Friday, March 31, 2017

Fact of the Day

Credit card debt has risen to record levels, in spite of income remaining static. The average household now owes about £2,500 on cards, up 10.5 per cent in 12 months and the highest growth in 11 years.

A large number of families are using credit cards to pay for essentials, not luxuries.

Credit card companies are exploiting consumers by offering initial long periods of free interest, followed by cripplingly high rates after the bonus period.

Nothing changes in Myanmar

Unlike much of the mainstream media, this blog is not easily impressed by words. We judge actions to be much more important than promises, or in the case of Nobel prize winnerAung San Suu Kyi, we were not surprised by the lack of action.

Our blog post back in 2015 said, “The world’s media appears to be all cock-a-hoop about the election victory of the National League for Democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi. But the reality is that little will change in Myanmar.”

Our prediction has proved right. This blog posted last year that while  “...every leader in the world from the Dalai Lama to the Pope to veteran Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu and to the youngest Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yusufzai has called for the end of Rohingya persecution and restoration of their full citizenship rights...Aung San Suu Kyi has publicly refused to heed these calls." 

We reported last year that National League for Democracy’s party leader Aung San Suu Kyi said she will protect Muslims in the country but this article in the Guardian casts a lot of doubt on that pledge. Burma's generals in effect still control parliament after a deeply flawed 2010 election and Aung San Suu Kyi has done little to seriously challenge them. 

Interviews by the Guardian with more than a dozen diplomats, analysts and current and former advisers reveal frustrations with Aung San Suu Kyi’s questionable leadership style, her inability or unwillingness to communicate a vision, and her reluctance to speak out against the persecution of minorities. One diplomat put it, “I think she’s closer to a Margaret Thatcher.” It’s a stark contrast to the Aung San Suu Kyi during her 15 years of house arrest. David Mathieson, a longtime Myanmar researcher for Human Rights Watch who is now an independent consultant said, “She was principled … And I think it’s lamentable that she’s not doing the equivalent of that now.”  

A senior aid worker explained, “In meetings, she is dismissive, dictatorial – in some cases, belittling,” and continued, the government, he said, has become “so centralised, there is complete fear of her”. Obsession with party loyalty soon became a theme. NLD legislators were told not to speak to the media in the run-up to the election and then were ordered not to raise tough questions in parliament.

The silence held through October, as a fresh crisis unfolded in Rakhine state, and November, when four ethnic armed groups formed a new alliance in the north. Conflict has escalated to unprecedented levels in Shan and Kachin states, with tens of thousands of refugees driven over the border into China. Ethnic leaders have recently questioned the extent of her sympathies with minorities. Her government has put out statements condemning abuses by ethnic armed groups, ignoring aggressions from the military. In one case it labelled a major ethnic organisation a terrorist outfit. The peace process analyst said she has one strategy: “to have good relationships with the Tatmadaw [army]”.

The biggest moral challenge for her is posed by Rakhine state, a tinderbox of tension between minority Rohingya Muslims and majority Buddhists. In 2012, she did not speak out after a surge in sectarian violence that led to the deaths of hundreds of people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, in Rakhine state. In an apparent concession to domestic racist factions, her party blocked Muslims from running for parliament in 2015.

On 9 October  nine police officers were killed on the western border with Bangladesh by Rohingya armed with swords and makeshift rifles. Soldiers sealed off the remote corner of the country, barring media and aid access. Tens of thousands of Rohingya, whom many in Myanmar regard as illegal “Bengali” immigrants from Bangladesh, fled across the border to refugee camps. They have recounted mass killings and rape, accusations which the military denies. One woman who spoke to the Guardian said troops raped her, killed her husband and seven of her children. One child survived, she said.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has angrily dismissed many of the claims as “fabrications”. The words “fake rape” were plastered over her official Facebook page. An aide, Win Htein said the “Muslim lobby” exaggerates the plight of the group, even though 120,000 have been confined to camps in Rakhine state since 2012. He said the “illegal immigrants are flowing into our country like a stream since many decades ago” and that Islamic practices are incompatible with Buddhist beliefs. Asked if he thought Aung San Suu Kyi might have private sympathy for the Rohingya. He paused and then said: “No.”

