out as a cheque or transfer and deposited with the bank) expanding the initial deposit in one act of lending to £1900 of bank deposits.  If a loan of £900 was carried out 10 times the end result of the initial £1000 deposit would be £9000 in loans and £1000 in reserve, in 10 quick steps an initial deposit of £1000 has been turned into £10,000 – money has apparently been ‘created’ as credit from the scribble of a pen or the tapping of a keyboard.  However, this view of banking does not hold theoretically or empirically. Two quick examples (there are more) will show why the theory doesn’t hold.  Firstly, this model assumes that there will not be a cash withdrawal on the initial deposit during the whole series of transactions, a false assumption but necessary to prevent the theory’s instant collapse.  Secondly, the appearance of the creation of credit is created by standard double-entry book-keeping where when a bank lends, for example, £1000 this is recorded initially as a deposit of £1000 and a loan of £1000, apparently ‘creating’ £1000 (until the loan is withdrawn). Empirically we can also demonstrate that banks in fact do not operate in the way described.  If they did they would be able to create immense amounts of credit from relatively small deposits (pushing interest rates to very low levels).  This does not happen and banks back their lending not just from deposits but from money they themselves have borrowed – something that had increased to risky levels before the 2008 crisis (and interest rates do not fall to very low levels).

Hutton appears to hold to a less crude version of ‘credit creationism’ as he says that ‘the system depends on the truth that not all depositors will want their money back simultaneously… some of the cash banks lend in one month [will] be redeposited by borrowers the following month: a part of this cash can be re-lent, again, in a third month’ and so on.  This is just saying that some of the money that is taken out as loans will find its way back into the banking system as deposits, which can then be used to make further loans.  Unlike the crude version of ‘credit creationism’ Hutton acknowledges that money is constantly being deposited and withdrawn but this still does not mean that banks create money in the way that Hutton suggests.  According to the economist Paul Samuelson (who developed a more sophisticated version of credit creationism): ‘As every banker knows, he cannot invest money that he does not have; and money that he invests in buying a security or making a loan soon leaves his bank.’  That is, loans can only be made from deposited or borrowed money that is currently held - a fractional reserve in an individual bank cannot create multiples of credit.  Samuelson’s theory (and Hutton’s) is that, while multiples of credit cannot be created from a fractional reserve held by an individual bank, an initial deposit of £1000 (again with a fractional reserve of 10%) will eventually be multiplied to £10,000 across the whole banking system by constituting in circulation the basis of deposits in banks.  This theory describes in a simplified way the actual process of circulation of money and how a loan will, in circulation, be the basis of further loans but it does not demonstrate that money is ‘created’ as credit. 

Rather than by ‘creating money’ a bank takes money from real deposits and pays an amount of interest on it.  It then lends this money at a higher rate of interest.  Hence banks compete for customers deposits.  Why bother if it is so easy to turn a deposit into multiples of money out of thin air?  Rather, banks provide credit, they advance money at interest.  Marx held to this view that a bank ‘makes its profit in general by borrowing at lower rates than those at which it lends.’  Banking has an intermediary function, it does not create money but takes it from savers (from cash deposited and from money lent between banks) to lend to borrowers at interest.  By facilitating the transfer of money from where it is accumulated to where it is required in the process of production banks take a cut of the profits of the productive economy as interest. 

Hutton is attributing to banking a power it does not have, holding it responsible for turbulence in global finance that results in economic dislocation – the financial tail appears to be wagging the dog of the productive economy.  The reality is the reverse, turbulence in global finance reflects dislocation in the productive economy…

                                                To be continued…

For more detailed articles on fractional reserve credit creationism see:



CSK

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

STEALING OUR STEEL MARKETS! (weekly poem)

0 comments

STEALING OUR STEEL MARKETS! 

The closure of British steel plants due to cheaper
Chinese steel has led to complaints of ‘dumping’.

The Market System, ‘Is supreme’,
That’s the official line;
And though most people may be poor,
It is a fact of Natural Law,
We dare not undermine.

As ‘Competition,’ we’re informed,
‘Upholds the commonweal’--
Until the Chinese steel cartel,                                                                                                                                                                                        
With fiendish cuts starts to outsell,  
Our ‘Dear’ old British Steel.

When cheaper wares from distant shores,
Have British products trumped;
The Market’s then a dirty word,
And one more dirty word is heard,
That foreign goods are ‘Dumped’.

There’s calls for British merchandise,
To now be subsidised;
With ‘Competition’ out of mind,
Its ‘Benefits’ now left behind,
And ‘Free Trade’ demonized.

