Monday, July 31, 2017

Socialist Standard No. 1356 August 2017

Fact of the Day (NZ Inequality)

The average wealth of those on the NBR Rich List is more than 500 times greater than the household wealth of the average New Zealander. 

The NBR's annual Rich List was released today showing 208 Kiwis have amassed $80 billion in wealth.

 The median wealth on the list was $150 million, 519 times more than the median household wealth of New Zealanders of $289,000 in the year to June 30, 2015.

World Socialist Party (New Zealand)


Australia's Inequality

 The top 1 per cent of Australians has nearly doubled since the early 1980s, rising to 8.3 per cent on the latest count – the highest since the 1950s, is right to say that inequality is at about a 70-year high.
After taking account of the number and age of people in the household, households in the highest-income quintile (20%) in Australia received over 40 per cent of total income in 2013-14. By comparison, households in the lowest quintile received 7.3 per cent of total income. This pattern has remained relatively stable over the past 20 years. While the average household income is now close to $1000 a week, the average for the lowest quintile is just $375, and $2037 for the highest quintile.
When ranked by their level of wealth, the top 20 per cent of Australians owned 62 per cent of total household wealth in 2013-2014. By comparison, the bottom 20 per cent of households owned less than 1 per cent of all household wealth. Housing makes up 60 per cent of all assets owned by Australian households.

Wealth is Power

Crorepatis are people who possess 10 million rupees. An analysis of the recently-held Presidential elections by the Association for Democratic Reform (ADR) reveals that of the 4,852 MPs and MLAs, 3,640 or 71% are crorepatis. Of the 543 Lok Sabha MPs, 445 or 82% are crorepatis while for the Rajya Sabha, the number is 194 or 84% of the 231 members. On the other hand, 2,821 (69%) of the 4,078 MLAs are crorepatis. Thte financial affluence of the political representatives of the people of India bears no resemblance with the income of those whom they represent. 

270 million or 21.9% of the 1.2 billion Indians lived below the poverty line of $1.25 in 2011-2012. A recent report based on the study conducted by Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) at the University of Oxford reveals that at least half of India’s under 18 years live in acute poverty. Asian Development Bank’s India Poverty report states that 21.9% of the population lives below the poverty line and for every 1,000 babies born in India, 38 die before their first birthday.

Not only are the rich people occupying the base of political power, their wealth is increasing at a geometrical pace too. The ADR analysis revealed the wealth of a present Minister of Assam has increased at the rate of 5,335% in his five-year tenure (2011 -2016). The trend is conspicuous in every State. Politics is a shortcut to enormous wealth.

 Ordinary people are taught are that politics cannot change society, but the rich and elite classes show much more interest and want to influence state policies by engaging in politics. 

Writer Oscar Ameringer once said: Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other. 

 Former Chief Executive of Hong Kong CY Leung candidly said during a student unrest on the demand of democratic elections in 2014 that “the poor” would have the largest say in politics if election candidates were chosen by the public. Hence the poor are kept out of power by a manipulated democracy.

“Poor people are too stupid to know they’re just chess pieces in a game.” Former Uruguayan President José Mujica, popularly known as ‘Pepe’, once said.  “People who like money too much ought to be kicked out of politics”. He explained his philosophy applying distinct logic as such: “They tend to view the world through their perspective, which is the perspective of money. Even when operating with good intentions, the perspective they have of the world, of life, of their decisions, is informed by wealth. If we live in a world where the majority is supposed to govern, we have to try to root our perspective in that of the majority, not the minority.”

While NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley last week was much more forthright and blunter and lashed out at Republicans and Democrats, accusing both of exploiting the impoverished for political gain. “All politics is rich people screwing poor people.”
Adapted from here

For an independent working class party, contact:
The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

No council houses

London boroughs with the highest property prices are failing to build low-cost homes for their poorest residents, according to a study by GMB, one of Britain's largest unions. It further highlights the social divide in the capital's housing market. Six out of the capital's 10 most expensive boroughs built below-average levels of low-cost rental housing in the last year. Half of all the city's boroughs built fewer than 100 social homes last year, according to the report
In London's financial district, the City of London, and in the suburban commuter boroughs of Kingston upon Thames and Harrow, no social homes were built in 2016-2017. In the elegant west London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where the blaze killed at least 80 people and destroyed 127 apartments, only 76 social homes were built in the last year. 
"The growth in the population in the region combined with the failure... to complete enough new homes has led to sky-high house prices and ballooning private rents. This is not sustainable," said Warren Kenny, secretary of GMB London.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said earlier this month that his growing city needs to build 50,000 homes each year.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Charlie Chaplin

