Friday, February 27, 2009

A proposal

Capitalism is in fact not just an exchange economy but an exchange economy where the aim of production is to make a profit .Profit is the monetary expression of the difference between the exchange value of a product and the exchange value of the materials , energy and labour-power used to produce it , or what Marx called “surplus value” . Defenders of capitalism never seem to ask themselves the practical question about what the critical factor determining a production initiative in a market system. The answer is obvious from everyday experience . The factor that critically decides the production of commodities is the judgement that enterprises make about whether they can be sold in the market .Obviously , consumers buy in the market that they perceive as being for their needs . But whether or not the transaction takes place is not decided by needs but by ability to pay . So the realisation of profit in the market determines both the production of goods and also the distribution of goods by various enterprises . In the market system the motive of production , the organisation of production , and the distribution of goods are inseparable parts of the same economic process : the realisation of profit and the accumulation of capital. The economic pressure on capital is that of accumulation , the alternative is bankruptcy . The production and distribution of goods is entirely subordinate to the pressure on capital to accumulate . The economic signals of the market are not signals to produce useful things . They signal the prospects of profit and capital accumulation , If there is a profit to be made then production will take place ; if there is no prospect of profit , then production will not take place . Profit not need is the deciding factor . Under capitalism what appear to be production decisions are in fact decisions to go for profit in the market . With the capitalist system , information is a contra-flow of information. It flows from producers, through distributors, to the consumer. This information is the prices of goods determined by the accumulating costs of production and distribution plus profit. Prices are increased in each part of production, from mining through industrial processing, manufacture and assembly, then accumulating further through distribution until the final price is passed on to the consumer.

The function of cost/pricing is to enable a business enterprise to calculate its costs, to fix its profit expectations within a structure of prices, to regulate income against expenditure and, ultimately, to regulate the exploitation of its workers. Unfortunately , prices can only reflect the wants of those who can afford to actually buy what economists call “effective demand” . - and not real demand for something from those without the wherewithal - the purchasing power - to buy the product (or even to express a preference for one product over another . I may want a sirloin steak but i can only afford a hamburger ) .

Socialist determination of needs begins with consumer needs and then flows throughout distribution and on to each required part of the structure of production
Socialism will make economically-unencumbered production decisions as a direct response to needs . With production for use , the starting point will be needs .
By the replacement of exchange economy by common ownership basically what would happen is that wealth would cease to take the form of exchange value, so that all the expressions of this social relationship peculiar to an exchange economy, such as money and prices, would automatically disappear. In other words, goods would cease to have an economic value and would become simply physical objects which human beings could use to satisfy some want or other. The disappearance of economic value would mean the end of economic calculation in the sense of calculation in units of value whether measured by money or directly in some unit of labour-time. It would mean that there was no longer any common unit of calculation for making decisions regarding the production of goods. Socialism is a money-less society in which use values would be produced from other use values, there would need no have a universal unit of account but could calculate exclusively in kind .The only calculations that would be necessary in socialism would be calculations in kind. On the one side would be recorded the resources (materials, energy, equipment, labour) used up in production and on the other side the amount of the good produced, together with any by-products. This, of course, is done under capitalism but it is doubled by an exchange value calculation: the exchange value of the resources used up is recorded as the cost of production while the exchange value of the output (after it has been realised on the market) is recorded as sales receipts. If the latter is greater than the former, then a profit has been made; if it is less, then a loss is recorded. Such profit-and-loss accounting has no place in socialism and would, once again, be quite meaningless. Calculation in kind entails the counting or measurement of physical quantities of different kinds of factors of production. There is no general unit of accounting involved in this process such as money or labour hours or energy units. In fact, every conceivable kind of economic system has to rely on calculation in kind, including capitalism. Without it, the physical organisation of production (e.g. maintaining inventories) would be literally impossible. But where capitalism relies on monetary accounting as well as calculation in kind, socialism relies solely on the latter. That is one reason why socialism holds a decisive productive advantage over capitalism by eliminating the need to tie up vast quantities of resources and labour implicated in a system of monetary/pricing accounting.