And now proud ‘Private Enterprise’,
Relies upon the State;
So that the ‘Enterprising Few’,
Won’t lose their ‘hard earned’ revenue,
And be left to their fate!

© Richard Layton

They hide the truth

0 comments
Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977 when its senior scientist James Black told Exxon’s management committee, “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels." A year later he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today. He continued to warn that “present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical." In other words, Exxon needed to act.
In the 1970s and 1980s it employed top scientists to look into the issue and launched its own ambitious research program that empirically sampled carbon dioxide and built rigorous climate models. Exxon even spent more than $1 million on a tanker project that would tackle how much CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. It was one of the biggest scientific questions of the time, meaning that Exxon was truly conducting unprecedented research.

This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public. In June 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen told a congressional hearing that the planet was already warming, Exxon remained publicly convinced that the science was still controversial. Furthermore, experts agree that Exxon became a leader in campaigns of confusion. By 1989 the company had helped create the Global Climate Coalition (disbanded in 2002) to question the scientific basis for concern about climate change. It also helped to prevent the U.S. from signing the international treaty on climate known as the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 to control greenhouse gases. Exxon’s tactic not only worked on the U.S. but also stopped other countries, such as China and India, from signing the treaty. Exxon has spent more than $30 million on think tanks that promote climate denial, according to Greenpeace. Although experts will never be able to quantify the damage Exxon’s misinformation has caused, “one thing for certain is we’ve lost a lot of ground,” Kimmell says. Half of the greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere were released after 1988. “I have to think if the fossil-fuel companies had been upfront about this and had been part of the solution instead of the problem, we would have made a lot of progress [today] instead of doubling our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Corporations are interested in profits, and will do anything to prevent laws restraining their profits.





Quote of the Day

2 comments
"It has not been easy for me. I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars." - Donald Trump

Community control can combat climate change

0 comments
In the Bangladeshi village of Boyarshing women queue for hours with their vessels at the only public tap, in a line that moves agonizingly slowly despite the fact that they are surrounded by water, the last monsoon rains having left large swathes of farmland inundated.
“But we can’t use this water for drinking or cooking,” Kulsum Begam told IPS, glancing around at the roughly 50 other women standing around with hundreds of empty buckets waiting to be filled. “There is too much salt in it.”

Bangladesh grapples with the many and varied impacts of climate change, from recurring droughts and floods, to sea surges and salinization of agricultural lands. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) explained that Bangladesh is “really feeling the pinch” of a warmer climate. If global temperature increase passes the two degrees Celsius mark, Bangladesh will lose the equivalent of two per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) annually until 2050 on climate-induced spending. Thereafter, the losses will be steeper, reaching around 8.8 percent of GDP annually by 2100, according to ADB assessments. Between now and 2030, Bangladesh will require 89 million dollars annually to make sure the country is resilient. By 2050, the annual adaptation bill could rise fourfold to 369 million dollars. And financial stress is only one piece of the larger picture; extreme weather events pose an even greater challenge.

A one-metre rise in sea levels could leave 14 per cent of Dhaka, the capital, inundated regularly. In Dhaka, home to over a tenth of the bulging population, flash floods are now a common phenomenon. “Every time it rains for half an hour the city gets flooded; it takes another three hours for the water to recede, and by then I have lost a day’s earnings,” Hussain Mohamed, a rickshaw puller in Dhaka, lamented.

Increased natural disasters mean the 47,000-sq-km coast, home to 36 million people (roughly one-fourth of the population), will have to brace for storm surges, cyclones and increasing salinity. Rice production could fall by between 17 and 28 per cent, which could be catastrophic for the agricultural sector that contributes around 20 per cent of this country’s GDP and employs 48 per cent of a labour force of around 60 million people. “Right now the priority is to feed 160 million Bangladeshis,” Abdul Qayyum, secretary to the Department of Disaster Management in Bangladesh, told IPS. He estimates that one-fifth of the population lives in cyclone-prone areas – and the bulk of them are poor. “Are these people safe, do they know they are safe, can we make them safer? These are all questions we need to answer,” he said.

