Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Unfair Vaccine

 The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, voiced outrage that a number of rich countries were now vaccinating children and teenagers while poorer states had barely begun vaccinating health workers and their most vulnerable groups. Instead of offering jabs to young and healthy people, countries should give their doses to the Covax global vaccine-sharing scheme and thereby ensure that those most in need in all countries receive protection, he said.

Canada and the US are among countries that have authorised vaccines for use in adolescents in recent weeks.

In the face of this inequity in access, Tedros warned that the world would probably see more deaths this year than last, despite the arrival of vaccines. “We’re on track for the second year of this pandemic to be far more deadly than the first,” he said. “Saving lives and livelihoods with a combination of public health measures and vaccination – not one or the other – is the only way out.”

Vaccinate vulnerable global poor before children in rich countries, WHO says | Coronavirus | The Guardian

The Dope Peddlars

  Chris Zimmerman, the senior executive responsible for enforcing AmerisourceBergen’s legal obligation to halt opioid deliveries to pharmacies suspected of dispensing suspiciously large amounts of the drugs said the company culture was of the “highest calibre”.

Senior staff at AmerisourceBergen routinely disparaged communities blighted by the worst drug epidemic in the country’s history.

After Florida cracked down on pill mills in 2011, Zimmerman sent an email to colleagues. “Watch out George and Alabama,” he wrote, “there will be a max exodus of Pillbillies heading north.”

One email in 2011 included a rhyme built around “a poor mountaineer” named Jed who “barely kept his habit fed”. According to the verse, “Jed” travels to Florida to buy “Hillbilly Heroin”, the nickname for OxyContin, the drug manufactured by Purdue Pharma which kickstarted an epidemic that has claimed more than 500,000 lives.

Another rhyme described Kentucky as “OxyContinville” because of the high use of the drug in the poor rural east of the state. When Kentucky introduced new regulations to curb opioid dispensing, an AmerisourceBergen executive wrote in a widely circulated email: “One of the hillbilly’s must have learned how to read :-)”.

Another email contained a mocked up breakfast cereal box with the word “smack” under the words “OxyContin for kids”

This is the company that has a culture of the “highest calibre”?

Two West Virginia local authorities accuse the distributors of putting profit before lives and turning Cabell county into the “ground zero” of the epidemic. A data expert told the trial that over nine years the three distributors delivered about 100m opioid doses to Cabell county – which has a population of just 90,000. Drug distributors delivered 1.1 billion opioid painkillers to West Virginia between 2006 and 2014, even as the state’s overdose rate rose to the highest in the US.

AmerisourceBergen paid $16m to settle legal action by West Virginia over opioid deliveries but did not admit wrongdoing. The same year, McKesson paid a record $150m fine after the DEA accused it of breaking the law. Critics, including DEA officials, have accused the companies of regarding the fines as “the cost of doing business” and then carrying on as before.

Big pharma executives mocked ‘pillbillies’ in emails, West Virginia opioid trial hears | Opioids crisis | The Guardian

Socialism and Sustainability

 As the ecological crisis worsens it would be all too easy to slide into catastrophism, to present mankind’s future as an apocalypse, a social Armageddon. The environmental struggles needs an alternative social vision. The cause of our environmental problems are bad individual life-style choices and the strategy for change does not involve writing pleading letters to politicians to regulate corporate behaviour. These will do next to nothing about the economic system which requires profit expansion that drives it.

Capitalism maximises economic growth. Capitalism just attempts to grow regardless of any consequences which may be harmful to our environment. Competing businesses are concerned only with profit and capital accumulation, not with sustainability. Capitalism doesn’t care for neither either humanitarian  nor environmental welfare are central to its economic decision-making. The result is that both peoples and the planet are suffering. The global competition for profits is larger than any one individual or corporation or government. The system is unstoppable. Its inhumanity  is extreme. the poor are left to die from preventable hunger and curable diseases. The objective of capitalism is simply the achievement of profit and corporations will be environmentally friendly only it is profitable to be, or unprofitable not to be. Big business tramples over people’s needs. Capitalism fails to aid the desperately vulnerable if profit cannot be extracted or costs levelled elsewhere. Ethical investments and government guidance to consumers are inadequate in the face of the omniscient power of the capital economic laws. Business ventures which has the possibility of attracting high profits will always be a magnet for the stock-exchange share-holder regardless of any environmental downsides and they will lobby against any government regulation which is an obstacle to expected lucrative dividends. Divestment merely leaves the door open for others less scrupulous to make a financial return.

