Thursday, February 28, 2019

UN - Israeli soldiers "intentionally" targeted children.

A UN report, written on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council, into alleged human rights violations by Israeli soldiers during the 2018 Gaza strip protests has been rejected outright by Israel's government.
 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "The council sets new records of hypocrisy and lies, out of obsessive hatred of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East."
Israel's foreign ministry spokesman accused the Human Rights Council of being "a de facto accomplice of Hamas."
The report, authored by a team of Argentinian, Bangladeshi and Kenyan representatives, found that Israeli soldiers "committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law."
A total of 189 Palestinians were killed and more than 9,000 were injured during separate Israeli crackdowns on border demonstrators between March and December last year, the commission that authored the report said. The commission said it found only two incidents — one in May and one in October, when Israeli troops were within their rights to use live ammunition.
The commission said it took note of the Israel's assertion that the protests masked "terror activities" by Palestinian armed groups, and also that some demonstrators were members of armed groups. However, it concluded the demonstrations were "civilian in nature", with clearly stated political aims, and that despite some acts of significant violence they did not constitute combat or military campaigns. That meant Israeli forces were required to operate according to the international legal framework applicable to police and other law enforcement officials, which is part of international human rights law.
"More than 6,000 demonstrators were shot by military snipers," the commission wrote, adding that some soldiers "intentionally" shot children, journalists and people with disabilities. Many young persons' lives have been altered forever. 112 people have had a limb amputated … 20 of these amputees are children." The inquiry found that some of these alleged violations could amount to "war crimes" or "crimes against humanity" and has called on Israel to investigate.
Sara Hossain, a Bangladeshi lawyer and a member of the commission, said: "We are saying that they have intentionally shot children. They have intentionally shot people with disabilities. They have intentionally shot journalists. A double amputee in a wheelchair, a person using crutches... they have been shot at by snipers, who also have spotters available with them who have very high-level technology to see who is out there in the field."

The climate change conspiracy - you choose

In-Work Poverty

More than 1 million public sector workers in Britain are paid less than the amount required to make ends meet, trapping them in in-work poverty, according to a report.

The Living Wage Foundation said as many as 1.2 million people working for the NHS, councils and other public sector employers receive unsustainably low wages of less than £9 an hour, or £10.55 in London.

It said public sector workers, employed either directly by the state or on outsourced contracts, account for up to 20% of the 6 million people in Britain paid less than this level – the real living wage – which is a voluntary minimum set each year to reflect living costs.
The real living wage is higher than the government’s legally enforceable “national living wage” of £7.83 an hour across the country, which is to rise to £8.21 from April.

The report revealed the vast majority of public sector workers earning below the real living wage are in local authority jobs, including teaching assistants, cleaners, care workers and catering staff. Almost half a million are on outsourced contracts, while 725,000 work directly for a public sector body.

Lola McEvoy, the head of campaigns at the Living Wage Foundation, said: “It’s simply wrong that workers are struggling to keep their heads above water on wages that don’t meet basic living costs.”
Christina McAnea, the assistant general secretary of Unison, said: “Hundreds of thousands of workers delivering essential public services are on poverty pay. Many have second and even third jobs just to keep the wolf from the door.”

Cardiff Street Stalls

Street Stalls in Cardiff
Queen Street 
(Newport Road end)
Every Saturday – 1pm to 3pm – (weather permitting).
Organised by South Wales Branch

What is and what could be. Our vision of socialism

This is an irrational and unjust system. Life doesn’t have to be this way. We can struggle to improve the conditions of how we live and we can eliminate capitalist exploitation and oppression by overturning the social system. We can replace capitalism with a more rational and humane society -socialism, a social system where social wealth genuinely is controlled by society and for the benefit of society; where the common good, not profits, becomes the chief concern; where working people administer and run things. Our wealth is the product of the labour of countless people around the world. But while the working people have built all, they own nothing. Capitalism is marked by a basic contradiction: production is social, involving the coordinated and inter-connected labour of millions of workers, but the control of this social labour and its product is private. Workers are wage slaves who survive only by selling their labour power to the capitalists, who own the means of production. The capitalist constantly tries to drive down the wages of the workers.

