Thursday, May 31, 2018

Unions cowed?

The number of strikes in the UK last year was the lowest recorded to date, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
There were 79 stoppages in 2017, the lowest figures since records began in 1891. Out of the total 79 stoppages last year, 39 were over pay.
The number of workers involved in labour disputes also fell to an all-time low of 33,000.
ONS senior statistician David Freeman said: "While the number of days lost wasn't quite a record low, it has significantly reduced since the early 1990s. In the private sector 232,000 working days were lost last year, the most since 1996. However, the number of working days lost in the public sector in 2017, at 44,000, was the lowest on record.
With average pay yet to recover to levels before the financial crisis a decade ago, workers are going through the worst period for wage growth since the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 – well before the labour dispute records began. The use of zero-hours contracts and the rise of the gig economy has also fuelled fears over a decline in working conditions in recent years.
Since the Trade Union Act 2016 came into force in March 2017, ballots on strikes in the public sector have to clear two thresholds to go ahead - a 50% turnout and 40% of those eligible to vote need to vote for strike action.
TUC senior employment rights officer Hannah Reed said: "The government's draconian trade union act restricts workers' ability to defend their jobs, pay and working conditions. This is especially the case in the public sector where union members face more barriers to call a strike," she said.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Canadian Capitalism

Justin Trudeau’s government announced on Tuesday that it would nationalize the Kinder Morgan pipeline running from the tar sands of Alberta to the tidewater of British Columbia. It will fork over at least $4.5bn in Canadian taxpayers’ money for the right to own a 60-year-old pipe that springs leaks regularly, and for the right to push through a second pipeline on the same route – a proposal that has provoked strong opposition.

That opposition has come from three main sources. First are many of Canada’s First Nations groups, who don’t want their land used for this purpose without their permission, and who fear the effects of oil spills on the oceans and forests they depend on. Second are the residents of Canada’s west coast, who don’t want hundreds of additional tankers plying the narrow inlets around Vancouver on the theory that eventually there’s going to be an oil spill. And third are climate scientists, who point out that even if Trudeau’s pipeline doesn’t spill oil into the ocean, it will spill carbon into the atmosphere.

Trudeau told oil executives last year that “no country would find 173bn barrels of oil in the ground and just leave it there”

If he’s successful, the one half of 1% of the planet that is Canadian will have awarded to itself almost one-third of the remaining carbon budget between us and the 1.5 degree rise in temperature the planet drew as a red line in Paris. There’s no way of spinning the math that makes that okay – Canadians already emit more carbon per capita than Americans, than Saudi Arabians.

Cleaning up the tar sands complex in Alberta – the biggest, ugliest scar on the surface of the earth – is already estimated to cost more than the total revenues generated by all the oil that’s come out of the ground. Meanwhile, when something goes wrong, Canada is now on the hook: when BP tarred the Gulf of Mexico, the US was at least able to exact billions of dollars in fines to help with the cleanup. Canada will get to sue itself.

History will remember Justin Trudeau: not as a dreamy progressive, but as one more pathetic employee of the richest, most reckless industry in the planet’s history. 

Taken from here

God on a jet plane

A US televangelist has asked his followers to help fund his fourth private jet - because Jesus "wouldn't be riding a donkey". Jesse Duplantis said God had told him to buy a Falcoln 7X for $54m (£41m).
He added he was hesitant about the purchase at first, but said God had told him: "I didn't ask you to pay for it. I asked you to believe for it."

British Bigotry

  • Pew surveyed 24,599 randomly selected adults across 15 Western European countries between April and August 2017. 
  • Among the 15 European countries included in the study, the percentage of respondents who said they would not accept a Jewish family member was highest in Italy (25 percent), Britain (23 percent) and Austria (21 percent). The Netherlands and Norway had the lowest (3 percent).
  • The percentage of respondents who said they would not accept a Muslim into their family was highest in Italy (43 percent), Britain (36 percent) and Austria (34 percent).