A commonly held misconception is that the World’s growing populations present one of the greatest ecological problems. Many in the environmentalist movement seem convinced that the amount of land and resources used by humans far outstrips the carrying capacity of the planet. Yet the apparent logic breaks down quickly. Peoples with the highest birth rates such as in Africa use a fraction of the world's resources, while a minority with low birth rates in the "developed" countries use most of those resources. The apparent “over-population problem isn't one of numbers but more of a distribution of wealth problem. Any ecological carrying capacity calculations do not account for scarcity and starvation. There is ample food presently being grown to sustain the world’s population yet it isn’t filling the bellies of the hungry who cannot afford to pay the prices being paid  to fatten livestock  and or to fill the tanks of cars with  ethanol fuel. Green activists who claim the focus must be on slowing population growth are ignoring the real and imminent threats to our planet.

“Green capitalism is based around making profits from renewable energy sources, cap and capture technological fixes, electric vehicles and the like, all on the premise on the belief that global warming can be stopped by changing dirty products for clean green ones. Capitalism’s stock-exchanges we’re assured, is capable of saving the planet by the miracle of the invisible hand of the market take hold of the steering wheel and trading in carbon credits. But as we expect it is the need for making profit which drives the whole process. People should not fall for market-inspired “solutions” as the lesser evil and less pain. Socialists go beyond the market-led illusory promises of a low-carbon economy.

A socialist  society would allow genuine possibilities for ecological sustainability. Without profit-seeking being the motivation for production, we will have eliminated the reason environmental safeguards are not put into place. Protecting the environment is often a commercial impracticality, a cost to be cut to the minimum. A world socialist revolution and  constructing a new society not dominated by the needs of capitalist accumulation is necessary where the human carbon footprint would be relatively benign. The struggle for socialism remains an urgent necessity

The Socialist Party faces up to the reality, difficult as it is, to prevent exceeding the tipping points and experiencing catastrophic runaway climate change in the future  it will be necessary to do away with capitalism, to overthrow it and replace production for profit with planned production for human need. The battle lines are drawn. There can be no truce and no alliances made with capitalists. The enemy who will sabotage all attempts to mitigate the threat of climate change is the capitalist class.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

A Socialist Letter In The National Press

The Metro national newspaper printed a letter by myself, an SPGB member, in their May 14th edition which follows: 

 I am puzzled at what Chris means by 'what [Boris] Johnson offers is his Tory brand of socialism'.

Socialism would be a worldwide moneyless system without leaders. It would be a world where goods and services are produced for need only.

There has never been a socialist country despite what is said. The Tories, Labour etc. are opposed to socialism.

Joel Thompson, via Email 



Yet another round of fighting that began in 1948 when the state of Israel was established, and a conflict the Palestinians have no chance whatsoever of militarily overcoming Israel.  The return of the Jewish diaspora saw a new forced exile, that of the Palestinians. The World Socialist Movement is always spontaneously on the side of the oppressed against the oppressors and the massive use of overwhelming force by the state of Israel clearly exposes it as the oppressor. But just because we sympathise with the victims of Israeli oppression does not mean that we favour the solutions popular among Palestinians.

 According to Israeli propaganda, the only way to stop rocket attacks on Israel from happening is to counter-attack with their far more lethal air attacks. The message drummed into Jewish-Israelis is that “we” have no choice but to defend ourselves against an enemy bent on driving “us” into the sea. Likewise, Palestinians are told that Israel is intent upon committing genocide upon them, if not physically but as a non-people.  The World Socialist Movement consider both Netanyahu’s government and Hamas are terrorist in the sense of targeting civilians. Israel uses terror on a much larger scale than Hamas, solely because it has a much greater military ability. Either side could avoid war by reaching compromises upon the other side’s political demands. The solution of the emergence of secular states is not easy to envisage in view of the prevalence of ethnic-supremacist, sectarian and even racist outlooks in both Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian society. The ethnic religious nationalism by orthodox Jewish zealots who are advocates the expulsion of all Arabs from “Greater Israel”, has resulted in an dislike and distrust of Jews by many Palestinians. The hopes of Jewish workers of a life free from persecution have not been answered by the setting up of the state of Israel.

