Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Capitalism eyes up the Artic

For centuries, the Arctic’s hostile climate has ensured its status as “one of the very few remaining” unspoiled parts of the world, said Ashok Swain in Gulf News (Dubai). However, it’s also one of the planet’s most resource-rich regions, estimated to hold 13% of the world’s oil (some 90 billion barrels) and 30% of undiscovered natural gas reserves.

It has huge deposits of copper, lithium, nickel, platinum, and rare earth materials used in batteries and electronics, and offers vast potential for producing renewable energy using wind turbines. 

What’s more, the fast-melting ice there is opening up valuable new shipping lanes in the Arctic Sea: “the receding of polar ice may make the Arctic completely free from summer sea ice by 2035”, slashing journey times for vessels carrying goods from Asia to Europe. No wonder, then, that competition to gain access and control of this “yet-to-be-exploited” region is heating up with a vengeance.

Cooperation in the Arctic is meant to be overseen by the Arctic Council, comprising Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, the US and Canada, said Ott Ummelas and Danielle Bochove on Bloomberg (New York). But the council’s meetings were paused after Russia (its current chair) invaded Ukraine; and while they are in abeyance, some countries – notably China and Russia itself – are staking their claims to the Arctic more and more assertively, said Didi Tang in The Times. Moscow, which views the Arctic as its backyard, is determined to get its hands on the Arctic’s resources ahead of its Western rivals.

Beijing, which casts itself as a “near-Arctic state”, plans to use nuclear-powered icebreakers to establish a “Silk Road on ice” – a network of routes to cement its global superpower status. And now the two have struck a deal “to protect their strategic interests in the Arctic”. Details of this so-called “maritime law enforcement” agreement are sparse; but we do know that the Kremlin responded to Finland’s recent Nato accession by unveiling plans for “more military outposts in the region, including deepwater ports and airfields”. And in China, it seems to have found a willing partner in such an endeavour.

Beijing certainly has much to gain from this deal, said Dói Ennoson on Finanzmarktwelt (Hamburg). Getting a slice of the Arctic’s natural resources is tempting enough, but even more so is the advantage that opening a sea route along Russia’s north coast, and avoiding the necessity of using the Suez Canal, would give them: it would halve ships’ journey times between Shanghai and Europe.

You’d think Washington would be worried about the Russia/China deal, said Josh Caldon on Centre for International Maritime Security (Washington) – yet in reality, it isn’t that “interested in competing for the Arctic”. That’s because Russia has only a handful of ports that are “free from year-round ice”, while America is blessed with its own natural harbours on both east and west coasts.

And, being aware how high the cost of extraction is in a region that’s dark for half the year, it prefers to let Russia and China do the hard work of adding to the global supply of mineral resources, and let US consumers enjoy the ensuing decrease in price. Besides, now that Russian aggression has prompted Sweden and Finland to petition to join Nato, Washington feels it can rely on its Nato allies to focus on the Arctic. It now prefers to focus its attentions on more profitable domains such as space, cyberspace and the Indo-Pacific.

But what we’re forgetting, said Danielle Bochove on Bloomberg (New York), is the huge impact extracting raw materials is likely to have in a region so “critical to the planet’s climate defences”. The region is already warming “up to four times as fast as the rest of the globe”: loss of vital ice sheets, which slow climate change by reflecting the Sun’s heat, will accelerate this yet further, as will thawing permafrosts, which release CO2 into the atmosphere.

In short, exerting control of the Arctic should be viewed not just through the lens of “exploitation”, but through the lens of “protection”. We all need to be concerned about the development of deep-sea mining in the Arctic.

 Socialist Stanza No. 12



Artificial Intelligence

Seems so inhumanly quick,

For all potential benefits

It provokes moral panic.


Might it cause mass unemployment?

Leave the working class in bits?

Depress wages, even as it

Greatly increases profits?


Perhaps become the cause of war,

Set faction against faction,

Solve or worsen global warming?

But this is all distraction.


Obscuring the actual source

That threatens human advance;

Capitalist thinking promotes

Artificial Ignorance.


D. A.

Monday, May 29, 2023

The Book of Eng

‘ And it came to pass in the land of Eng that the people were sore pressed and in great need. The harvest was abundant and the earth yielded much fruit yet the people cried out in their need.

For the people of the land of Eng were in bondage to those who owned the land and all that from it flowed. Though the people were given many shekels and had ice boxes and music boxes and picture boxes and oxless wagons, yet were they not content. They strove to bring forth more wealth and to get more shekels yet did their lot remain needy.