Socialism is a decentralised or polycentric society that is self regulating , self adjusting and self correcting , from below and not from the top . It is not a command economy but a responsive one . Planning in socialism is essentially a question of industrial organisation, of organising productive units into a productive system functioning smoothly to supply the useful things which people had indicated they needed, both for their individual and for their collective consumption. What socialism would establish would be a rationalised network of planned links between users and suppliers; between final users and their immediate suppliers, between these latter and their suppliers, and so on down the line to those who extract the raw materials from nature. The responsibility of these industries would be to ensure the supply of a particular kind of product either, in the case of consumer goods, to distribution centres or, in the case of goods used to produce other goods, to productive units or other industries. Planning is indeed central to the idea of socialism, but socialism is the planned (consciously coordinated and not to be confused with the central planning concept ) production of useful things to satisfy human needs precisely instead of the production, planned or otherwise, of wealth as exchange value, commodities and capital. In socialism wealth would have simply a specific use value (which would be different under different conditions and for different individuals and groups of individuals) but it would not have any exchange, or economic, value.

Since the needs of consumers are always needs for a specific product at a specific time in a specific locality, we will assume that socialist society would leave the initial assessment of likely needs to a delegate body under the control of the local community . In a stable society such as socialism, needs would change relatively slowly. Hence it is reasonable to surmise that an efficient system of stock control, recording what individuals actually chose to take under conditions of free access from local distribution centres over a given period, would enable the local distribution committee to estimate what the need for food, drink, clothes and household goods would be over a similar future period. Some needs would be able to be met locally: local transport, restaurants, builders, repairs and some food are examples as well as services such as street-lighting, libraries and refuse collection. The local distribution committee would then communicate needs that could not be met locally to the bodies charged with coordinating supplies to local communities. The individual would have free access to the goods on the shelves of the local distribution centres; the local distribution centres free access to the goods they required to be always adequately stocked with what people needed; their suppliers free access to the goods they required from the factories which supplied them; industries and factories free access to the materials, equipment and energy they needed to produce their products; and so on. Production and distribution in socialism would thus be a question of organising a coordinated and more or less self-regulating system of linkages between users and suppliers, enabling resources and materials to flow smoothly from one productive unit to another, and ultimately to the final user, in response to information flowing in the opposite direction originating from final users. The productive system would thus be set in motion from the consumer end, as individuals and communities took steps to satisfy their self-defined needs. Socialist production is self-regulating production for use. This would achieve a rhythm of daily production in line with daily needs with no significant growth. We are seeking a 'steady-state economy' which corresponds to what Marx called 'simple reproduction' - a situation where human needs were in balance with the resources needed to satisfy them. Such a society would already have decided, according to its own criteria and through its own decision-making processes, on the most appropriate way to allocate resources to meet the needs of its members. This having been done, it would only need to go on repeating this continuously from production period to production period. Production would not be ever-increasing but would be stabilized at the level required to satisfy needs. All that would be produced would be products for consumption and the products needed to replace and repair the raw materials and instruments of production used up in producing these consumer goods , a zero growth society operating in a stable and ecologically benign way.