 Chaplin had sympathies for the Left.   The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) – the country’s political police – investigated Chaplin from 1922 onwards for his alleged ties to the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA). Chaplin’s file – 1900 pages long – is filled with innuendo and slander, as agents exhausted themselves talking to his co-workers and adversaries to find any hint of Communist association. They found none. In December 1949, for instance, the agent in Los Angeles wrote, ‘No witnesses available to testify affirmatively that Chaplin has been member CP in past, that he is now a member or that he has contributed funds to CP’.

It was Chaplin’s popularity and his message that disturbed the FBI. ‘There are men and women in far corners of the world who never have heard of Jesus Christ; yet they know and love Charlie Chaplin’, noted an article that an FBI agent clipped and highlighted in Chaplin’s file. Chaplin’s plainly depicted criticism of capitalism did not fail to impress the world’s peoples nor disturb the FBI. ‘I don’t want the old rugged individualism’, Chaplin said in November 1942, ‘rugged for the few and ragged for the many’.

Buster  Keaton recounted that Chaplin talked ‘about something called communism which he just heard about’. ‘Communism’, Chaplin told him, according to Buster, ‘was going to change everything, abolish poverty’. Chaplin banged on the table and said, ‘What I want is that every child should have enough to eat, shoes on his feet and a roof over his head’.

Chaplin came to the United States just after the Russian Revolution. He saw the growing lines of unemployment and distress in the United States – an unemployed population that grew from 950,000 (1919) to five million (1921). This was a time of great class struggle – the Palmer Raids conducted by the government against the Communists, on the one side, and the general strike in Seattle as well as the Battle of Blair Mountain by the mineworkers of Logan County, West Virginia, on the other side.

Chaplin’s silent films were anchored by the figure of the Tramp, the iconic poor man in a modern capitalist society. ‘I am like a man who is ever haunted by a spirit, the spirit of poverty, the spirit of privation’, Chaplin said. That is precisely what one sees in his films – from The Tramp (1915) to Modern Times (1936). ‘The whole point of the Little Fellow’, Chaplin said in 1925 of the tramp figure, ‘is that no matter how down on his ass he is, no matter how well the jackals succeed in tearing him apart, he’s still a man of dignity’. The working-class, the working-poor, are people of great resourcefulness and dignity – not beaten down, not to be mocked. Chaplin’s sympathy for the working-class defines all his most famous silent films.

What drew Chaplin directly into the orbit of institutional left-wing politics was the rise of fascism. He was greatly troubled by the Nazi sweep across Europe. Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator (1940) was his satire of fascism.
(from here )

The Greenwash

A UK ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 conjures up the clean, green vision of an all-electric future and is absolutely the right thing to tackle climate change – emissions from transport are high and not falling. But for the public health emergency of today, with most urban areas already having suffered illegal levels of air pollution for years, it does nothing at all. The 2040 ban on fossil-fuelled cars is a headline-grabbing job, 
Ministers call toxic air “the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK” which causes “unnecessary and avoidable” damage – 40,000 early deaths a year. They even echo the legal obligation they have repeatedly failed to fulfil by pledging to take action in the “shortest possible time”. The true villains, who ministers are letting off scot-free, are the carmakers who cheated and dodged the emissions regulations that would have kept air pollution in check. 
Charging or banning dirty cars entering city and town centres is relegated to the option of last resort and the responsibility of implementing these Clean Air Zones (CAZs) is also dumped on to councils, aiming to divert the flak from angry motorists towards town halls. Ministers know CAZs are the best option by miles: their own analysis shows they are 60 times more effective than a scrappage scheme. The scrappage scheme will give an entirely undeserved boost to car sales, while barely denting pollution. 
In the government’s judgement, hidden in the new plan’s documentation, they are the “quickest, most cost-effective way” to tackle the problem. The government is already mandating CAZs in Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton, with London is getting one too. The millions of pollution-choked people living everywhere else will rightly ask why ministers refuse to do the same for them.