 10 months into her rule, one of her advisers, a prominent Muslim lawyer, was assassinated, her silence left many dumbfounded. Ko Ni, a constitutional lawyer who helped create the state counsellor position, was shot dead on 29 January as he stood outside Yangon international airport, holding his grandson in his arms. For a month, Aung San Suu Kyi made no public comment. She did not even call the family.

The immense authority retained by the military means  Aung San Suu Kyi, the state counselor, has limited power over what happens in conflict areas. But even in sectors well within its purview, the government is seen to be falling short. The NLD’s parliamentary majority gives it the ability to amend and remove oppressive laws, including the notorious 66D clause in the telecommunications law that has been used to jail scores of people for Facebook posts critical of the government and army. But, instead, senior NLD officials began using it with an order to pursue some of the cases against critics coming from the highest levels of government. Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s regional director for south-east Asia and the Pacific, said: “This is not the change the NLD promised to deliver during last year’s elections.”

India's Afrophobia

Attacks on Africans have raised concerns about an alarming trend of hate crimes and racism in India. The violence has forced the Africans to stay indoors and not venture out for their own safety. An estimated 40,000 Nigerians live in India. According to government data, they make up the fifth-largest group of foreign students in India - only one place behind Sudanese students. Most of these Nigerian students choose to live in big cities and constitute a significant chunk of India's medical tourists. They have often complained of facing racist taunts on the streets.

On Monday, March 27, hundreds of people in New Delhi went on a mob rampage and attacked several African students. The violence was sparked by allegations that five African students were involved in the drug trade and the overdose death of a young Indian boy. Police arrested the five but then released them citing a lack of evidence. It was not the first time that Africans living India have faced brutal attacks. Attacks on Africans have been relatively common in India in recent years. Experts say these incidents reflect on the growing xenophobia and a deep-rooted racism in Indian society against "dark-skinned" people. Last year, a Congolese man was beaten to death in Delhi. The Congolese teacher was lynched by three people over a rickshaw hiring dispute.  Prior to that, a Tanzanian woman was attacked in the southern city of Bangalore.  A Sudanese man's car ran over and killed a local woman. India has the highest number of road accidents in the world, but such was the resulting anger against Africans that a day later, the locals dragged the woman out of her car, stripped her clothes and paraded her naked, assaulting her when she tried to escape. In October last year, three African students were assaulted inside Delhi's local train station. The reason, allegedly, was that one of them had harassed an Indian woman. Sexual harassment of women in Delhi is quite common, but when African students were accused of committing the crime, they were made to pay a price. In 2015, six Africans were beaten up by a mob in New Delhi.

Precious Amalawa and his younger brother Endurance, who are from Nigeria and study at the Noida International University, are still in a state of shock after being attacked by a 100-strong mob at a public mall. "I thought I was going to die. The mob was uncontrollable and it's a miracle we are alive.” Precious Amalawa told DW.
His younger brother Endurance is also traumatized by the experience. "How can we live peacefully now? The fear of being attacked will always lurk. It is frightening," he said.

 Many social media users justified the attacks and hurled racist slurs against the Africans. Some even accused them of "cannibalism" and "drug racketeering." Suhas Chakma, director of the New-Delhi based Asian Center for Human Rights, believes the "prejudice" against Africans is linked to India's caste-based system.
"Let us admit that we are a racist country. The government is doing nothing to provide a sense of security not only to Africans but to all foreigners. The country immediately needs an anti-racism law," Chakma told DW.

The racist attacks are not restricted to Africans; even the students from India's northeastern region complain that they are being discriminated against because of their "Chinese looks."
"We face racism because we look different. I can relate to my African colleagues. The parliament needs to pass an anti-racism law," Alana Golmei, an Indian student from the northeastern region, told DW.

Samuel Abiye Jack, president of the Association of African Students in India, said the African people living in India are "tired of the government's promises."
"We will organize a nationwide protest. We will also tell African students not to come to India to pursue higher education," Jack told DW.
The African governments have repeatedly condemned the attacks on their students in India and have demanded New Delhi to take measures to protect them. The latest mob rampage is likely to sour India's diplomatic ties with African nations even further.
Africans living in other countries which are not their countries of origin are grimly accustomed to invectives like "fucking foreigner"; "parasite"; "alien"; "refugee", etc. But it appears matters have been getting out of hand in recent years.  The colour of fellow-workers’ skins is of no importance.  Only by rejecting the myths of national and racial identity can the world be won by and for all of its inhabitants. As knowledge of the real cause of our problems (capitalism) and the real basis of our strength (class unity) develop, the wretched appeal of the racists and xenophobes will evaporate and the air will once and for all be cleared of the stench which has given rise to it.