For socialism to be established, there are two fundamental preconditions that must be met.Firstly, the productive potential of society must have been developed to the point where, generally speaking, we can produce enough for all. This is not now a problem as we have long since reached this point. However, this does require that we appreciate what is meant by "enough" and that we do not project on to socialism the insatiable consumerism of capitalism. Secondly, the establishment of socialism presupposes the existence of a mass socialist movement and a profound change in social outlook. It is simply not reasonable to suppose that the desire for socialism on such a large scale, and the conscious understanding of what it entails on the part of all concerned, would not influence the way people behaved in socialism and towards each other. Would they want to jeopardise the new society they had helped create? Of course not.
Humans behave differently depending upon the conditions that they live in. Human behaviour reflects society. In a society such as capitalism, people's needs are not met and reasonable people feel insecure. People tend to acquire and hoard goods because possession provides some security. People have a tendency to distrust others because the world is organized in such a dog-eat-dog manner. If people didn't work society would obviously fall apart. To establish socialism the vast majority must consciously decide that they want socialism and that they are prepared to work in socialist society. If people want too much? In a socialist society "too much" can only mean "more than is sustainably produced."
If people decide that they (individually and as a society) need to over-consume then socialism cannot possibly work. Under capitalism, there is a very large industry devoted to creating needs. Capitalism requires consumption, whether it improves our lives or not, and drives us to consume up to, and past, our ability to pay for that consumption. In a system of capitalist competition, there is a built-in tendency to stimulate demand to a maximum extent. Firms, for example, need to persuade customers to buy their products or they go out of business. They would not otherwise spend the vast amounts they do spend on advertising. There is also in capitalist society a tendency for individuals to seek to validate their sense of worth through the accumulation of possessions. As Marx contended, the prevailing ideas of society are those of its ruling class then we can understand why, when the wealth of that class so preoccupies the minds of its members, such a notion of status should be so deep-rooted. It is this which helps to underpin the myth of infinite demand. It does not matter how modest one's real needs may be or how easily they may be met; capitalism's "consumer culture" leads one to want more than one may materially need since what the individual desires is to enhance his or her status within this hierarchal culture of consumerism and this is dependent upon acquiring more than others have got. But since others desire the same thing, the economic inequality inherent in a system of competitive capitalism must inevitably generate a pervasive sense of relative deprivation. What this amounts to is a kind of institutionalised envy and that will be unsustainable as more peoples are drawn into alienated capitalism .
In socialism, status based upon the material wealth at one's command, would be a meaningless concept. The notion of status based upon the conspicuous consumption of wealth would be devoid of meaning because individuals would stand in equal relation to the means of production and have free access to the resultant goods and services . Why take more than you need when you can freely take what you need? In socialism the only way in which individuals can command the esteem of others is through their contribution to society, and the stronger the movement for socialism grows the more will it subvert the prevailing capitalist ethos, in general, and its anachronistic notion of status, in particular.

The main features of Socialism are really quite simple
Firstly , the new social system must be world-wide . The world must be regarded as one country and humanity as one people .
Secondly , all the people will co-operate to produce and distribute all the goods and services which are needed by mankind , each person willingly and freely , taking part in the way he feels he can do best .
Thirdly , all goods and services will be produced for use only , and having been produced , will be distributed , free , directly to the people so that each persons needs are fully satisfied .

Fourthly , the land , factories , machines , mines , roads , railways , ships , and all those things which mankind needs to carry on producing the means of life , will belong to the whole people .

The problem with a centrally-planned model of socialism was its inability to cope with change. It lacks any kind of feedback mechanism which allows for mutual adjustments between the different actors in such an economy. It is completely inflexible . Socialism does not necessary involve the creation of new layers of administrations but simply the transformation of them .
. Socialism would inherit from capitalism a complex worldwide productive network linking all the millions of individual productive units in the world (farms, mines, factories and so on ) into a single system. The links we are talking about are physical in the sense that one unit is linked to another either as the physical user of the others product or as the physical supplier of its materials, energy or equipment. Under capitalism such links are established in two ways: organisationally (as between different productive units forming part of the same private or state enterprise) and, above all, commercially (as when one enterprise contracts to buy something from, or to sell something to, another enterprise). In socialism the links would be exclusively organisational. We should be very wary of rejecting the structures or lines of communication left by capitalism. Sure, the internal structures of many organisations reflect their origin, but the decision-making processes inherited should surely be our first concern. Rather than re-inventing the wheel or developing new decision-making structures separate to and different from those of capitalism, we should by default use the existing systems, unless an alternative is clearly better. We should view capitalism's decision-making structures as a social tool developed by humans and currently used to smooth the operation of capitalism. But in the hands of a socialist majority, a switch will be flicked in this machine, and - with a some tweaking here and there - it will be available to help enable socialism.

Stock or inventory control systems employing calculation in kind are absolutely indispensable to any kind of modern production system. While it is true that today they operate within a price environment that is not the same thing as saying they need such an environment in order to operate. Most students of Logistics will be able to explain how unnecessary dollars and cents are for its operation. The key to good stock management is the stock turnover rate – how rapidly stock is removed from the shelves – and the point at which it may need to be re-ordered. This will also be affected by considerations such as lead times – how long it takes for fresh stock to arrive – and the need to anticipate possible changes in demand. The Just- In- Time systems are another tried and trusted tool of warehousing and supply chains which can be utilised . The existence of buffer stocks provides for a period of re-adjustment.