This year has seen two well-informed reports from reliable sources, B’tselem and Human Rights Watch, that Israel has transformed itself into an apartheid state. It confirms what was said in 2003 when former Italian prime minister Massimo D'Alema that during a meeting with former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon told him that apartheid South Africa’s “Bantustan” system was the best solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinian people can perhaps be forgiven for perceiving their struggle to be one against a Middle-Eastern form of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

It is easy to see why the poverty-stricken  in the Palestinian refugee camps might view the promise of Palestinian self-government as an answer. Sadly, like the Zionists, Palestinians have fallen for  a dangerous myth about the past; in their case, the myth that Palestine belonged to them. It was no such thing: most Palestinians struggled along on tiny plots of land, under the weight of massive debts, exploited by a class of landlords. Palestine did not belong to the Palestinians, any more than modern Israel belongs to working-class Israelis. In 1930, the average rural family in Palestine was in debt to the tune of £P27, which was approximately such a family’s yearly income. On 1936 figures, one-fifth of one per cent of the population owned a quarter of the land! Clearly pre-Israeli Palestine did not belong to the Palestinian peasants: in 1948 they were driven off land which was not theirs.


 They have yet to realise it, but the workers of the region regardless of the  national boundaries where they now live — have an identity of interest.  Let’s hope that they come to recognise their common interests and reject the nationalism and religious bigotry that engender false divisions, violence and racial hatred. When it comes to the nationalist and religious fervour, there is nothing at all with which we as socialists can identify, for both are abstractions that have imbued the workers of the region with a false consciousness that prevents them identifying their real class interests.  While the focus is understandably  on the genuine  grievances of the Palestinian against oppression, we need to add that the majority of Israel’s Jewish population  also live lives of relative poverty, and within a system that depends upon exploitation and division. The real conflict is yet to beginthe class war of the master class and their wage-slaves.

We appeal to workers to organise consciously and politically and to use the power at their disposal to head off the threatening bloodshed, and secure the space we need in order to build a world of peace and stability. As ever, we appeal to the workers of all lands to join with us in campaigning for a system of society where there are no leaders, no classes, no states or governments, no borders, no force or coercion; a world where the earth’s natural and industrial resources are commonly owned and democratically controlled and where production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the benefit of all; a world of free access to the necessaries of life.  Socialists aspire to is a world without national frontiers in which free movement is possible and where all people live together as equals. Socialists are sickened by the violence of the Gaza conflict. The slaughter in Gaza underlines yet again the urgent need to work not for  a “two-state” solution or “one-state”, but the “no-state” solution as the only one that can ever give permanent peace. We sympathise with the suffering of our fellow workers, whatever their ethnic origin. It is always they who suffer the brunt of their masters’ wars. No longer obsessed with ethnic conflict, “Jews” and “Palestinians” will be able to refocus on the social, economic and ecological problems spawned by the “normal” peacetime functioning of capitalism. A space for socialist ideas will open up in this small corner of the world.

Uyghurs - Pawns in the Great Powers Game

The  evidence of the Chinese government’s persecution of the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims is abundant yet many "anti-imperialists" are in denial, preferring the enemy of my enemy is my friend maxim and offer support for China.

According to this article, the Uighurs are wronged four times over: by China’s oppression, by American imperialist cooptation, by left-wing denialism, and by Muslim leaders’ dereliction.

Not only do we have the United States and its allies decrying China’s human rights violations, and China and its allies denying such violations, and reminding the West of its own abuses of human rights, we now have a group of Western “anti-imperialists” siding with China simply because they feel whatever the US says is suspect, and therefore what China claims is not. World leaders usually regarded as advocates for oppressed Muslims, such as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, have also signed on to what might be called the “Uighur Exception,” in order to avoid offending the Chinese government and jeopardising the development dollars on which they depend.

For many, the Uighur’s plight is yet another card to play in its China-bashing, along with Hong Kong and COVID-19. In a remarkable reversal, Trump went from lauding mass Uighur internment as the “right thing to do” to labelling it as genocide – all while implementing a Muslim ban and incarcerating thousands of migrants in a vast “concentration camp” system of the US’s own. Biden has maintained the bipartisan consensus in accusing China of genocide – having previously served as vice president in the Obama administration, a pioneer in the preemptive collective criminalisation of Muslim communities in the name of counter-radicalisation. Even one-time anti-Uighur agitators like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have joined the bandwagon of performative allyship with the Uighurs against China’s “modern genocide.” What a change in tune from 2009, when Gingrich denigrated the Uighurs as misogynists, “trained mass killers,” and “terrorists,” justifying their wrongful capture and torture by the US at Guantanamo Bay.

