Tuesday, June 30, 2020

America First

The US has bought up virtually all the stocks for the next three months of one of the two drugs proven to work against Covid-19, leaving none for the UK, Europe or most of the rest of the world. Buying up the world’s supply of remdesivir is not just a reaction to the increasing spread and death toll. The US has taken an “America first” attitude throughout the global pandemic.
Experts and campaigners are alarmed both by the US unilateral action on remdesivir and the wider implications, for instance in the event of a vaccine becoming available. The Trump administration has already shown that it is prepared to outbid and out-manoeuvre all other countries to secure the medical supplies it needs for the US.
“They’ve got access to most of the drug supply of remdesivir, so there’s nothing for Europe,” said Dr Andrew Hill, senior visiting research fellow at Liverpool University. “This is the first major approved drug, and where is the mechanism for access?” said Dr Hill. “Once again we’re at the back of the queue.” There was no mechanism to ensure a supply outside the US. “Imagine this was a vaccine,” he said. “That would be a firestorm. But perhaps this is a taste of things to come.”
The drug, which was invented for Ebola but failed to work, is under patent to Gilead, which means no other company in wealthy countries can make it. The cost is around $3,200 per treatment of six doses, according to the US government statement.
In May, French manufacturer Sanofi said the US would get first access to its Covid vaccine if it works. Its CEO, Paul Hudson, was quoted as saying: “The US government has the right to the largest pre-order because it’s invested in taking the risk,” and, he added, the US expected that “if we’ve helped you manufacture the doses at risk, we expect to get the doses first”. Later it backtracked under pressure from the French government.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau warned there could be unintended negative consequences if the US continued to outbid its allies. “We know it is in both of our interests to work collaboratively and cooperatively to keep our citizens safe,” he said. 
The Trump administration has also invoked the Defense Production Act to block some medical goods made in the US from being sent abroad.
Hill said there was a way for the UK to secure supplies of this and other drugs during the pandemic, through what is known as a compulsory licence, which overrides the intellectual property rights of the company. That would allow the UK government to buy from generic companies in Bangladesh or India, where Gilead’s patent is not recognised.
The UK has always upheld patents, backing the argument of pharma companies that they need their 20-year monopoly to recoup the money they put into research and development. But other countries have shown an interest in compulsory licensing.

Socialist Standard No. 1391 July 2020

No. 1391 July 2020

index link

Socialist Standard No. 1391 July 2020 PDF

Click on image for Contents page .

Torture in Yemen

Between May 2016 and April 2020, Mwatana, a leading Yemeni human rights group, documented 1,605 cases of arbitrary detention, 770 cases of enforced disappearance, and 344 cases of torture carried out by all of Yemen’s warring parties.

The Houthi rebels were responsible for the majority of cases, with 904 of the arbitrary or abusive detentions, 353 of enforced disappearance, 138 of torture and 27 deaths in detention, the report’s authors found. The Yemeni government, including the Islah party, were responsible for 282 detentions, 90 disappearances, 65 cases of torture and 14 deaths in detention, Mwatana said.

Deprivation of food and water, beatings and electrocutions were common practices in all 11 unofficial centres under investigation, Mwatana said. UAE forces and affiliated armed groups were responsible for some of the most shocking treatment of prisoners, including being hung upside down for hours and sexual torture such as the burning of genitals.

The highest number of detentions was documented at the Houthi-run Security and Intelligence Agency in Sana’a, formerly Yemen’s Political Security Agency, where former detainees told Mwatana people were subjected to torture including nail removal, severe beatings and electric shocks. 

At the 7 October prison in Abyan, controlled by the Security Belt, detainees faced some of the worst conditions outlined in the report, including a lack of food and water, being forced to drink urine, beatings with hammers, stress positions and sexual torture. Witnesses said detainees’ bodies were dumped in the yard of a nearby hospital.

The report only highlights the case of one female detainee, who miscarried as a result of her treatment in Hodeidah by the Houthis. It is extremely difficult for women to come forward with allegations of mistreatment and rape in the conservative country, but reporting by the Associated Press suggests forced disappearances and abuse of female activists is rife in rebel-held areas.