Heard in the Train. (Short Story 1929)

Heard in the Train. (1929)

A Short Story from the April 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Morning, Dick! Just enough room for you before “she” goes. We’re lucky this morning; only twelve standing. Was just reading in the “Wail” that all the hotels in St. Moritz are booked up for visitors for the ice sports, and that London is "empty.” Wish this carriage was a little more "empty,” don’t you? Always moaning? Surely, Dick, you are not satisfied with conditions in general, are you? It is a poor horse that hasn’t a kick when it is stung with continual whipping, and you are in a worse predicament than that beast of burden, for to buy a horse needs money, but as for you—there are two million workers wandering the streets seeking a master, willing to work but unable to do so, desirous of producing the very articles we are so badly in need of—food, clothing and shelter.

Look at these vile slums we are passing now! Drab, dingy buildings, where no pure air can penetrate. They want bombarding with 15-inch shells, man. A breeder of prize pigs would scorn them rent-free, and yet we are the working class. We build the luxurious hotels and mansions of the world and have to exist in those vile dens from childhood until the master whispers in our ear that we are too old for work, and we toddle along to the workhouse. We build floating palaces to transport our masters to foreign climes, and our share of that luxury is probably a view of the “ocean greyhound” as we stand on the end of Southend Pier.

What d’ye say? Why talk of classes. Look, here’s another train passing us. A few carriages are first class, some second and a lot third. Well, why not have all first class carriages? They are much more comfortable and there is no shortage of material necessary for making first class carriages. The Socialist argues that there should be but one class—the working class —for a class which doesn’t work is not necessary, is but a drone in the hive and should be abolished.

Won’t alter human nature, Dick? Well, the Socialist doesn’t propose to alter human nature. Human nature is but man’s desire to eat, sleep and drink and reproduce his species and to experience, understand and enjoy all that civilisation can make accessible. Our aims are concentrated upon educating the workers to understand what their position in society actually is, viz., a slave class. It is not we who propose to alter anything—only the position of my foot when you’ve finished standing on it. The alteration or change over from Capitalism to Socialism must be accomplished by the working class themselves, and once our mission has succeeded the Socialist Party will cease to exist; its function of educating and organising the working class is the sole reason for its existence.

Oh, yes! I know you think the Labour Party ought to have a chance. They ought to have another chance to vote for another war—the same as they voted for the last war. Do you forget the alliances they have made at elections when they have amalgamated with the Liberals, and vice-versa? Here! look at that “Daily Herald” placard on that bookstall—“ We gave four winners yesterday.” Come on, buy the Socialist Standard and we’ll give you A winner—back Socialism for the Human Race—there is no other running; it’s bound to win.

Well, here we are, Dick. Think it over during the day. There’s probably a branch of the Socialist Party your way. Call round; they’ll be glad to see you.

Thwarting the rescuers

Italy is attempting to impose a code of conduct on NGOs operating ships in the search and rescue zone off the coast of LibyaAid workers have accused the EU of “wilfully letting people drown in the Mediterranean” as they face being forced to suspend rescue missions for refugees attempting the world’s deadliest sea crossing. Humanitarian groups have argued the code will impede their work by banning the transfer of refugees to larger ships, which allows vessels to continue rescues, and forcing them to allow police officers on board. Charities fear any move to restrict their operations, leaving just Italian coastguard and naval ships, will dramatically reduce rescue capacity during peak season.

The 11-point plan, which has been approved by the European Commission and border agency Frontex, could see any groups refusing to sign up denied access to Italian ports or forbidden from carrying out rescues.

Amnesty International characterised the code of conduct as part of a “concerted smear campaign” against NGO rescue ships.

German charity Sea-Watch's CEO, Axel Grafmanns, explained “The EU is wilfully letting people drown in the Mediterranean by refusing to create a legal means of safe passage and failing to even provide adequate resources for maritime rescue.”

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said “MSF employees are humanitarian workers, not police officers, and that for reasons of independence they will do what is strictly requested by the law but nothing more so as to protect our independence and neutrality,” a spokesperson said. The charity opposed a commitment compelling vessels to notify multiple states if they leave designated search and rescue zones, which it said could cause deaths by delaying rescues, and said the ability to transfer migrants to larger ships and continue operations was “crucial to saving lives”. “The inefficient back and forth of all rescue ships to disembarkation points will consequently lead to a decrease in the presence of rescue vessels,” a MSF spokesperson said.

Refugees have told of horrific abuses at the hands of both state security forces and Libyan gangs, including seeing other migrants being beaten to death and raped, and being “sold” between owners until they can escape over the Mediterranean. 