The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Common World

Although the Donald Trump presidency may be in denial, it is now widely agreed that life should be organised in ways that protect the environment. This is a question of the natural conditions on which all our lives depend so it is a matter of basic self-interest. How, then, do we do it? At least two powers of action are required. We need to be able to control production and we need to co-operate with each other. Socialism would give us these powers.

With common ownership, the planet will be held in common by all people and on this basis, democratic decisions about how best to organise life in non-destructive ways could be freely made. There would be no economic constraints preventing us from using ecologically-sound methods. We would carry out the work through direct co-operation.

Many thousands in the Green movement might agree that this would be a desirable way to live but, tragically, at the same time they imagine that such a world can be achieved through reforms of the market system. This is impossible. The capitalist system has destructive features which cannot be removed through reform.

How is it possible for us to choose non-destructive production methods when these are in the hands of corporations which must place profit before needs? How is it possible for us to co-operate when we are dominated by economic competition? How is it possible to build a stable way of life, a non-growth system in balance with nature, while retaining a market system which is driven by a relentless pressure to renew its capacity for sales at a profit? Capitalism is primarily a system of capital accumulation and with any faltering of this anti-social aim it breaks down in crisis and a worsening of all social conditions.

The Green movement must face up to these questions which, if they ever gained political power, would surely haunt their term of office and all their efforts would break down in failure and disillusion. In these circumstances, the cause of ecology would be set back for generations. The false belief that problems can be solved by reforming the market system has led to the death of every decent hope for humanity throughout the entire century.

To avoid such a disastrous outcome we urge all those who wish for a world organised solely for needs— which includes the urgent need to protect the environment—to join the work of establishing socialism. It is the only sure and practical way forward.

What Socialism Means


We begin with these three points because they are vital to any kind of an understanding of what we mean by socialism.

We reject the idea that socialism has been tried in countries sometimes referred to as socialist. These countries were based upon state capitalism. Look below at our definition of socialism and ask yourself if this in any way describes the police states of modern China and Cuba or the old regimes in Russia and eastern Europe.

We reject the idea of socialism in one country. National socialism equals non-socialism. The capitalist system is global and so must the system which will replace it.

We reject the idea that people can be led into socialism. Socialism will not be established by good leaders or battling armies, but by thinking men, women and children. There can be no socialism without socialists.

So what does Socialism mean then?

That’s a straight question, so here’s a straight answer.

Socialism means a global system of social organisation based on
  • COMMON OWNERSHIP: All the productive wealth of the world will belong to all the people of the world. No more transnational corporations or small businesses and therefore nobody will own the world. It will be possessed by all of its inhabitants.
  • DEMOCRATIC CONTROL BY ALL: Who will run socialist society? We all will. There will be no more government and governed. People will make decisions freely in their communities, in regions and globally. With the existing means of information technology and mass communication this is all possible.
  • PRODUCTION FOR USE: Instead of producing goods and services for sale and profit, the sole reason for production will be to satisfy needs and desires.
  • FREE ACCESS: A society in which everyone owns everything, decides everything and only produces anything because it is useful will be one in which all will have free access to what is produced. Money will cease to have any function. People will not work for wages or salaries, but to give what they can and take what they need.

It’s a great idea, but ... But, what?

‘British socialism and World War I’. (public meeting Wakefield)

Wakefield Socialist History Group's next event is on Saturday, April 1 at 1pm at the Red Shed, 18 Vicarage St S, Wakefield WF1 1QX, UK

Dr Martin Crick and Paul Bennett will speak at a meeting on ‘British socialism and World War I’.