Bangladesh has been successful in reducing deaths due to cyclones dramatically – by over 100-fold in the last four decades alone. “When there is a high level of community involvement, then resilience programmes work better,” said Afrif Mohammad Faisal, an ADB environmental specialist in Bangladesh. This is precisely what residents in Chenchuri, a small hamlet in the Narail District in southwest Bangladesh have done. a water management committee of 572 local members manages the water that flows from the Chitra River. “When we need water for our crops, either the committee decides, or villagers use mobile phones to communicate with the committee,” said Raiza Sultana, a peasant whose family depends on rice cultivation. The combination of the million-dollar investment with off-the-shelf low technology has worked well here. Villagers regularly use a simple, 70-dollar salinity monitor to test the waters and when the levels indicate that salt content is rising, they block the water flow to prevent damage to crops. “Rice production here has increased by four times and people are earning more and are in control,” Munsheer Sulaiman, chairman of the water management committee, tells IPS, adding that it used to take two days to get hold of the right person just to open the sluice gates. “They were used to the old setup where the government managed everything,” a regional engineer named Masud Karim said. “We had to convince them that the government has neither the money nor the capacity to do this now.” Now the committee employs a permanent gate operator, paying him out of funds collected from the beneficiaries spread out across the 2,400-hectare area that is served by the dam.

The BBC Whitewashes Saudi Arabia

0 comments
The BBC is increasingly viewed not as an objective news agency but as a media organisation representing the views and interests of the UK government.

The BBC recently published an article  describing the increase in weapons and money sent by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf regimes to anti-Assad fighters in Syria.  He said those groups being supplied did not include either Islamic State (IS) or al-Nusra Front, both of which are proscribed terrorist organizations. Instead, he said the weapons would go to three rebel alliances — Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest), the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Southern Front. So the Saudis are only arming groups such as the “Army of Conquest,” but not the al Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front. However, The Army of Conquest includes the Nusra Front. This is not up for debate. The New York Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Voice of America have all accurately described that the Army of Conquest is an alliance of insurgent groups that includes the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, and the hard-line Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, as well as some less extreme Islamist groups. The BBC did not tell its readers about this.

When some pointed this fact out to the BBC, it simply edited that Saudi admission out of its article. In doing so, it made the already-misleading article so much worse, as the BBC went even further out of its way to protect the Saudis. This is what that passage now states on the current version of the article on the BBC’s site (emphasis added): 
“He said those groups being supplied did not include either Islamic State (IS) or al-Nusra Front, both of which are proscribed terrorist organizations. Instead, he said the weapons would go to the Free Syrian Army and other small rebel groups.”

The BBC literally changed the Saudi official’s own statement, whitewashed it, to eliminate the  admission that Saudi Arabia were arming Army of Conquest. The BBC simply deleted the key admission that the Saudis are arming al Qaeda. Whatever one’s views are on Syria, it’s telling indeed to watch the BBC desperately protect Saudi Arabia from criticism using blatant editing to whitewash the Saudis’ own damaging admissions.




Monday, October 26, 2015

COP21 - Pessimism Prevails

0 comments
The new global climate deal is expected to be agreed upon at the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, from Nov 30-Dec 12 (with the possibility of an extension, depending on the state of the negotiations). 

ActionAid’s Climate Policy Manager, Harjeet Singh, said the events in Bonn “have shown there is still a mountain to climb before a deal emerges on the horizon at the Paris summit in December. It seems that the European Union (EU) forgot its claim of standing together with the world’s poor and vulnerable”, he said. Singh said: “On finance, rich countries know they’ve failed to meet their climate finance obligations. They refuse to admit it or make a good-faith attempt to fix it, instead of proffering loans and double-counting development aid as climate finance.” In short, he pointed out, developed nations talk big on a long term solution but are still dreaming of a destination without knowing how they will make the journey. “Rich countries also continued with their ill-rehearsed Houdini act, coming up with ‘false solutions’. The current proposal of setting a long-term goal to cut carbon through ‘net-zero’ would mean developed nations can continue to live life as normal while the poor are kicked off their land in an attempt to absorb emissions,” he added.

Chee Yoke Ling, Director of Third World Network, said without a fair deal in Paris there will be a temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius and a perpetuation of injustice against developing countries and their peoples. “The week started with a very unbalanced text prepared by the co-chairs that favored the United States and its allies. United efforts by developing countries continue to meet with resistance as major developed countries persist in chipping away at their commitments and the equity basis of the Convention,” she said.

Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, referred to the “Fair Shares” civil society review of national climate pledges, which shows that the ambition of wealthy developed countries falls well short of their fair share, while developing countries have made pledges that exceed or broadly meet their fair shares. “All countries need to do their fair share, but the study clearly shows that the onus is on developed countries to drastically cut their emissions and provide finance to developing countries,” Nacpil said.

Oxfam said “the combined total of pledges still represents an unacceptable gamble that puts at risk the world’s climate security.”

“The deplorable inaction at the climate negotiations is a calamity for people across the world. We are facing a planetary emergency with floods, storms, droughts and rising seas causing devastation. The risk of irreversible climate change draws ever closer, and hundreds of thousands of people have already paid with their lives,” said Dipti Bhatnagar, Friends of the Earth International's climate justice and energy coordinator. “We are seeking a just and ambitious deal in Paris, but with the talks held hostage by rich country governments dodging their responsibilities and blaming developing nations, and by corporations promoting dirty energy and false solutions it’s difficult to imagine that happening now. We need to keep building a movement of people that can challenge governments and champion the real solutions to the climate crisis.” 

Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said,
“We need a fair agreement, a fair process and fair shares of climate action. What we have on the negotiation table now is increased effort by more than 140 developing countries but it won’t avoid catastrophic climate change unless rich countries have a dramatic change of heart.  We need rich countries to urgently commit to do their fair share.”  Friends of the Earth International believes that the solutions lie with people. Across the world ordinary people are resisting dirty energy and building democratic, community and socially controlled power. “People will have the last word in Paris. But the demonstrations in Paris will not be the end. The struggle will continue, as it must, because the job will not be done in Paris,”  Susann Scherbarth added.

Admirable and commendable sentiments from FOE but totally unrealistic expectations. It will be business who will have the final say in Paris and unless the people campaign and struggle for socialism, all the promises and pledges from the corporations and countries will be meaningless. 

We are not fooled

0 comments
 Blair in an interview with the CNN said he was sorry for "mistakes" made in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong because, even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought,"Tony Blair said in an interview on CNN.

This blog is unimpressed with Blair’s apology, stressing that it as a typical defense tactic which has been carefully designed to divert the public opinion and avoid culpability.  

“He’s doing what he is master at which is spin control,” said Ian Williams, the senior analyst of Foreign Policy in Focus. “He’s trying to shape the discussions and the agenda. So what he did is going to be transformed from a crime to a mistake.”  

By saying that what he did was based on mistaken intelligence, what he is doing is diverting the fact that he deliberately distorted the intelligence reports to make it mistaken. He lied and used so-called intelligence that was known to be false. The whole thing is about him avoiding culpability for his part in what even he now has to admit was an unmitigated disaster. He’s simply trying to preempt the criticism and condemnation that is going to come his way at the conclusion of the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq War. His lawyers have had access to the Chilcot enquiry report  and he knows what the report now contains. This apology is a reflection of what the report will say.

We also have the information from a memo, which showed that Tony Blair committed Britain to support the Iraq war back in about 2002. And despite what had been said in public, that Saddam Hussein could have avoided war by renouncing his weapons of mass destruction, we knew that Blair had already committed Britain to that war. So, he has been caught lying


Sunday, October 25, 2015

COP21 Doomed to Failure

1 comments
Pledges by Europe, the U.S. and China, which are the three biggest fossil fuel consumers—fall “far short of fair” and may not be nearly enough to contain global warming, according to new research.

The U.S. has announced plans to reduce emissions by 28 percent by 2025 and 83 percent by 2050. The EU is aiming for 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. China has said its emissions will “peak” by 2025 and then start declining, and it aims to improve energy efficiency by 60 to 65 percent.

The question then is: does this set the world on course to contain global warming to 2°C?

The answer is probably “no,” say Glen Peters, senior research fellow at the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, Susan Solomon, professor of atmospheric chemistry and climate science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Pierre Friedlingstein, chair in mathematical modeling of climate systems at the University of Exeter, UK. They have been looking at the sums, and they report in Environmental Research Letters that the promises of the big three translate into harsh demands for the rest of the world. If the 2°C target is to be met, the remainder of the world would have to commit to per capita carbon dioxide emissions somewhere between seven and 14 times lower than the EU, U.S. or China by 2030.

But one working estimate right now is that the world can burn coal, oil and natural gas at a level that will have dumped 3.7 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before the global average temperatures notch up 2°C above the levels before the Industrial Revolution. Since humans have been burning fossil fuels at increasing rates for the last 200 years, that leaves just 1 trillion tonnes—about 30 years’ worth at the current levels—before the planetary thermometer rises to the danger level. The study puts it bluntly: when combined, the European, U.S. and Chinese pledges don’t leave much room for other countries to burn fossil fuels to power their economies. If any agreement in Paris is to be “globally inclusive and effective in the long term”, then by implication the rich nations will have to do a lot more than they have pledged to do.

“The challenge of the problem is that we have about 7 billion people on the planet, and about 1 billion of us live pretty well,” Professor Solomon says. “The other 6 billion are struggling to develop, and if they develop using carbon, as we did, the planet is going to get quite hot. And hot is, of course, just the beginning of the story in terms of what climate change actually means.”

The scientists calculate that, even if the EU, China and the U.S. fulfill their pledges, it commits the planet to a warming of at least 3°C. Even a rise of 2°C would represent a huge change—resulting in sea level rise, a greater frequency of extremes of temperature and dramatic shifts of climatic conditions.