A House of Lords report branded the EU’s Operation Sophia anti-smuggling mission a “failure” on all counts, saying it “has not in any meaningful way deterred the flow of migrants, disrupted the smugglers’ networks, or impeded the business of people smuggling”. The committee concluded that the mission was driving refugee deaths by destroying smugglers’ boats and forcing them to switch to unseaworthy dinghies, and raised concern over reports of “serious abuses of the human rights of migrants by the Libyan coastguard”, which is being trained by the UK and equipped by the EU as it seeks to gradually unburden itself of responsibility for rescues.

The UN has warned of widespread torture, kidnap, ransom, arbitrary detention, rape, forced labour and “slave auctions” in Libya, where people smugglers have set up a lucrative business in the continuing conflict. Unicef found that most children making the crossing did not intend to travel to Europe when they left home, with the journey taking up to two years. Children interviewed in Italy said they fled their home countries for reasons including conflict, poverty and child marriage, frequently being drawn to Libya by the promise of work but finding “systematic trauma and abuse”. Almost half of children said they were kidnapped for ransom in Libya, and a quarter held in prison without charges. 

Over-shifting Tobacco

The SOYMB blog has previously exposed how an industry that profits from providing detrimental and damaging products is still expanding its market by targeting Third World countries. Big tobacco companies have been manipulating the prices of cigarettes for more than a decade to undermine government attempts to deter people from smoking, research in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research. It found that the increasing availability of cheap tobacco has hampered public health efforts to discourage smoking, the leading cause of preventable death.

Looking at the price they paid for tobacco between 2002 and 2014 they found that, by switching brands, smokers could buy tobacco in shops at the same prices they paid in 2002. The range between the cheapest and most expensive brands almost doubled over the 12 years. In 2002 it was 12p per cigarette but by 2014 this had increased to 23p. In 2014, the most expensive pack of 20 factory-made cigarettes cost about £10, whereas the cheapest pack cost only £5.33. “Our research suggests that tobacco companies are able to meet tax requirements and keep cheap products available by markedly increasing prices on premium brands,” says the study’s co-author, Rosemary Hiscock from the University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research GroupThe practice is known as “over-shifting”, whereby cigarette companies use their premium products to in effect subsidise cheaper alternatives.

The researchers argue that the widening gap between the cheapest and most expensive products is evidence that the industry deliberately introduced a wide variety of brands to meet smokers’ declining budgets.

The study also looks at the rising use of roll-your-own tobacco. The number smoking it almost doubled between 2002 and 2014 and it is particularly popular among younger people. The study found that the price increase in roll-your-own was lower than that for factory-made cigarettes. By 2014, the cheapest roll-your-own tobacco cost £1.63 for 10 grams, enough to make 20 cigarettes.

The authors suggest that the price of all types of tobacco should be equally high so that smokers are discouraged from simply switching products to reduce costs.

The bosses cheat the low paid

Far too many companies are getting away with breaking the law over the wages they pay, the government’s adviser on employment abuses, Sir David Metcalf,  has said. He said he wanted to look at high-street companies being jointly responsible if abuses were found among their suppliers, and suggested he could recommend that any goods made by an offending supplier could be seized, leaving empty shelves in shops and discouraging big companies from continuing to work with them.
He wanted tougher action against employers who underpay, and more resources to catch those breaching the law. In an interview with the Observer, he said action against offenders was “rather patchy” and he would look at measures that could lead to more people banned from being company directors if they breach the law. He said there was an issue with so-called “phoenix companies”, formed out of the collapse of a previous firm through insolvency. “This is an area we will be looking at during the consultation and probably commenting on in the [forthcoming] strategy.”
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) would need additional resources, he said, to ensure that workers were paid the new living wage. Its workload would triple, with the proportion of the workforce covered by the minimum wage set to rise from 5% to 14% by 2020.
Metcalf oversees the remit of HMRC’s national minimum wage enforcement team, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate. He said the government’s decision to impose fees on bringing cases to employment tribunals had “been a problem” in the fight against bad employers. Ministers have been forced to ditch the fees after a supreme court judgment against them. 
“It’s good that the people who were not able to take their cases to the tribunals will now be able to,” he said. “There is a problem about [unpaid] holiday pay … it’s a particular problem with employment agencies. The only way you could get holiday pay back was going to a tribunal. Say you were talking about a couple of hundred pounds – well, no one is going to pay £300 [in fees] to get a couple of hundred pounds back. So that may be helpful.”
He explained, “I have been told the garment trade is riddled with noncompliance among the subcontractors,” he said. “In America, if the equivalent of HMRC goes in and finds a subcontractor that is non-compliant, it embargoes the goods.” Leading high-street brands “will say ‘well gosh, where are our clothes, we need them next week’ – and they then put pressure on the contractor to make sure they comply with the minimum wage. So I am quite attracted to that.”
He also said that he was concerned that some employment agencies were finding ways to dodge a law that is designed to ensure any employee has to be paid the same as their contracted colleagues after 12 weeks in work.
Metcalf suggested there would not be a big increase in wages as a result of leaving the EU. “During my previous work on the migration advisory committee, it did seem the influx from [eastern European countries in 2004] did dampen down wages at the lower end of the pay distribution, but not by very much,” he said. “And therefore by implication, if we had fewer – depending on what the MAC recommended – people coming in, the wages would go up a bit, but again by implication not by very much. So I don’t think Brexit is going to suddenly mysteriously raise wages just like that, and cause, perhaps alas, me to be out of a job. There will still be plenty going on.”

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Say NO To Military Service

Transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the U. S. military, Donald Trump has announced.
  (The Metro / 27~7~17)  He stated transgender people will cause disruption to operations and impose a financial burden as they are eligible to have gender transitioning treatment paid for.

        It is thought there are up to 15,000 transgender people in the U. S. military, out of a total of
1.4 million personnel.

        Kristin Beck, who as Christopher Beck was a  Navy  S. E. A. L.  said to President Trump :
' Let's meet face to face and you tell me I'm not worthy '.

         The  L. G. B. T. group  G. L. A. A. D.  described the ban as ' a direct attack on
transgender Americans'.

          The working class of the world, whatever their sexual orientation and gender could be
disruptive by refusing to serve in the killing machines of the capitalist class.

          Don't die for capitalism live for socialism.

It's Not Enough M'Lud

The daughter of a tycoon is demanding £7.5 million from her ex-husband who is
a banker. (The Metro / 27~7~17)

     She said she should not have to rely on her very rich father. Hayat Alireza at 38
stands to inherit £100 million - but said it is 'unfair' to expect her father,
a Saudi Arabian industrialist, in his 70s, to look after her.

      Hossam Radwan, 46, paid her £2 million and a divorce lawyer refused her more
because of her inheritance.

       Alireza also told the appeal court judges her London apartment is too small.
We constantly read stories of people throughout the world who have nowhere
to live; and people who lack the basics to sustain life.

        Accounts like this gives more reason for a world of production for need and not profit,
a world without a ruling class.


EU Poverty Continues

Europe’s economic downturn seems to be behind it. Gone are the days of negative growth rates. Unemployment is still stabilising. So it may come as a surprise to discover that poverty is not declining. This means that close to one in four Europeans experience at least one or more of the following conditions: income poverty, severe material deprivation and/or social exclusion. The phenomenon is fuelling the debate about the rise of Europe’s so-called “gig economy” – a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs

In 2015, more than a third of the population was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in three member states: Bulgaria (41.3%), Romania (37.4%) and Greece (35.7%). At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest shares of persons being at risk of poverty or social exclusion were recorded in the Czech Republic (14%) and Sweden (16%).
On average, children are more adversely affected than adults or elderly people with a whopping 27% living in poor households across Europe. Child poverty happens in rich countries too: France, Germany or the UK are not spared.
According to recent surveys, child poverty in the UK is at its highest level since 2010. Two thirds of these children are from working families, who make up Europe’s so-called working poor people who have jobs, but can’t make ends meet. A similar pattern emerges in Germany, one of the world’s strongest economies, which is also grappling with increasing poverty and inequality.
However, poverty and destitution are far worse if you move eastward or to the south of Europe. In Spain, while the economy grew by 3.2% in 2016, close to one in three Spaniards live in poverty, getting by on roughly 8.000 euros or less per year. Here, again, it is children who are the worst affected. In the southern province of Andalusia, close to 40% of people live in poverty while child poverty reaches 44%. More than 40% of children live in poverty in Sevilla. It may be a prime tourist destination, but it is also the country’s fifth poorest city.