31 of 148 workers in jail for last over 4 years have been convicted even against clear evidences to the contrary. 117 workers among the 148 – who spent over 4 years in Jail – have been acquitted of all charges. 31 of 148 workers in Jail for last over 4 years have been convicted even against clear evidences to the contrary. 117 workers among the 148 – who spent over 4 years in Jail – have been acquitted of all charges. It is clear that the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) has been specifically targeted, despite no evidences, only because they were vocal for workers rights. They have been targeted because they have been the active in the struggle for trade union rights against the contract system, the horrible working conditions, the low wages, and regime of exploitation and repression by the company aided by the government. These 13 include workers Jiyalal and Ram Meher, Sandeep Dhillon, Ram Bilas, Sarabjeet Singh, Pawan Kumar, Sohan Kumar, Ajmer Singh, Suresh Kumar, Amarjeet, Dhanraj Bambi, Pradeep Gujjar and Yogesh.

Provisional Working Committee of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union appeals to all workers to observe 4th/5th April 2017 as all-India and International Days of Protest and show solidarity in whatever ways possible.

The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Protecting the vulnerable

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people from Central America and other countries around the world cross Mexico’s land border with the USA to seek safety and a better life. Crossing into the USA without papers means risking your life, as it makes people more vulnerable to gangs and drug cartels who control the border area and are primed to profit from people in desperate situations. People will not stop fleeing their countries and moving north in search of safety, despite Trump’s border control measures. Criminal groups will only gain more power once the border wall is built, charging vulnerable people fortunes to leave their country and make their way to the USA. The USA plans to further militarize its southern border and deny entry to asylum seekers

Migrants and asylum seekers, particularly people from Mexico and Central America, have been repeatedly described as “criminals and rapists” and failed to acknowledge the plight of the thousands of women, children and men who live in “war-like” situations in some of the most dangerous countries on earth, particularly El Salvador and Honduras, and who are effectively forced to flee their homes if they want to live. Trump's administration effectively sought to close the borders to immigrants, including asylum seekers looking for a safe haven in the USA. The Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Executive Order of 25 January aims at ensuring that the process of detaining and expelling migrants and asylum seekers is as swift as possible – fully ignoring the fact that some of these people face mortal danger if sent back to their countries. Rather than allowing people to enter the USA and seek asylum in order to save their lives, US Customs and Border patrol are repeatedly refusing entry to asylum seekers all along the border. Border agents have been known to take the law into their own hands by turning back asylum seekers, telling them they cannot enter. 

Who owns the South Pole?

In the first significant arms control treaty of the Cold War, 12 nations signed up to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty System, agreeing to ban all military activity on the continent and allow for the freedom of scientific endeavours. Any country can now set up a research facility anywhere on the island, while mining activity is banned and strict environmental protocols have to be adhered to. Despite the potential for conflict, the 60-year-old treaty has resulted in an atmosphere focused on learning and cooperation. 

The rules that have governed the region and fostered science for decades could now be threatened by competing interests for the resources both under the Antarctic ice and in the South Atlantic itself. There may be trouble on the horizon for Antarctica as a hub for science and as a model for international relations. Antarctica is understood to have significant reserves of oil and gas as well as deposits of coal, chromium and iron ore. According to the US Geological Survey, there could be as many as 36 billion barrels of oil and gas buried under the ice and rock, almost impossible to reach now but potentially accessible as technology continues to improve.

According to Simon Romero of the New York Times, “an array of countries are rushing to assert greater influence here, with an eye not just toward the day those protective treaties expire, but also for the strategic and commercial opportunities that exist right now”. 

According to Anne-Marie Brady, executive editor of The Polar Journal and professor in political science at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, “The Antarctic Treaty has never resolved the issue of either sovereignty or access to mineral resources. There is a lack of political trust among many Antarctic states, as well as a deep conflict of values and interests. Now that the technological barriers to Antarctic exploration have eased, more and more states are seeking access to Antarctica, putting pressure on the governance structures.”

Some of Antarctica’s longstanding observers are worried that the spirit in which the Antarctic Treaty System was enacted in 1959 may not be adhered to when the treaties governing the protection of Antarctica’s natural resources come up for review in 2048.

I don’t think we should assume that every country will agree to further prohibition of mining in the Antarctic,” says Klaus Dodds, professor of geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London, and an expert in the politics of the polar regions. “It would be naive to think that the current no-mining consensus might not change during this century.”