And there passed among the multitude certain soothsayers and false prophets that were called Ekonner Mists and Polly Tishuns. With them came the priests. With one voice but with many tongues they spake unto the people and said uhto them, "Verily, you are sad and have much anger but this is the order of things Yahweh has ordained. It is the will of Jehovah. Therefore, rest ye content.”

But the multitude cried out, “We need more homes. We desire good raiment. We hunger for more food. We would have more work that we may gather more shekels and pieces of silver wherewith to purchase these things.”

And the priests raised up their hands and gave unto the people the gospel according to Midas. The Polly Tishuns opened wide their mouths and gave unto the people many promises. The Ekonner Mists brought forward their longest words and their most profound theories and these they rammed into the gullets of the people. And together the Priests, the Polly Tishuns and the Ekonner Mists spake unto the people in unison saying, “Behold, ye are lazy swine. We give unto you the fruits of our learning yet ye heed us not. We offer ye a paradise when ye shall snuff it yet ye are not content. We promise ye all that ye desire yet ye cry out in your impatience. Why waste we our time upon you? Oh, ye of little faith, rest ye content in the station to which Yahweh has called you and get ye on with your work".

And it happened that a certain Samaritan was a builder of boats and he held in bondage many hewers of wood, drawers of water and welders of steel. And the day came that he walked about the place where his boats were built and he passed among his hewers of wood, his drawers of water and his welders of steel. These he gathered around him and he spake unto them saying, “I have heard your murmurs of discontent, I have seen your women in sorry raiment, I have felt the eyes of your offspring hungry upon me. These things have made my heart to bleed, my eye to water and my stomach to curdle. Therefore I say unto you that though my store of silver is small I will give unto you from my coffers, a bonus of shekels that your children may wax merry, your wives may grow fat and you may disport yourselves in ways that ye have long desired.”

And his hewers of wood, his drawers of water and his welders of steel looked into one another's faces with amazement. Then they fell on their knees and praised

him. They raised up their voices in a hymn and sang, “Glory be to our Boss for verily he is a jolly good fellow.”

And the Samaritan left them and went out into the market to sell his boats with a glad heart and a full one.

There came unto him in the market certain cunning men from far lands and they asked him, “What take ye for your boats for we would have of them?” And he answered them saying, “I am a Samaritan and I give my bondsmen that they may be happy. Therefore I must raise up the price of my boats to cover my costs and to reap my profit.”

The cunning men from distant lands turned their backs upon him. They smiled at one another and tapped their foreheads with their fingers, saying through their beards, “This man from Eng is daft as a brush” which translated into the language of Eng meant that he was a knut case.

And the cunning men from distant lands went unto the men of the land of Hol and the land of De Gall and the land of Usa for the men from these lands had many boats to sell in the market. And they bought from these men the boats that they needed for the boats were cheaper than those made in the land of Eng.

So, the Samaritan returned home with slow gait and sad mien. He called unto him his hewers of wood, his drawers of water and his welders of steel and he delivered of himself unto them, saying, “I have been a good master unto you. I have given unto you many shekels as a bonus. Now I cannot sell I cannot permit you to make for, if ye make boats that I cannot sell I shall be bent, broke and bust. My wife will turn on me and my concubines will turn from me.”

With a tear in his eye, like unto the tear of a crocodile, he exhorted them in these words. “I must take from you the bonus that I gave. I must call on you to surrender to me those things that ye call restrictive practices though verily I know they are protective practices. For some of you I have news that should tickle your ears and gladden your hearts for I shall free you from your bondage unto me. Ye shall be men that are called Re Dund Ants and you shall wander in the wilderness with no care and no work till some other shall bind you in bondage.”

And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the hewers of wood, the drawers of water and the welders of steel, for they knew not what to do but they ran hither and thither in their bewilderment.

And it came to pass that there rose up among the multitude certain new false prophets who spake to the people thus, “Hearken ye to us for we are as you are, using the same tongue, wearing the same raiment and eating the same viands. The prophets ye have listened to heretofor were fakirs and false prophets. It is laid down that ye must have faith, therefore have ye faith in us. Give unto us your shekels, your votes and your loyalty and will lead you to the promised land.”

And the people gave unto them their shekels and their votes and their loyalty. And they chose Will Sun and Kalla Ghan and Jaw G. Broun to lead them. For they would be led to the land that flows with milk and money.

And Will Sun called unto his disciples and these he led to West Minister. And to them he gave the fruit that is known as the Plum of Office.