The “Law of The Minimum” formulated by Justus von Liebig can be applied equally to the problem of resource allocation in any economy. For any given bundle of factors required to produce a given good, one of these will be the limiting factor. That is to say, the output of this good will be restricted by the availability of the factor in question constituting the limiting factor. All things being equal, it makes sense from an economic point of view to economise most on those things that are scarcest and to make greatest use of those things that are abundant .( The claim that all factors are scarce because the use of any factor entails an opportunity cost and, consequently, need to be economised is not a very sensible approach to adopt. Effective economisation of resources requires discrimination and selection; you cannot treat every factor equally – that is, as equally scarce – or, if you do, this will result in gross misallocation of resources and economic inefficiency.)

In any economy there needs to be some way of prioritising production goals. We can apply Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” as a guide to action. It would seem reasonable to suppose that needs that were most pressing and upon which the satisfaction of other needs are dependant would take priority over those other needs. We are talking here about our basic physiological needs for food, water, adequate sanitation and housing and so on. This would be reflected in the allocation of resources: high priority end goals would take precedence over low priority end goals where resources common to both are revealed (via the self regulating system of stock control) to be in short supply .

Cost-benefit analysis might be used with which to evaluate a range of different projects facing such a society using some sort of “points system”. Under capitalism the balance sheet of the relevant benefits and costs advantages and disadvantages of a particular scheme or rival schemes is drawn up in money terms , but in socialism a points system for attributing relative importance to the various relevant considerations could be used instead. The points attributed to these considerations would be subjective, in the sense that this would depend on a deliberate social decision rather than on some objective standard. In the sense that one of the aims of socialism is precisely to rescue humankind from the capitalist fixation with production time/money, cost-benefit type analyses, as a means of taking into account other factors, could therefore be said to be more appropriate for use in socialism than under capitalism. Using points systems to attribute relative importance in this way would not be to recreate some universal unit of evaluation and calculation, but simply to employ a technique to facilitate decision-making in particular concrete cases. The advantages /disadvantages and even the points attributed to them can, and normally would, differ from case to case. So what we are talking about is not a new abstract universal unit of measurement to replace money and economic value but one technique among others for reaching rational decisions in a society where the criterion of rationality is human welfare.

A broad picture of how production- for- use would operate in direct response to need can now be projected .
Needs would arise in local communities expressed as required quantities such as kilos , tonnes , cubic litres or whatever of various materials and quantities of goods . These would then be communicated according to necessity .Each particular part of production would be responding to the material requirements communicated to it through the connected ideas of social production . It would be self -regulating , because each element of production would be self-adjusting to the communication of these material requirements . Each part of production would know its position . If requirements are low in relation to a build-up of stock , then this would an automatic indication to a production unit that its production should be reduced . The supply of some needs will take place within the local community and in these cases production would not extent beyond this , as for example with local food production for local consumption .Other needs could be communicated as required things to the regional organisation of production. Local food production would require glass, but not every local community could have its own glass works . The requirements for glass could be communicated to a regional glass works . The glass works has its own suppliers of materials and the amounts they require for the production of glass are known in definite quantities. The required quantities of these materials could be passed by the glass works to the regional suppliers of the materials for glass manufacture . This would be a sequence of communication of local needs to the regional organisation of production, and thus contained within a region .
Local food production would also require tractors , for instance , and here the communication of required quantities of things could extend further to the world organisation of production . Regional manufacture could produce and assemble the component parts of tractors for distribution to local communities . The regional production unit producing tractors would communicate to their own suppliers , and eventually this would extend to world production units extracting and processing the necessary materials .
This would be the self-regulating system of production for need , operating on the basis of the communication of need as definite quantities of things throughout the structure of production . Each production unit would convert the requirements communicated to it into its own material requirements and pass these on to its suppliers . This would be the sequence by which every element of labour required for the production of a final product would be known .This system of self-regulating production for use is achieved through communications . Socialism would make full use of the means communications which have developed such as the existing system of information technology that can provide for instant world-wide contact as well as facilities for storing and processing millions of pieces of information .