Spain has one of the highest growth rates in the eurozone. But poverty rates in Andalusia are the same as they were at the height of the crisis, says Mariano Perez de Ayala, the regional head of Caritas (the Catholic Agency for International Aid and Development). According to him, austerity policies and labor law reforms have led to more precarity in Spain.
“Our system doesn’t smooth out inequalities in times of economic boom, and it destroys a lot of jobs and deepens inequalities in times of crisis,” he says. We have seen the rise of a neo-liberal model that undermines the social welfare system. Labour reforms that have been implemented according to this model have been detrimental to the social achievements of recent years.”

Asunción Campanario has not had a permanent job for nine years. A mother of two, she also takes care of her elderly mother. She says she and her husband simply couldn’t cope without the help of charities. She she doesn’t expect to see things improve anytime soon: “This will last,” she tells us. “Politicians will keep on stealing money and filling their pockets. They only think of themselves! And we, the poor people, we are the last in the world! We’ll just keep on being poor. The poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer. It’s always been that way.”

Global Slavery

Millions of humans are forced to flee armed conflicts, climate change, inequalities, and extreme poverty. They fall easy prey to traffickers lurking anyone who can be subjected to sexual exploitation, forced labour and even sell their skin and organs.

79 per cent of all detected trafficking victims are women and children, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODCGlobal Report on Trafficking in Persons.

Every year, millions of children, women and men fall into the hands of traffickers, lured by fake promises and deceit. Buying and selling migrants is a big business. In fact, human trafficking has become a global multi-billion-dollar enterprise, affecting nearly every country in the world, according to UNODC’s executive director Yury Fedotov who said  “Today, there are millions of people whose liberty, dignity and essential human rights have been stolen. They are coerced into sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, forced begging, stealing, online pornography, and even compelled to “sell” skin organs. 

From 2012-2014, more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected and countries in Western and Southern Europe detected victims of 137 different citizenships, according to UNODC. In short, “the crime of human trafficking is occurring almost everywhere.” In terms of the different types of trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour are the most prominent, says the report, adding that trafficking can, however, have numerous other forms including: victims compelled to act as beggars, forced into sham marriages, benefit fraud, pornography production, organ removal, among others.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour globally. This estimate also includes victims of human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation. While it is not known how many of these victims were trafficked, the estimate implies that currently, there are millions of trafficking in persons victims in the world.

Feeding Hate

Support for the anti-immigration AfD has been eroding, but not in eastern Germany. where the right-wing populists remains a force.

The AfD has increasingly become a one-issue party articulating anger at Germany's welcoming stance toward refugees. So you'd think the party's support would be greatest in those areas of the country with the most refugees. You'd be wrong. Refugees are distributed to Germany's 16 federal states on the basis of income and population levels, so that the poorer and less populous east gets fewer asylum seekers than the West. Yet the AfD continues to do well in many places in the East.
"People are afraid – they don't want to be swamped with foreigners," says regional member of parliament Jürgen Strohschein. Mecklenburg-West Pomerania in the northeastern part of Germany has 1.6 million inhabitants but fewer refugees per capita than anywhere else in the country. In the most recent opinion survey, published on July 23, 20.5 percent of people asked said they supported the AfD. Mecklenburg-West Pomerania is the only one of the eastern states where support for the AfD has increased since the start of 2017. So what's going on up there?
Ulrike Seemann-Katz, who chairs the Mecklenburg-West Pomerania Refugee Council, explained why an anti-immigrant party does so well in a region with so few migrants, and you'll get a blunt answer: fear.
"Psychologically, it's very easy to explain," Seemann-Katz told DW. "Human beings are afraid of what they don't know, and what people don't know here are refugees."
In rural regions in Germany's northeast, people have almost no personal experience of asylum seekers. What refugee homes there are exist as isolated islands with little support or contact with the outside world. Asylum seekers sent there tend to leave quickly for cities. Meanwhile, in a region where unemployment runs as high as three times the national average, many locals resent what they see as the preferential treatment given to refugees.
Her e-mails are full of "pure racism". One person complains of having to sweep the sidewalk in front of his house, while asylum seekers run around all day "with a smart phone in their left hand and a Red Bull in their right." Another simply writes: "Thanks a lot, Germany. We need new laws and more deportations."
Seemann-Katz has no doubt that the AfD's strength in her region is down to hostility to foreigners and especially asylum seekers. And she sees no solution for breaking the vicious circle of unfamiliarity that breeds fear and contempt.
"I don't think there's anything we can do," she says. "Refugees don't want to stay where they're not particularly welcome - that's only natural… If you walked with a group of refugees past the house (of an author of hateful emails), he'd quickly lower all the shutters."
When asked what motivates people to vote for the AfD, the mayor of Pasewalk, Sandra Nachtweih, answers with a list of resentments
"The fact that I feel disadvantaged by what we have here," Nachtweih, a left-wing independent, told DW. "That I'm not offered anything. That no one seems to care. That the refugees get preferential treatment. They get a new refrigerator and a new apartment while I don't. That's the frustration we see in relation to our efforts to help refugees."
The irony is that according to a report issued last year by the federal government's commissioner for eastern German affairs, Iris Gleicke, northeast of Germany needs to attract migrants to counter demographic shortcomings and succeed in future. Gleicke presented another study which found that eastern Germans were disproportionately prone to right-wing extremism and that the cause had more to do with mentality than with socio-economic factors.