Antarctica’s nutrient rich seas are now exploited for both fish and krill by Russia, China and South Korea. Its led to disagreement between the nations involved in the region when measures to protect the area’s wildlife recently came up for discussion. “What was eventually agreed was quite a small marine protected area in the Ross Sea,” says Klaus Dodds. “What the marine protected area saga really revealed was that countries have quite different attitudes towards the Antarctic, and in particular its resources. Russia and China would take a view that fish stocks should be exploited, that the Antarctic is not special or exceptional and that the country’s proposing conservation measures are really trying to strengthen their own sovereignty and security issues.”

It wouldn’t be the first time resource-rich Antarctica has seen countries contesting for the rights to exploit the continent. In 1923, Britain’s under-secretary of state for the colonies, Leo Amery had entertained the idea of incorporating the entire continent into the British Empire, before competing interests by Chile and Norway put a stop to British expansionism. 

 “The Antarctic Treaty was a Cold War instrument designed to preserve control of the Antarctic continent and oceans by the US and its allies,” says Anne-Marie Brady. “It was thought that it would be easier to control the Russians if they were in an international regime than if they were out of one. The Treaty kept the peace in the Cold War years, but it is proving inadequate to respond to the challenges of the current era: resource scarcity, climate change, and the changing global order.”

 Dodds sees the prevailing “Anglosphere” powers increasingly at odds with developing nations with stated interests in space, scientific and resource interests. “What you have in Antarctica is an old order consisting of Britain, America, Australia and New Zealand increasingly having to share the region with a different group of countries. It’s a group of countries that are increasingly making their presence felt in the region and may take a different attitude towards its use in the future.”

Pension Protest in Chile

 2 million people protested nationwide – more than 10 percent of the country’s population - poured into the streets of cities across Chile  to call for a repeal of the country’s privatized pension system, which they say benefits the rich while leaving the poor with a monthly pension below the minimum wage. Protesters have called on the government to dismantle the system altogether and replace it with a public social security system funded by the government, employers and employees. 

Chile’s pension model was first established in 1981 under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. It has been described as a “forced savings” scheme. The private companies that manage the pension funds earn disproportionately high fees, but poorer Chileans receive less than $400 a month – often less than half of the income they earned during their working lives. Women are disproportionately affected; the majority of Chilean women in retirement earn less than $235 per month in U.S. dollars – a figure less than the average retirement pension of $300, and a far cry from Chile’s monthly minimum wage ($385).  Just three companies currently dominate Chile's market for retirement plans, providing coverage to 80 percent of workers with pensions.

"AFPs have failed, the pensions they provide are absolutely insufficient and they will continue to deteriorate," said the organizers, according to Radio Universidad de Chile. "AFP pensions are currently on average of 125,319 pesos (US$189 a month) and 91% of pensioners receive less than 151,353 pesos... with replacement rates [percentage of the last salary received as a pension] of 40% for men and 35% for women."

Quote of the Day

"It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear. While such an economy may produce a sense of seeming prosperity for the moment, it rests on an illusionary foundation of complete unreliability and renders among our political leaders almost a greater fear of peace than is their fear of war." - 15 May 1952

"Our swollen budgets constantly have been misrepresented to the public. Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear — kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor — with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real." - 30 July 1957

General Douglas MacArthur 

The Robots Cometh

Robots have a real impact on jobs and wages, new research shows. Robots have long been maligned for job-snatching. Now you can add depressing wages and promoting inequality to your list of automation-related grievances.  Industrial robots cut into employment and pay for workers, based on an new analysis of local data stretching from 1990 and 2007. The change had the biggest impact on the lower half of the wage distribution, so it probably worsened America's wage gap. 