In 2003, an unprecedented heat-wave in Europe caused at least 10,000 deaths, with some estimating many times more than that figure.

“That summer was about 2°C hotter than an average European summer,” Professor Solomon says. “By 2050, every summer in Europe will probably be 2°C hotter than average, if we keep going the way we’re going right now. Three degrees, in my opinion, is a really frightening change.”

In the coming weeks, visitors to the blog can expect further posts addressing climate change, expressing  doubts and scepticism that capitalism can offer a common sustainable future.

Quote of the Day (Californian forest fires)

0 comments
“California is a nice place to visit, but soon no one may be able to live there.”Dr. Glen Barry


California’s drought has reached unprecedented levels, the worst in recorded history. There has been  a state of emergency since January 2014. The state’s mountain snowpack – which provides 30% of California’s water – is at the lowest level in at least 500 years, 5% of its usual water content. Parts of the state have a four-year precipitation deficit of more than 70 inches. One estimate is that 20% of the California’s forest trees are sick or have died from the drought. In recent months, two of the most destructive wildfires in state history have raged across Northern California, and over 1 million acres have burned.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Domestic Servitude

0 comments
There are now 53 million domestic workers worldwide. In the Philippines, where 25% of the country lives under the poverty line the lure of a job abroad has pulled more than 10 million people out of their homes and scattered them across the world. Yet moving abroad to find work as a domestic worker is a calculated risk that millions of women take every year. Some women simply vanish; others turn out to be “mysterious deaths”, their bodies coming back mutilated or with signs of poisoning or stab wounds, recorded as suicides or heart attacks. “They would like you to believe that these women are always hanging themselves or throwing themselves off high buildings,” says Laorence Castillo, a caseworker at Migrante International, a small Filipino NGO that helps domestic workers and their families. When women die or go missing, there is rarely an investigation, he says. “Everyone is happy to let these women go abroad and keep the economy going, but aren’t happy to fight for them when things go wrong.”

Official remittances sent back to the Philippines by overseas workers now top $26bn, or nearly 15% of the country’s GDP. Domestic workers wield serious economic clout. Collectively, they account for 4% of total global employment and nearly 8% of total female employment. There are 1.5 million domestic workers in Saudi Arabia alone, and recruitment agencies fly in 40,000 women a month to keep up with demand. Muslim women from the Philippines are considered the highest calibre of workers in many richer households.

According to the United Nation’s International Labour Organisation, domestic workers are some of the most likely to face abuse and exploitation in their place of work. In the Gulf, the International Trade Union Confederation says that 2.4 million domestic workers are facing conditions of slavery. Rothna Begum of Human Rights Watch says that “in many houses these women have absolutely no status – they have been bought”. The many Filipino women who go to the oil-rich countries of the Gulf work under the kafala sponsorship system, which legally ties migrant workers to their employers. To get a work visa, these women are sponsored by families, and are then not permitted to leave their jobs or the country without their employer’s permission. If they run away, they become “absconding workers” and can be fined or thrown in jail. There is also little they can do if their employers decide not pay them. The International Domestic Workers Federation estimates that families save $8bn (£5.1bn) a year by withholding wages from their domestic workers. “With kafala and other legal systems around the world that give no labour rights to migrant women, you are giving almost total impunity to employers to treat these women however they like,” Begum says.“It’s startling what cruelty can emerge when one person has complete control over another.”

The Philippine government is considered one of the most progressive and proactive when it comes to fighting for justice for overseas domestic workers. It demands the highest minimum wage, of $400 a month, for its domestic workers abroad. “So if you think of the situation for women in the Philippines is bad,” Begum says, “it’s much worse for those travelling from places like Sierra Leone, Kenya or Bangladesh.” She says. “At least the Philippines’ embassies provide shelter for women who are trying to escape exploitation and abuse. These other women are absolutely on their own.” The Filipino department of foreign affairs, the government provided assistance to 20,939 overseas workers and their families in 2014. “The Philippine embassies concerned are extending all necessary and appropriate consular and legal assistance to these overseas foreign workers,” he says. However, the reality is that the inequality between migrant worker and employer is often mirrored by the relationship between poorer labour-sending countries and rich and powerful “host” governments. When things go wrong, those governments that rely on the remittances sent back by migrant workers can be slow to demand justice.