America - 121 out of 163 countries for peacefulness

The 2020 Global Peace Index is now in its fourteenth year of ranking 163 states and territories according to their level of peacefulness. It defines peace “in terms of the harmony achieved by the absence of violence or the fear of violence… described as Negative Peace.” Its complement is Positive Peace, which are the “attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies.”

The GPI measures peace in three domains: Societal Safety and Security, Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict, and Militarization.

Iceland is ranked first in peacefulness, a position it has held since 2008, while Afghanistan is ranked the least peaceful country in the world for the second year in a row. Afghanistan, after trillions in spending and two decades of American military presence — the longest war in U.S. history — has the highest total number of deaths from internal conflict in the world.

The United States is ranked 121st in peacefulness out of 163 countries for the second year in a row. Culturally similar, Canada, is ranked the 6th most peaceful country in the world.

The United States’ military spending accounts for 15 percent of all U.S. federal spending and more than half of the discretionary budget. Only North Korea, Russia, and Israel are higher on the GPI’s “militarization” ranking. 

The report uses seven indicators to measure the degree of militarization of a society, including military expenditure as a percentage of GDP and the volume of arms exports and imports per 100,000 people. Though the militarization domain did improve globally in the last year due to reductions in military expenditure, the U.S., Russia, Germany, France, and China still account for 75 percent of total weapons exports, while the U.S. alone accounts for 32 percent.


Big Pharma Price Gouging

Gilead Sciences that it will charge U.S. hospitals around $3,120 per privately insured patient for a treatment course of remdesivir, a drug which has proven modestly effective at speeding Covid-19 recovery times. Gilead's pricing works out to around $520 per dose for non-government buyers like hospitals. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States is "the only developed country where Gilead will charge two prices"—one for government buyers ($390 per dose) and one for non-government buyers like hospitals ($520 per dose). The typical remdesivir treatment course consists of around six doses.

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review research show Gilead could still make a profit by pricing remdesivir at $310 per course.

"Gilead has priced at several thousand dollars a drug that should be in the public domain. For $1 per day, remdesivir can be manufactured at scale with a reasonable profit," Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen's Access to Medicines Program said in a statement. "Gilead did not make remdesivir alone. Public funding was indispensable at each stage, and government scientists led the early drug discovery team. He called the price "an offensive display of hubris and disregard for the public"

Universal Credit - Sanctions to return

In March the government announced that the requirement for people receiving universal credit to prove that they are looking for work – which would currently apply to more than 2 million people on the benefit – would be paused for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government has now refused to extend the suspension on benefit sanctions beyond June.

 Lifting the ban now threatens to place millions of people in an “untenable situation”.  People who were shielding or suffered from underlying health conditions would face an “uphill struggle” to find suitable work – and may potentially accept jobs that place their health at risk in order to avoid benefit sanctions.

There were also mounting concerns that ongoing disruption to schools and childcare options mean people may need to care for their children during the time they could otherwise spend working or applying for jobs, which could result in them being sanctioned.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, told The Independent that it was “way too soon” to end the suspension of conditionality and sanctions for people claiming universal credit.
“The assumption that people need to be pushed into job search through the threat of reducing their already low income is ridiculous when what they really need is support.” 
Brian Dow, deputy chief executive at Rethink Mental Illness, echoed her concerns, and added, “Given the sharp rise in unemployment and substantial fall in job vacancies, reinstating it would only exacerbate the anxiety and stress of those who have been supported by universal credit during the pandemic, including those managing long term health conditions or a severe mental illness.”

Monday, June 29, 2020

Genocide of the Uighur?