Land Grabbing Continues

 Companies acquired concessions amounting to the size of a small European country, while rural residents of Southeast Asia's Mekong region saw their landholdings shrink or disappear over the past two decades, according to researchers.
More than 5.1 million hectares of land - an area larger than Slovakia - were granted for mining and agricultural concessions in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, according to a report by the non-profit Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG). At the same time, forest areas have declined, said the report.
"While agricultural output and exports are growing in the Mekong as a result of the concessions, the benefits have not reached smallholders and indigenous people," said Micah Ingalls at the Centre for Development and Environment in Vientiane. "They are being undermined by policies that fail to ensure their rights or enable them to benefit," said Ingalls, an author of the report.
Across the five countries that host the Mekong River watershed, governments have lured large-scale investments in land thought to be under-utilised, to generate jobs and incomes.
The concessions have changed traditional cropping, with 80 percent of all agricultural land now given over to six export-focused crops: rice, cassava, maize, sugarcane, rubber and oil palm.
Meanwhile, the average landholding per rural household has declined over the last 10 years, while some have been pushed from their land entirely, according to the report.
Revenues generated by the concessions have been less than anticipated, and the social and environmental costs have largely been borne by the rural poor, Ingalls said. Inglas explained that such policies often fail to provide ownership rights to people who have been using land, and they ignore groups who have traditionally lived in areas granted as concessions.
"Indigenous people, forest dwellers and other ethnic minorities have very little protection," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Land concessions in Cambodia have displaced more than 770,000 people since 2000, human rights lawyers say.

The Disaster in Puerto Rico Underestimated

Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last September led to the death of thousands on the island, according to a new study – in sharp conflict with the official government death toll of 64. The government figure accounts for those whose deaths were confirmed by the Institute of Forensic Sciences as directly disaster-related. The new study used baseline mortality figures to calculate “excess deaths”, or loss of life that otherwise would not have occurred if the island hadn’t been plunged into a prolonged humanitarian disaster. Researchers used random household surveys to ask residents about their experiences during the storm and in its aftermath.
The report in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that as many as 4,600 “excess deaths” occurred in the aftermath of the storm due to failures of medical and other critical infrastructure, and described the official number as “a substantial underestimate”. Researchers said their fresh evaluation was probably an underestimate, too.
Hurricane Maria brought devastating winds and catastrophic flooding to the Spanish speaking US territory. In the days, weeks and months that followed, roads and electrical lines were slow to be restored, grinding much of life to a near halt. There were also severe shortages of food and lack of access to potable water in many areas. Governor Ricardo Roselló called the storm“the biggest catastrophe in modern history” for the the island.
The report follows a similar finding from the Center for Investigative Journalism in December which found that the actual death toll on the island in the wake of the storm exceeded 1,000 people. That report found that due to the severing of critical infrastructure, hundreds of vulnerable people died in hospitals and nursing homes from conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, hypertension, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

Ortega's Death Squads

Amnesty International has accused the Nicaraguan government of colluding with paramilitary groups to suppress weeks of student-led demonstrations against President Daniel OrtegaIt said the groups used semi-automatic weapons and co-ordinated their attacks with the security forces. Around 80 people have died so far in the protests which began in April, triggered by welfare reforms.  President Ortega later revoked his plans but the demonstrations turned into broader unrest against his government.
Amnesty International (AI) said the armed groups were often made up of pro-government students and motorcyclists.
"These groups appear to be acting with the acquiescence of the state, as is demonstrated firstly by the fact that most of the attacks were committed by private individuals in the presence of or in co-ordination with the security forces," the report said. "Secondly, by the fact that the police did not pursue the perpetrators after the crimes were committed, but rather allowed them to flee the scene and disperse."
The possibility of extrajudicial killings had already been highlighted in another damning report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR.)  Earlier this month, the IACHR visited Nicaragua and said it had seen grave violations of human rights during the protests - characterised, it said, by the excessive use of force by state security forces and armed third parties.

Dementia risk and football

A possible link between dementia and football is being "swept under the carpet" by the game's authorities, Dr Don Williams, a leading Welsh psychiatrist has claimed.
The family of an ex-Wales international and Cardiff City defender Keith Pontin said former players were being "forgotten" by the authorities. He was diagnosed with dementia aged 59 and his family are convinced his condition is linked to his career, which included almost 200 appearances for Cardiff City in the 1970s and '80s. They claim the defender was constantly heading the ball and sustained a "number of concussions" throughout his career.
Dr Williams started studying dementia in ex-players in the 1980s. His work, which followed 14 players living with the condition until they died, was published as part of a study last year.
"The public should know there is a risk, there is a problem", he said. The former consultant psychiatrist at Cefn Coed hospital said: "No-one would think if one whacked one's smart phone regularly....that it wouldn't be damaged. I think the same must apply for the brain".