Marina Sarno explains that her hard her life in the Philippines will never compare with the hardships she experienced abroad. Marina’s recruitment agency sent her to the UAE. As soon as she arrived at her new employer’s house, she knew she was in trouble. Her passport and phone were taken away and she wasn’t allowed to contact her family. “My employer was like a lion with no mercy,” she says. Marina says she was forced to work 22 hours a day without rest. She woke at 4am to start cleaning the family’s fleet of cars and worked through to 2am the following morning. “I had no time off, no time to rest ever. Even when I was trying to eat, she would be calling me: ‘You are not here to rest. I paid a lot of money for you.’ To her, I was a slave. I was not a human.”
After a month of working constantly on two hours sleep and little food, Marina’s health was deteriorating fast. She lost sensation in the right half of her body and couldn’t use her hands. “I was so tired it felt like I couldn’t control my brain. After a few weeks I was in so much pain, I couldn’t walk or lift anything. I didn’t know if my children were OK. I felt so alone.” But if Marina left, under the UAE’s kafala system, she would become an absconding worker. Marina told her agency that she was being mistreated, but they said she had to stay until the end of her contract. “They said, ‘Your madam has paid good money for you.’ This is when I knew my agency wouldn’t help me.” After failing to get any help from her agency or government departments, Migrante International helped Joseph file a repatriation request. When Marina’s employer found out, she was enraged. “She said, ‘You can’t go back to the Philippines because I paid money for you,’” Marina says. She claims her employer threatened to get her sent to jail, or kill her, and screamed that she would dump her in the desert. “She told me, ‘If I killed you, nobody would care and nobody would find you.’ I said, ‘Madam, if you want to kill me, go ahead.’” The husband of the house then threatened to beat her with a baton, and locked her in a prayer room for three days and nights with no food or water. The room was boiling hot and she drank water from the toilet. Marina’s lips peeled away and her skin became loose. She felt pain all over her body. When the family went out, she managed to climb out of a window into the kitchen, where she wrote an SOS on a piece of paper. To get the note over the wall of her employer’s compound, she made a hole in a potato and threw it over, where it was found by an Indonesian domestic worker. The note was passed to Migrante, which went to the Philippine embassy and Marina’s agency, and she was rescued. But even then, Marina says, the agency tried to make her sign a form promising she wouldn’t sue them or her employer.

She says that she would now rather face poverty at home than risk life as a domestic worker again. “I would just say to anyone who is thinking of going to work abroad, don’t trust anyone,” she says. “They will kill you and nobody will do anything to help.”





“Land degradation neutrality”

0 comments
12 million hectares of productive land are degraded annually across the globe but targets for restoring ‘degraded’ territory could lead to global land-grab. At the recent UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Ankara many NGO delegates expressed concern that the convention’s proposal to rehabilitate degraded land globally could have negative, if unintended, consequences.

“Land degradation neutrality” relates to the situation that degraded land often emits CO2 but restored land not only increases food productivity but also stores carbon so it could have an impact on how emission reductions are negotiated in Paris and beyond.

However, there is a serious snag in the proposal. Land rights activists argue that it needs to be hedged by much clearer definitions of “degradation”, and accompanied by legal recognition for the world’s many millions of untenured small farmers, pastoralists and indigenous peoples. Otherwise, it could accelerate the current trend towards ‘land-grabbing’ by states, corporations and private individuals.

Michael Taylor, director of the International Land Coalition, told the conference that as much as 65 per cent of the Earth’s land surface is claimed by indigenous peoples and local communities, through customary usage and management. But only 18 per cent of this land is acknowledged as communally owned by governments.
“This is a concern,” he said, “because it is land on which up to 1.5 billion people live and use, but over which they have no legal control. In other words, they are legally squatters on land that in most cases has been theirs for generations. As competition for this land increases, and this competition becomes increasingly unequal, so does their risk of dispossession.”

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim represents the Congo Basin region on the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee and campaigns for land rights for her pastoralist Mbororo people.  She believes grazing and cultivating communities can benefit each other, in a traditional seasonal synergy. “It starts with cowshit,” she explains disarmingly. The dung dropped by the Mbororo’s cattle, roaming vast areas across Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, is an essential source of fertility for crops after they have moved on. But problems arise when the Mbororo retrace their steps, and find land they have grazed for centuries fenced off for exclusive cultivation, often without even a corridor for their cattle to pass through, and with no prior negotiation. Ibrahim argues that customary communal use of land should recognised as a legal right worldwide.

Michael Taylor explains “Hindou’s people know the land they graze as very productive on a seasonal basis,” said Taylor after listening to our interview, “but a government or a corporation might say it can only become fully productive if it is irrigated.”

Forcing unsuitable land into industrialised agricultural production, however, often exhausts the soil. It can destroy its productivity long term through salinisation. So we are left with the paradox that, unless there are clear guidelines, efforts to restore land wrongly considered degraded could lead to the degradation of productive land.