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Slumdogs return to the slums

According to CNN
On Sunday night, Azharuddin Ismail and Rubina Ali were in Hollywood, California, getting celebrity treatment as eight Oscars were awarded to the movie they starred in, "Slumdog Millionaire."
On Thursday night, the two children were sleeping at home in Mumbai, India. Azharuddin sleeps under a plastic sheet in a shantytown beside a railway track, where the smell of urine and cow dung lingers in the air. Rubina sleeps with her parents and siblings in a tiny shack beside an open drain.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Where are they now

Everybody blames the bankers for the crisis , and probably rightly so , but just how much of the consequences of their actions have they had to confront and face ?

The Independent describes how failed bank directors still sit in the board-rooms :

Bradford & Bingley
Michael Buckley (non-exec 2007-08). A director of Nicola Horlick’s Bramdean Alternatives and sits on the M&T Bank board in the US.
Ian Cheshire (n-x 2003-08). Chief executive of Kingfisher, the B&Q group.
Nick Cosh (n-x 1999-2008). Director of City brokers Icap.
Sir George Cox (2000-07). Commentator on the banking crisis and chairs Warwick Business School’s advisory board.
Rod Kent (n-x chairman 2002-08). A governor of Wellcome Trust and chairs the Duke of Westminster’s £13bn Grosvenor empire,
Lady Patten (n-x 2003-08). Sits on the Marks & Spencer board and chairs the Brixton property group.
Stephen Webster (n-x 2003-08). Finance director at Wolseley plumbing goods group.

Sir James Crosby (1994-2006). Is still senior independent director at ITV and the Compass catering group, and last month became a director of Mysis, the software company.
Charles Dunstone (n-x 2000-08). A director of Daily Mail & General Trust and the Prince’s Trust besides running Carphone Warehouse.
Mike Ellis (finance director 1987-2004, 07-09). Is now a WH Smith director.
Tony Hobson (n-x 2001-06). Chairs Northern Foods and is a director of water company Glas Cymru.
Philip Hodkinson (finance director 2005-08). Chairs the audit committees at BT and Travelex. Director of HM Revenue & Customs.
Andy Hornby (1999-2009). Remains a director of Home Retail, the Homebase and Argos chains.
Sir Brian Ivory (n-x 1998-2007). Director of Scottish American Investment Trust and Rémy Contreau.
Karen Jones (n-x 2006-09). The founder of Café Rouge recently joined the Virgin Active board.
Kate Nealon (n-x 2004-09). Sits on the Cable & Wireless and Shire drugs group boards.
David Shearer (n-x 2004-07). Senior independent director at STV and chairman of Crest Nicholson.
Lord Stevenson (chairman 1999-2009). Director of Western Union and Loudwater Investments.
Mark Tucker (finance director 2004-05). Returned to the Prudential, where he is chief executive.

Northern Rock
David Baker (1973-2007). Chairs Northeast Enterprise Bond.
Sir Ian Gibson (n-x 2002-08). The former senior independent director chairs Trinity Mirror and the Wm Morrison supermarket group.
Michael McQueen (n-x 2005-08). Chief executive of the FTSE 100 private-equity group 3i.
Nichola Pease (n-x 1999-2007). Deputy chairman at JO Hambro Capital Management.
Matt Ridley (1996-2007 and chairman from 2004). Remains a governor of the Ditchley Foundation conference group with government ministers.
Sir George Russell (n-x 1996-2006). Deputy chairman of ITV and the veteran of boardrooms from 3i and Taylor Woodrow to Camelot.
Sir Derek Wanless (n-x 2000-07). Chaired credit and risk committees. Vice-chairman of Statistics Commission and chairs Northumbrian Water.