From out of the City there came men that are called Bankers and Fynan Seers and they bowed down before Will Sun and they shook in their sandals.

Will Sun raised his hands over them and spake, saying, “Rise up, Rise up. I come not to harass you but to help you. 1 seek not to drive you from your temples but to build ye new and better ones. I will journey into distant lands, to the land of De Gall and to the lands that are of Benny Lux. I will open up a market for you and it shall be called a Common Market. In that market ye shall sell your wares and shall reap much profit that ye may grow even fatter than ye are now fat.

And the men from out the city stood before him, first on one foot and then on the other foot. And they replied to him, “How shall we reap much profit when we must disgorge many shekels to our bondsmen? For they band themselves together in their Unions and they demand of us ever more and more shekels. We shall be ruined.” And they wrung their hands in despair.

Will Sun took from out his mouth the pipe that was part of his image and he said unto them, “Ye of little faith. Ye shall not be ruined. For is it not laid down in the book that the people have chosen me to lead them? From me they will take those things that they would not take from you. I will gather them around me and I will tell them of your fears and your troubles and I will plead with them that they shall not seek to gain more shekels. And if they harken not to my prayers I will compel them. If they heed me not I will cast them into the dungeons that they may reflect on their lot. And Kalla Ghan and Jaw G. Broun shall cast a spell on the multitude with many words that have much sound but little sense and less meaning. And it shall be called The Freeze.” 

The men from the city smiled amongst themselves and were content. They returned to their counting houses and with the setting of the sun they repaired unto their temples to render homage to their gods, Rent, Interest and Profit.

Will Sun and his disciples spoke to the multitude of norms of trade balance and of vetting and of productivity and of restraint and of strength of the shekel and of the freeze. Many of the people nodded their heads and cried “Yea” for they were in fear that it would be thought that they did not understand these things and that they were ignorant.

Many of the people murmured amongst themselves that they liked not the freeze. And one who was called Kuz Inz exhorted them against the freeze, using many words but no deeds so that the people were bewildered, bewitched and bedevilled.

Those that would follow Kuzz Inz were led into a maze from which they could find no way out.

Among the bondsmen there were those who spoke with a new tongue.

They said that the freeze, that the Re Dund Ants and that all the people’s needs were the result of bond slavery. That the bond was a wage contract and that it was therefore a system of wage slavery, wherein men sold their power to labour for shekels to those who lived by profit. They said that faith in false prophets would avail the people nought. They must cast the dust of faith from their feet and give thought to their lot. Bondsmen had nothing to lose but their bondage. The wealth that they needed for themselves they could make for themselves instead of making it for the market. “Put ye not your faith in prophets,” they cried, “have courage in yourselves.”

But many years of bondage had dulled the minds of the people and they were slow to think on these things. The priests put into the fear of Yahweh and Jehovah and of the ghost that is called Holy. The Ekonner Mists put into them the fear of hunger and the loss of their ox-less carts and their ice boxes and their music boxes and their picture boxes and their little brick boxes that looked all alike. The Polly Tishuns put into them the wind up so that they belched exceeding much.

But it shall come to pass that the people shall shake off their torpor and they shall cast out the money lenders from their temples and shall bring down those that exploit them. And there shall be an end to the soothsayers and the priests and the sycophants and those that hand on and those that crawl up.

Then shall it be in the land of Eng and in all other lands that the people shall live a life that is worth living. Each shall give of his effort to the best he is able and shall receive those things that he needs them.

And so be it.’


Socialist Standard, June 1967

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Energy poverty

 ‘Great Britain’s energy price cap has fallen to £2,074 a year, but the average household will still pay almost double the rate for their gas and electricity than before costs started to soar.

About 27m households can expect a modest drop in energy bills this summer after the regulator Ofgem lowered the cap on the typical annual dual-fuel tariff to reflect a steep drop in global energy prices over recent months.

From July, when the change takes effect, households will see their average gas and electricity bill fall from the £2,500 a year level set by the government’s energy price guarantee.However, those who struggled to pay their bills over the winter will feel little relief, because government top-ups worth £400 between October to March have come to an end.

Households also face being charged an extra £10 a year on their energy bills from October to bolster the profits of their energy provider, under plans put forward by the regulator alongside the new cap.

Under the new cap, the average energy bill will remain almost double the level seen in October 2021 – when Russia began restricting supplies of gas to Europe in a move that sent wholesale prices soaring. Before the energy crisis, the typical household paid £1,271 a year for gas and electricity.

Households could still face dual-fuel bills above £2,074 if they use more than the typical amount of energy because Ofgem’s cap limits the rate energy suppliers can charge customers for each unit of gas and electricity – not the total bill.