Went for a birdie

1 comments
Members Wentworth Club, in Surrey, one of the U.K.'s most prestigious golf clubs were informed annual rates would double and cost of joining would rise to £125,000 from £15,000. That's a 733 percent increase. Existing members were asked to pay a one-time fee of £100,000.It is owned by Chanchai Ruayrungruang (also known by his Chinese name, Yan Bin) through his closely held Beijing-based conglomerate, Reignwood Group. He's the 2nd-richest person in Thailand, and the world's 153rd-richest, worth $7.9 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Reignwood is best known in China for distributing the energy drink Red Bull, though it's also involved in energy, property and financial leasing, among other industries. Reignwood bought Wentworth in September 2014 for £135 million.


He also owns the exclusive Reignwood Pine Valley Golf club in the countryside outside Beijing, near the Great Wall. China's first invitation-only golf club, its individual members pay a minimum of $250,000 to join

Friday, October 23, 2015

Climate Change and the Small Change

0 comments
FREE ACCESS AND PLENTY FOR ALL
It’s always about money. Negotiators presently meeting in Germany to clarify their positions before the Paris conference that aims to seal a new binding treaty say that questions over cash are the biggest barrier to a new global climate deal. Developing country delegates said clear guarantees on finance must be a core part of that eventual agreement. Climate change for poorer nations has far greater consequences and is often a matter of life and death.

Developing countries point out that while they had done least to create the problems associated with more carbon in the atmosphere, they were the ones already feeling the greater impacts of a warming world. They seek finance to help them curb their emissions and to cope with the storms and droughts expected to be more common in a changing climate.

Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa said that the question of finance was the most crucial issue for any new agreement. "Whether Paris succeeds or not will depend on what we have as part of the core agreement on finance," she told reporters. Ambassador Diseko also accused the richer nations of dirty tricks, saying they were keen to exclude observers from civil society groups because they wanted to pass off overseas development aid (ODA) as climate finance. 

Representatives of indigenous, women's and environment groups and trade unions called for a reversal of a decision to exclude them from discussions on a global climate change deal due to be agreed in Paris in December. Protesters from green groups and development charities picketed the conference centre in Bonn, wearing blindfolds to symbolise their exclusion, and holding up signs saying "Keep us in the room". More than 125 NGOs released a statement deploring the decision to exclude them, describing it as "undemocratic, untransparent and unacceptable". "It reflects a process by which the voices of those most impacted by - and least responsible for - climate change are silenced," they said.
"It is my understanding that this should be an open forum where everything happens in a transparent setting because there is nothing to be hidden," said Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, a delegate for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mali's lead negotiator Seyni Nafo, the spokesperson for African states at the talks, said he would urge developing nations to break off the negotiations if observers were not allowed to monitor the discussions. 

Christian Aid’s Senior Climate Advisor, Mohamed Adow, said: “Rich countries are shirking their responsibility to provide climate finance and have watered down the text. They are undermining the right of poor developing countries to receive support they need to adapt and develop in a clean manner.”

Developed countries are wary about including a provision on loss and damage in the Paris agreement, as they feel it will make them legally responsible for storm damage and rising seas in many parts of the world.
"It is deeply concerning for us when we hear the calls not to include this issue in the discussions," said Juan Hoffmaister from Bolivia. "Because at this stage with the science and the knowledge we have available, to talk about not having loss and damage is the equivalent to climate denial."

To go green, we must first go red

0 comments
Within the environmentalist movement you may hear some activists advocating lifestyle changes say that it is the individual who is personally responsible for global warming and it is the individual who is the one that causes the manufacturer to make the goods that produce the carbon emissions that causes climate change. They suggest that we each individually are responsible for the pollution and should share in the sense of guilt. This attitude ignores the single most important fact about what contributes to pollution that has been established over and over again: the over-whelming bulk of pollution comes from business. The amount of pollution that individual people contribute through their day-to-day activities is very small and practically irrelevant. It is not you or your neighbours and friends but the business interests which control the corporations who run the industries which produce almost all the pollution. While not to be condemned in itself, recycling and such it does not address itself to the real source of pollution and instead it becomes simply a way of drawing attention away from this source.

Capitalists cannot afford to be overly concerned with stopping pollution. The existence of every business is based on its ability to make more profits than the next capitalist. If the average cost of pollution control equipment is approximately 20% of that of production equipment means that companies would have to cut deeply into their profits to take any real steps toward stopping pollution. Capitalists are not about to cut its profits for anybody. Capitalists have not cut its profits to provide full employment or to avoid wars. There’s no reason to expect them to do such a thing in order to stop climate change! This is also true to a large extent of the government who represent the overall interests of business. Karl Marx summed it up well. He said:
“The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the affairs of the bourgeoisie.”