Royal Bank of Scotland
Colin Buchan (n-x 2002-). Remains an RBS director. His other boards include Standard Life and two Merrill Lynch trusts.
Jim Currie (n-x 2001-09). Director of Dutch aluminium group Vimetco plus the Met Office.
Larry Fish (1993-2008). Chairman of US Citizens Bank and director of Textron – the Cessna and Bell Helicopter group.
Sir Fred Goodwin (1998-2008). Chairman of the Prince’s Trust.
Archie Hunter (n-x 2004-). Audit committee chairman, still sits on the board and is director of Macfarlane Group and an investment trust.
Bud Koch (n-x 2004-09). A director of the federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati.
Janis Kong (n-x 2006-09). Director of Kingfisher, Portmeirion pottery, Visit Britain and chairs the Forum for the Future environmental group.
Joe MacHale (2004-). Still senior non-exec and a director of Morgan Crucible and Brit Insurance.
Sir Tom McKillop (2005-08). Director of BP and a Spanish drugs group, plus a trustee of the Council for Industry & Higher Education.
Sir George Matthewson (2001-06 after nine years running the bank). Now chairs the Edinburgh government’s Council for Economic Advisers.
Gordon Pell (2000-). Still an RBS executive director. Chairs the Business Commission on Racial Equality and is on the FSA Practitioner Panel.
Sir Steve Robson (n-x 2001-09). The former adviser to the Chancellors is now a director of JP Morgan Cazenove, mining group Xstrata and the Government’s Partnerships UK.
Bob Scott (n-x 2001-08). Chairs the Yell group with directorships of Swiss-re and Crimestoppers.
Peter Sutherland (n-x 2001-09). Chairman of BP and Goldman Sachs International and advises EC president Jose Barraso on climate change.
Guy Whittaker (2006-). Now finance director.

Not too bad for people with now a track record of incompetence and negligence

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capital confusion

A quick peruse of this mornings paper and i find capitalism confuses even itself .

The figures confirm that the UK had plunged into recession at the end of last year and with interest rates nearing zero, the Bank of England is moving towards buying assets with newly-created money to try and boost demand.
Both professional services, such as accountants and legal firms, and consumer businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, reported sharp falls in profitability and warned of plans to scale back investments and jobs. The numbers employed also declined at a record rate,
Companies selling to other businesses likewise saw record rates of decline in job numbers and profitability, with worries about the ability to raise funds for expansion.

The CBI's chief economic adviser, Ian McCafferty, said: "Consumers are clearly reining back their discretionary spending - postponing holidays, and spending less on leisure activities and personal care.Similarly, an already deteriorating demand for business services such as advertising, legal advice and temporary office staff has slumped in recent months .Jobs are already being lost at the fastest rate in over 10 years from the whole of the service sector, and firms' expectations suggest conditions will remain depressed for some time to come."

Bruce Stout, manager of Aberdeen Asset Management's £568m Murray International investment trust, said
"Political rhetoric claimed the nation had never been in better shape heading into a downturn - in reality it was the complete opposite Policymakers outwardly delivered assurances whilst internally they panicked. Interest rates were slashed to historic lows whilst simultaneously fiscal pledges and spending rocketed. The effects of such drastic measures have yet to be felt, but given the chronic state of the banking system and the sheer scale of debt outstanding, the UK economy is likely to suffer the worst recession of all G7 countries."

Professor Tim Besley states
"The idea that we can and should use short-term interest rates to quell asset booms or to curb lending practices is intellectually and practically suspect," he adds. "Put another way, all those charged with getting us out of this mess are now having to make it up as they go. And one obvious risk of throwing too many weapons at the credit crunch is that inflation turns negative for too long and we find ourselves in that very uncomfortable downwards spiral experienced by the Japanese throughout their lost decade. "

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

slumdogs and millionaires

According to here
Out of India's population, 76% live below the poverty limit of $2 a day, compared to 73% in Sub-Saharan Africa. That is 800 million people living in abject poverty - in one country.

One third of all the world's ultra poor are Indians. 40% of all malnourished children are Indian.

but then there is this
Four of the top eight billionaires in the world are from India. Topping the ranks is steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, whose worth Forbes puts at $45 billion. Next up are the Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil, with $43 billion and $42 billion repsectively, largely from petrochemicals. Rounding out the list is KP Singh, the real-estate magnate, at $30 billion. All four of the Indian billionaires inherited substantial fortunes, suggesting that in India, wealth is still determined more by your parents than by your career or your ideas.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

The War Mongers

Israel's ambassador to the U.S. called for "immediate and serious action" Friday after a United Nations report showed Iran has enough uranium to build a nuclear bomb.
"It's an extremely worrisome report. ... It emphasizes that with every day passing, Iran is getting closer to a nuclear military capacity," he said. "The world must take immediate and serious action in order to prevent this nightmare from happening."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Iran represented "urgent problem that has to be addressed...we can't delay addressing it."

