Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Valley of the Kings

Were it were independent, Silicon Valley would be among the world’s richest countries.

$128,308 per capita in annual gross domestic product (GDP), residents in California’s tech belt out-produce almost every nation on the planet. The valley’s output, pegged at $275m by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, is higher than Finland’s.

Depending on how one counts it, Qatar’s per-capita GDP, estimated by the World Bank at $128,647 in 2017, is the world’s highest. The per-person output from Silicon Valley – more precisely, the San Jose metro area – actually outpaces Qatar’s by some measures, and puts the valley squarely in the company of wealthy nations like China’s casino peninsula Macau, estimated per capita GDP $115,367, and Europe’s sumptuously medieval Luxembourg, estimated per capita GDP $107,641.
San Francisco, Oakland and their suburbs comprise America’s third-most productive metro area by GDP, generating $89,978 per capita, a number that puts it in the company of Singapore and Brunei.
Home to nearly 2 million, the San Jose metro area includes Stanford University in Palo Alto, Google’s headquarters in Mountain View and Apple HQ in Cupertino. Half the world’s tech billionaires live in Silicon Valley; a sizable portion of the remainder live just north in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Silicon Valley and the Bay Area only trail the Texas oil center Midland, a metro area with 165,000 residents generating $174,749 per capita GDP.
By one more progressive metric, the Human Development Index, Silicon Valley is the nation’s most well-developed place.
Like other US high-per capita GDP areas in south-western Connecticut, Seattle and Boston, the Bay Area and Silicon Valley have seen skyrocketing housing costs, problematic cultural shifts and political clashes tied to rising inequality. GDP, it turns out, is no way to gauge a community’s economic health.
“As a measure of output – how much stuff is being produced – GDP tells us nothing about the distribution of income from that output, which is a much more important determinant of overall well-being in a community,” Lew Daly, a senior policy analyst with the thinktank Demos and the coauthor of Beyond GDP: New Measures for a New Economy, told the Guardian.GDP tells you nothing about how a community is growing,” Daly added. “If the economy is growing, that might even be a negative thing if it is growing inequitably and unsustainably. GDP doesn’t even begin to answer that question.”

Calling XR...Calling XR

Every protest begins by being ignored, then sneered at, then hated. Until finally, they get the message.

We are faced with a future that is unsustainable environmentally and it will take more than a bridge blockade to put that future on a sustainable basis. Ultimately, it will take a transformation of human civilisation. Anyone can be against capitalism. But some people are just against BIG capitalism as if somehow "small” capitalism is a completely different thing, and can be nice. It's not. They're the same. Capitalism is commodity production for sale on a market. It is wage slavery. Concentrating on "nasty" industrialists and the speculators of the stock-market and defining "capitalism" in those terms can only end up as a diversion from the goal of abolishing the capitalist system. 

Capitalism is not a place (City of London, Wall St) or a thing ("corporations"), it is a social relationship dependent upon wage labour and commodity exchange where profit is derived from capital's theft of unpaid labour. There are no nice capitalists. We have nothing to say to our rulers on how to run capitalism, we should not be drawn into fighting their battles, and we should certainly not be drawn into rolling history back instead of forwards. Our fight should not be a campaign for "real" capitalism i.e. manufacturing/industrial capitalism against the finance and speculator interests. It should be calling for the abolition of capitalism rather than its "fair" administration and regulation. Even in times of “prosperity” capitalism does not, and cannot serve the interests of the majority. Profit-seeking dominates decisions about what, where and how to produce. Priorities are distorted as profits always come before meeting needs. The real power of capital is in our everyday live, we re-create its power every day because capital is not a thing but a social relation between people mediated by things. Until, of course, we decide as a majority to take the political action necessary to change our lives.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a people-powered movement. The Socialist Party is glad to see the emergence of people criticising capitalism as a system which is causing the current climate change crisis. If there is a radical shift from being a single issue campaign to attack capitalism as a system XR is to be commended. The Socialist Party can only hope that climate change activists develop further, by shedding particular campaigns for the improvement of capitalism, into a general onslaught on capitalism itself. Revolutionary action lies in effectively communicating that message to each other. We welcome that some people are identifying capitalism as the cause of environmental problems they had previously sought to deal with on a single-issue basis, and now we urge them to take the next step and join us in the struggle for socialism as the only practicable alternative to capitalism. It's a question of getting the message out there, and getting it right. We're doing our bit. The socialist movement is the natural umbrella movement for all humanity. All the single issues are effects, the cause of which is capitalism. Effects can sometimes be ameliorated but it is better to eliminate the cause and prevent the effects returning. Go to the root of the problem and not the symptoms.