China is forcing women to be sterilised or fitted with contraceptive devices in Xinjiang in an apparent attempt to limit the population of Muslim Uighurs, according to a new report by China scholar Adrian Zenz. 
 "Since a sweeping crackdown starting in late 2016 transformed Xinjiang into a draconian police state, witness accounts of intrusive state interference into reproductive autonomy have become ubiquitous," the report says.
It has prompted international calls for the United Nations to investigate.
 Zenz's report was based on a combination of official regional data, policy documents and interviews with ethnic minority women in Xinjiang. It alleges that Uighur women and other ethnic minorities are being threatened with internment in the camps for refusing to abort pregnancies that exceed birth quotas. It also says women who had fewer than the two children legally permitted were involuntarily fitted with IUDs, while others were coerced into receiving sterilisation surgeries.
According to Mr Zenz's analysis of the data, natural population growth in Xinjiang has declined dramatically in recent years, with growth rates falling by 84% in the two largest Uighur prefectures between 2015 and 2018 and declining further in 2019.
"This kind of drop is unprecedented, there's a ruthlessness to it," Zenz told the Associated Press. "This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs."
Former detainees in internment camps in Xinjiang said they were given injections that stopped their periods, or caused unusual bleeding consistent with the effects of birth control drugs.
According to a report by the Associated Press published on Monday, women in Xinjiang have faced exorbitant fines and threats of internment for breaching childbearing limits.
"Overall, it is likely that Xinjiang authorities are engaging in the mass sterilization of women with three or more children," the report said.
The Interparliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an international cross-party group of politicians including Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and US Republican senator Marco Rubio, called on the UN to "establish an international, impartial, independent investigation into the situation in the Xinjiang region".
"A body of mounting evidence now exists, alleging mass incarceration, indoctrination, extrajudicial detention, invasive surveillance, forced labor, and the destruction of Uyghur cultural sites, including cemeteries, together with other forms of abuse," the statement said. "The world cannot remain silent in the face of unfolding atrocities. Our countries are bound by solemn obligations to prevent and punish any effort to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group 'in whole or in part'."
Zenz's report characterises the alleged campaign of coercive birth control in Xinjiang as part of a "demographic campaign of genocide" against the Uighurs.
"These findings provide the strongest evidence yet that Beijing's policies in Xinjiang meet one of the genocide criteria cited in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide," he writes.
Joanne Smith Finley, a China expert at Newcastle University in the UK, said the alleged programme was "genocide, full stop".
"It's not immediate, shocking, mass-killing, on-the-spot type genocide, but it's slow, painful, creeping genocide," she told the AP. "These are direct means of genetically reducing the Uighur population."

The time for change has come

People have had enough. People have been standing up for what's right. Those who would oppress others and divide us against each other for the sake of profit and power are being challenged. We are beset by wars, climate chaos, disease, racism and massive inequality. It is time to press the reset button. We're at a turning point. We cannot go back to "normal". Our normal was not normal by any standards. It's time for us to be part of the solution to the multiple crises we are suffering. The pandemic, the constant wars and global warming are forcing great changes in the lives of people all over the Earth. No part of our lives is immune. All these crises are caused by an outdated system that prioritise profits over well-being. We cannot continue to ride on the merry-go-round of consuming throw-away goods, consuming more and more, powered by the gigantic global advertising, media and entertainment industries. However, protests and demonstrations alone will not bring the change society desperately needs. Let’s be clear, to ignite a global vision, to inspire hope, it's not enough to call out injustice. We require a revolution. Exploitation and oppression are everywhere. Socialism is about building a pathway to a truly egalitarian, democratic and ecologically sustainable planet.

It is not the question of violence that divides the revolutionary from the reformist. Reformism, that is attempts to modify the exploitative relations characteristic of capitalism, still remains reformism no matter how violent the means embraced to that end; and revolutionary activity, that is, activity directed to the termination of capitalist exploitation once and for all, still remains revolutionary even though conducted by the methods allowed by the capitalist state. The immediate task with which socialists are faced is to popularise socialist ideas and understanding with the aim of developing a political party strong enough to effect working class emancipation. As long as conditions permit, we shall pursue this course without deviating, but should subsequent developments unhappily render socialist propaganda illegal, we shall certainly do what we can, but let no one imagine for a moment that theatrical and heroic declarations before the event are in any sense a guarantee of effective action after it. The unpalatable, but nevertheless inescapable fact is that in modern society the suppression of those democratic facilities to which all politically conscious workers quite rightly attribute enormous importance, can only occur because of the approval or indifference of the masses. A working class which allows its political life generally to be determined for it by an absolutist government—no matter what that government may call itself nor what its alleged motives may be—is certainly not the kind of working class to provide a background favourable to socialist propaganda. Socialism will not be the work of a working class prepared to accept tutelage from any quarter; it can only be the work of one that is self-reliant, critical, and politically informed. From this it should be obvious that if freedom of speech, of the press and of association is suppressed, there is precious little that socialists can do about it until developments—notably the corruption which is an inevitable by-product of dictatorship—produce the desire and the determination in the working class to regain the right to openly discuss and consider political affairs. To think otherwise is not only to fool oneself, but to fool others as well.