Human rights organisations have long been consistent in exposing and opposing China’s persecutory policies against the Uighurs, even when conflicting with the American empire’s realpolitik.

Amnesty International’s first report (PDF) on atrocities against the Uighurs is from 1992, documenting a “pattern of human rights violations [that] appears to have emerged in Xinjiang since 1989,” including secret detentions, extrajudicial executions, and suppression of religious expression.

Human Rights Watch has been calling on the US government to press China on its treatment of the Uighurs since 1998, in the face of then-President Bill Clinton’s reticence for the sake of augmenting US-China trade.

 In 2004, Georgetown University Xinjiang specialist James Millward authoritatively deconstructed China’s sensationalist and unsubstantiated projections of the Uighur “terrorist” threat – the basis of the US’s designation of the Uighur group East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a terrorist organisation in 2002 to woo the Chinese government’s support for the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Yet some on the left continue to reject reports of China’s oppression and repression as an American imperialist propaganda ploy. The China sympathisers discredit those drawing attention to the Uighur’s persecution by questioning their motives and exposing their association with various anti-China institutions yet all the while ignoring the vast body of evidence.

This includes:

  • 1. Census data showing the long-term demographic replacement of Indigenous Uighurs with the dominant Han ethnic group – encouraged by government incentives for Han migration and settlement.
  • 2. Statistics revealing a precipitate decline in Xinjiang birth rates by 33 percent (from 15.88 percent to 10.69 percent), and population growth rates by 46 percent (from 11.40 percent to 6.13 percent), between 2017 and 2018 – misrepresented in the Grayzone as a decrease of only 5 percent, even as it excoriates its ideological opponents for “statistical malpractice” and “data abuse”.
  • 3. Counterterrorism laws and “de-extremification” regulations targeting religious practices such as wearing a veil and growing a beard.
  • 4. Leaked lists of detainees, such as the Aksu and Karakax lists, detailing the extrajudicial detention of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims for such “offences” as studying the Quran, travelling abroad, or being “generally untrustworthy”.
  • 5. Procurement and budget documents testifying to the prison-like securitisation and weaponisation of internment centres, publicly defended as “vocational training” facilities yet equipped with electric cattle prods, riot gear, tear gas, stun guns, specialised interrogation chairs, and spiked clubs.
  • 6. A government-issued “telegram” specifying procedures for the operation and expansion of these internment centres, methods of political and psychological indoctrination, and instructions for maintaining “strict secrecy” and “preventing escapes”.
  • 7. State “bulletins” indicating the scale of detention – with 15,683 people reportedly rounded up into camps from four prefectures over the course of one week in 2017 alone.
  • 8. Official policies such as Physicals for All, mandating mass biometric and DNA collection, and Becoming Family, planting government officials to live with and monitor Uighurs in their homes.
  • 9. Policy documents laying out plans for the mass institutionalisation of Uighur children in residential schools, and the mass sterilisation of Uighur women – otherwise known in Chinese state officialese as “baby-making machines”.
  • 10. Official government-issued White Papers and other propaganda materials erasing Uighur peoplehood, indigeneity, and identity, and describing the large-scale transfer of Uighurs out of their indigenous territory for labour programs.
  • 11. Statements by public officials ordering to “break [the Uighurs’] roots, break their lineage, break their connections, and break their origins,” and referring to Islam as a “malignant tumour,” a “virus,” and a “weed” – evidence of an intent to destroy the Uighur people as a people, defined as genocidal under international law.
Rather than disavowing these practices, the Chinese state has  attempted to justify them – “justifications” uncritically reproduced by pro-China commentators. 

Mass internment is pitched as “countering terrorism and extremism.” Imprisoned Uighur academics are cast as alleged promoters of “separatism” and “violent militancy” – no proof provided. Forced labour programmes are explained away as “poverty reduction”. Evidence of coercive sterilisation is packaged as “family planning” and “free healthcare.” Child separation is chalked up to “abandonment” by “irresponsible parents”.

The liberal left website, Grayzone, comes under heavy criticism as being complicit in the misinformation and disinformation war of words. 

As the article says  "...China’s policies aren’t the antithesis of Western colonialism, but its mirror image....Trapped between China’s abusive assimilationism, American political opportunism, and left-wing denialism, it is the Uighurs who are suffering. Abandoning them is not anti-imperialism.."

Just a reminder of what has been written in the Socialist Standard: