Monday, September 30, 2019

Socialist Standard No. 1382 October 2019

Privilege and Power

At the 50 publicly traded U.S. corporations with the widest pay gaps in 2018, the typical employee would have to work at least 1,000 years—an entire millennium—to earn what their CEO made in just one.  The median worker pay averaged just over $10,000 while median CEO pay averaged $15.9 million.

Among S&P 500 firms, nearly 80 percent paid their CEO more than 100 times their median worker pay in 2018, and nearly 10 percent had median pay below the poverty line for a family of four.

S&P 500 corporations as a whole would have owed as much as $17.2 billion more in 2018 federal taxes if they were subject to tax penalties ranging from 0.5 percentage points on pay ratios over 100:1 to 5 percentage points on ratios above 500:1.

The firms with the widest pay gaps span various industries, from retailers and apparel manufacturers to fast food, technology, and auto companies. Among the worst offenders: Telsa, with a 40,668:1 pay gap; Abercrombie & Fitch Co., with a 3,660:1 gap; Mattel, with a 3,408:1 gap; Align Technology, with a 3,168:1 gap; and Yum China Holdings, with a 2,731:1 gap.

Others on the top 50 list include Gap, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Williams-Sonoma, McDonald's Corp., Estee Lauder Companies, Foot Locker, Walt Disney Co., Norwegian Cruise Line, T-Mobile, Ralph Lauren, Barnes & Noble Education, Walmart, Starbucks, The Coca-Cola Co., and AMC Entertainment.

An annual Economic Policy Institute analysis published last month found that the average take-home pay of chief executives at the largest 350 U.S. companies in 2018 was $17.2 million, 278 times that of the average worker.

 Federal data released last week showed that income inequality in the United States hit its highest level ever recorded in 2018.

Sam Pizzigati, the report's co-author, said

"Outrageous CEO compensation gives CEOs an incentive to behave outrageously." 

“All People Are Brothers [and Sisters].”

On September 22nd 1845 Julian Harney founded the Society of Fraternal Democrats at a gathering held to celebrate the French Republic's constitution of 1792. This organisation could be considered as a precursor of the First International. The society drew representatives from the Chartists and revolutionary refugees from Europe. The society ceased its activities in 1853.

Three years before the publication of the Communist Manifesto in which Marx and Engels stated that “The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got.”, Julian Harney in anticipation of declared:
There is no foot of land, either in Britain or in the colonies, that you, the working class, can call your own…”

Harney delivered another speech as follows:
The cause of the people in all countries is the same – the cause of labour, enslaved and plundered labour... The men who create every necessary, comfort, and luxury, are steeped in misery. Working men of all nations, are not your grievances, your wrongs, the same? Is not your good cause, then, one and the same also? We may differ as to the means, or different circumstances may render different means necessary, but the great end – the veritable emancipation of the human race – must be the one aim and end of all."

The Fraternal Democrats in the manifesto of their aims it explained:
All men are brethren. We denounce all political and hereditary inequalities and distinctions of castes…We believe the earth, with all its natural productions, to be the common property of all…We believe that the present state of society, which permits its idlers and schemers to monopolise the fruits of the earth and, the production of industry, and compels the working class to labour for inadequate rewards, and even condemns them to social slavery, destitution, and degradation, to be essentially unjust…We condemn national hatreds which have hitherto divided mankind…Convinced that national prejudices have been, at all ages, taken advantage of by the people’s oppressors to set them tearing the throats of each other when they should have been working together for their common good, this society repudiates the term ‘foreigner.’ We recognise our fellow-men, without regard to country, as members of one family, the human race, and citizens of one commonwealth, the world.”

