Friday, April 28, 2017

Wales - Saturday streets stalls

Street stalls on the 1st Saturday of the month in Cardiff and the 3rd Saturday of the month in Swansea.

Cardiff stall will be located at the Newport Road end of Queen Street (10 am to 12 noon).  

Swansea stall will be located around the entrance to the market on Oxford Street (11 am to 1 pm).

Who sups with the de'il should have a long spoon

Dr Peter Boylan, one of Ireland’s most respected obstetricians has resigned from the board of a maternity hospital over plans to transfer its ownership to a religious order that ran institutions where women were enslaved and children abused for decades.
Secular campaigners have been leading the opposition to the government’s plan – which emerged earlier this month – to move the National maternity hospital in Dublin to the St Vincent’s Elm Park campus, which is owned by the Sisters of Charity.  The Catholic order –  still owes €3m (£2.5m) to a government compensation scheme for victims of institutional abuse.  The Sisters of Charity never issued a general public apology for the abuse suffered by children in their care. 
Boylan told Irish radio: “It has been said that the nuns are not going to run the hospital – that’s absolutely correct. I’ve never suggested that they would run the hospital, but they own the hospital, they own the company that runs it and they have undue representation on the board.”
The minister for health, Simon Harris, has insisted that Catholic ownership of the hospital will not influence the care it provides. We can consider another hospital run by the Sisters of Charity to see how much credence to give that. At St Vincent’s, nuns sit on the board of directors and doctors must sign contracts promising adherence to the ethos of the hospital. The ethos stated on the hospital’s website is “to bring the healing love of Christ to all we serve.” The first stated core value is “respecting the sacredness of human life and the dignity and uniqueness of each person”, which, anyone fighting for reproductive rights in Ireland can tell you, is code for “every zygote has a soul”. If and when Irish women finally win abortion rights, will the National Maternity Hospital implement them?
Barrister Claire Hogan points out that in Ireland, where gruesome medical histories of symphysiotomy and “compassionate hysterectomy” stem from Catholic mores, religious ethos has historically affected women’s medical treatment. The Institute of Obstetricians has expressed concern that even Ireland’s extremely restrictive abortion law, which allows for termination only in the case of threat to the life of the mother, will be compromised in a Catholic-controlled institution.
John Kelly of Survivors of Child Abuse (Soca) Ireland cautioned against having “the religious involved in any way shape or form” in schools and hospitals, while Magdalene Survivors Together expressed “deep anger and absolute shock” at the decision.
Just to recap: the state spends €82m on a report that uncovers heinous abuses perpetrated by Catholic orders against the children it paid them to care for; it pays out over €1bn to the victims, while the godly shirk financial and moral responsibility. It commits another €58m compensating women, while the cassocked again decree themselves blameless.
And it learns what? That Ireland needs further integration of church and state.

International Workers' Memorial Day

On Friday 28th April, millions of workers across the world will remember those killed at and by work as part of International Workers' Memorial Day. Many commemorative days receive mass attention, environmental, health and safety issues in the workplace are barely acknowledged.

 A few employers may care about the safety of their workers, but in general, capitalists seek to maximize profit. That means they will pay more for safety only insofar as they are forced to bear medical and other costs associated with injuries – through workers’ compensation, for instance.  It is clear that much work is potentially dangerous, such as anything involving chemicals, machinery or working above ground. But that does not by itself explain why there are so many injuries, fatal and otherwise. While ‘accidents’ cost money, regulations and enforcement are expensive too. All impinge on profits, which are the main reason for production under capitalism. Companies will say that they take health and safety seriously, but they have to take profit most seriously of all. We cannot say that there would be no workplace deaths or injuries in a socialist society, but we can be sure that the safety and well-being of those who produce the goods and services will be paramount. There will be no shortcuts, no cheap and nasty solutions, no forcing people to work in unsafe situations. Producing in the interest of the whole community will include making production as safe as is humanly possible – something that capitalism simply cannot deliver.  