The cap does not offer help to businesses, charities or public sector organisations such as schools, hospitals and care homes. A scheme brought in by the government at the start of April offers eligible businesses a discount on the wholesale price of energy, offering a total of up to £5.5bn of support over a year, far less than the estimated £18bn over six months given out under the previous aid package.

Jonathan Brearley, the chief executive of Ofgem, said: “After a difficult winter for consumers it is encouraging to see signs that the market is stabilising and prices are moving in the right direction.”

“However, we know people are still finding it hard, the cost of living crisis continues and these bills will still be troubling many people up and down the country. Where people are struggling, we urge them to contact their supplier who will be able to offer a range of support, such as payment plans or access to hardship funds,.”

Brearley added that households were “unlikely to see prices return to the levels we saw before the energy crisis” in the medium term. He said it was imperative that government, Ofgem, consumer groups and the wider industry work together to support vulnerable groups.

Simon Francis, a coordinator at the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said: “The sting in the tail to this announcement is that customers are still going to be paying roughly the same for their energy as last winter. And after months of inflation and the wider cost of living crisis, people are even less able to afford these high energy bills.”

Ofgem has proposed increasing the amount of profit suppliers can make from 1.9% to 2.4% to prevent them going bust, because the cost of bailing out a failed supplier would be higher. Under the plan, annual supplier profits would climb from £37 a household to £47.

Under the new cap, the average energy bill will remain almost double the level seen in October 2021 – when Russia began restricting supplies of gas to Europe in a move that sent wholesale prices soaring. Before the energy crisis, the typical household paid £1,271 a year for gas and electricity.

Households could still face dual-fuel bills above £2,074 if they use more than the typical amount of energy because Ofgem’s cap limits the rate energy suppliers can charge customers for each unit of gas and electricity – not the total bill.

Fuel poverty campaigners at National Energy Action have warned that most households are unlikely to feel any better off, and about 6.5m households will remain in fuel poverty despite the lower rate.

Energy experts believe households could face much higher than normal energy bills for years to come, as Russia’s war in Ukraine keeps prices on the global gas markets stubbornly high. Analysts at Cornwall Insight have warned they do not expect bills to return to pre-2020 levels before the end of the decade at the earliest.

Francis called on the government to use the warmer summer months to “fix Britain’s broken energy system” by “ramping up energy efficiency programmes, helping the public with energy debt and reforming energy pricing arrangements so people don’t suffer again this winter”.

Georgia Whitaker, a campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said the winter energy crisis “should have been a wake-up call for the government to deliver the nationwide insulation programme and wholesale switch to cheap, renewable powered heat pumps”.

Grant Shapps, the energy secretary, said : “We’ve spent billions to protect families when prices rose over the winter covering nearly half a typical household’s energy bill – and we’re now seeing costs fall even further with wholesale energy prices down by over two-thirds since their peak.”’

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Socialist Stanza No. 11

Going Through the Motions


Face to face across The Commons

MPs snarl and point fingers.

But, is party rivalry real

Or posturing? Doubt lingers.


Principles are quite flexible,

Need to say what’s expected,

Even sound quite radical if

It helps getting elected.


“I want to make a difference!”

Or so the candidates claim:

Yet, whoever garners the votes,

Most things stay largely the same.


LibDem! Labour! Conservative!

No matter which of them win,

A change of party maybe, but

The government still gets in.


D. A.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

‘Unaffordable, inaccessible and insecure’

‘Private renters are almost twice as likely to be struggling with problem levels of debt than the general population, with a sharp rise in the numbers in serious financial difficulty since January, research shows.

The figures come against a backdrop of private rents in the UK hitting record highs, and days after the government announced a shake- up of the sector to tackle the ‘injustices’ that many tenants are facing.

The debt charity StepChange, which issued the polling data, said that “with so many renters in financial difficulty”, stronger protections for those who fell behind with their rent were required or else people would be left vulnerable to “hair-trigger eviction”.

It said that while the renters’ reform bill announced last Wednesday was welcome, it did not go far enough, as many financially and otherwise vulnerable tenants faced challenges that would not be addressed by the proposals.

The private rented sector was now “unaffordable, inaccessible and insecure for those on the lowest incomes, leaving them at high risk of problem debt, poor mental and physical health and prolonged housing insecurity,” the charity said as it issued a report.