There can be no socialism until a socialist majority have organised politically for and have achieved the conquest of the machinery of government.  Socialism is the only solution, and that independent democratic political action is the method. If the workers do not like the effects of this system upon themselves, it is up to them to change it to one which is based upon the common ownership of the means of production, i.e., socialism.

Socialism involves the abolition of the wages system. This entails that our ability to use our labour power is no longer subjected to the power of the capital social relationship, to be used only when capital sees a profit. Rather our labour power becomes ours, to be used voluntarily as part of our relationship with others, working in association towards our goals—to production for use to meet our needs.

Socialism also involves:
 · The abolition of useless production, freeing up of millions of people from producing products and services necessary only for capitalism.
· Social decision-making on what is useful—no tat, built-in obsolescence or environmental damage.
· Breaking up of the division of labour, having multiple roles in society.
· Voluntary work—from each according to their ability; less emphasis on efficiency so people can work as much as their competence allows
· Co-operation between user and provider: not a commodity relationship; providers doing it because they want to—so less likelihood of abuse; no power differential between providers and users but partners; emphasis on building competencies.

The case for socialism as more than an opposition to the economic exploitation of the working class. Throughout their writings, Marx and Engels criticised capitalism because of its effects on the working class as human beings.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Online Discussions

For anyone who hasn't signed up to Discord yet, or hasn't visited lately, here's what's coming up (apart from EC and various branch meetings).

Sunday 28 June 3.00pm BST


‘In spite of a widespread feeling of complacency that suggests that the woman question is answered, and the battle is won, what started in the 60s as a movement for liberation has been sidetracked. What women have been duped into settling for is a spurious version of equality’ (Cover notes from *The Whole Woman*, 1999)

Tues 30 June, 3.00pm BST

The FAQ Workshop


The all-time favourite objection, with a million possible responses, but which ones are most likely to work?

Thursday 2 July, 3.00pm BST

The FAQ Workshop


We don’t know what will happen during the revolution, but a huge factor is what the army does. How do we persuade people that the armed forces are not an insurmountable barrier to socialism?

Friday 3 July, 7.30 BST



Oliver Bond gives some background and analysis on the recent international protests.

Tuesday 7 July, 3.00pm BST

The FAQ Workshop


Why is socialist politics apparently so gendered? What could we do to balance the scales? This is a question under active internal study in the Party, and the input of members could be crucial.

Thursday 9 July, 3.00pm BST

The FAQ Workshop


Socialism can’t feasibly be a free-for-all where anyone can do just anything. Whether you call them ‘laws’ or simply ‘agreements’, there would have to be a framework of social codes, but how would it be determined and, more to the point, how would it be enforced?

Friday 10 July, 7.30 BST



Bill Martin offers some salient facts on this curious 4th International character, including among other things his alleged fascination with UFOs and the idea that revolution could be started by aliens.

Sunday 12 July 3.00pm


Two of the three utopian socialist classics were written by women, and we look at the life and work of one of these, Marge Piercy, poet, feminist and author of *Woman on the Edge of Time (1976)*

Tuesday 14 July, 3.00pm BST

The FAQ Workshop


Anyone who has ever tried and failed to wade through Capital knows that this book was the biggest favour Marx ever did - for the capitalist class! If workers had to thoroughly learn Marxian economics to be real socialists, the revolution would be sunk before it left port. Just how much do workers need to know?

Thursday 16 July, 3.00pm BST

The FAQ Workshop


It takes iron discipline and a heart of flint to resist the lure of puppy-dog charity appeals, and socialists rarely have either. How can we square our political opposition to charities with our need to feel like human beings in an inhumane world?