Amazon and Bezos

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos finally became the world’s richest man. Bezos’s reign as the world’s richest man did not last long. Amazon’s share price fell slightly by the end of Thursday, handing the title back to Bill Gates.

Nevertheless, he still holds the record for being one of the stingiest multi-billionaires.

The company’s treatment of its low-level warehouse employees has long been notorious. Stockers and packers often work 11-hour shifts and walk up to 20 miles a day. They are given forced overtime and left unpaid for required tasks. There is intensive surveillance, even of bathroom breaks, and weaker workers whose productivity lags are summarily fired.

The company is constantly “letting people know that you’re being watched”, giving ominous warnings about the swift termination that follows any attempt to steal from the warehouse. And after losing a case that went to the US Supreme Court, workers remain unpaid for the portion of their days spent standing in line for mandatory security screenings.

For several years, Gawker compiled testimonies from people who had spent time in Amazon warehouses. The quotes were depressing: “I have never felt more disposable or meaningless than I do at Amazon,” said one worker. “They do not care if you keel over on the line,” reported another, who claimed to have observed multiple people pass out during their shifts. (Indeed, at an Amazon warehouse back in 2011, so many people were collapsing in the summer heat that the company hired ambulances to sit outside and wait for workers to drop.) In December, Amazon warehouse workers in Scotland were being paid so little that they were sleeping in tents to save money

Conditions have been little better for the company’s white-collar workers. A 2015 New York Times investigation found that Amazon’s corporate headquarters was a brutal place to work. Employees were intentionally pressed to their absolute physical limits, in a culture of ruthless competition and unreasonable demands for self-sacrifice. There was little sense of work-life balance, and workers are subject to intensive psychological pressure, “toiling long and late” being “castigated for their shortcomings”. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk,” one employee said.

 Former and Current Employees of Amazon (Face) formed in order to push the company for reform and attempt to form a union explained “Amazon is still Amazon”, and “people are still pushed to their limits”. Amazon has fiercely opposed every effort at unionization among its employees. There is “intense pressure from managers” who hand out anti-union material, and the company has been accused of creating a climate of “fear” among those who attempt to organize, hinting that their work can easily be shipped elsewhere. The company had “crushed” labor organizing, and since then efforts have largely stalled. The way to ensure that workers aren’t exploited or mistreated is to make sure they are well represented in their negotiations with management. Opposing unionization means depriving workers of the power to bargain on terms of equality, and until Bezos softens Amazon’s anti-union stance, it’s impossible to believe that he truly cares about the interests of the nearly 350,000 people who work for him.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Unequal Sweden

In the last 30 years, the gap between Sweden’s rich and poor has grown.

Since the 1980s, income inequality has increased more in Sweden than in any other OECD country with available data. In a report published earlier this year, the OECD looked at the Gini coefficient; a measure of income inequality within a country (where a Gini index of 0 represents perfect equality and 100 is perfect inequality). After taxes and transfers, researchers found that the Gini index in Sweden jumped from 20.9 in 1980 to 27.3 in its latest figures (2013 or later).

Sweden’s equality has deteriorated due to the rising incomes of top earners. All Swedish income groups have seen incomes grow since the 1990s, but growth has been highly unequal: The top 10% saw their earnings increase by 60%, while the bottom 10% saw their earnings increase by 20%. Top earners have largely benefited from capital gains, rising house prices and the deregulation of the stock market.

The country’s wealth is largely concentrated with the top 1%. Estimates suggest that between 1975 and 2006 the wealth share of the top % may have more than doubled.