It also published a YouGov poll showing that 15% of private renters – 1.1 million people as of this month – were in problem debt, compared with 8% of the general population. The charity added that this number had risen “sharply” – by more than a third – since January, when it stood at an estimated 800,000 people, or 11% of private renters.

Signs of financial difficulty include using credit, loans or an overdraft to make it through to payday, falling behind on essential household bills, using credit to keep up with existing credit commitments, and getting hit by late payment or default charges, said StepChange, with those in severe problem debt typically displaying three or more of those signs.

The research also found that half of all private renters – about 3.7 million people – had had their rent increased in the last 12 months, while more than 1.2 million said they were using credit to make ends meet.

Many have described the private rented sector as being in crisis, which Michael Gove, the housing secretary, appeared to acknowledge last week when he said: “Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden eviction hanging over them.”

The number of households renting in England more than doubled between 2001 and 2021, the latest census revealed, and a string of surveys have indicated that typical private rents have hit new highs. Earlier this month the estate agent Hamptons said tenants in Great Britain were now paying typically 25% more than they were at the start of the Covid pandemic.

Meanwhile, experts say severe shortages of rental properties have led to intense competition for what is available, with queues for viewings, desperate renters paying over the odds, and some landlords insisting on a year’s rent in advance.

StepChange’s report stated that one in five private renters who had tried to find a new home in the last 12 months said they were asked to pay more than two months’ rent in advance. More than half were asked to bid on the property they were trying to rent, and only 28% were successful, it added.

The charity’s client survey found private renters “struggled with the affordability of their homes more than any other housing tenure”. Average monthly private rent payments were found to be almost double those in the social sector, and 39% more than average mortgage payments.

The reforms outlined by the government last week will ban no-fault evictions but also strengthen landlords’ rights to throw out tenants for antisocial behaviour.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said at the time that, as a result of its package, 11 million tenants across England would “benefit from safer, fairer and higher-quality homes thanks to a once-in-a-generation overhaul of housing laws”. The department was approached for comment.’

Food costs up 17.2 %

UK food price inflation remains at the third-highest level since the financial crisis, with the annual rate at which the cost of groceries is increasing at the elevated level of 17.2%, retail industry data shows.

Prices barely eased during the four weeks to 14 May to only marginally below April’s 17.3% figure, according to the latest release from the analytics firm Kantar, representing the third-highest rate of grocery inflation since 2008.

Even though the average cost of four pints of milk has come down by 8p since last month, it remains 30p higher than it was this time last year at £1.60.

Stubbornly high food and drink prices have added an extra £833 a year to shoppers’ bills, Kantar found, unless consumers make changes to their usual habits to try to cut the cost.

More consumers are turning to supermarket own-brand product, a trend also reported in April, in an attempt to keep their bills under control. Sales of the cheapest own-label products soared by 15.2% over the past month, almost double the 8.3% increase for branded products.

Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “The drop in grocery price inflation, which is down by 0.1 percentage points on last month’s figure, is without doubt welcome news for shoppers – but it is still incredibly high.”

Shoppers flocked to the discount supermarkets, Aldi and Lidl, as they sought bargains. Aldi became the fastest-growing grocer over the past month as its sales increased by 24%, while sales at Lidl rose by 23.2%.

However, Waitrose benefited from shoppers splashing out on extra treats before the coronation of King Charles. Its sales grew by 4.8%, the highest growth rate it has experienced for more than two years.

Despite the pressure on household budgets, consumers spent an extra £218m on groceries during the week of the coronation, when there was a rise in sales of wine and quiche.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Summer School 2023

 There are still spaces available for Summer School, so bookings are still open. For more information about the event, chick here.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Eat or Heat?

Rising food prices will soon overtake energy costs as the main force fuelling inflation in the UK, an independent think tank warned in a report on Friday. Food makes up a far larger share of the typical household’s consumption than energy, says the Resolution Foundation, whose aim is to improve living standards for those on low to middle incomes. As grocery prices will remain at a high level while energy costs decline, this summer “food costs will have overtaken energy bills in the scale of the shock they are administering to family finances,” the think tank predicted. Grocery bills have jumped by almost 20% during the past year, official figures for March showed, with the overall consumer price index standing at 10.1%. Energy prices peaked at record levels last year but have since declined significantly.’

‘The cost of living crisis is often thought of as a cost of energy crisis. That is an understandable, but increasingly inadequate, view. In particular, it understates the growing role of food prices (up by 25 per cent over the past year and a half) in the squeeze on living standards that households – especially low- and middle-income households – are living through.