Friday 17July, 7.30 BST



This is to explain procedures and standing orders for Conference the next day and advertise the New Members handbook that will go out with the ballot.

Sat 18 July,10am – 5pm


*Note – this is to be held on Zoom for convenience. Please ask Admin for special invite*

Tuesday 21 July, 3.00pm BST

The FAQ Workshop


Once mooted as a regular comedy column in the Standard, this left-train-spotter’s paradise is an endless source of potential fun, if we made the effort to follow it. What do you think, should we get all nosey and gossipy with the left wing, or stay out of their seamy and steamy little squabbles?

Thursday 23 July, 3.00pm BST

The FAQ Workshop


The ultimate crushing retort, because it speaks to so many deep-seated convictions. But there are so many killer comebacks to this it’s worth compiling a list, so bring along your favourite.

Wednesday 22 July, 8.30 BST


Paul Bennett talks about the renegade Pankhurst who had bigger ideas than just votes for rich women (Zoom meeting)

Friday 24 July, 7.30 BST



Mike F walks us through the Streets of London, and elsewhere.

Sunday 26 July 3.00pm


The astonishing story of the illiterate escaped slave who served as spy, armed scout and officer on the Underground Railroad during the American Civil War, and became one of America’s most famous icons of female black equality.

Tuesday 28 July, 3.00pm BST

The FAQ Workshop


Workers are strongly encouraged to stay out of the kitchen and instead go for nutrition-free microwave meals, sugar-loaded treats and expensive take-aways, and then they’re made to feel bad for being self-indulgent and obese. Meanwhile healthy and ethical eating are seen as predominantly ‘middle class’ preoccupations. What can class-conscious socialists do to break through these mutually exclusive mindsets in order to deal with what is at base is a class issue?

Thursday 30 July, 3.00pm BST

The FAQ Workshop


How many times have you wanted to trundle out a killer quote by Lenin which would hole your Leninist opponent below the waterline – only to find you can’t remember the quote or the source? Why don’t we put together a list of six of the best? Why not do Trotsky and Stalin too, while we’re at it?

Right-wing Terror

 A Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)  report released last week, the Escalating Terrorism Problem in the United States, CSIS analyzes 25 years of domestic terrorism incidents and finds that the majority of attacks and plots have come from the far right.

The report says “the majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994, and the total number of rightwing attacks and plots has grown significantly during the past six years”, with the far right launching two-thirds of attacks and plots in 2019, and 90% of those in 2020.
The report adds: “Far-right terrorism has significantly outpaced terrorism from other types of perpetrators.”
The CSIS study came during a new wave of terror attacks and plots from white supremacist and anti-government extremists.
The report shows the far left has been an increasingly negligible source of attacks since the mid 2000s. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The UN - Fit for Purpose?

The United Nations deputy secretary-general  Amina Mohammed  said their had been a distinct lack of solidarity regarding the coronavirus outbreak and told DW that a number of countries displayed a "me first" attitude, when the world "needed to come together."

Mohammed recognized that nations needed to look after their own interests first, before helping others, but now the time has come to work together. She said: "We understand that you need to put the oxygen mask on before you can reach out and help others," but now it is time to "help in that global response."

"But today, we have so many more conflicts. We have different needs. And so I think that one needs to look at being fit for purpose. And I would argue that we could do better."

Yemen - the suffering continues

 UNICEF, the UN children's fund, said the number of malnourished children in the country could reach 2.4 million - a 20 percent increase - by the end of the year. 

 9.58 million children do not have sufficient access to safe water, sanitation or hygiene, putting them at a greater risk of infection.

7.8 million do not have access to education amid the school closures.

 80 percent of the country is in need of humanitarian assistance. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the situation

Friday, June 26, 2020

Pandemic Cannot Curb Russia's Military Show

Thousands of spectators watched the traditional display of the military in Russia.(The Metro, 25-6-20)

        President Putin who claims Russia has passed the most dangerous stage of the pandemic didn't wear a mask and didn't mention the pandemic. 

         The official death toll is 8,513 but the country has reported more than 7,000 new cases.

          Russia has the third highest number of infections worldwide.

Some 14,000 soldiers--not in masks--took part in the parade along with a  flyover of helicopters and fighter planes. 

          This happened after the usual date of May 9th was postponed because of the coronavirus.

           All this happened ahead of a national vote on the constitution that could allow President Puitn to remain in office until 2036.

           The State Capitalist Russian government continues to show its military strength which protects the interests of the few--the Capitalist class.

           We want a world without leaders and the military etc. that oppose The Working Class throughout the world.

When the game will be up

When you put the mark of the illiterate on the ballot paper you give up all your power and rights, you hand them to whoever is the winner and forms the new Government.
The Government then acts in the best interests of society as a whole, chiefly the propertied 1% class. They (the government) then can, hit you over the head with a police baton, fire tear gas at you, suffocate you to death, shoot you dead, harass you because of the color of your skin, put you in jail even if you’ve not  committed a crime, and sentence you to death.
When we stop being philanthropists, handing over the wealth we produce to the idle parasite robber capitalist the capitalists. 
When you stop acquiescing.
When you inscribed on your placards and banners: “Abolition of the wages system “
When you vote for yourself for a change. The game will be up.

India, Inequality and the Pandemic

World Health Organization data shows that India's government spent $63 per person on healthcare for its 1.3 billion people in 2016. By comparison, China spent $398 for each of its 1.4 billion people in 2016, according to the WHO.

 176 million people still live on less than $1.90 a day, and experts say the pandemic is shining a spotlight on the country's vast inequalities in everything from employment rights to healthcare.

"Epidemics usually are good mirrors of society and country," said Pratik Chakrabarti, a history of science professor at the University of Manchester, adding that this one "has exposed how precarious people's lives are" in India.

The pandemic has hit India's poor the hardest, from the disease itself to the economic and social impact of a recently lifted nationwide lockdown, said Ramanan Laxminarayan, an epidemiologist and economist who directs the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in Washington.
"The lockdown primarily protected the rich because they could afford to stay home. The poor couldn't so bore the brunt of the disease," he said. "This is just a grossly unfair situation."

The daily rates for coronavirus treatment in India's biggest private hospital chains range from about 25,000 rupees ($333) for a bed in the general ward to 72,000 rupees ($960) for a bed in the ICU with a ventilator. Other private health providers are selling home care packages for people with mild or moderate symptoms that for about $25 a day include twice-daily remote monitoring by a nurse, medicine deliveries and a guaranteed ambulance, should the need arise. For those in need of isolation - say the spouse of a virus patient - the Delhi state government has ordered a slew of hotels to convert rooms for the job. Room prices, which include daily care, cost about 10,000 rupees ($132) a night - again, a sum out of reach for most people.


Going hungry during lockdown

Government figures have revealed that lack of money forced millions of people to go hungry or rely on food banks during the first few weeks of the coronavirus lockdown, with families and young adults worst affected.
Households with children, people with health issues and people aged 16-24 were most likely to either to skip meals or use food charities to feed themselves or their family in April and May, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) data showed.
The FSA said this meant between 6.3 million and 7.7 million adults had reduced meal portion sizes or missed meals because of lack of money, and between 2.7 million and 3.7 million adults sought charity food or used a food bank.
These are the first official figures showing the scale of the problem. 
 "The Covid-19 crisis has made it much harder to access food,” said Dr Rachel Loopstra, lecturer in nutrition at King’s College London.
It is understood there was “push back” over the FSA’s findings from ministers when they were presented to the government’s vulnerabilities task force – but the FSA was adamant they should be published.
The first set of published results show nearly one in six people reported being food insecure in May – meaning they went without meals or cut down meal sizes, a proportion that rose to just under a quarter of families with children, and a third of 16-24 year olds.
Nearly one in five (19%) in five adults with a physical or mental health issue had been food insecure in May, the survey found. Older people aged 55-75 were least likely to struggle to put meals of the table – just 4% skipped meals in May.
Emma Revie, the chief executive of the Trussell Trust, which reported an 89% rise in food bank use in April, said: “It is shocking that 7% of the population of Northern Ireland, Wales and England have been forced to use a food bank and charities during the pandemic.”