The capitalist system is the source of the exploitation of the working class, as well as the poverty and economic insecurity of society as a whole. This system is an obstacle to the further advancement of the material well-being of society. It is unjust, wasteful, irrational and increasingly destructive. Exploitation, inequality, injustice, racism and nationalism, and the threat of war – this is the face of capitalism today. The situation cries out for change, for socialism. Socialism is not some Utopian dream. Capitalism itself has created the economic conditions for socialism. Today there is social production but no social ownership. Socialism will bring the common ownership of social production, the next rational step in evolution, the next stage for humanity. The means of production will be the property of society, directing the productive capacity to meet human needs. Socialism will be a truly class-free society.

To break this system of division and oppression, the Socialist Party stands for the unity of the working class. The State suppresses and controls opposition to capitalism. It maintains social order and provides a stable environment for big business. We cannot emphasise strongly enough the urgency of our task. We are constantly threatened by global warming and global war. All of us must do our utmost to help the working class fight for their interests and bring into being as soon as possible the mass party of the working class. The capitalist system is so ill it requires a cure far more radical than some palliative reforms.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Shop-workers Blues

Retail workers in Britain are more likely to face unemployment rather than finding another job amid mounting numbers of job losses on the high street, with younger staff hardest hit, according to a report.

The study by the Resolution Foundation thinktank found the retail industry now has the highest rate of redundancies of any sector of the economy, amid the rapid rise of shop closures across the country. 
In a worrying signal for retail workers facing redundancy, the Resolution Foundation said as many as 31% exit their roles straight into unemployment, rather than into another job, compared to the average of 26% for all areas of the economy.
Two in five ex-retail staff are unemployed for at least six months, with greater risks for younger workers. As many as three in five former retail workers are under the age of 30 – despite barely a third of the workforce being in this age bracket.
Daniel Tomlinson, research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Life has become tougher for those leaving retail, who are more likely to find themselves unemployed – and for longer, too."
The report said the number of jobs in the sector had shrunk as a share of the overall UK workforce from 10.8% to 9.5%, equivalent to 320,000 missing positions.
“Britain, far from being a ‘nation of shopkeepers’, now has a lower share of workers in wholesale and retail than Germany,” it said.
The report also said retail continued to be a low-paying sector, with the typical hourly wage – £8.80 – about a third lower than typical pay across the entire economy of £12.73.

The figures show the inequality

Income inequality across Britain increased over the course of 2018 as cuts to benefits damaged the finances of poorer households while the wealthiest in society got richer.
Average income of the poorest fifth of the population shrunk by 1.6% last year. The average income of the richest fifth rose by 4.7%.

The median household disposable income growth had plateaued last year at £28,400, ending four years of steady increases for the strength of household finances.

Household benefits for millions of families, including those in work, have been frozen over the last four years under a policy launched by the then chancellor, George Osborne, in 2015. The policy, in place until 2020, means household benefit payments do not rise in line with inflation. The Resolution Foundation thinktank estimates the average lower-income family with children will be £200 worse off this year as a consequence. 
The highest 1% of earners in the country have, however, managed to protect their share of total household disposable income over the past seven years, with the richest 1% of the population controlling 7.1% of total household disposable income.

Lothian Socialist Discussion Meeting

7.30pm, Wednesday, 27th February
The Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh,
17 West Montgomery Place,
Edinburgh EH7 5HA

“Our theory is not a dogma, but a guide to action,” Marx and Engels said, ridiculing the mere memorising and repetition of magic formulas. 
A back-and-forth exchange of views can potentially achieve a higher level of clarity about the problems confronting the socialist movement. There has been a depressing lack of principled debate among those in the anti-Bolshevik groups. 
The Lothian Socialist Discussion meetings are a forum aimed at those who are interested in the future of socialism. The aim of such discussions is the rebirth of a serious socialist movement. An open-ended political discussion among libertarian socialists is necessary. A careful, rational discussion of perspectives is easier to do that when one eliminates sectarian abuse. Name-calling seems to be an unfortunate penchant of those on the Left. Such a discussion can’t be held hostage to the delusions of ideological grandeur. Cherished illusions must be shed. We have no ready-made solutions to this problem of the stagnation of the progress of socialist ideas. We claim only that the problem must be faced and there must be discussion. The result of this discussion, we hope, will be the liberation and the re-emergence of socialist principles. When we talk about forging cooperative relations in the non-market milieu we are talking about developing a comradely "party" spirit, not imposing a party line.
If unity is to be achieved, we do have to air differences and disagreements, debate and discuss them. There must be a willingness to examine all views seriously, to draw conclusions on the basis of an open mind. We should distinguish the serious and fundamental issues which separate us from the relatively minor ones.
‘If only the left could get together...’ is a cry we often hear, encouraged the taunts and jibes of those who joke about the multitude of revolutionary organisations. Unity for unity’s sake seems as uninspiring a slogan as it is sterile. The unity of conscious and informed purpose in the struggle for socialism is the only unity worth having and that can only be promoted by important and basic debate.
The Socialist Party’s conviction is that the welfare state is not a halfway house to socialism nor on the road to-wards socialism. The welfare state is the modern version of the Victorian ideal of self-help and self-improvement schemes. The Socialist Party’s aim is the abolition of capitalism and reorganizing the planet on a socialist basis. We fully acknowledge that, in this endeavor, we are up against a most powerful and ruthless master class intent upon divide and rule.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Child Soldiers