Julian Harney explained at another meeting arranged by the Fraternal Democrats:
Nationality has in other times been a necessity. The nationality saved mankind from universal and irredeemable slavery In our own day, too, the invoking of the spirit of nationality in some countries is indispensable to re-kindle life in those countries. …. I consider Poland and Italy to be two instances where the spirit of nationality may be invoked with beneficial results. I would, however, suggest to the Poles and Italians that mere freedom from the Russian and Austrian domination is not all that is necessary. We must have no King Czartoryski. We must have no kingdom of Italy such as the Italian deputies solicited of the Holy Alliance in 1815. We must have a sovereignty of the people in both countries, the education of the people, and at least the progressive social advance of the people, ever progressing until the workers own no masters but themselves, and enjoy the fruits of their labour. In other countries, such as England and France, there is no need to rekindle national feeling; on the contrary, the efforts of the good men in both countries should be directed to the abolition of the remaining prejudices which a barbarous cultivation of the spirit of nationality in days gone by called to existence. I appeal to the oppressed classes, of every land to unite with each other for the common cause. ‘Divide and conquer’ has been the motto of the oppressors. ‘Unite and triumph’ should be our counter-motto. Whatever national differences divide Poles, Russians, Prussians, Hungarians, and Italians, these national differences have not prevented the Russian, Austrian, and Prussian despots uniting together to maintain their tyranny; why, then, cannot countries unite for obtainment of their liberty? The cause of the people in all countries is the same—the cause of Labour, enslaved, and plundered…In each country the tyranny of the few and the slavery of the many are variously developed, but the principle in all is the same. In all countries the men who grow the wheat live on potatoes. The men who rear the cattle do not taste flesh-food. The men who cultivate the vine have only the dregs of its noble juice. The men who make clothing are in rags. The men who build the houses live in hovels. The men who create every necessary comfort and luxury are steeped in misery Working men of all nations, are not your grievances your wrongs, the same? Is not your good cause, then the same also? We may differ as to the means, or different circumstances may render different means necessary but the great end—the veritable emancipation of the human race—must be the one end and aim of all.”

In 1848 when British intervention against France looked likely, the Fraternal Democrats issued a manifesto which stated:
"Workingmen of Great Britain and Ireland, ask yourselves the question: why should you arm and fight for the preservation of institutions in the privileges of which you have no share...why should you arm and fight for the protection of property which you can only regard as the accumulated plunder of the fruits of your labour? Let the privileged and the property owners fight their own battles."

Harney insisted upon talking and writing about ends, about what was to replace the system that the Chartists wanted to sweep away: "justice to all...the abolition of classes... an order of things in which all shall labour and all enjoy...the welfare of the whole community..."

Fleeing to Safety

Conflict and violence, persecution and human rights violations are driving more and more men, women and children from their homes
More than 35,000 people were forced to flee their homes every day in 2018 - nearly one every two seconds - taking the world's displaced population to a record 71 million.
A total of 26 million people have fled across borders, 41 million are displaced within their home countries and 3.5 million have sought asylum - the highest numbers ever, according to UN refugee agency (UNHCR) figures.
While much of the focus has been on refugees - that's people forced to flee across borders because of conflict or persecution - the majority of those uprooted across the world actually end up staying in their own countries.
These people, who have left their homes but not their homeland, are referred to as "internally displaced people", or IDPs, rather than refugees.
IDPs often decide not to travel very far, either because they want to stay close to their homes and family, or because they don't have the funds to cross borders.
But many internally displaced people end up stuck in areas that are difficult for aid agencies to reach - such as conflict zones - and continue to rely on their own governments to keep them safe. Those governments are sometimes the reason people have fled, or - because of war - have become incapable of providing their own citizens with a safe place to stay.
For this reason, the UN describes IDPs as "among the most vulnerable in the world".

ncreasing numbers are also leaving home because of natural disasters, mainly "extreme weather events", according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), which monitors the global IDP population only. 
there were 17.2 million people who were forced to abandon their homes because of disasters, mainly "extreme weather events" such as storms and floods, the IDMC says.
The IDMC expects the number of people uprooted because of natural disasters to rise to 22 million this year, based on data for the first half of 2019.
Mass displacement by extreme weather events is "becoming the norm", its report says, and IDMC's director Alexandra Bilak has urged global leaders to invest more in ways of mitigating the effects of climate change.
Tropical cyclones and monsoon floods forced many in India and Bangladesh from their homes earlier this year, while Cyclone Idai wreaked havoc in southern Africa, killing more than 1,000 people and uprooting millions in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Large numbers of those driven from their home countries end up in cramped, temporary tent cities that spring up in places of need.
The biggest in the world is in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, where half a million Rohingya now live, having fled violence in neighbouring Myanmar.
The second largest is Bidi Bidi in northern Uganda, home to a quarter of a million people. The camp has seen many arrivals of South Sudanese fleeing civil war just a few hours north. 
Bidi Bidi, once a small village, has grown in size since 2016 and now covers 250 sq km (97 sq miles) - a third of the size of New York City.
But what makes Bidi Bidi different from most other refugee camps, is that its residents are free to move around and work and have access to education and healthcare. 
The Ugandan government, recognised for its generous approach to refugees, also provides Bidi Bidi's residents with plots of land, so they can farm and construct shelters, enabling them to become economically self-sufficient.
The camp authorities are also aiming to build schools, health centres and other infrastructure out of more resilient materials, with the ultimate aim of creating a working city.