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Hungry for riches in Hungary

It is estimated that 700 Hungarians have a wealth above EUR 10 million, business daily Világgazdaság reports.

Within these, there is a group which has grown rich very rapidly by exploiting mainly political ties to do business.

 Although the media tends to focus on just a few people in this group, the study indicates that those getting rich through political contacts number around 1,000 in Hungary.

The Ivory Towers of Academia

 Oxford and Cambridge have access to a staggering pool of wealth totalling almost £21bn, more than the combined investments of the other 22 members of the Russell Group of elite research universities, such as University College London. Cambridge’s Trinity College is wealthier than all UK universities other than Manchester, Edinburgh and Imperial College London. Trinity’s net assets have grown by nearly £160m in the space of a year in its most recent accounts – more than Oxford’s Balliol College has accumulated over 750 years. Trinity’s huge £563m investment fund recently included shares in the world’s largest arms companies, several partners in the Dakota Access pipeline, and Arconic, the supplier of the notorious cladding on Grenfell Tower.

Their assets could pay the tuition fees of every home and international student at UK universities and colleges for a year – and still leave £3bn to spare.

Trinity College, Cambridge, is the wealthiest of the individual colleges with published assets worth £1.3bn in its latest accounts. In Oxford, St John’s College tops the table with close to £600m in assets.

The financial advantage enjoyed by Oxford and Cambridge over their domestic rivals is set to widen even further. In the last two years the pair have used their high credit ratings and international reputations to issue bonds worth hundreds of millions of pounds on the capital markets.
Last December Oxford raised £750m after issuing a bond to be repaid in 100 years’ time, while Cambridge has this month announced plans to raise a further £600m by issuing bonds to take advantage of low interest rates. That tranche of debt follows Cambridge’s £350m bond issue in 2016, used to finance large-scale property developments in north Cambridge.
The figures also reveal how Oxbridge has continued to build on its inherited wealth. The 2002-2003 accounts for Oxford’s collegesshowed combined assets of more than £1.6bn. Some 15 years of investments and fundraising later, the 2017 accounts suggest that figure has risen to £5.8bn. Cambridge leads the way with consolidated net assets worth nearly £11.8bn across the university and its colleges – which equates to £390,000 per head for each of its 30,000 students and staff. Despite Cambridge’s colleges alone sitting on assets worth just under £7bn, Queens’ College remains the only one accredited by the Living Wage Foundation, which currently sets the UK living wage at £8.75 an hour. Despite their enormous wealth, the Oxbridge colleges earlier this year after backed revisions to the main university staff pension scheme that would have led to staff across the UK seeing diminished pensions after retirement.

FOR ‘RED KEN’ READ ‘READ KEYNES’! (weekly poem)

Ken Livingstone has left the Labour Party before he was expelled.
He was accused of anti-Semitism but claims it was anti-Zionism.

Red Ken has left the Left bereft,
The Revolution has been stayed;
His resignation was quite deft, (1)
The New Jerusalem's been betrayed.

His 'Fares Fair' Scheme was doctrinaire,
And finally it faced the axe;
Instead of paying the full fare,
One paid the balance with one's tax! (2)

Such 'Socialism' was unique,
Although it wasn't free access;
But some beak had the bloody cheek,
To rule it was a legal mess. (3)

With 'Marxist' ideas such as these,
No wonder the poor GLC;
Was brought down swiftly to its knees,
By Thatcher's H. of P. decree.

Is Ken the sacrificial lamb,
For being nasty to the Jews?
He now states, “I am that I am”, (4)
And says he's got gornisht to lose! (5)

For 'Red Ken' one should read, “Read Keynes”,
He thought the system could be bucked;
So that we all could lose our chains,
But like his ideas he's now F_ _ _ _ D!

(1) He resigned before being almost certainly pushed.
(2) The shortfall on fares revenue was made up by increasing London's rates.
(3) The High Court ruled the scheme was unlawful.
(4) The name Yahweh (Jehovah) the Abrahamic deity, is said to mean, “I am that I am”.
(5) 'Gornisht'-Yiddish for 'Nothing'.