The UK is the only permanent member of the UN security council to allow 16-year-olds into the army and is alone in the practice among European countries.

Reem Abu-Hayyeh, a paediatrician attacked the practice, adding to a growing body of calls that the age at which individuals can join the armed forces be increased.

Reem Abu-Hayyeh, co-author of the editorial from the public health charity Medact, said: “Recruiting 16-year-olds does put them at harm and, for us, it is an irresponsible government policy.
Among their criticisms, Abu-Hayyeh and Dr Guddi Singh, a paediatric registrar, wrote that recruiting 16-year-olds goes against children’s rights by putting them at risk of harm and that such recruits cannot give “voluntary and informed consent” to joining up because the publicity material fails to show the realities of life in the armed forces.
Abu-Hayyeh pointed out that earlier this year army magazines were sent out with PlayStation magazines. “It is clearly targeting young people and it doesn’t show two sides of the story,” she said, adding that adolescents are more susceptible to emotive appeals.
Recent reports have also found the army particularly targets young people who are vulnerable, including those who have received poor GCSE results and those from low socioeconomic backgroundsMedact has previously released research showing that those recruited into the army as children are more likely to encounter trauma and have a greater likelihood of injury and death than those who signed up when they were adults – not least because young recruits are more likely to be sent to the frontline when they are old enough.
Abu-Hayyeh and Singh also pointed out that war-zone conditions could increase the risk of mental health problems, particularly for young and vulnerable recruits. “The army isn’t a good place for those who have faced childhood adversity,” added Abu-Hayyeh.



We must ensure it never happens again”. The stock government
response to all manner of man-made disasters that have been
invariably caused by safety cutbacks designed to boost profits.

We'd all be rich if paid a quid,
When MP's say in vain;
“We must ensure such tragedies,
Do not occur again”.
But mostly so-called accidents,
Occur because the cost;
Of safety is by far outweighed,
By fear of profits lost.

Thus time and time again we hear,
The same old tired tale;
“We'll introduce new systems that,
We guarantee won't fail”.
“We'll pass new legislation and,
Ensure firms train their staff”;
If only it weren't serious,
It would be such a laugh!

And when the hue and cry dies down,
And headlines have moved on;
The good intentions melt away,
The promises are gone.
The same old cutbacks creep back in,
And leaders look away;
And once again we ordinary folk,
Will be the ones that pay.

© Richard Layton

Monday, February 25, 2019

UK betrays the Chagossians again

The blog has posted several messages about the UK's shameful treatment of the Chagossian islanders when they were forced in to exile so that the USA could build their military air-base on Diego Garcia. 

Despite various legal victories in the courts the islanders have been victims of a concerted campaign by the UK government who eventually used the archaic royal prerogative to overturn their rulings. And then just for good measure they imposed a maritime conservation area on the region to ban any chance of a fishing livelihood for the islanders (US pollution was exempted, of course)

The Chagos islanders once again have achieved recognition of their unfair and unjust victimization, this time from the United Nations which declared that the islands were illegally detatched from their original link with Mauritius whose own independence was dependent upon giving up the Chagos Islands. The UK effectively using the process of decolonisation to create a new colony.
The UN's highest court, the International Court of Justice at the Hague, has described the UK's administration of the Chagos Islands - located more than 2,000 miles off the east coast of Africa - as "an unlawful act of continuing character".  The UK was "under an obligation to bring an end to its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible".