Tyne and Wear Mayday Rally (Sat 29th April)


Saturday, April 29, 


Princess Square

Newcastle upon Tyne,
Members from North East Branch will be present selling the Socialist Standard and available to answer your questions about the Socialist Party

Stoking the Yenmen Civil War

As of March 21, 2016, Human Rights Watch reported the following weapon sales, in 2015 to the Saudi government:
  • July 2015, the US Defense Department approved a number of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, including a US $5.4 billion deal for 600 Patriot Missiles and a $500 million deal for more than a million rounds of ammunition, hand grenades, and other items, for the Saudi army.
  •  According to the US Congressional review, between May and September, the US sold $7.8 billion worth of weapons to the Saudis.
  • In October, the US government approved the sale to Saudi Arabia of up to four Lockheed Littoral Combat Ships for $11.25 billion.
  • In November, the US signed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth $1.29 billion for more than 10,000 advanced air-to-surface munitions including laser-guided bombs, “bunker buster” bombs, and MK84 general purpose bombs; the Saudis have used all three in Yemen.
Reporting about the role of the United Kingdom in selling weapons to the Saudis, Peace News notes that “Since the bombing began in March 2015, the UK has licensed over £3.3bn worth of arms to the regime, including:
  •  £2.2 bn worth of ML10 licences (aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.1 bn worth of ML4 licences (grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
  • £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (armoured vehicles, tanks)
On April 26th, 2017, in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah, the Saudi-led coalition which has been waging war in Yemen for the past two years dropped leaflets informing Hodeidah’s residents of an impending attack. Already, five cranes in Hodeidah which were formerly used to offload goods from ships arriving in the port city were destroyed by Saudi airstrikes. 

UN agencies have clamored for humanitarian relief. Yet the role the UN Security Council has played in calling for negotiations seems entirely lopsided.  On April 14, 2016, UN Security Council Resolution 2216 demanded: “that all parties in the embattled country, in particular, the Houthis, immediately and unconditionally end violence and refrain from further unilateral actions that threatened the political transition.” At no point is Saudi Arabia mentioned in the Resolution.
Speaking on December 19, 2016, Sheila Carpico, Professor of Political Science at the University of Richmond and a leading Yemen specialist called the UN Security Council sponsored negotiations a cruel joke.
These negotiations are based on UN Security Council resolutions 2201 and 2216. Resolution 2216 of 14 April 2015, reads as if Saudi Arabia is an impartial arbitrator rather than a party to an escalating conflict, and as if the GCC “transition plan” offers a “peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political transition process that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people, including women.”
Although scarcely three weeks into the Saudi-led intervention the UN’s deputy secretary-general for human rights said that the majority of the 600 people already killed were civilian victims of Saudi and Coalition airstrikes, UNSC 2216 called only on “Yemeni parties” to end the use of violence. There was no mention of the Saudi-led intervention. There was similarly no call for a humanitarian pause or corridor.

The U.S. Congress could  insist that the U.S. stop supplying the Saudi-led coalition with weapons, stop helping Saudi jets to refuel, end diplomatic cover for Saudi Arabia, and stop providing the Saudis with intelligence support. And perhaps the U.S. Congress would move in this direction if elected representatives believed that their constituents care deeply about these issues. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Clinton, Obama, Trump – Birds of a Feather

Since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, news reports have proliferated about rising raids, arrests, detentions, and deportations.  These suggest that something new, terrifying, and distinctly Trumpian—something we’ve simply never seen before—is underway, including mass sweeps to deport individuals who would have been protected under the previous administration. Long before Trump entered the Oval Office, the “tough on crime” approach to immigration fit into a broader pattern of the criminalization of people of color that fed the prison-industrial complex, made the U.S. the globe’s leading incarcerator, and encouraged the proliferation of private prisons.  It helped justify the increasing militarization of the police in those years and the over-policing of communities of color.  It also fed a national sense of insecurity that contributed to political passivity, disempowerment, and the kind of nativism that Trump has thrived on. Criminalization plays a role as well in the country’s growing economic inequality.  It justifies both high rates of unemployment and low wages among people of color, while warehousing those whose labor has become superfluous. And it plays a particular role when it comes to immigrants and the labor market.

Immigrants actually experience significantly higher labor force participation and lower unemployment rates than the native-born, making them an exception among people of color.  However, they earn less ($681 week) than do native-born workers ($837 a week), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for 2015.  For employers in recent years, the criminalization of the already unstable status of immigrants (and their inability generally to access social services), makes them a uniquely exploitable and so desirable work force.  They tend to be hired to do jobs so dismal, arduous, or dangerous that they fail to attract native-born workers.  Anthropologist Nicholas de Genova has suggested that the very “deportability” of undocumented immigrants makes them desirable to such employers. Meanwhile, the criminalization of people of color and of immigrants in particular lent a distinct helping hand to Donald Trump in his campaign for president, even as it helped the prison-industrial complex and the police justify ever-increasing budgets and employment

  Washington Post scare headline typically read: “ICE Immigration Arrests of Noncriminals Double Under Trump”  is misleading. Non-criminal immigration arrests did indeed jump from 2,500 in the first three months of 2016 to 5,500 during the same period in 2017, while criminal arrests also rose, bringing the total to 21,000.  Only 16,000 were arrested during the same months in 2016.  The article, however, ignores the fact that 2016 was the all-time low year for arrests under President Obama.  In the first three months of 2014, for example, 29,000 were arrested, far more than Trump’s three-month “record.”
And even though arrests went up during Trump’s first three months in office, deportations actually went down, mostly due to the fact that the number of immigrants crossing the border declined.