With a few exceptions people show little inclination to replace the capitalist system. They have more than once demonstrated that they are not anti-capitalist even if they are pro-environment. But it would be a grave mistake to assume that the latter could not lead to the former. For this to happen though, the next step in building a viable anti-capitalist movement is to have no confidence in the ruling class, no confidence in the ability of business and industry to stop climate change, no confidence in the business-controlled government’s ability to implement environmental legislation to control business. This means that we have to see through the superficial and deceptive gestures of the more “progressive” politicians advocating carbon limits. We must abandon the reformist projects proposed by them such as the 5 pence on a plastic bag at the supermarket.

Working people are continually involved in a day-to-day struggle against business and government over the basic necessities of life. Hazards in the industrial environment result in disease, disability, and death on an unprecedented level. Millions of cases of occupational disease due to factory pollution occur annually. Workers are forced to breathe air highly saturated with tiny particles, leading to all sorts of diseases such as black lung, silicosis, and asbestosis. We have to recognize that there are forces in the society which are anti-life — the ruling class, which is content to maintain its rule as the entire society rushes towards oblivion, a force that we must struggle against if life is to be guaranteed. And in this struggle the primary question is who is going to have the power and it is the necessity for socialists to realize that, the end is life. But the beginning is the successful struggle for a socialist society. A confident, organised working class is essential for the creation of a society in which workers can truly formulate and decide between alternatives.

We now all know that the global climate is changing, raising the terrifying prospect of droughts, floods, famines and migration crises. A paper in Nature Geoscience actually says we’re not being alarmed enough. In fact, it warns climate scientists to avoid sugar-coating the scale of the catastrophe that climate change poses. The author, Professor Kevin Anderson of Manchester University, says scientists shouldn't self-censor. We shouldn’t delude ourselves that the world's nations will finally got serious about taking major action to prevent the death of our planet.

War On The Poor

0 comments
With Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at US $ 2.94 trillion (2014), the UK has the fifth largest economy

One in five of the population live below our official poverty line, meaning that they experience life as a daily struggle according to Oxfam.

The independent research project, Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) in the United Kingdom, concluded that poverty in Britain is worse now “than it has been for the past thirty years”, indeed the number of people living in poverty “has doubled since 1983”.

The PSE report reports that a third of people in the UK suffer significant difficulties and about a quarter have an unacceptably low standard of living.
4 million children and adults are not properly fed by today’s standards
Around 1.5 million children live in households that cannot afford to heat their home
Up to 2.5 million children live in homes that are damp.

The children’s charity Barnardo’s state that: “there are currently 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK.” That’s over a quarter of all children. Barnado’s studied the education and health effects of child poverty. They found that poor children do worse at school – a mere 5% of the poorest achieve “a good level of development at the end of their reception year [aged 5/6 years]”, compared to almost 70% of other pupils. The poorest teenagers pass less exams – if any, and consequently cannot go to University, making it extremely unlikely they will get a good, fulfilling and well paid job, allowing them to move out of the prison of poverty.

Infant mortality is 10% higher for children in the lowest social groups than the average, and three-year-olds “living in households with incomes below about £10,000 are 2.5 times more likely to suffer chronic illness than children from financially better off families.

The stated aim of the Conservatives’ programme is “to reduce the deficit… give confidence to the markets and therefore deliver growth to the economy.” Oxfam analysis explains “for every £100 of deficit reduction, £85 comes through spending cuts, while £15 is achieved through increased taxes”.  This involves extreme public sector cutbacks, including scrapping over 1 million jobs by 2018 and freezing wages; making severe reductions in welfare, as well as introducing nominal tax increases. The government proposes to cut £12 billions by 2017/18 from welfare spending, and have already made a devastating start. Tax credits have been slashed, all benefits will be frozen for four years, despite inflation, and the total amount of welfare someone can claim has been reduced. The most vulnerable members of society are taking the full hit of their aggressive, regressive policies, with women and children being affected most acutely – directly and indirectly. Despite having a statutory duty to end poverty by 2020, according to Oxfam an additional “one million children will be pushed into poverty as a result” of their socially divisive, unjust policies, and an extra “1.5 million working-age adults are expected to fall into poverty”.

The mythical land of ‘Zero Deficit’ is no nearer and, in fact, the UK budget deficit (what the government borrows each year) is estimated to be 4.9% of GDP or £88 billion this year – an all time high, and Government debt, at around £1.5 trillions, is almost double what it was in 2010, when the Conservative-led coalition came to power.