Industrial robots have had a "large" and negative effect on U.S. employment and wages in local labor markets, according to new research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Daron Acemoglu and Boston University's Pascual Restrepo.
One additional robot per thousand workers reduces the employment-to-population ratio by 0.18 percentage points to 0.34 percentage points and slashes wages by 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent, based on their analysis. To put that in context, the U.S. saw an increase of about one new industrial robot for every thousand workers between 1993 and 2007, based on the study. 
"The employment effects of robots are most pronounced in manufacturing, and in particular, in industries most exposed to robots; in routine manual, blue collar, assembly and related occupations; and for workers with less than college education," the authors write. "Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly, we do not find positive and offsetting employment gains in any occupation or education groups."  Researchers, specifically Daron Acemoglu, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Pascual Restrepo, from Boston University, said they were surprised that there was no positive effect on workers with more than a college degree.
Worth noting: the authors estimate that robots may have increased the wage gap between the top 90th and bottom 10 percent by as much as 1 percentage point between 1990 and 2007. There's also room for much broader robot adoption, which would make all of these effects much bigger. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

‘Regime change refugees’

Prejudices are the chains forged by ignorance to keep men apart. ~ Countess of Blessington

Tens of thousands of asylum seekers are cruelly languishing at sea with one nation after another turning them back. The ‘regular pathways’ to resettlement are a myth with annually on average less than 80,000 refugees resettled worldwide. According to the UNHCR, in the five years to 2013, 358,781 refugees from 111 countries were resettled, but more than fifteen million refugees languish. With this sort of global resettlement rate there is no orderly regular migration pathway, just the deserting of millions of people. 

The migrants coming to Europe are mostly fleeing conflicts. The data on origins make that clear. The migrants are coming primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Pakistan in the Middle East, and to a lesser extent from Eritrea, Somalia and Nigeria in Africa. These are all countries with vicious conflicts — conflicts that (with the exception of Nigeria) began with Western military intervention, direct or indirect and continued to be fueled by intervention. In Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia the intervention was very direct. In Syria, Pakistan and Eritrea, it has been less direct but very clear nonetheless.”The term ‘regime change refugees’ helps focus on where the primary responsibility lies. Official discourse in Europe and the United States frames the civil wars and economic turmoil in terms of fanaticism, corruption, dictatorship, economic failures and other causes for which Western governments and publics believe they have no responsibility. The Western leaders and media stay silent about the military intervention and regime change, interventions that have torn the refugees’ homelands apart and resulted in civil war, state collapse and extremely violent conditions lasting for long periods. Some European leaders  are arguing in favour of further military intervention in these war-torn lands on their periphery as a way to ‘do something’ and (ironically) ‘end the violence.’

Some politicians will scapegoat immigrants (or other vulnerable people) for people suffering. When this happens, hold on tight to your purse or wallet. They’re trying to distract you from the rich and powerful elites who are rigging the rules to get more wealth and power. They want to deflect your attention away from the reality that your economic pain. 

The so-called refugee crisis in Europe is only the tip of the iceberg. The 10 countries hosting the highest number of refugees are actually not in Europe, but in developing countries. Developing countries hosted 86% of the world’s refugees in 2014. In fact, just 10 counties host nearly 60% of the world’s refugees: Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, DR Congo and Chad (UNHCR data). Furthermore, among the 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, about 1/3 are refugees or asylum-seekers, while 2/3 are internally displaced people (IDPs). Between 1975 and 2009, 80% of the refugees relocated to a country in proximity to their home state.

Europe’s population is ageing. The EU’s working-age population will decline by 3.5 million people by 2020 according to Eurostat estimates. Europe needs workers, and migrants can mitigate the effects of an ageing and shrinking population, in a wide variety of fields of employment. 

 “After years of neglect, this administration has taken a strong stand to stiffen the protection of our borders. We are increasing border controls by 50 percent. We are increasing inspections to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants. And tonight, I announce I will sign an executive order to deny federal contracts to businesses that hire illegal immigrants.” 

No, not Trumps latest pronouncement on the Wall and stopping immigrants but Bill Clinton in Jan. 23, 1996.  It isn’t factually accurate to brand Trump's anti-immigration policies as unprecedented or an aberration.

Clinton went on to sign the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), enacted in April 1996; and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which passed in September of the same year. Together, the two acts had the net effect of the changes was to vastly expand the number of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, subject to removal from the country. In 1990, a 14-mile, triple-deep fence was constructed in San Diego. In 1996, the IIRIRA authorized the federal government to build additional barriers. And in 2006, the Secure Fence Act was passed, authorizing completion of still more. Today, there are 700 miles of fencing along the southern border. Among those voting in favor of the Secure Fence Act was Hillary Clinton, then the junior Democratic Senator from New York. Nor should we forget that under Obama  more people were deported from the U.S. during the administration of President Barack Obama than during that of any other president and the Border Patrol’s budget expanded from $5.9 billion 2003 to $11.9 billion in 2013, while ICE’s grew from $3.3 billion to $5.9 billion. As of 2013, the two agencies had a total budget of nearly $18 billion, and that number increased to nearly $20 billion in 2016. 

Fact of the Day

From 2000 through 2014, according to the widely cited Global Terrorism Index, “more than 61,000 incidents of terrorism claiming over 140,000 lives have been recorded.” Including September 11th, countries in the West experienced less than 5% of these incidents and 3% of the deaths. 

The “140,000 lives” estimate carries an almost eerie resonance, since this is the rough figure usually accepted for the death toll from a single act of terror bombing, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The tally is also low compared to contemporary deaths from other causes. Globally, for example, more than 400,000 people are murdered annually. In the United States, the danger of being killed by falling objects or lightning is at least as great as the threat from Islamist militants.

Time to vote socialist

News from Kent and Sussex Branch:
The SPGB today became the first party to have a candidate nomination accepted in the Shepway District for the Kent County Council election on 4th May.   Both divisions of Folkestone town, with a combined electorate of just over 26,000 on newly re-drawn boundaries, are being contested with Max Hess and Andy Thomas being the candidates.
We are also standing for East Sussex County Council, in the Lewes electoral division which is close to Brighton and has almost 9,000 voters, where Howard Pilott will be the candidate.
 Both areas were contested by the Party in the 2014 European Parliament elections, and Folkestone was also contested in the 2015 general election, when a candidate was also stood in the District council election.
West London branch, in conjunction with comrades living there and elsewhere in Surrey, is standing a candidate in Guildford in the county council elections in Surrey where in the 1980s there was a very active Party branch. Although Surrey was part of the South East Region for the 2014 Euroelections, it was the only country where we didn't arrange for Royal Mail to distribute our election manifesto, which is one reason why we will be using the wording of that manifesto. But we'll have to distribute it ourselves since there is no free postal distribution in local elections.
Letter published in the Hounslow Chronicle (17 March )in response to one from someone in the ex-Militant Tendency signing himself "Staines and Surrey Socialist Party":
Socialists will have candidate
Paul Couchman (Your Say, March 3) says he wants to build "the Social­ist Party in Staines and Surrey" and hopes that there will be Socialist candidates in May's County Council elections.
The good news is that there will be. The bad news, for him, is that it will not be his party, ie the old Mili­tant Tendency under the usurped name of our party which has existed since 1904. We shall be standing on a straight socialist programme of the common ownership and demo­cratic control of the means of pro­duction, with production for use not profit, not for mere reforms to capi­talism as he wants."

HEAVEN’S ABOVE! (weekly poem)


The ramblings of an old fart in Heaven.

I’m speaking to all you young folk,
From way beyond the grave;
To let you know that heaven is,
A right, real, royal, rave.
We spend all of eternity,
Just listening to harps;
That all play in the Key of C,
So there’s no Flats or Sharps!

On every Sunday (for a change!)
We lustily sing Hymns;
But lack of choirboys means their parts, (1)
Are sung by Cherubims!
So here’s a warning to you all,
It’s really not too late;
Don’t let the Devil drag you down,
Don’t lust or fornicate!

Remember too much sex can cause,
One feebleness of mind;
And all our priests will too, confirm,
That it can make you blind.
So if you must commit a sin,
By having filthy sex;
Do it in moderation and,
Wear a strong pair of specs!

The best thing that young men can do,
Is to become a Scout;
Cold showers and the Bible will,
Keep vile temptation out!
Call older people like me “Sir”,
Because you’re still a youth;
Salute the Union Jack each day,
And do not be uncouth.

But as I speak I must admit,
This death is oh so slow;
And I am tempted just to think,
What’s going down below!
In Hell their playing their guitars,
No rotten harps or lyres;
Oh how I wish I’d sinned much more,
And joined them in Hell’s Fires!

(1) Assuming people are not in the same mental and physical condition
they were at death, at what arbitrary age is one on reaching heaven
to enjoy an eternity of pleasure with 72 virgins (or white Raisins?!!!)

© Richard Layton