Gender health Inequality

Women who suffer heart attacks are dying needlessly because they fail to recognise their symptoms and receive poorer care than men. says a British Heart Foundation report.
Over 10 years, between 2002 and 2013, more than 8,000 women in England and Wales died unnecessarily after a heart attack, it found.
In the 1960s, seven out of 10 hearts attacks in the UK proved fatal. Today, seven out of 10 people who have a heart attack will survive.
But women are missing out, says Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
"Heart attacks have never been more treatable.
"Yet women are dying needlessly because heart attacks are often seen as a man's disease, and women don't receive the same standard of treatment as men."
She said studies had "revealed inequalities at every stage of a woman's medical journey, and although complex to dissect, they suggest unconscious biases are limiting the survival chances of women".

mage copy

The BHF report says that each year around 35,000 women are admitted to hospital following a heart attack in the UK each year - an average of 98 women a day, or four per hour.
In the UK, women are twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease as from breast cancer.
The report found that:
  • women often delayed seeking help
  • they were more likely to receive an incorrect diagnosis and substandard treatment compared to men
  • risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure, increase heart attack chances more in women
  • the quality of aftercare was also substandard

Migrant workers cheated in Australia

In 2012, the Australian government established the Fair Entitlement Guarantee (FEG), which protects the employees of companies which go bankrupt. Australian citizens and permanent residents are entitled to up to 13 weeks of unpaid wages, as well as any unpaid annual leave and redundancy pay.

But migrant workers such as Cong receive nothing. More than 900,000 temporary migrants in Australia with work rights are excluded from the FEG, despite repeated calls that they are among the most vulnerable workers in Australia, at significant risk of exploitation by companies going into liquidation, and should be protected.

Matt Kunkel, the director of the Migrant Workers Centre told the Guardian some companies that employed large numbers of migrants were deliberately using liquidation as a tactic to avoid paying entitlements, or forcing workers into accepting smaller settlements. He said measures to counter phoenix companies – companies created “from the ashes” of another, taking over the business of a company that has been deliberately liquidated to avoid paying its debts – were not working.
“There is no accountability for employers who can shut up shop and open up again the following day with a new name, wiping away tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of worker entitlements. When caught underpaying staff, some employers have expressly threatened to go into liquidation as a tactic to force workers to accept a smaller settlement. This move is only available to employers because temporary migrant workers have no access to the FEG scheme to recover their unpaid entitlements.” Kunkel told the Guardian the Migrant Workers Centre had seen dozens of cases of migrant workers left with nothing by a liquidated company. “It is not unusual for individual claims to mount into the tens of thousands of dollars if they have a long period of service.”
Migrant workers, often vulnerable already, face the threat of homelessness, relying on charity to feed their families, or being driven into the black economy to survive, Kunkel told the Guardian. The Migrant Workers Centre has seen liquidations across industries, but particularly in those where the rates of migrant employees are high, such as hospitality, construction, labour hire, meat processing and waste recycling.
In March this year, the Migrant Workers Taskforce headed by former ACCC boss Prof Alan Fels recommended the FEG be extended to cover migrant workers, or an equivalent scheme established to protect them. The taskforce found it was “inequitable for migrant workers … to be treated differently to Australian citizens”.
“As taxpayers, they contribute to the cost of the Fair Entitlement Guarantee.”
The taskforce heard extending the FEG to migrant workers would cost about $20m, but that “these costs would be reduced, however, the more successful the government is in dealing with phoenix traders”.
The government accepted ‘in principle’ all 22 recommendations from the taskforce, saying “these workers have been doing the right thing by satisfying their taxation obligations, the government considers it reasonable that they, in turn, be protected by the FEG program”.
However, six months on, the government has not yet begun consultation on the issue.
Adjunct fellow at Swinburne University’s Centre for Urban Transitions, Peter Mares, said the continued exclusion of temporary migrant workers from the FEG was “unconscionable”. He estimates more than 900,000 migrant workers in Australia are potentially excluded from the FEG.
“The principle of the FEG is that a worker, who, through no fault of their own, loses out on an entitlement when a company goes bust, should be protected. There is no reason why a temporary migrant worker should be treated differently to a citizen or permanent resident. They have suffered the same loss...This is an example of what happens when you’re not represented, when you don’t have a political voice. Migrant workers are less likely to be represented by a trade union, at an even more basic democratic level you’re simply not represented, you don’t have a vote, you don’t have a local member. Your interests are going to count less.”

Australia's Arms Deals

Data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute on Monday shows Australia is now the world’s second biggest arms importer behind only Saudi Arabia, up from fourth the year prior.

Australia’s growing involvement in the international arms trade is frequently shrouded in secrecy. The government has routinely blocked freedom of information requests for documents on arms deals, including weapons exports to countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, by citing national security or potential harm to international relations. The secrecy has extended to major arms purchases – including of the new $50bn submarine fleet – which have helped make Australia one of the biggest arms importers in the world

From the horse's mouth

Wars. Poverty. Corruption. Inequality. Helplessness. Hopelessness.

The U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, at the opening the General Assembly proceedings, painted a bleak picture of this moment in history. “We are living in a world of disquiet,” Guterres said.“A great many people fear getting trampled, thwarted, left behind,” he said. “Machines take their jobs. Traffickers take their dignity. Demagogues take their rights. Warlords take their lives. Fossil fuels take their future.”

The problems of our times are extraordinary,” Ibraham Mohamed Solih, president of the Maldives, an Indian Ocean island nation threatened by the rising waters of climate change, said at the U.N. General Assembly.

We are living in times when the magnitude and number of lasting crises is constantly increasing,” said Igor Dodon, Moldova’s president.

We have had enough wars. We don’t want new wars,” said Iraqi President Barham Salih,

From Roch Marc Christian Kabore, president of Burkina Faso, came this understatement: “International news has been marked by tension.”

The challenges of planet and people are colliding with far-reaching consequences,” said Belize’s foreign minister, Wilfred Elrington.

The world today is not a peaceful place,” declared Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The number of conflicts on the planet has not declined and enmity has not weakened,” said his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. “It is getting harder to address these and many other challenges from year to year. The fragmentation of international community is only increasing.”

The 2020s could be remembered in history as a turning point, or as the moment when multilateralism lost its way,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said.

But a few policians are getting the message

There is only one common homeland and one human race. There is no Planet B or viable alternative planet on which to live,” said Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, an island nation in the Caribbean.

The Socialist Party offers a remedy to the many social ills of this sick society, not palliatives, but cures.

Change is one way or another.

The recent climate action summit in New York became a climate inaction summit. Nothing much happened other than many fine speeches promising action. Climatic disasters will continue. We can't expect anything too much at the next IPCC meeting in Chile in December. The prognosis is poor and the patient is clearly worsening.

The climate crisis is an unprecedented emergency. Capitalism and its governments' servants are pushing us ever closer to irreversible environmental tipping points. How we respond to the climate crisis will shape the future. We are now in a time of great importance. The choices we make now and in the near future matter a great deal to the future of humanity. It's time to leave gradualism and business as usual behind so we can begin to solve the climate crisis. The stakes could not be higher. Given the high stakes and the short timetable, it is imperative that we strive to maximise the efficacy of our actions to avert an imminent catastrophe. A socialist cooperative commonwealth is what we need if we are to prevent a global cataclysm and have environmental stability. The forces arrayed against socialists are powerful. But on our side we possess the human desire to survive.

In a society where goods are produced solely for profit, social needs are subordinate to the demands of profitability. Profit is the goal of production under capitalism. It is why production is undertaken and is what every firm, whether private or state-owned, must seek to obtain. Profits are created in the process of production in the form of surplus value and represent the unpaid labour of the producers, the value of what they produce over and above what they are paid as wages. Profits, however, are realised — converted into money (the form in which they really are profits) only on the market when the products in which they are embodied are sold.

All businesses are therefore engaged in a competitive struggle to sell their products, precisely in order to realise the profits that are embodied in them. To succeed in this struggle they must be competitive in the sense that their production costs must be low enough to allow them to sell their wares at the going price and at the same time make enough profits to be able to invest in more up-to-date cost-reducing equipment. Competition can oblige all companies to run fast just to stay still. To remain in the race for profits, an enterprise must stay competitive and to stay competitive they must continually increase productivity; to increase productivity they must make profits and accumulate them as capital invested in new more productive equipment. Too little, too late is neither a rational nor a satisfactory approach to protecting the environment and the people's and planet's health but it is the very most that the rigid economic laws of capitalism will ever permit.

The change from capitalism to socialism will bring a change in the relationship of society to nature. These go together. Capitalism exploits anything in nature it can get its hands on. This means that before society can control its impact on the natural world it must first have social control over its own actions. Before society can organise itself in harmony with natural systems, society must first be able to co-operate within itself. As human beings we are, of course, a part of nature, but we tend also to view nature as something separate from ourselves in that it provides us with our means of life. We may see land, seas, forests, river valleys and deserts as beautiful, spectacular landscapes and we may also be aware that they contain useful resources such as coal, oil, natural gas, various metals such as iron ore, copper, tin and many other materials. In a capitalist system such natural wealth, like labour and useful goods, also exists in an economic form. 

Land can be a useful resource for the production of food but in the eyes of agribusiness, land is a capital asset to be used for profit. Timber, oil or mining companies do not view forests, oil reserves or iron ore deposits simply as useful features of the natural environment. Companies view them as things to be exploited for private money gain. 

As capitalism has spread across the world to become the dominant world system, almost the entire planet has come to exist in an economic form in which labour works on natural resources for the profits of companies. We see this now in the growth of multi-national corporations. This exploitation of the natural world is driven by markets and the pursuit of profit in ways that cannot be democratically, or even rationally, controlled. 

The consequences are well known but we seem powerless to stop them. Every year millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere; farmland is saturated with industrial chemicals; forests are destroyed whilst deserts are created and seas are polluted. We live with a real danger that natural systems such as those of the biosphere are being damaged on a scale which threatens their self recovery. These are the vital systems on which human life depends. 

Care of the environment is not a technical problem. Our destructive use of the planet is caused by the motives, limitations and economic relationships of the capitalist system. By freeing labour from its economic exploitation by capital, socialism will also free the natural world from this same exploitation. With people cooperating to produce directly for needs a socialist system would be free to use methods which could ensure care of the environment. The fact that such methods might involve the use of more labour will not matter. Socialism will have an abundance of labour and will not be constrained by the profit motive and competition to use the least amounts of labour in production. The aim would be to organise production in ways which would minimise any negative affects on the environment. 

Socialism would have no difficulty in adopting a practice which is impossible under capitalism. This would be the practice of "conservation production". In a socialist system we could protect the balance of natural systems and would also conserve natural materials. The profit motive involves a plundering of natural resources against a background of market pressure to constantly renew capacity for sales. Cheap, shoddy articles and "throw-away" goods involve a massive loss of materials. Design for "built in obsolescence" is deliberately aimed at a short time of use. The rotting hulks of million of cars and other consumption goods are the ugly evidence of massive waste. No sane society would burn millions of tonnes of oil and coal in power stations without considering the alternative technology which already exists to produce electricity.
Socialism could avoid the loss and destruction of resources. Production facilities could be designed and produced in a way which would be conserve materials. Such design could aim at a minimum of wearing parts, which, with simple maintenance, could be easily replaced. The parts not subject to wear could be made from durable materials, and if for some reason equipment or goods became redundant, these would be available for other uses. The materials lost from wearing parts would be a small fraction of the total materials in use. This practice of conservation production would mean that once materials became socially available after extraction and processing, they would be permanently available for use in one form or another. A useful analogy is with gold. A small amount may be lost through accident, but because it is a precious metal most of the gold that has ever been mined throughout history still exists. For this reason it is said that gold mined by the early Egyptians is still in use. 

Conservation production would mean the bringing into use of means of production of all kinds, permanent installation and structures, durable consumer goods, all designed and produced to last for a long time and, even when redundant, capable of being re-cycled for other uses. In this way, materials would be available as a lasting resource.

Socialism will be a matter, not of just self-sufficiency but of abundance, of full and universal co-operation and participation in all that the world has to offer humanity.