As expected, the UK government said it will ignore this latest ruling against on the technical grounds that its finding is merely advisory and non-binding. The USA will also pay no heed to international court decisions.

Public Meeting (Oxford 28/2)

‘Fascism and populism: can you spot the difference?’
7.30pm, Thursday, 28th February

Wesley Memorial Church, 
New Inn Hall Street, 
Oxford OX1 2DH
Speaker: Adam Buick
Organised by the Oxford Communist Corresponding Society

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Have we forgotten about Afghanistan

A record number of civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year according to a UN report, which blames an increase in suicide bombings by Islamic State, guerrilla war by the Taliban and airstrikes by US-led coalition forces.

In its annual report published on Sunday, the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said 3,804 civilians were killed in 2018, the highest toll since it began compiling figures in 2009. Another 7,189 were wounded. 
The reports blames insurgents for 63% of civilian deaths and injuries in 2018. It says the Taliban were responsible for 37%, Isis 20%, and other armed groups 6%. The government and its US and Nato allies were blamed for 24%, a significant increase on 2017, with many the result of increased airstrikes. The US military says it carried out 6,823 airstrikes in 2018, the highest figure in six years. Taliban have been carrying out near-daily attacks on the Afghan security forces.
The UN envoy, Tadamichi Yamamoto, called the increase in civilian casualties “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable”. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have also been displaced by the conflict, both within and beyond the country’s borders.  “It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy,” said Yamamoto. “The best way to halt the killing and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting. That is why there is all the more need now to use all our efforts to bring about peace.”

No Respite in Yemen

In Yemen, the latest analysis shows that it has, more than 60,000 additional people on the brink of famine over the past two months. 

The longer the war continues, the worse it gets. All countries must stop selling arms to all and any parties to this conflict.

Business before Religion

Despite the Saudi Arabia's ruling Al Saud family's image of itself as the defender of Muslims across the world it has remained silent over China's treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

Up to one million Uighurs and other minorities are being held in internment camps in Xinjiang as part of a draconian anti-terror and anti-separatist campaign.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has supported China's right to undertake "anti-terrorism" and "de-extremism" measures. Saudi Arabia respected and supported China's right to protect its own security and take counter-terror and de-radicalisation steps, the crown prince told Xi.

The World Uyghur Congress said MBS's failure to raise the issue of the Uighur detentions amounted to tacit support for "China's gross rights violations".

Miqdaad Versi, spokesperson for Britain's Muslim Council, called the remarks "disgusting" and a defence of "the use of concentration camps against Uighur Muslims".

Michael Clarke of Australian National University's National Security College, explained, "Basically, in the Saudi case there seem to be very clear incentives for it to not rock the boat in service of the Uighur issue."
China is Saudi Arabia's largest trading partner.
National oil giant Saudi Aramco said it had signed an agreement to form a Saudi-Chinese joint venture, worth more than $10bn, to develop a refining and petrochemical complex in northeastern Liaoning province. The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority also announced the signing of 35 non-binding memorandums of understanding, worth $28bn, including deals related to energy, mining, transportation and e-commerce.

North Korea's Humanitarian Crisis

North Korea has warned that it is facing a food shortfall of some 1.4 million tons in 2019 and has been forced to almost halve rations, blaming high temperatures, drought, floods and United Nations sanctions.

"The DPRK government calls on international organizations to urgently respond to addressing the food situation," read the North Korean memo.

North Korea's food production last year was 4.951 million tons, 503,000 tons down on 2017. North Korea said it would import 200,000 tons of food and produce about 400,000 tons of early crops, but that it would still be left with a gap and from January would cut daily rations to 300 grams (10.5 ounces) per person from 550 grams.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations and aid groups were only able to help one third of six million people estimated to be in need last year due to a lack of funding. A U.N. appeal for $111 million in 2018 was only a quarter funded, Dujarric said. The United Nations estimates a total of 10.3 million people - almost half the population - are in need and some 41 percent of North Koreans are undernourished, Dujarric said.
Humanitarian aid nearly ground to a halt in 2018 as the United States stepped up enforcement of U.N. sanctions, even though the Security Council North Korea sanctions committee has said sanctions "are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population."
"While Security Council sanctions clearly exempt humanitarian activities, there have been unintended consequences on humanitarian operations," Dujarric said.