EU Election Hustings

We’ve had invitation to three meetings:
Wednesday 8 May from 7pm: MEP Hustings, Anthony Mingella Theatre, Quay Arts, NEWPORT, Isle of Wight. Organised by Islnders4Europe.
Thursday 9 May 7.30pm to 9pm: Our choices in the European elections. Wesley Memorial Church, New Inn Hall St, OXFORD. Organised by Oxford Communist Corresponding Society. Mike Foster will represent the Socialist Party.
Wednesday 15 May 7pm to 9pm. CHESHAM (Bucks). Details to follow.

Injustice feeds injustice

5.1 billion people—almost two-thirds of the planet's 7.53 billion human beings—do not have access to justice and that of those 5.1 billion, 1.5 billion have no way of solving legal disputes or crimes against them.  A glaring gap between rich and poor and a stark reminder of the gulf that exists between between those who are and are not given due process. 

"The justice gap is both a reflection of structural inequalities and disparities in power, and a contributor to these inequalities," said Hina Jilani, one of the task force's co-chairs. "The burden of injustice falls all too heavily on women, children, and other vulnerable groups who face the hardest struggle to access the justice system and exercise their rights."

That's according to a new report (pdf) from the Task Force on Justice, a program of the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies. Pathfinders is a coalition of U.N. member states and a number of non-governmental organizations that work with the New York University Center for International Cooperation. 

And the global issue of injustice has three main dimensions, the report (pdf) says. They are:

  • At least 253 million people live in extreme conditions of injustice—they are modern slaves, are stateless, or their countries or communities are engulfed in conflict, violence, and lawlessness.
  • 1.5 billion people cannot resolve their everyday justice problems—they are victims of crimes they do not report or have a serious civil or administrative problem they cannot resolve.
  • 4.5 billion people are excluded from the opportunities the law provides—they lack legal identity or other documentation related to employment, family, or property, and are therefore unable to access economic opportunities and public services, or the protection of the law. 

Social Mobility Stagnation

Inequality will remain entrenched in the UK "from birth to work", the Social Mobility Commission has warned. Its State of the Nation report said the situation had remained "virtually stagnant" since 2014.
The report found those from better-off backgrounds were almost 80% more likely to be in a professional job than their working class peers.
It said the numbers from professional backgrounds who were in professional jobs had risen slightly, from 59% in 2014 to 60% last year.
In contrast, only 34% of those from working class backgrounds had professional jobs last year, slightly up from 32% in 2014.
Dame Martina Milburn, who was appointed as the new chairwoman, said, "Being born privileged means you are likely to remain privileged. But being born disadvantaged means you may have to overcome a series of barriers to ensure you and your children are not stuck in the same trap." 

Thoughts on XR - Words are our weapons

The Socialist Party has never claimed that 'the revolution' will start in parliament without first starting in the minds (and therefore actions) of Because of the global warming crisis people are actually questioning capitalism, because they’re being forced to. Capitalist "truths" are being delegitimatised by experience on the ground. People are talking, reading, and thinking. But if they are not become part of the solution, they become part of the problem, people need to use that education intelligently. The protesters may be asking some of the right questions, but have they discovered the right answers? Many activists are still wedded to capitalist economics and propose to reforms it rather than do away it entirely.

Fridays for Climate school strikers and Extinction Rebellion should be commended for making time to discuss seriously the hope of finding a solution. There was immense pressure for them adopt a program. The Socialist Party applaud people taking action which is essentially democratic and anti-capitalist. However, it is foolish to think that a socialist party is the source of revolutionary consciousness. It is equally foolish to think that  climate change camps will automatically lead to an upsurge in socialist understanding. We can't just hope that socialist ideas will prevail. Socialist ideas have to compete with others. Many people understand that we have reached a critical turning point that demands radical change in how and why we produce the means of supporting life. People demanding change are not united in focusing on the political economics at the root of most global problems but they are moving in that direction. This shows that many can understand the situation. We want as many people as possible discussing and debating ideas of a post-capitalist future so we can establish this society. We need to articulate a different future. Many doubt a socialist society is either feasible or even desirable. Socialism doesn't have to be a utopia. It's a concrete answer to concrete problems, however. Without such an ideal, the real world will be ever harder to change.