© Richard Layton

Fossil Fuel Divestment Fails - Profit is more important than ethics

Fossil fuels divestment my not be an effective strategy in tackling climate change according to a newly released study by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst which suggests that this strategy is not sufficient on its own in affecting the global battle against climate change . Robert Pollin, a distinguished professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, co-director of PERI and co-author of the study explained:

" There is, rather, one fundamental reason why policy makers in most countries throughout the world are unwilling to cut their CO2 emissions sufficiently, notwithstanding the ever-mounting ecological threat. It is because the only way countries can achieve serious CO2 emissions cuts is to stop burning so much oil, coal and natural gas to produce energy.  Confronting this reality in turn creates three problems that are distinct but interrelated. The first is that workers and communities throughout the world whose livelihoods depend on people consuming fossil fuel energy will face major losses -- layoffs, falling incomes and declining public-sector budgets to support schools, health clinics and public safety. The second is that profits will fall sharply and permanently for the colossal fossil fuel companies, such as Exxon-Mobil, Shell and the range of energy-based businesses owned by the US mega-billionaires David and Charles Koch. The world's publicly owned energy companies -- such as Saudi Aramco, Gazprom in Russia and Petrobras in Brazil, which together control about 90 percent of the world's total oil reserves -- will take still larger hits to their revenues. The third problem pushes us beyond the fossil fuel industry itself and into broader issues of jobs and prospects for economic growth. According to most analysts, economies will face higher energy costs when they are forced to slash their fossil fuel supplies. It will therefore become more expensive to operate the full gamut of buildings, machines and transportation equipment that drive all economies forward...

...Tyler Hansen and I concluded that divestment campaigns have not been especially effective as a means of significantly reducing CO2 emissions, and they are not likely to become more effective over time. Our study includes both an analysis of the available data on global divestment patterns as well as a formal statistical modeling exercise that evaluates the impact of divestment events -- such as when the New York City pension fund decided last January to sell off all of their fossil fuel company holdings -- on the stock market prices of fossil fuel companies. We found two basic things from this research. First, to date, we found the total level of divestment commitments to be at about 0.7 percent of total global private fossil fuel assets (assets committed to divestment are at about $36 billion while total global private fossil fuel assets are at $4.9 trillion). Second, we found no evidence that any divestment actions, including the recent New York City pension fund decision, has had any significant negative effect on the stock prices of fossil fuel companies.

negative effect on the stock prices of fossil fuel companies.
The basic problem with the strategy is straightforward. Ethically motivated owners of fossil fuel stocks and bonds -- such as the New York City Council -- do certainly have the power to sell these assets as a statement of principle and act of protest. But this act of protest will have no direct impact on the operations of the fossil fuel companies as long as investors who are profit-seekers, as opposed to being motivated ethically, are willing to purchase the stocks and bonds that ethically motivated investors have put up for sale. Indeed, the core divestment strategy of selling fossil fuel assets is, at best, incomplete until one addresses this question: Is there somebody out there still willing to purchase these fossil fuel assets, and if so, and at what price?   The answer is, yes, there are plenty of people ready to purchase shares of fossil fuel companies as long as they can profit by owning these shares.
In addition, the profit opportunities from owning oil, gas and coal company stocks are not diminished through the divestment-led sales per se. This is because divestment per se does not affect either how much it costs to produce fossil fuel energy or how much consumers are willing to buy. In theory, divestments might be capable of pushing down stock market prices of fossil fuel companies. But it is also likely that any such impact on stock prices is going to remain negligible as long as profit-seeking investors continue to make money. And they will continue to make money unless we succeed in either raising costs of producing fossil fuels or limiting how much fossil fuel energy consumers can buy...."
Full interview here

No worker silver lining in tax cuts

In the aftermath of the Trump tax cuts, top corporate executives are now openly admitting that they have no plans whatsoever to invest their enormous windfall into wage increases for workers.

In a talk from executives in corporate America at the Dallas Fed late last week, Troy Taylor, CEO of Florida's Coca-Cola franchise, said of the possibility of broad wage hikes for workers: "It's just not going to happen. Absolutely not in my business."

Buying Patriotism

“Until 2009, no NFL player stood for the national anthem because players actually stayed in the locker room as the anthem played,” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith explained in 2016. “The players were moved to the field during the national anthem because it was seen as a marketing strategy to make the athletes look more patriotic. The United States Department of Defense paid the National Football League $5.4 million between 2011 and 2014, and the National Guard $6.7 million between 2013 and 2015 to stage onfield patriotic ceremonies as part of military-recruitment budget line items.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy later confirmed that players did not appear on field for the anthem until 2009, and Vice notes that Smith’s claim was checked by an ESPN researcher.
Urging players to appear onfield during the national anthem is just one example of “paid patriotism.”  The Department of Defense poured millions of dollars into the NFL in exchange for displays of patriotism during games. 
 Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake in 2015 in a joint report revealed:
"In all, the military services reported $53 million in spending on marketing and advertising contracts with sports teams between 2012 and 2015. More than $10 million of that total was paid to teams in the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Soccer (MLS)...72 of the 122 contracts we analyzed—clearly show that DOD paid for patriotic tributes at professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer games. These paid tributes included on-field color guard, enlistment and reenlistment ceremonies, performances of the national anthem, full-field flag details, ceremonial first pitches and puck drops. The National Guard paid teams for the “opportunity” to sponsor military appreciation nights and to recognize its birthday. It paid the Buffalo Bills to sponsor its Salute to the Service game. DOD even paid teams for the “opportunity” to perform surprise welcome home promotions for troops returning from deployments and to recognize wounded warriors. …"
 Civil rights activist Jesse Williams in an MSNBC interview pointed out:
“This is not actually part of football. This was invented in 2009 from the government paying the NFL to market military recruitment to get more people to go off and fight wars to die,” he said. “This has nothing to do with the NFL, or American pastime, or tradition. … This is to get boys and girls to go fly overseas and go kill people. They’re marketing. They’re pumping millions and millions of dollars into the NFL to get us to put on a pageant in front of the NFL football games to get you to go off and fight.”

Monday, May 28, 2018

Flint Water Poisoning - Racism and Classism

Racee and class were factors in the authorities’ slow and allegedly dishonest response to Flint’s water crisis, the Michigan city’s mayor, Karen Weaver, has claimed.

Had the city not been either predominately African American and poor, the crisis may not have happened, or else the response would have been different.
“I sure do. And I was not the only person who thought this,” Ms Weaver told The Independent. “One of the things we can’t forget is, the facts are the facts. This is a majority minority city. Not only did race play a factor, but class played a role, because of our high unemployment rate.” Weaver said her views were supported by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.  It concluded that a mix of “historical, structural and systemic racism combined with implicit bias” led to decisions, actions and consequences in Flint that would not have been allowed to happen in primarily white communities such as Ann Arbor or East Grand Rapids. 
Weaver said the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s report had concluded that “systematic racism” had played a factor.
“Had this community been made up differently, if it had happened, it would have been addressed much quicker. We should not have to wait a year-and-a-half for people to say that brown water is bad, because kids know brown water is bad, and that’s not what you drink,” she said. “And for us to have to be validated by scientists a year-and-a-half year later is just sad. So yes, I believe it, the community believes it. I think it was about race, and I think it was about class.”

No World Cup for Hamas

Gilad Erdan, the cabinet minister responsible for Israel’s police and prison services, instructed prisons chief Ofra Klinger that Hamas prisoners should be banned from being able to watch the World Cup.

“I have no intention of letting Hamas members who are detainees in our prisons enjoy the World Cup matches... Whoever has left the family of nations and chosen the culture of murder and terror should not enjoy an international sports competition that brings together people from all over the world.  Whoever has left the family of nations and chosen the culture of murder and terror should not enjoy an international sports competition that brings together people from all over the world.” 

Paying not to be British anymore

1.3 million British people living abroad in other EU countries have sought foreign citizenship since the EU referendum in a bid to head-off the uncertainty caused by the decision to leave. 

In April, the Home Office raised the renunciation fee per person by more than £50 from £321 to £372.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sexual harassment

Women who work in Asian factories making clothes for the global retail giant Walmart are at "daily risk" of slapping, sexual abuse and other harassment, rights groups said on Friday.
Based on interviews with workers in 60 Walmart supplier factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia, a coalition of charities said women were "systematically exposed to violence" and faced retaliation if they reported the attacks.
The charities said they found widespread sex harassment, verbal and physical abuse such as slapping and threats of retaliation when women refused sexual advances from bosses.
"This is a very urgent and serious issue," Anannya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a group which represents garment workers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "All people see are the glittering, fast-moving and affordable fashion. No one has any ideas about the deep-rooted violence against women that is propagated in the supply chains."
The alliance, which probed the abuses with four other groups, said in a 43-page report that the incidents represented the tip of the iceberg. Stigma and the risk of retaliation means that many women keep quiet, according to the rights groups.
"The difficulty is women don't feel comfortable to report. How can they seek intervention from the unions when the union leaders are mostly men?" said Khun Tharo from the Phnom Penh-based charity Center for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights. "There is no legal mechanism for them to file complaints."
Campaigners said the level of pressure and harassment faced by the workers in the study was approaching forced labour.
"Any time you have retaliation against workers, and coercion and control ... you are coming close to the line of forced labour," said Jennifer Rosenbaum with Global Labor Justice, a trans-national network of worker and migrant organisations.

Guns and a Prince to Israel

British defence contractors are selling record amounts of arms to Israel, new figures reveal, just days after it was confirmed that Prince William will represent the UK government on a visit to the country next monthNetanyahu has said it will be “a historic visit, the first of its kind”.

Campaign Against Arms Trade reveal that last year the UK issued £221m worth of arms licences to defence companies exporting to Israel. This made Israel the UK’s eighth largest market for UK arms companies, a huge increase on the previous year’s figure of £86m, itself a substantial rise on the £20m worth of arms licensed in 2015. In total, over the past five years, Israel has bought more than £350m worth of UK military hardware.

Licences issued to UK defence contractors exporting to Israel last year include those for targeting equipment, small arms ammunition, missiles, weapon sights and sniper rifles. In 2016 the UK issued licences for anti-armour ammunition, gun mountings, components for air-to-air missiles, targeting equipment, components for assault rifles, components for grenade-launchers and anti-riot shields.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The shootings we have seen over recent weeks have been an awful reminder of the appalling collective punishment and oppression that has been inflicted on the people of Gaza. By the government’s own admission, UK arms have been used time and again against Palestinians. Yet the arms sales have continued unabated. There must be a full investigation into if any UK arms have been used in the atrocities we have seen over recent months.”

Human rights groups have questioned the wisdom of sending a senior royal to a country whose use of lethal force last month has been the subject of concern from the UK government.
“After the appallingly excessive response of the Israeli security forces at the Gaza border, tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories are likely to be close to boiling point when Prince William makes this historic visit,” said Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s campaigns director. Moscogiuri said: “When he’s in Ramallah, we’d like to see Prince William going beyond the usual royal meet-and-greet by spending time talking with some of the Palestinian communities who’ve been affected by Israel’s 51-year occupation. Like everyone in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, people in Ramallah have endured years of discriminatory restrictions on their movement, with roadblocks, militarised checkpoints and off-limits roads which are for the exclusive use of those in the illegal Israeli settlements.”

The Jewish Problem (1947)

The Jewish Problem, as is the case with all minority problems, constitutes one of the countless issues which a sickly social system based upon economic classes constantly throws up. It will take much more than tear-jerker ads in the newspapers; much more than impassioned orations by prominent civic, national and world figures; much more than all the money that can ever pour into the coffers of organized charities to solve. A problem which arises out of the nature of class society can only be solved by the eradication of class society. Needless to say, this is one task which organized Jewry leaves strictly alone.

In order to see clearly what is behind the Jewish Problem it is necessary to understand first and foremost just what and who the Jewish people are.

Origin and History of the Jews (*)
There are many strange theories prevalent in the world today concerning the "Jewish race." We even find an occasional anthropologist still holding forth on the difference in skull measurements of Jews and non-Jews. The "findings" of these "scientists" like the arguments on racial differences that the Jews themselves maintain, should make important additions to the Mother Goose tales of the future. One only needs to dip into Jewish history to see through this ridiculous thesis.

The word "Jew" itself is derived from Judah, or in Hebrew, Yehudah — the Biblical character who with his brother Benjamin were the reputed founders of the two tribes which constituted one of the two rival kingdoms which were established in Palestine about 975 B. C. The Israelites, constituting twelve tribes in all, were supposed to be descended from Father Abraham, who, if he actually did exist, probably lived around 1500 B. C. But even in those early times, the inhabitants of the "land of milk and honey" must have constituted a strange mixture. For we find that at the time of the patriarchs, the land of Canaan was occupied by the following tribes: Kenites, Venizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, Hivites, Philistines and Phoenicians. Since it is also established that the Hebrews originated in Mesopotamia (Iraq), and the Mesopotamians themselves sprang from the Chaldaeans, Cushites and from "the descendants of Sham of the tribe of Thara", it can readily toe seen that father Abraham had a fairly representative crew of homo sapiens to work upon with his startling new theory of one God.

Furthermore, it must be remembered that Palestine is situated between Asia and Africa. Across this ancient pathway, the caravans and armies of the early Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Egyptian empires crossed and recrossed. Since it is highly improbable that soldiers and travelling men were more chaste in those times than they are today, it can safely be assumed that by the time (584 B. C.) the last of the Israelites were exiled to Babylon the Jewish people were as pure, in the sense representative of mankind generally, as any people could be.

From those times right on through the ancient, medieval and modern eras, the Jews have scattered into every continent and every civilized part of the world. Legal inter-marriage and other types 'of sex relationship with Mongols from Asia, Moors from Africa and the Christians of Europe have continually taken place. The early practice of proselytising brought into the picture Negro and Chinese Jews. Until today we have this "descendant" of Abraham, through the tribe of Judah, as thoroughly mixed as any other of the "races of mankind" by the cocktail shaker of history.
There is no such thing as a Jewish "type". Nor are there any distinct and separate Jewish characteristics. An Eastern European Jew is a different "type" than the Western or Sephardic Jew. No more nor less different than the non-Jews of those areas. The characteristics and customs of the Russian or Polish Jews, are quite foreign to those of the German or English or Dutch Jews. They are the customs and characteristics of their adopted countries. There are major differences in their methods of prayer and there is no common basis in their political outlook. Yet despite all of the foregoing, there is in society today, the Jew and the Jewish Problem. It would seem that in face of all of the evidence, the only scientific definition of Jew today, is one who believes in the Jewish Religion or who accepts an unsound political doctrine, fostered by Zionism, of a Hebrew nation and a Hebrew nationality.

Strictly speaking, the term anti-semitism as applied against the Jews is a mis-nomer. The Arabs, whose national fervour has been stirred up against the admission of Jews to Palestine can hardly be called anti-semites. For they are nearer to being Semites than are the Jews in the Displaced Persons camps of Europe. Nor does the average non-Jew of Europe or America who hates Jews have any particular feeling against the Semitic Arabs, who are not in sufficient numbers in these Continents to constitute a problem. So it is not because they are classified as Semites that Jews are hated, whether in the Christian or Moslem world.

There have been various reasons behind the hatred for Jews in the past. In their early history, Palestine was never a completely independent political unit, nor has it ever been one since. The Jews in the days of the kings were always under the suzerainty of some great empire or other and as a vassal people they received the contempt of a vassal people. Especially since they propagated new and inimical religious theories to those of the powerful empires.

In medieval times, they became associated in the minds of the non-Jews with money-lenders or usurers Since Church law frowned upon usury, and Jews were forbidden to learn useful trades, many of them became money lenders. They charged exorbitant interest rates because first there was little if any competition, and second, they were taking a terrific gamble at a time when Christianity held the bulk of political and consequently legal power.

After the advent of capitalist dominance, Jew-baiting took on the nature of a political weapon, and the Jewish people have variously been designated as an international gang of capitalists who seek to dominate the world by means of a financial oligarchy; and an international gang of communists who seek to overthrow the capitalist system. Even in modern times, they have been accused of starting the first and second world wars and of poisoning the minds of our youth by their control of the movie industry, etc, ad nauseam.

Such is the nature of anti-Jewish propaganda and in our times it can be stated unequivocally that the cause is bound up with the need for capitalist society to maintain division in the ranks of the working class. Anti-Jewish, anti-Negro or any other type of "racial" discrimination is all part of the whole process of the suppression of the working class.

Modern Torquemadas
The torture and persecutions which Jews suffered under the Spanish Inquisition had nothing on the punishment and "experimentation upon" that many of them have been going through during this most civilized and cultured of centuries. The pogroms instituted in Czarist Russia, in which Cossack troops wiped out whole Jewish communities might be excused on the grounds that Russia was at that time a backward country, lacking in the finer sensibilities which capitalist society brings into being. The same excuse might have been given for “democratic” Poland where millions of poverty-stricken Jews were herded into cellars and garrets to live and die like rats with all sorts of government tolerated indignities heaped upon them. But then came the Nazis in cultured Germany and the tempo of Jewish persecution became greatly accelerated.

The concentration camps, sterilisation centres, gas chambers and brothels of the Nazis brought a reaction of shock to the civilised British capitalists who had become used to treating the Jewish question in Palestine with more finesse, more polish. It was not nearly so bad form to handle the problem by pitting them against the Arabs. Let someone else do your dirty work, don't you know. This, of course with the cooperation of their American capitalist brethren.

The end of World War II, however, brought British and American capitalism up against a new set of realities. With a "socialist" government in power in Britain the Jewish people took heart. Surely the "socialists" had always been their champions. But this "socialist" government was elected on a mandate to continue class society, not to do away with it. And because capitalism is basically the same, regardless of who sits in the government, Ernest Bevin, the Labor Government's foreign secretary has assumed the "honours" in Jewish eyes, formerly held by Messrs Hitler, Rosenberg, etc. In a desperate effort to maintain good Arab relationships, British "socialist" concentration camps were erected to house the refugee Jewish workers who had only just left the horrors of Europe. And truncheons, bayonets, and bullets, produced in "socialist" Britain were wielded against recalcitrant Jewish refugees. In the background sits Uncle Sam, more or less directing the orchestra in which Britain now plays second fiddle. Palestine can no sooner become a separate political unit today, even with Partition, than it could at any time in its history. The reason today is OIL which American interests control in the Near East.

So the Jewish Problem goes on into the last quarter of 1947 with the Jewish philanthropies growing as rapidly as the problem itself.

The Cure
Socialists see a worse minority problem in the world today than the Jewish Problem — serious as it may be. Society as a whole is organized on the basis of classes — the master or capitalist class constituting a minority with a problem of keeping a majority — the working class — in subjection. On the other hand, the socialists, an insignificant minority of the working class are confronted with the terrific problem of getting their message across to their fellow workers. To join in the fight that nationalistic Jews are making for a Jewish "homeland" is to fight for the prolongation of class society. The capitalist Jews do not need our sympathy. Nor do we expect them to join in the main fight. The Jewish workers on the other hand, who make up the overwhelming majority of the Jews, must shake a lot of unsound ideas before they can do much toward their own emancipation.

Zionism would have its adherents believe that a Jewish state in Palestine is the answer to their problem. The organised Jewish charities want us to believe that the plight of the Displaced Persons's in Europe can be cured by an appeal to the heartstrings to loosen the purse strings. This sort of approach is completely unsound and will solve nothing. The class struggle rages in Palestine between Jew and Jew, Jew and Arab, Arab and Arab — in short between capitalists and workers — just as it does throughout civilisation. The "Bulletin", issued by the Council on Jewish-Arab Cooperation, N. Y., May-June 1947, tells of working class celebrations in Haifa and Jerusalem, mass strikes involving as many as 30,000 Arab and 10,000 Jewish workers in Palestine cities; a strike in the all Jewish city of Tel-Aviv. So much for Palestine as a solution to the Jewish Problem. The United Jewish Appeal and all other such Funds, sincere as they may be, cannot but help prolong the very conditions that make for a Jewish Problem.

The socialist appeal is based upon reason and a scientific evaluation of the nature of class society. We say, get rid of capitalism and all minority problems will cease to exist.

(*)The historical data on early Jewish history used in this article was gleamed from the encyclopedias Americana, Britannica and the Jewish Encyclopedia.


(The Western Socialist, Boston, November 1947)