While energy prices have risen faster, food makes up a far larger share of the typical household’s consumption (13 versus 5 per cent in 2019-20). This, combined with food prices continuing to rise even as energy bills fall back, means that by this summer the average increase in food costs since 2019-20 (£1,000) will be larger than that for energy bills (around £900). And this is not just true at the average: this will also be the case for a majority of households (56 per cent or 16 million). The food price shock is about to overtake the energy price shock as the biggest threat to family finances.

This spotlight examines the contribution of food prices to today’s high inflation and the pressure on households’ living standards, before considering how families and government have responded to date.

Inflation is on the way down. Having plateaued close to 40-year highs since the Autumn, sharp falls are anticipated from next week: a near 2 percentage point reduction from March’s 10.1 per cent is expected in April, as Figure 1 shows. This marks the end of the peak energy costs part of this crisis, albeit without energy bills remotely returning to pre-crisis norms. This first significant fall is driven by April 2022’s large increase in the energy price cap dropping out of the annual inflation calculation. But next week will also see confirmation that energy prices will actually fall from July – the energy price cap is expected to be reduced from £2,500 to £2,063) – reflecting the retreat of wholesale energy prices, and contribute to inflation falling back further through 2023.’

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Adding insult to injury

 ‘Britons don’t have an automatic right to low food prices, former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe has claimed, adding that people should simply go without certain items if they are struggling financially.

Discussing the UK’s cost-of-living crisis on the BBC’s Politics Live show, the former Tory member suggested that anyone claiming unemployment benefits should be made to fill labour shortages by picking fruit.

Widdecombe also advised people who cannot afford to pay for some food items to simply stop buying them. 

“Well then you don’t do the cheese sandwich. None of it’s new. We’ve been through this before,” she said. “The problem is we’ve been decades now without inflation, we’ve come to regard it as some kind of given right.”

The cost of living has risen sharply in the UK over the past two years, with annual inflation standing at 10.1% in March, driven largely by soaring food prices. Although the inflation rate dipped from 10.4% in February, it fell less than expected and is still well above the Bank of England’s target of 2%.’

‘The cost of British food staples such as cheese, white bread and porridge oats have soared – with one brand of cheddar increasing by 80 per cent in one year.

Overall inflation on food and drink at supermarkets continued to rise in March to 17.2 per cent, up from 16.5 per cent the month before, Which? found.

The price of cheddar cheese, which accounts for roughly half of all cheese sales in the UK, increased by an average 28.3 per cent across eight major supermarkets – Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – compared to a year ago.’

China’s ‘reserve army of labour’ set to increase

 Shu Xiang, 21, started looking for a job in February and still has had no luck. A financial management major at a college in Chengdu, China, Ms. Shu said she had received five responses to about 100 applications. Graduation is in a few weeks.

“I’m not so confident about finding a job,” she said. The only thing that makes her feel less anxious, she said, is knowing she’s not alone — most of her classmates were facing similar problems.

Ms. Shu is one of nearly 12 million Chinese expected to enter the job pool next month at a difficult time. The government reported this week that 20.4 percent of people ages 16 to 24 looking for a job were out of work in April. That is the highest level since China started announcing the statistic in 2018.

High youth unemployment has been a dark stain on China’s economy for several years, exacerbated by strict pandemic health restrictions limited travel, decimated small businesses and damaged consumer confidence. The government, facing rare public discontent as young professionals in major cities across China protested the “zero Covid” rules, abruptly announced in December that it would start easing the policies. But the youth jobless rate has remained high, even as the overall rate has ticked down two months in a row.

The Chinese government has introduced a set of policies meant to stimulate youth employment, including subsidies for small and midsize businesses that hire college graduates. State-owned enterprises have been directed to make more jobs available for those just starting out...’

Thursday, May 18, 2023

"Why should the Earth be privately Owned?"

Party Meeting tomorrow evening Friday 19th May at 19 30 (18 30ut) on Zoom

"Why should the Earth be privately Owned?"
Speaker: Adam Buick

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Socialist Stanza No. 10: Three Good Friends

Socialist Stanza No. 10

Three Good Friends


Three good friends met amongst the stalls

Gathered round the market cross,

Where commerce and competition

Determine profit and loss.


The first said, ‘Here people can choose

From this copious display.

Whatever they want they can have,

Just so long as they can pay.’


‘While it’s not so,’ the second replied,

‘For those too poor, that glitch

Could be cured by taxes that don’t

Impinge too much on the rich.’


The third friend had a better thought,

A simpler way to proceed,

‘Get rid of cash, prices and stalls,

Then let folk take what they need.’


D. A.


 There was no other way to deal with these men, but to break them to pieces ... if you do not break them, they will break you.” - Oliver Cromwell

On 17 May 1649, three soldiers were executed on Oliver Cromwell’s orders in Burford churchyard, Oxfordshire. They belonged to a movement popularly known as the Levellers, with beliefs in civil rights and religious tolerance.

The name “Levellers,” like most party names (e.g., “Lollards,” “Anabaptists,” “Quakers,” “Whigs” and “Tories”) was originally a nickname applied in scorn and derision. The Levellers were those who demanded, so early as 1647, that the “whole body of the People” should make the people’s laws. During the Civil War, the Levellers fought on Parliament’s side, they had at first seen Cromwell as a liberator, but now saw him as a dictator. They were prepared to fight against him for their ideals and he was determined to crush them. Over 300 of them were captured by Cromwell’s troops and locked up in Burford church. Three were led out into the churchyard to be shot as ringleaders.

The Levellers were the most energetic and uncompromising faction in the English Revolution, with a short life taking shape in 1646 to be crushed by Cromwell’s dictatorship in 1649. The English Revolution was the revolution of the rising capitalist class against the monopolies and other restraints on free competition of the feudal-monarchic state in which many sections of the country gentry were capitalist, rearing sheep on land from which the peasants had been driven. Thus in 1640 they were able to combine with the merchants and lead the yeoman farmers and the artisans and apprentices of the town. 

The Levellers started as a propaganda group and transformed themselves into a party as their influence extended and the revolutionary movement mounted. The Levellers linked themselves with the rank-and-file of Cromwell’s New Model Army. They supported elections of soldier’s delegates and the agitation of the soldier’s committees which took up their grievances and favored a popular militia, democratically controlled. Most of the Agitators in the revolutionary army either belonged to the Levellers or were inspired by their ideas. Both the Cromwellians and the Levellers moved forward to a Republic. The Cromwellians wanted a regime in which sovereignty was concentrated in the hands of the large property owners. The Levellers demanded a democratic republic based upon the power of the people and responsive to their demands.

Their religious, political and economic ideas expressed the interests and outlook of the artisans, apprentices, shopkeepers and similar lower middle-class and working-class elements in the cities and the yeomen in the country districts. The"far left” was occupied by the dispossessed peasants who formed the agrarian communist sect of the Diggers who recognised that political democracy was impossible without economic democracy. However, the Diggers’ condemnation of private property in land ran counter to the aspirations of the peasant majority. By contrast, the Levellers were opposed to “making all things common,” defended the rights of private property, and called for free trade. The Levellers called for sweeping democratization of both Church and State. Among the religious reforms were full freedom of religious belief, separation of Church and State, the suppression of tithes; among the political reforms were a constitutional republic, annual election of a Parliament responsible to the people alone, general manhood suffrage; among the legal reforms, the right to a trial by jury, no star-chamber hearings, no capital punishment or imprisonment for debt; among the civil rights, freedom of the press and no license on printing. In their day such doctrines were audacious and revolutionary.

The mass petition was the principal means they used to inform and arouse the people. These petitions containing the demands of the people were widely circulated for signatures, submitted to Parliament, and backed up by meetings and demonstrations. In March 1647 a great petition was presented to the Commons. It called for the abolition of tithes, for the abolition of the Merchants Adventurers Co., for relief to imprisoned debtors and assistance to the poor, for limitations on fees of all judges, magistrates, lawyers and government officials. It demanded the abolition of the veto power of the King and the House of Lords. The Commons ordered the petition to be burnt. Lilburne who had hitherto been a fervent admirer and supporter of Cromwell broke with him for his subservience to Parliament, denounced the Parliament as a tyrant and oppressor and called for a new constitution and new elections. Lilburne, himself at one time a soldier, now turned to the army’s the rank and file. A popularly elected soldier’s Council argued about the Army’s political programme on level terms with the Generals.

Both the Cromwellians and the Levellers supported a republic but the Cromwellians wanted a regime in which power was concentrated in the hands of the large property owners. The Levellers demanded a democratic republic based upon the power of the people and responsive to their demands.

The Levellers were the first to encourage women to participate in political activity. In one of the petitions offered in their name the women asserted that they had “an equal interest with the men of the nation in its liberties and securities.” They did not go so far, however, as to demand female suffrage.

Although only active for only a few years on the stage of history, the Levellers left a durable imprint on the development of democratic thought demonstrating how a revolutionary group which itself never attains the heights of power can nevertheless profoundly affect the course of a great revolution and fertilize progressive tendencies for centuries thereafter. 

Marx and Engels knew that the Levelers were before their time and said so often, but they wrote also: 
“We find the first appearance of a really functioning Communist party in the bourgeois revolution at the moment when the constitutional monarchy is removed. The most consistent republicans, in England the Levelers, in France, Babeuf, Buonarroti, etc. are the first who proclaimed these ‘social questions.’” - The Moralising Criticism and Critical Morality.

SOYMB May 2013

Tuesday, May 16, 2023



Some Socialist Party meetings/talks/discussions are online via Zoom, and some are in-person. Certain branch and committee meetings are held on Discord. Please contact for instructions on how to join Discord.
To connect to any of our Zoom events, click (or type the address into your browser address field) then follow the instructions on screen. You will enter a virtual waiting room – please be patient, you will be admitted to the meeting shortly.
Details of EC and branch business meetings can be found here


Friday 5 May 19.30 (GMT + 1) Zoom

Friday 12 May (GMT + 1) Zoom
Discussion on recent subjects in the news
Host: Dougie Mclellan

Friday 19 May 19.30 (GMT + 1) Zoom
Why should the Earth be privately owned?
Speaker: Adam Buick

Friday 26 May 19.30 (GMT + 1) Zoom
Discussion opened by Steve Finch.


Friday 12th May 12 noon.
Glasgow University Campus for Leafletting. Followed by Social at The Aragon Bar, 31 Byres Rd, Glasgow (West End). For further information call Paul on 07484 717893.

Saturday 20 May, 2pm.
Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, City Centre.
Economic growth is a central aspect of capitalism, but it has drastic consequences for the environment. In contrast, the idea of degrowth envisages a world with far less use of energy and resources. In this talk we will ask whether degrowth is possible within capitalism, and what its implications are for a socialist world based on production for use.

Saturday 20 May 10.30am to 4.30pm.
Levellers’ Day
Warwick Hall, Church Lane, OX18 4RY
The Socialist Party will have a stall at this event.

Sunday 21 May 3pm
Speaker: Adam Buick
Preceded by street stall at noon and London branch meeting at 2pm.
Socialist Party Head Office, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 UN

Saturday 27 May. 1pm to 4pm.
Speaker: Clifford Slapper.
Rutland Arms, 86 Brown Street, Sheffield S1 2BS.
There will be a Q & A session following the speaker interspersed with live music from the band Barnsdale Hood. Free Entry. All welcome.

Cardiff Street Stall
Every Saturday 1 – 3pm
Capitol Shopping Centre
Queen Street (Newport Road end)
Weather permitting

Socialist weekend at Yealand Conyers in Cumbria

After unavoidable interruptions including a pandemic, Lancaster branch is once again organising a socialist residential weekend, from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 June, at the Yealand Quaker Centre in rural Cumbria. This is a sociable get-together for members and non-members in a nice hostel with dorm rooms and self-catering facilities, where we muck in together on the cooking and chores. The last time we did this was in 2019 and it was a pretty enjoyable experience all round (see the report in the August 2019 Socialist Standard – The branch will bear the hire cost but is happy to accept pay-what-you-can contributions. You’ll also have to fund your own travel arrangements. Spaces are limited to max 16 so if you’d like to take part please let us know at

May 2023 Socialist Standard


Monday, May 15, 2023

Italian living standards worsen

 Capitalism is global. So is the problems it causes. A report seen says:

‘More than a third of Italian families have seen their living standards drop over the past year due to rising inflation, the National Consumer Union (UNC) reported this week.

The UNC said that 35.1% of Italian households experienced worsening financial conditions last year, compared to 30.5% in 2021.

They attributed the results to soaring bills driven by spikes in the prices of energy and goods and services.

“These are alarming but much expected results,” UNC President Massimiliano Donna said.

Prices for electricity, which is sold on the free market, have surged sharply and topped the UNC rating for the most expensive goods and services last year.

“The data regarding those who consider their situation as stable could not be necessarily viewed in a positive light. In general, all those who could hardly make ends meet both in 2021 and 2022 fall under this definition. So there is no reason to be happy,” Donna added.

The cost of living continues to rise and is becoming more “unbearable,” as basic food items have seen dramatic increases in the country, with the prices of various vegetable oils, excluding olive oil, soaring more than 50% year-on-year, the study found.

For families with two children, the current inflation at 7.7% will add €2,306 ($2,515) to their annual bills, of which Italian households will spend €1,015 on food and beverages, and €1,062 to cover other products in the consumer basket, the UNC said.’