The Socialist Party is an advocacy party with an intimate acquaintance with the various struggles in history since its foundation. Our purpose is to promote socialism, and advance the necessary pre-requisites for a movement to achieve it while at the same time, identifying and criticising trends that obstruct our goal, which is mainly but not entirely siren-call of reforms. Our job is to provide the ideological tools, (the ideas, the theory and the evidence) for those in in the environmentalist protest movement to maintain an effective anti-capitalism. It is not to lead workers to socialism but to push them by discussion, argument and debate into reaching the inescapable conclusion that for society to go forward, socialism is the only solution. We have to have a physical presence within those working class struggles which seek alternative answers to their problems. It means possessing a confidence in our politics and recognising ourselves as part of the working class and a legitimate expression of it. The more socialism is discussed and debated, the more likely that protests escalate and intensify into a decisive mass movement against capitalism and its failure as a system to satisfy and fulfil real human needs and wants. We need to relate socialism to the present and demonstrate its practicability. We need to connect struggles such as those of the climate justice movements with the attainment of socialism. Unlike others who present themselves as revolutionaries we do not project socialism as a remote ideal system of the future but something to aspire for to-day. Our educational efforts alone will not suffice since, as often explained, the power of the prevailing ideology through dominance of the capitalist media handicaps our class in the battle of ideas. But what we write and say still remains vital to give expression to people's actions and to validate their own experiences. We, as socialists, are simply presenting choices to the working class, for them to reject or accept, that is all we can do but without a choice being offered, there is no choice. The Socialist Party is not so presumptuous as to think that the whole future of the world depends on us. What we do say is that people will come to a realisation that capitalism needs to be replaced by socialism quicker if there's already an organised group arguing for this. 

The late historian Howard Zinn said, it is important toorganize ourselves in such a way that means correspond to the ends, and to organize ourselves in such a way as to create the kind of human relationship that should exist in future society.”

 The Socialist Party exists in order to assist in the self-emancipation of workers. Since its foundation it has asserted what it believes should be the democratic norms of social movements.  All policy and activity should be democratic and decided by the majority and that positions of responsibility should be elected. The world-wide environment movement raises awareness about climate change yet they follow the same old tried, tested and failed reformist formulae. Nevertheless, every once in a while, peoples' ideas experience a massive breakthrough, an evolutionary leap, in how the world around us is defined. Climate change has done that. Our challenge within the Socialist Party is to use the fertile ground to foster further progress.

Biting the hand that feeds you

According to Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a nonprofit organization and worker center that supports and connects restaurant workers throughout the country, more than 13 million U.S. residents, the majority of them women of color, are employed in restaurants. In 18 states, they earn a base pay of $2.13 an hour plus tips, a sub-minimum wage that has been frozen since 1991. Twenty-six states pay a somewhat higher sub-minimum, while just seven — Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — provide the full federal minimum to those who serve our food when we dine out. This leaves hundreds of thousands of workers in poverty.
in New York City alone, a winter 2019 survey conducted by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and the Community Service Society found that 36 percent of tipped workers employed in eateries, nail salons and car washes lived at or below the federal poverty line — $16,460 for a two-person household; $25,100 for four — and more often than not, had to rely on food stamps, soup kitchens and Medicaid. New York is not an anomaly. 
The Economic Policy Institute found that in states that allow payment of a sub-minimum wage, 18.5 percent of workers are impoverished; in states where everyone earns the federal minimum, the poverty rate drops to 11.1 percent. Furthermore, the institute notes that closing the loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that allows payment of a sub-minimum wage, and upping the hourly minimum to $15 by 2024, would boost the wages of 38.1 percent of African American and 23.2 percent of white workers.
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United is supporting the Raise the Wage Act, H.R.582, legislation to abolish the sub-minimum wage and bring tipped workers up to the federal standard.
Anthony Advincula, public affairs officer at Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, points out that industry lobbyists, National Restaurant Association and , have been effective in undermining One Fair Wage campaigns by claiming   H.R.582 would stifle new job creation, impose undue harm to the nation’s small business owners, and harm those it proclaims to help
“They’ve created a fake grassroots organization, called Restaurant Workers of America, to invoke fear that restaurants will close and jobs will be eliminated,” Advincula says. “The truth is that the industry does not want to eliminate the sub-minimum wage because it will cost them. But this is a racial and gender justice issue. The majority of workers who are exploited by the sub-minimum wage are immigrants, people of color and single mothers who live in poverty despite working full-time.”
An in-depth investigation by the Columbia Journalism Review confirms that Restaurant Workers of America is wholly funded by restaurant owners. In addition, the investigation found that its representatives have missed few opportunities to appear with “restaurant industry trade groups and Republican politicians” since coming together in 2017.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has the authority to instruct the commissioner of labor to end the sub-minimum wage — something he said he intended to do.  Instead, he has listened to the Restaurant Workers of America and the National Restaurant Association who presented restaurant workers arguing that no, they don’t need an increase in the minimum wage, that things are fine as they are.
Diana Ramirez is the senior policy advocate at Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, also explained, “The rate of sexual harassment for restaurant workers is the highest of any industry,” she says. “The ‘customer is always right’ mentality has made it hard for tipped workers who have to depend on the generosity of patrons.” 
A broad coalition of women’s rights, labor and racial justice groups came together in 2016 in support of One Fair Wage — coalition members ranged from the D.C. chapter of the National Organization for Women, to Forward Together, the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, the Democratic Socialists of America, and Jews United For Justice. The goal was to put a One Fair Wage measure — called Initiative 77 — on the July 2018 ballot. Opposition from the Restaurant Workers of America and the National Restaurant Association was immediate. “They got workers, mostly white male bartenders working in high-end establishments, to come out and yell at women of color wherever we went,” Ramirez told Truthout. “It’s a Trumpian effect: Somehow you doing better will make me worse off.”
Despite the pushback, the ballot initiative in Washington, D.C., passed with 56 percent of the vote, and voters in all but one neighborhood supported One Fair Wage. But the victory was short-lived. Ramirez points out that after the ballot measure passed, the restaurant association went into high gear and successfully lobbied the D.C. City Council to overturn the measure.
“The Council essentially told Black people, the majority population in D.C., that their vote did not matter,” Ramirez explains. “People were outraged and after the vote was repealed, an influx of racial justice and pro-democracy groups came to Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and said, ‘We want to work with you to protect democracy.’”
A similar fight is unfolding in Michigan. According to the Michigan chapter of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the lame duck session voted to raise the state’s overall minimum incrementally, not getting to $12.05 an hour until 2030. Their raise to the sub-minimum was even paltrier: They raised it by seven cents an hour, from $3.52 to $3.59, effective March 29 of this year. The original measure raised the sub-minimum from $3.52 to $12 by 2024. An editorial in USA Today elaborates further: “Faced with ballot initiatives that would have raised the minimum wage and established sick time for all the state’s workers, Republicans instead passed both proposals last summer as a way to keep them off the ballot and make them easier to change.”

The Killing Industry Booms

Global military spending reached its highest level since the records began two decades ago, according to a new analysis released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

It revealed in its latest annual report that countries around the world collectively poured $1.82 trillion into their militaries in 2018, a 2.6 percent rise from the previous year. Together, the top two spenders, the United States and China, accounted for about half of all spending.

Last year, the U.S. military expenditure—which represents more than a third of global spending—increased for the first time in seven years. It rose by 4.6 percent, hitting $649 billion. SIPRI researcher Nan Tian said that trend is expected to continue.

"They have started to implement a new modernization program of the military that will start in 2019 or 2020," Tian explained. "This is in the region of $1.8 trillion over the next 20 years. It is a massive amount of money being spent by the U.S.—and it ranges from conventional weapons to nuclear capabilities."

China, which secured the second spot for SIPRI's analysis, spent $250 billion on its military in 2018.

"Growth in Chinese military spending tracks the country's overall economic growth," Tian said in a statement. "China has allocated 1.9 percent of its GDP to the military every year since 2013."

Other big spenders, per the report, included Saudi Arabia ($67.6 billion), India ($66.5 billion), France ($63.8 billion), Russia ($61.4 billion), the United Kingdom ($50 billion), Germany ($49.5 billion), Japan ($46.6 billion), and South Korea ($43.1 billion).  SIPRI found that military expenditure rose in Central America and the Caribbean, Central Europe, Central and South Asia, East Asia, North America, South America, and Western Europe.

Iran executes minors

Iran is the second most prolific executioner in the world after China, where thousands are believed to be put to death annually. It is also the top executioner of children in the world, figures by Amnesty show. 

Between 1990 and 2018, Amnesty recorded the executions of 97 prisoners who were convicted as minors. At least 253 people, including seven under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, were executed in the country last year, according to Amnesty's annual report, published this month.Meanwhile, more than 90 minors remained on death row, the rights group documented. 

"We have identified a trend in which Iran's authorities are carrying out executions of juvenile offenders in secret and without giving advance notice to the families, seemingly in a deliberate attempt to avoid global outrage," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director,
Iran secretly executed two boys under the age of 18 over multiple charges of rape, Amnesty International reported as it condemned the country's "utter disdain for international law and childrens' rights". Cousins Mehdi Sohrabifar and Amin Sedaghat, who were arrested at the age of 15 and convicted following an "unfair trail", were executed on Thursday in the southern city of Shiraz, according to the UK-based rights group. The teenagers had lash marks on their bodies, showing signs they had been flogged before the executions.

"The Iranian authorities have once again proved that they are sickeningly prepared to put children to death, in flagrant disregard of international law," said Philip Luther, in a statement. "It seems they cruelly kept these two boys in the dark about their death sentences for two years, flogged them in the final moments of their lives, and then carried out their executions in secret," he added.