Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Consumer prices in France and Spain resumed their upward trend in February, driven by higher food and energy costs, official statistics showed on Tuesday.
In France, the consumer price index increased by 6.2%, up from 6.0% in January, according to preliminary data from the statistics bureau Insee.
The report noted that food inflation edged higher to 14.5% from 13.3%, services prices were up to 2.9% from 2.6%, while prices of manufactured goods rose slightly to 4.6% from 4.5%, with the end of winter sales. Energy prices jumped 14.0% on year in February, Insee said.
The EU-harmonized index stood at 7.2% compared to 7% in January.
Meanwhile, in Spain, which succeeded in containing price growth in the second half of 2022, inflation has now risen for two consecutive months in annual terms. Consumer prices increased 6.1% year-on-year in February, the National Statistics Institute (INE) reports.
Preliminary data showed that higher electricity and food prices were the key drivers of the increase.
Core inflation, which excludes volatile fresh food and energy prices, stood at 7.7% year-on-year, up from 7.5% recorded in January. Consumer prices, harmonized for comparison with other European Union countries, rose to 6.1% in February in annual terms from 5.9% in the previous month.
“The increase in Spain’s headline EU harmonized inflation is another reminder that the path of price growth will be choppy and sticky on its way down, as underlying price pressures remain strong,” Bloomberg economist Ana Andrade said. “While base effects will dominate over the next few months, bringing inflation meaningfully down by the summer, we still expect it to end the year at above 5%,” she added.
Economists project inflation in Spain and France will continue rising in the coming months, prompting more interest rate hikes by the European Central Bank. The ECB has already promised to raise rates by 50 basis points to 3% in March, to get soaring inflation in the 20-nation Eurozone under control. It may still need to raise interest rates significantly beyond March, as inflation remains too high, Bundesbank President Joachim Nagel warned earlier.
Grocery prices in the UK have surged to a new record of 17.1% in the four weeks of February, according to the latest figures released by market researcher Kantar on Tuesday. Milk, eggs and margarine are showing the fastest price growth, data shows.
The report says food inflation in the country is at its highest since the firm started tracking the figures in 2008, adding £811 ($980) to the typical annual shopping bill and forcing UK households to change their consumption habits.
“This February marks a full year since monthly grocery inflation climbed above 4%. This is having a big impact on people’s lives,” the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, Fraser McKevitt, said.
He noted that surging food prices were the second most important financial issue for the public after energy costs, adding that one in four shoppers in Britain were now struggling financially.
According to a BBC study, some essentials have almost doubled in price over the past two years. For example, a 500g bag of pasta that cost 50p two years ago is now priced at 95p.
UK families face an even tighter squeeze on their finances this year as the government cuts back support on household energy bills, while mortgage rates continue to rise, worsening the cost-of-living crisis. Although overall inflation in the UK fell to 10.1% in January from its highest levels in more than 40 years, food prices continue to rise, forcing shoppers to turn to discounters, the economists said.
In war, there are many casualties, many being innocent victims. It is no different from the Ukraine war. Civilians and non-combatants are collateral damage. However, the detrimental effects of the war have spread worldwide. Vulnerable populations are paying the price of this war.
The World Bank says 94% of low-income countries globally are facing soaring levels of inflation, fueled in part by the impact of the war in Ukraine on food and fuel prices.
According to the International Rescue Committee's Emergency Watchlist, which highlights the 20 countries most at risk of worsening humanitarian crises in 2023, food prices have increased by almost 40% over the past year.
Today a record 349 million people across 79 countries are estimated to be experiencing acute food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme, as famine looms across parts of East Africa.
According to the International Energy Agency, some 70 million people worldwide who recently gained access to electricity can no longer afford it, with many returning to coal and firewood to heat their homes.
Even when food is available in markets, people can often not afford to put food on the table for their families.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was a much-needed step towards restarting shipments of Ukrainian grain to people in hunger-affected countries.
Just 10% of the grain exported through this initiative has been delivered to just five low-income countries: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. In fact, Spain has received twice as much as these five countries put together.
Almost two-thirds of the world’s ocean lies outside national boundaries. These are the “high seas”. Not only does a healthy ocean provide half of the oxygen we breathe, it represents 95% of the planet’s biosphere, soaks up carbon dioxide and is Earth’s largest carbon sink.
Liz Karan, who leads high seas protection work at the Pew Charitable Trusts explained, “A healthy ocean is critical for having life on the planet – including human life.”
The high seas are more susceptible than coastal seas to exploitation. Currently, all countries can navigate, fish (or overfish) and carry out scientific research on the high seas practically at will. Only 1.2% of it is protected, and the increasing reach of fishing and shipping vessels, the threat of deep-sea mining, and new activities, such as “bioprospecting” of marine species, mean they are being threatened like never before.
The Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, (BBNJ) – are the fifth round of negotiations, which ended last August without agreement. The current round of talks began last week and will end on 3 March.
The talks are critical to enforcing the 30x30 pledge from the UN biodiversity conference in December: a promise to protect 30% of the ocean (as well as 30% of the land) by 2030. Without a high seas treaty, scientists and environmentalists agree the 30x30 pledge will fail, for the simple reason that no legal mechanism exists for establishing protected marine areas on the high seas – rendering any promises to do so meaningless.
“Heavily subsidised, industrial fishers seek to exploit and profit from ocean resources that, by law, belong to everyone,” said Jess Rattle, a senior global oceans expert for WWF who is leading the NGO’s team at the negotiations.
Greenpeace warned Monday that nations are "once again stalling" as they enter the final week of talks on the United Nations Ocean Treaty, a pact the environmental group says would "safeguard marine life and be the biggest conservation victory for a generation" if negotiators get it right.
Laura Meller, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace Nordic, lamented that "negotiations have been going around in circles, progressing at a snail's pace, and this is reflected in the new draft treaty text."
There is no single, clear, sustainable alternative to jet fuel that could support the current level of flying. The UK would have to devote half its farmland or more than double its total renewable electricity supply to make enough aviation fuel to meet its ambitions for “jet zero”, or net zero flying, a report published on Tuesday by the Royal Society stated.
Scientists say that while the government and aviation industry have set a target of 2050 to balance out emissions, huge challenges remain around the availability, costs and impacts of alternative fuels, as well as the need for new types of planes and airport infrastructure around the world to allow the most probable long-term solutions.
Significant further research and investment would be needed, the scientists say, to address questions across four fuel types – green hydrogen (made from water using renewable energy), biofuels (energy crops and waste), ammonia and synthetic fuels or e-fuels.
Producing enough biofuels would require about half of UK agricultural land, while other feedstocks such as municipal waste could only contribute “a very small fraction” of the jet fuel requirements, they report.
Making sufficient green hydrogen or ammonia to power future planes would require well over double today’s entire UK renewable electricity generation capacity. E-fuels or synthetic fuels – which are made by capturing and converting carbon dioxide from the air – would require five to eight times today’s UK capacity.
Dr Guy Gratton, associate professor of aviation and the environment at Cranfield University, said: “The term SAF [sustainable aviation fuel] is quite nebulous..."
The international crisis is escalating at the present time. The drive towards war is assuming irresistible dimensions. Elaborate preparations, hidden and open, are being made for a new showdown. Diplomatic and military preparations are going on in every country in Europe. There is only one way to prevent war and if it breaks out to end it, namely, by the overthrow of capitalism, the real cause from which war arises. Capitalism is a system based upon exploitation. Violence, repression and war are necessary to maintain that exploitation. The World Socialist Movement has always been striving for peace between nations. Its energies have been directed towards the elimination of the causes of war. You are really not against war if you are not for the overthrow of the system that produces war. You are not really for peace if you are not for the overthrow of the system which makes peace impossible. The first casualty of war is democracy. It must be obvious to anyone who is not politically naive, that no government undertaking or treaty has ever been kept for longer than it was expedient to do so.
The profit system is the cause of all wars today. The capitalist class owns all things, and it wants a market in which to sell them. Besides, the capitalist class has billions of dollars (profits) which it wants to invest in some other country in order to make more profits. And this is the cause of all capitalist wars. The capitalists all want to seize, or to hold, territory in foreign, undeveloped countries. They want to have a military in order to protect these foreign investments from the capitalists of other countries. Wars are caused by the competition of various national capitalist groups for new markets, new natural resources and for new investments. The Sociaist Party cannot agree with those who attribute the cause of war to the behavior of this or that political leader.
Socialism will prevent wars because it means the ownership of the factories, mines, shops, lands and all other instruments of production and distribution by the workers who use them. It means the abolition of the profit system. You can make the whole world your world with a united working class. But you must have an educated, organised class.
The way to cure a disease is not to put salve upon the symptoms, but to remove the cause. The profit system is almost the only cause of war today. Discard the system and remove the cause of war. The profit system is the cause of nearly all the suffering poverty, sickness, crime, as well as war. It is the great enemy of the working people. Amidst the horrors of famine, poverty, crime and war there is one way out for the working class of every country. There is one way that means victory for the useful workers of that country. That way means socialism (or industrial democracy).
So long as capitalists profit by privileged wealth, whilst the working people are crushed, there will always be wars for markets, mines, etc., which are require idn order to maintain the privileged’s wealth. Never in history were the burdens and the terrors of war more horrible, than just now. We argue that the cause of war is capitalist society.
Under capitalism we have a world which is divided into rival and competing nations, which struggle with each other over the control of markets, trade routes and natural resources. It is this struggle which brings nations into armed conflict with each other because militarism is the violent extension of the economic policies of propertied interests. War cannot be isolated from the economic relationships of production or the general object of capitalist production, which is to advance the interests of those privileged class minorities who monopolise the whole process of production.
It follows that no working class of any country has any stake or interest in war, and we have always said that workers should never support war. Our stand since we were established has been to oppose every war. Armed with this understanding of the cause of war we are committed to working politically with workers of all countries to establish world socialism, because that is where the interest of the working class lies. We have never participated in the hideous cause of capitalism at war.
We are saying that socialism is the only guarantee that war will not take place because it will completely remove the cause of war. But we are saying more than this. All the time capitalism exists, war will remain because the threat of military force, and its use, is a necessary instrument of vested economic interests.
Monday, February 27, 2023
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.’
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: ‘The Manifesto of the Communist Party.’
Capitalism (and State Capitalism) is Global. Its damaging effects affect everyone. The present pandemic of inflation across various countries is no exception to the rule that capitalism impacts negatively on the working class and especially the poor.
Charles Dickens character, Mr Micawber, who is always hoping that something will turn up, epitomises the everyday struggles that millions face.
‘Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.’ Inflation causes the annual expenditure to increase with nothing to show for it or, for a belt tightening that disproportionately affects those least able to weather the effects of continually rising costs.
The mental health implications caused by the stress of ever more expensive day-to-day living are another of capitalism’s horrors.
Japan is the latest country to face these head-on.
“More than half of Japanese households have experienced worsening living standards as a result of soaring inflation, the latest survey conducted by the Bank of Japan has shown.
In its quarterly report, the BOJ said 53% of people surveyed admitted that their wealth had slumped last year compared to 2021, while only 3.7% said their livelihood had improved. This is the highest percentage of households reporting financial problems in almost 13 years.
The report indicates that consumers will be unwilling to increase their spending without growth in wages as a record 63% of respondents named inflation as a decisive factor for their spending activity this year.
Data shows that price growth is spreading across various sectors of the Japanese economy and companies are passing on the burden of rising costs in energy, food and raw materials to households. Aside from utility bills, prices rose for a broad range of goods from fried chicken to smartphones and air conditioners in a sign of mounting inflationary pressure.
In December, price growth in Tokyo exceeded forecasts and reached 4% for the first time since 1982, data from Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs showed.
The Bank of Japan also expects that prices will continue to rise and has doubled its inflation forecast for the coming year to a record 10%.”
“Through their most notorious organs of science, such as Dr. Ure, Professor Senior, and other sages of that stamp, the middle class had predicted, and to their heart’s content proved, that any legal restriction of the hours of labour must sound the death knell of British industry, which, vampire like, could but live by sucking blood, and children’s blood, too...Yet the lords of the land and the lords of capital will always use their political privileges for the defence and perpetuation of their economic monopolies…. they will continue to lay every possible impediment in the way of the emancipation of labour.,..To conquer political power has, therefore, become the great duty of the working classes.”
The 1833 Factory Act and the 1842 Mines Act began to ameliorate the ages that children could be exploited and restricted the hours they could work.
The 1878 Factory Act prohibited work anywhere before the age of 10.The 1880 Education Act made it compulsory for children up to ten years old to go to school This then became up to twelve years old.
Child labour laws were not enshrined in the United States until The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
A piece in RT by Bradley Blankenship, 24\2\23, examines the efforts by American capitalists to reintroduce child labour.
“Amid an ongoing push for higher wages by US workers, including union-building efforts and a national railway strike that was averted last December, some states are finding ways to undercut the working class.
One method, as Business Insider reports, is for the US to start allowing children aged 14-17 into the workforce. The federal government has said this practice is already increasing in an illicit fashion, too.
In the last month, Republican lawmakers in Iowa and Minnesota have introduced legislation that would allow exceptions to existing child labour regulations. This is aimed at ameliorating the ongoing labour shortage in the US, which is also plaguing other countries, predominantly in the West.
The proposed bills in these states would allow children to work more hours and “protect employers from liabilities due to sickness or accidents,” which could help specific industries like construction and meatpacking that are being hit hard in these states.
The federal government also create a new rule in January allowing people wishing to be professional truck drivers to obtain their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) at the age of 18 instead of 21. This was done because, as CNN reports, “the head of the American Trucking Associations said the industry needed about 80,000 more drivers.”
Minnesota wants to see 16 and 17-year-olds allowed to work in construction, which can be a dangerous job. Iowa wants to see even younger children allowed to work in their meat-packing plants.”
The Israeli rights groups Peace Now and B’Tselem also described the attacks as a settler “pogrom” supported by the Israeli government.
Israeli group B'Tselem summed it up.
"This isn't 'loss of control.' This is exactly what Israeli control looks like. The settlers carry out the attack, the military secures it, the politicians back it..."
War casts the darkest of shadows over all — civilians as well as combatants. The Socialist Party shares nothing in common with those that preach peace but continue to prepare for war. Under the cloak of patriotism and national interest, millions of workers are thrown against each other in battle. They do not know that they are fighting to defend or to extend the interests of the class that lives by robbing them of the fruits of their labour. For the working class in all countries every death, every wound and every hour of suffering is in vain. War solves no working-class problems, and from a working-class point of view, is a war crime in itself. Our attitude is in line with the interests of the working class.
Capitalism is a system of society which produces goods incidentally. Fundamentally its aim is the amassing of surplus value. Productivity and profit are interchangeable and synonymous terms. There is a complete divorce of production and consumption. Production is earned out for profit and not for use. Thus we have the exploitation of the majority of society as a means to enrich a small minority—the capitalist class. Capitalism is contradictory and anti-social. Governments of all countries seek to maintain this social relationship of owner and non-owners, buyer and seller. Each is struggling for the monopoly. Commercial rivalries set capitalist states and empires one against the other. The class which has property and privilege must maintain armed forces to protect their property and to make secure the social system which affords them their privileges.
The moment war is declared the majority of the people, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, and conscripted in all parts of their lives, for the destruction of other people. Symbols of patriotism become the dominant feature of the media. Loyalty becomes the sole test for citizenship. Anything pertaining to the enemy becomes taboo. All the activities of society are linked together as fast as possible for the central purpose of making a military offensive or national defence.
Patriotism groups people according to their land of origin, as decided by the vicissitudes of history; within every country, thanks to the patriotic link, rich and poor unite against the foreigner. Socialism groups working people, poor against rich, class against class, without taking into account the differences of race and language, and over and above the frontiers traced by history. Patriotism in every nation masks class antagonisms to the great benefit of the ruling class; through it, they prolong and facilitate its domination. It is good, it is useful, it is indispensable for rulers that workers of every country consider the rich who exploit them, not as enemies, but as friends, allies and even brothers. Workers who give their lives for their country are duped.
The Socialist Party looks at war in a fundamentally different way from people with other political persuasions. We contend that war in the modern world is caused by the workings of capitalism with its struggles over trade, investments, oil and other resources. The workers of the world have an identity of interest and have nothing at stake in the thieves’ quarrels of their masters. The working class owns none of the resources; they have nothing to fight for and everything to gain by uniting to end the system that enslaves them and produces wars and other terrible problems. Working people have no country. The differences which exist between nations are all superficial differences. There is only one war which is worthy and that is class war, social revolution.
Under capitalism, it is the owners of capital who decide the object of production, and that is not consumption but the creation of profits. That is the nub of the whole problem. To produce for use today presupposes the abolition of private ownership of the means of production. Without common ownership, a planned economy is an impossibility.
So long as capitalism exists, so long as capitalism rules, so long as the state is in the hands of the capitalists, so long as the capitalists hold power, then so long will there be wars.
War is a vital necessity for the ruling class. To cover up its murder, capitalism has always raised the cry for freedom. Wage slavery is capitalism’s freedom for the working class.
The Socialist Party rejects the plea of the “left" that national liberation is worth dying for. This amounts to workers killing each other to determine who shall be their future exploiters. Nationalism is a divisive anti-working class concept. Capitalism is the cause of war. To abolish war we must abolish capitalism. This is the whole crux of the matter. Many on the left support war and take one side or the other, thus lending themselves to the shedding of working-class blood for the profits of the capitalist class.
The establishment of socialism demands the unity and co-operation of the workers of the world. Such unity and cooperation can only arise from socialist understanding, which means a clear recognition of the need to change society. To establish a system without frontiers or armed forces, where the scramble for trade and profits no longer exists. The resources of the earth, instead of being a class monopoly used to exploit and destroy, will be commonly owned and used solely to satisfy human needs.