Trump’s policies seem to be growing directly out of policies first instituted in the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  The fact is that two Democratic presidents laid the groundwork for Trump’s policies. It was, after all, President Clinton who oversaw the draconian “Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act” of 1996.  It drastically increased all levels of immigration “enforcement,” expanding the Border Patrol, criminalizing numerous types of low-level immigration violations, and facilitating and expanding deportation procedures. In many ways, Donald Trump is only reiterating, with more bombast, ideas, and policies pioneered under Clinton, that then became a basic part of Barack Obama’s approach to immigration. Those policies drew directly on racist tough-on-crime and anti-terrorism police tactics that also helped foment white racial fears. Obama was dubbed the “deporter-in-chief” for a reason.  He oversaw historic rises in deportation rates.  Immigrant rights supporters like to emphasize the humanitarian nature of what Obama did while downplaying the two border prongs of his policies, criminalizing and targeting those not eligible for them.

When it came to interior enforcement, President Obama called on ICE to exercise “prosecutorial discretion.”  Immigrants who were parents, students, hard-working, had close family and community ties, or served in the military, he suggested, should be granted relief from deportation.In the process, however, he offered a language of innocence versus criminality and the illusion that, when it came to immigrants, the notion of criminality was self-evident and universally agreed upon.  By dividing them into felons versus families, he actually contributed to the criminalization of large groups of immigrants and so fed directly into Trump’s future rhetoric.  He also drew on Bill Clinton’s “tough on crime” policies in ways that linked the criminalization of people of color with the deportation of “criminal” immigrants (also overwhelmingly people of color). Once criminalized, they then fell into a separate-and-unequal immigration enforcement system in which due process was eliminated and deportation, the ultimate draconian penalty, could be implemented regardless of the seriousness of the “crime.”  Worse yet, the ever harsher over-policing of communities of color and the expansion of mass incarceration produced,  immigration scholars Alan Aja and Alejandra Marchevsky point out, “a reservoir of immigrants with criminal records, creating an endless chain of detentions and deportations.”

As Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, has made strikingly clear, all of this—the redefinition of minor crimes as felonies, the increasing pressure on those charged to plea bargain, and measures that then excluded felons from public housing, employment, welfare rolls, voting booths, and other aspects of society—relegated a significant number of black men to a permanent underclass. Undocumented immigrants were also caught in this web, with some special twists. In the wake of Clinton’s 1996 immigration law, for instance, convictions of just about any sort, including the most minor crimes, became grounds for deportation—even retroactively.  So a long-ago violation that resulted in probation and community service, or a small fine, now became evidence of an immigrant’s “criminal” status from which deportation naturally followed.

And there was another new catch-22 category as well: so-called immigration crimes. Those with a record of illegal re-entry and those who engaged in what was termed “immigration fraud” were automatically re-categorized as “criminals” under President Obama’s priority enforcement policy.  “Illegal reentry” is, in fact, the most curious of crimes, since it distinguishes between those who succeed in entering the country without inspection on their first try and those who are caught and only succeed on a subsequent try.  “Immigration fraud,” a broad category, includes common practices like using a false social security number in order to work. Obama’s interior deportation scheme relied heavily on this expansive notion of the criminality of the undocumented, who might otherwise have qualified as people trying to get by as best they could.  In fact, the situations of many of those caught at the border proved remarkably similar to those being granted prosecutorial discretion in the interior.  They had family, including children, in the United States, or jobs and strong community ties, or had lived in the country for years.  Because they had left and tried to return, however, they were redefined as criminals. Trump is extending that criminalization further by ruling that anybody convicted of, charged with, or even suspected of a crime constitutes a priority for deportation.  In the process, he’s expanded the concept of the “criminal” even as he’s built directly on the Clinton-Obama legacy.

What earned President Obama the moniker of “deporter-in-chief,” however, was his policy towards border enforcement, since it was there that the number of deportees rose most sharply.  This was in part because he prioritized “recent border crossers” for deportation; everyone, that is, who had crossed without authorization, which essentially meant everyone apprehended in the border region, was now criminalized.  Under previous administrations, most of those caught there had been granted what was called “voluntary departure.”  In other words, they were returned to the Mexican side of the border without legal sanction.  During the Clinton and Bush administrations, more than a million people a year were returned to Mexico in this manner without being transformed into criminals and so were not included in the usual deportation figures. In the Obama years, those apprehended at the border began to be formally charged and fingerprinted before being issued a deportation order.  In this way, they were redefined as “criminals,” and if they were caught attempting a second border crossing, as criminal “repeat immigration offenders.”  It also meant that formal deportations began to skyrocket, although the numbers crossing the border, those apprehended at the border, and those sent back to Mexico were all beginning to fall.

One aspect of immigration enforcement under the Obama administration generally goes unmentioned: the president’s role in pressuring Mexico into collaborating by arresting and deporting Central Americans heading north (including families and unaccompanied children) before they reached the border with the United States.  In 2014, under growing pressure from Washington, the Mexican government implemented the Southern Border Program.  While U.S. law was being repeatedly updated to provide humanitarian treatment to families and children apprehended at the border, when the Mexicans got to them first, they simply deported them. In 2014, only 3% of the minors apprehended in the U.S. were deported; in Mexico, the figure was 77%, or 18,269.  As one report summed up the situation: “The United States is outsourcing its border enforcement to Mexico.”  As in the United States, so Mexico’s increasing militarization and repression on its southern border did not actually slow the flow of migrants. It merely made the voyage far more dangerous, while giving ever more power to smugglers and gangs that now prey upon Central American migrants desperately trying to evade Mexican border controls.

 Trump’s immigration policies follow in the footsteps but also intensify those of his predecessors and continue to create fear, justify exploitation, and rationalize authoritarianism. Similarities can also be made about their foreign policies and overseas military ventures. Trump is the symptom of what the United States is and not the cause. 

The Socialist Party Explained

The world is crying out for change. Millions of children die each year of starvation while those with millions spare themselves no indulgence. People say that we in the Socialist Party are utopian because we hold to the view that a new society is the only lasting solution to the mess we're in and because we dare to suggest that we could run our lives in a much more rational and harmonious way. Some people on the "Left" decline to define socialism because they think that any account of a future society is a waste of time and that we should concern ourselves with present-day struggles. But unless you do talk about where you're going, how will you know when you've arrived?  More and more people today recognise that the present system of production for profit makes our lives needlessly painful and is ruining the planet.  Unless you do have a clear idea of socialism then anyone can claim it, defame it and say it doesn't work. And unless we keep the idea of working directly for a worldwide co-operative community on the agenda people will always be sidetracked. It is essential that the ideal of the new society should always be kept at the fore. It cannot be stressed enough, that without a widespread and clear idea among workers of what a socialist society entails, it will he unattainable. The reason is simple. The very nature of socialism—a money-free, wage-free world of unrestricted access to the goods and services provided by voluntary cooperative effort—necessitates understanding. There is absolutely no way in which such a sweeping fundamental transformation of social relationships could be thrust upon an unwilling, unknowing majority by some minority, however, enlightened or well-meaning. The Socialist Party is not prepared to associate with organisations which carry on propaganda for the amelioration of capitalism, recruit members on that basis and seek the votes of reformists. Our case is that work for socialism is the essential end and it cannot be combined with reformism. Socialism cannot be achieved without a social revolution, that is a change in the property basis of society, from private ownership to social ownership and democratic control.  Alone, we have stood for a social revolution to overturn capitalist society and replace it with socialism. There is no way that an anti-capitalist social order can be constructed without seizing state power, radically transforming it the constitutional and institutional framework that currently supports private property. To ignore the state is a ridiculous and dangerous idea for any anti-capitalist movement to accept.

The Socialist Party holds that the only way workers can end their conflict with our masters is to build on our economic and social power and organise collectively and politically to end the madness of the market system once and for all.  Class struggle is the motor that drives change. Built into capitalism is a class struggle between those who own the means of wealth production and those who don't and who are therefore forced by economic necessity to sell their ability to work to those who do. The class war, between the owners of the means of production (the capitalists) and those compelled by threat of poverty to sell their capacity to work (the workers), is an essential and continual feature of capitalist society.  This class struggle is not just over the price and conditions of sale of the commodity workers are selling, their labour power. Ultimately, it's about control over the means of production. The problem we have to face is that, in the class struggle, the odds are nearly always against us, and that to build a socialist future, we need a mass organisation of people who know what it is they want and are prepared to work to achieve it. 

Those pursuing the tactic of trying to reform capitalism by concentrating on humanising it are wasting their time since the entire system is based on a minority exploiting a majority. To expend all energy in demands for a more "friendly" capitalism is not what socialists should aim for, as, even in the event of success, the primary evils of capitalism would still remain i.e. production for profit and extraction of surplus value. The main effort of socialists should be aiming for socialism itself. The end of capitalism can only come as a result of a consciously socialist political movement winning control of political power with a view to abolishing all capitalist property rights and ushering in the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. The preconditions for ending capitalism are a majority socialist consciousness and workers democratically self-organised in a large-scale socialist party. Neither of which, unfortunately, currently exist. 

During the election campaign, questioning the future of capitalism ought to be in the forefront of the debate. Socialist ideas have to be communicated to other workers, but not from outside the working class as a whole. They have to be communicated to other workers who, from their own experience and/or from absorbing the past experience of the working class, have come to a socialist understanding. It is not a question of enlightened outsiders bringing socialist ideas to the benighted workers but of socialist-minded workers spreading socialist ideas amongst their fellow workers.  The Socialist Party's mission is to show clearly both how we are robbed and exploited by the system ruled by capital and how we can tap the wealth of our collective productive power by taking control of the means of production directly.

The Socialist Party’s conception of revolution is often criticised for its lack of credibility since it is falsely assumed that people have to wait for the overwhelming majority necessary to “enact” socialism before doing something about their immediate problems. The Socialist Party recognises the necessity of workers' solidarity in the class struggle against the capitalist class, and rejoice in every victory for the workers to assert their economic power. Workers must engage with the issues of pay and work conditions and pensions, but the main issue is the overthrow of capitalism, not picking away at it and then having our gains eroded sooner or later. In thinking of the class war as an actual war, the drive for a socialist understanding in the working class and the creation of a socialist society should be the main front, demanding the most effort, while everyday issues of pay and conditions and defending the gains that have been made would be a secondary front. We should never lose track of the actual aim of the socialist movement, the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by a democratic association of peoples.

Left-wingers reject the Party’s concept of revolutionary change as “impossible”. Their argument is that a working class government could set society on a course of change in the direction of socialism. In control of the state and all legal processes, such a government would grant the widest freedom of action to the trade unions and thus set up a partnership with the trade unions pursuing working class interests on the industrial field and a government doing the same on the political field. The unions would maximise the workers’ share of the social product at the point of production. The government would provide housing, health care and education, etc. At the same time, such a working class government would begin the process of establishing common ownership through the nationalisation of the means of production and through “taxing the rich out of existence”.

The Socialist Party rejected this gradualist policy at the beginning of the last century and it has been vindicated by experience. With a growing socialist majority, the class struggle will take new forms, not least because the ruling class will become ever more cunning and ruthless as its hegemony is more and more threatened. Critics have accused the Socialist Party with some foolish ideas such as Parliamentary “cretinism”, as they call it . The Socialist Party is aware that the use of parliament by a socialist majority is just one part of a much broader movement for change in which the revolutionised ideas and activities of millions of class-conscious workers will be rather more important than the actions of delegates in parliament. Nor does the Socialist Party rely simply upon the agency of ‘abstract propaganda’. Our propaganda is not abstract: we relate to the real experiences of workers today, constantly making clear at our meetings and in our literature that socialism is the immediately practical solution to workers’ so-called “short-term interests”. We present our objective as an immediate solution to the problems of the present and not as some far-off futuristic utopia. Our appeal to workers is on the basis of class interest and our appeal will be successful because the class struggle generates class consciousness in workers.   

These left-wing critics accuse the Socialist Party of being unconcerned with short-term interests within capitalism and offer the example of our failure to be directly involved in trade unions. The reason for this is that as socialists we are engaged in a necessarily contradictory struggle: on the one hand, we propose the abolition of the wages system as an immediately practical alternative, but on the other, we recognise the need for workers to fight the wages struggle within capitalism. But, as socialists, our main energies must be directed towards the former objective. We could, of course, remove this distinction between the trade union struggle within capitalism and the socialist struggle against capitalism by adopting the ideas of the De Leonists, who at one time advocated that socialists should form their own socialist unions. This would be an example of breaking down the false dichotomy between short and long term interests. But the result proved an utter failure when De Leonist trade unions which were set up in the USA and, to a lesser extent, in Scotland. Indeed, the failure of  “socialist industrial unionism”  is a very important case study of the danger of imagining those capitalist institutions such as trade unions can be easily converted into socialist bodies. They demonstrate that capitalism cannot be transcended from within.

The Socialist Party rejects the gradualist theory and policy because it does not accept the political premise that the economic operation of capitalism can be controlled in a manner which would allow for any gradual realisation of working class interests.  The force of the Party’s arguments has not diminished with the passing of time; on the contrary, as capitalism has continued to develop as a world system, it has become more compelling.

Criticism of the Socialist Party's “aloofness” has also been by those who promote a co-operative movement which they intend will supplant their capitalist competitor. Socialism is a non-property system, and systems which accept and reject property cannot co-exist. Regardless. These critics propose that “socialistic” relationships will spread within the capitalist economy and as socialist consciousness develops these co-ops will be gradually be gutted of their capitalist content. They will be run eventually upon the basis of “free production” and ultimately they will link together and evolve “towards a totally socialist society”.  Such a revolutionary change is incompatible with what capitalism can allow.  Where is the financing of these co-ops to come from? Presumably not from workers’ savings where impoverished workers can “buy out” the bosses. If capitalist banks are to provide loans to finance these co-ops is it not certain that they will make demands upon them which will undermine their “socialistic” nature?

 Existing within the cut-throat environment of the world market, is it not inevitable that the economic goodwill of the co-operators will be swamped by the iron laws of the profit system, with all of the exploitative demands which it places upon enterprises? Indeed, far from being able to demonstrate a better life to workers trapped in the remaining units of capitalism, the workers making an inevitable failure of running “free production” under capitalism would provide an ideal case study for the anti-socialist propagandists — even more so if such enterprises failed having had the backing and endorsement of the Socialist Party. How do these co-ops, locked into the capitalist economy, evolve towards a totally socialist society? It seems incredible to think that institutions which are tied into capitalism for existence are going to evolve out of it. If developing the new within the kernel of the old alternative scenario is an example of pragmatism, Socialist Party’s be justifiably accused of lacking credibility and naivity? The economic laws of capitalism will continue to operate, essentially unaltered until the very eve of socialism. The growth of socialist consciousness and organisation will allow workers to prosecute the class struggle more effectively and to this extent the limited freedom of maneuver which the economic laws of capitalism allow the employing class will be limited even more. But the suggestion that a “socialistic” co-operative sector of the economy would be able to defy the economic laws of capitalism to the extent of being able to disengage from the market and operate on the principle of free production goes way beyond this. It amounts to asserting that the economic laws of capitalism can be overcome by a mere act of will.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

£5.3 billion government pot to integrate health and social care has not achieved a single target and is ‘little more than a ruse’ to plug gaps in local authority budgets, MPs have warned.
In 2015, the Department of Health set up the Better Care Fund with the intention of cutting down emergency admissions and bed-blocking, where patients are medically fit to leave hospital but there are delays to arranging their social care in the community. However, in a damning report, the Public Affairs Committee found that the fund was ‘little more than a complicated ruse to transfer money from health to local government to paper over the funding pressures on adult social care.’
Liz McAnulty, Chair of the Patients Association, said: “The Better Care Fund was always pretty plainly a way of shifting funds from the NHS to social care. The crisis in social care funding had been brewing since at least the turn of the decade, and the BCF was always a sticking-plaster solution rather than the commitment to adequate funding of social care that was really needed. We believe that the current funding settlement for health and social care must be revisited, as it is plainly proving inadequate.”
Under original plans, bed-blocking should also have fallen by a total of 293,000 hospital days but it actually increased by 185,000 compared with 2014/15

Like Father, Like Daughter

Workers at a factory in China that makes clothes for the Ivanka Trump clothing line and other labels made roughly $1 an hour.

 The workers toiled 60 hours a week to produce clothing they could never afford, such as the “brand’s $158 dresses [and] $79 blouses”—but low wages weren’t the only difficulty they endured. According to the Washington Post, “inspectors with the Fair Labor Association...found two dozen violations of international labor standards during a two-day tour of the factory in October, saying in a report that workers faced daunting hours, high turnover, and pay near or below China’s minimum wage.”

Laborers at the G-III factory, which is exclusively licensed to produce the Ivanka Trump line, also manufactured clothing for Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. The Post reports auditors found workers were mandated to work 57 hours a week, and many far exceeded the maximum legal overtime limit of 35 hours per month, reaching an astounding 82 hours on the job every month. For their work factory workers were paid half as much as “the average manufacturing employee in urban China.”

Fewer than a third of the factory’s workers were offered legally mandated coverage under China’s “social insurance” benefits, including a pension and medical, maternity, unemployment and work-related injury insurance, inspectors found. The factory also did not contribute, as legally required, to a fund designed to help workers afford housing, inspectors said. Inspectors also cited the factory for a number of workplace safety concerns. It did not train loading workers on safety techniques or provide employees with equipment that could reduce injury, including lifting belts or seats with backrests.

India's Insurrection Continues

Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh's southern Sukma region, killed 25 paramilitary personnel in an ambush and it was the deadliest assault committed by the left-wing rebels since killing 76 security forces in a single incident in 2010.  it was in the same area a month ago that 13 troops were killed in a similar attack on a road-opening party in a construction party.

The Maoists also seem to be gaining influence among locals in a number of states, including Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Mahrashtra and Bihar. The support is critical in their being able to sustain their forest and guerilla warfare. India's Maoist insurgency, which started in the 1960s, has claimed around 10,000 lives and is considered India's most serious internal security threat. Observers say the affected states have failed to tackle tribal grievances that are propping up the Maoists.

"When you allow multinational companies and private corporations to carry out mining projects in the name of development in areas populated by indigenous communities this uprising is bound to happen," explained  E N Rammohan, a former police officer, who has chronicled the Maoist rebellion. He reckons that such actions by the state governments have created a fertile space in which Maoists have moved in and taken up the fight for the indigenous communities. 

 Naxalites have managed to draw support from disgruntled citizens, especially tribals, who believe they have been exploited and have not benefited from the fruits of economic growth. They claim they are fighting for the indigenous communities who, they stress, are routinely exploited by private corporations and the political class.

Se here for more background.

If you are interested in genuine social revolution rather than insurrection contact:
257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086
Tel: 2425-0208 (ISD: 091, STD: 033)

Yemen - Hunger as a weapon

The world promised Yemen only half the aid it needs. Yet at the same time, arms sales to the warring factions are thriving. 

 the worst famine in the world today has been man-made, for the most part. It's because of war that one-third of Yemenis are starving and two-thirds of the country's people depend on relief supplies. It is a war that sees hunger used as a weapon. One of the main causes of Yemen's famine is the continuing Saudi-led naval blockade of Yemeni ports.It is a war that, only after the Saudi-led coalition intervened two years ago, escalated ethnic conflicts that had simmered for decades into a disaster. it is a war which generates huge profits.
In 2015, when the wealthiest country in the Arabian peninsula started to bomb the poorest country in the region back to the stone age, arms worth in excess of 1.8 billion euros ($1.96 billion) were exported from the European Union to Saudi Arabia. In 2016, the German Ministry of Economy issued export licenses for weapons sold to Saudi Arabia worth more than 500 million euros ($544 million). Great Britain, France and especially the US are also among those who, acting resourcefully and displaying high levels of entrepreneurial flair, make sure that the Saudi arms, bombs and missile depots remain fully replenished, despite constant deployment on a massive scale. 
The situation could even become dramatically worse because the Saudi-led coalition plans to launch an offensive against Hodeida, a Red Sea port held by the Houthi-Saleh bloc. That port's capacity has been dramatically reduced already due to Saudi airstrikes. In spite of that, it is still the central hub when it comes to supplying Yemen with food and relief aid. If the port comes under attack, the current mass starvation would turn into a death trap. The coalition's argument that  Hodeida must be seized in order to halt arms supplies to the Houthi-Saleh bloc and force them to the negotiating table is not convincing: the UN special envoy's recent peace initiative was rejected by the Saudi-backed government of exiled president Hadi. And all ships approaching the port have been inspected by the coalition for quite some time already.
In this war, there can't be any military victory - this insight was even shared by US Defense Minister James Mattis when he visited Riyadh recently. Those who care about the people of Yemen must, therefore, bring the warring parties to the negotiating table. To this end, pressure must be put on Riyadh, which, thus far, has rejected everything that didn't amount to a capitulation of the Houthi-Saleh alliance. In this situation, an arms embargo targeting Saudi Arabia could be a start that's long overdue.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ageism in Ireland

More than half of people over 50 years of age living in Ireland have experienced ageism. There is convincing evidence that when older people experience age-related discrimination they internalise these negative views, feel older and less capable and are less likely to look after themselves.

The Irish Republic's population aged over 65 has increased by 19 per cent, or 102,174 people, since 2011.  The numbers of those aged 0-14 only increased by 71,439. So the population is getting older.  The fact is that people living longer is a good thing.

 The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda), Health and Wellbeing: Active Ageing for Older Adults in Ireland 2017 report found that “older adults in Ireland far from being reliant on social supports are net contributors to their extended families and the communities in which they live”.

Almost half of older people help their adult children out financially, whereas only 3 per cent of adult children provide financial help to their parents. Half of adults aged 54 to 74 provide regular childcare for their grandchildren for an average of 36 hours each month. Two-thirds participate in a wide range of social activities including going to the pub and eating out in restaurants, thus contributing to the local economy. In addition, older people are the backbone of the volunteer structure.

Older people need the same quality and quantity of food as younger adults but they are not feeding themselves properly. Almost 80 per cent are overweight or obese and they assume it is natural to gain weight as they get older. Only a quarter eat the recommended five to seven portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Just 17 per cent eat enough dairy products. They eat about five times the recommended amount of treats and snacks. Significant numbers of older people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, incontinence, hearing loss, pain, osteopenia and arterial fibrillation. These conditions often remain untreated. Fewer than one in three older people with depressive symptoms had been prescribed treatment for their condition. The authors concluded that many of these chronic health problems are “mistaken as part of the normal ageing process” and are underdiagnosed and untreated. Contrary to popular belief older people are not greedy consumers of health services. The Tilda study found that there was little change in healthcare utilisation in the population aged 54 to 80. Increased hospital attendance was observed only in those aged over 80.

Military Waste



Not unexpectedly coming in top, the United 'World Police' States have spent an estimated $611 billion. That's a staggering 36 per cent share of the global total, and nearly three times the level of China. 


A big gap separates front-runner United States with second-place China, as grown in Chinese military spending slows. Nevertheless, a spending of $215 billion (13 per cent of the global share) by the world's most populous country is incredibly serious.


In a dramatic increase since 2015, Russia is now third in the world for military expenditure, with a worrying increase to $69.2 billion. That's 4.1 per cent of the global expenditure and a staggering 87 per cent increase since 2007.

Saudi Arabia 

The fall in oil prices in oil-exporting countries since 2014 has led to "substantial decreases in military spending". Saudi Arabia is, of course, one of the world's foremost oil providers and has made significant cuts to its military budget.


India has spent $55.9 billion, or 3.3 per cent of the global total. This is likely related to ongoing separatist conflicts in Kashmir. 


Despite the vast difference in size and population, France has spent nearly as much as India - $55.7 billion. That's 3.3 per cent of global expenditure.

United Kingdom

For a small nation, Britain packs a punch on the global scale, with military expenditure at 48.3 billion. Nevertheless, it's fallen in the rankings since 2015, from 6th to 7th place, which is largely attributed to the devaluation of the pound after the referendum.This means that the UK failed to achieve planned increases in military spending announced in 2015.


Japan's military spending remains high, at $46.1 billion, or 2.7 per cent of the global share. This could be related to the ongoing tension between Japan and China ovr claims in the East China Sea.


Largely due to Chancellor Merkel's efforts, Germany raised its spending in 2016 by 2.9 per cent.This brings their expenditure up to $41.1 billion, or 2.4 per cent.

South Korea

Tensions in the Korean peninsula and threats from North Korea have led to a significant growth in military expenditure. South Korean's spending now stands at $36.8 billion, or 2.2 per cent.


Italy increased its spending by 11 per cent, bringing it to $27.9 billion, or 1.7 per cent. The report attributes this to Italy's support for its local arms industry by funding domestic procurement.


Considering the relative population size of Australia, a share of 1.5 per cent in the global expenditure is significant.With military expenditure in Oceania having increased by 5.1 per cent since 2015, Australia's budget now stands at $24.6 billion.


Brazil's worsening recession has led to cuts in military budget by more than 7 per cent, bringing it down to $23.7 billion. However, that is still 1.4 per cent of the total global expenditure.


The current figures are an estimate, as no data is available for 2015 and 2016.Nevertheless, in 2014 the UAE was the second largest military spender in the Middle East.


Israel's expenditure has increased by almost 10 per cent since 2007.The figure now stands at $18 billion, or 1.1 per cent of the global expenditure.