Alas , this is the same unfactual rhetoric that we suffered in the build up to the Iraq war . Reports taken out of context and important caveats omitted

It was reported this week, based on a new IAEA report, that Iran has produced “enough low-enriched, reactor-grade uranium to make a bomb.”
This, as former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Cheryl Rofer has carefully documented, is scientific nonsense: Yes, that uranium contains enough U-235 to make a bomb. To get it out, you would need to kick all the inspectors out of the country, reconfigure thousands of closely watched centrifuges and engage in years of enrichment.

“As long as we are monitoring their facilities,” IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei said recently, “they cannot develop nuclear weapons. And they still do not have the ingredients to make a bomb overnight.”
It is re-iterated here
Iran has not converted the low-grade uranium that it has produced into weapon-grade uranium, inspectors belonging to the International Atomic Energy Agency have said.
The Austrian Press Agency quoted an IAEA expert as saying that the uranium substances that Iran has produced at its Natanz enrichment facility have been carefully recorded and remote cameras have been installed to supervise part of the stockpile.
“If the Iranians intend to transport these uranium substances to a secret location for further processing, agency’s inspectors will find out,” he said. The expert added that “so far, Iran has carried out good cooperation with us in relevant verifications”.
IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei has said that Iran has slowed down its uranium enrichment programme. He made this observation while submitting a report to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday. Iran has reportedly added only 164 centrifuges (which are used for enrichment) since December last, a comparatively slower rate than in the past.

The war mongers declare that the latest report by Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei "said it had discovered an additional 460 pounds of low-enriched uranium, a third more than Iran had previously disclosed." but actually it said it has now "finalized" its assessment of Iran's physical inventory, carried out back on 24-26 November 2008 and "has concluded that the physical inventory as declared by Iran was consistent" with the IAEA verification.
Far from claiming that Iran had actually produced a third more than it had estimated it had produced, the IAEA has now verified that Iran's estimate was consistent with what they found.
The IAEA then notes that Iran has "estimated" it has produced, since the IAEA did that verification back in November, an additional 171 kg of low enriched UF6.

ElBaradei reports, once again, that Iran is in complete compliance with its NPT-associated Safeguards Agreement, and is – therefore – in complete compliance with its NPT "obligations."

The war mongers claim that Iranian scientists have reached "nuclear weapons breakout capability,"

No, at least from what can be surmised. Iran would face a series of technical hurdles, though none as difficult as producing quality nuclear fuel in industrial quantities.
These include:
* reconfiguring its existing centrifuge enrichment plant at Natanz to reprocess LEU into weapons-grade HEU, or building clandestine facilities without the knowledge of U.N. inspectors
converting HEU into metal and compressing it small enough to fit into the cone of a missile or other delivery vehicle
* designing a nuclear trigger mechanism
* mastering how to create a sustained nuclear chain reaction with an extra source of neutrons
* assembling the actual warhead
All this could take 2-5 years, depending on Iran's technical prowess, but probably much less time than the 20 years it took Iran to acquire enrichment equipment and knowledge from the nuclear black market and make it work.
It would be very hard for Iran to "weaponize" the enrichment process at Natanz without the IAEA noticing and sounding the alarm, since the plant is under regular surveillance by inspectors.If Iran chose to weaponize enrichment at Natanz, it would probably kick out the IAEA and quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran says it will not refine uranium for anything else but electricity. Being able to enrich at industrial scale is not tantamount to seeking a nuclear weapon and is the sovereign right of NPT members as long as the work remains strictly for peaceful applications.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Not so Lost

Posted here , another plagiarised blog comment

"the orthodox Marxist left often shared with the bureaucratic right-wing leadership a similar top-down ideology with regards to the role of the (singular) party - Basically, "the" party would deliver for "the" (singular)class, winning things on its behalf."

Well , i would consider the Socialist Party of Great Britain to be the archetype Marxist party , all the others of the Left being more the offspring of Lenin or Trotsky or Stalin.

And you will know that the SPGB is a leader-less political party where its executive committee is solely for housekeeping admin duties and cannot determine policy or even submit resolutions to conference (and all the EC minutes available for public scrutiny access on the web as proof of our commitment to openness and democracy ) . Despite some very charismatic writers and speakers in the past , no personality has held undue influence over the the SPGB .

Working class emancipation necessarily excludes the role of political leadership. Even if we could conceive of a leader-ridden working class displacing the capitalist class from power such an immature class would be helpless to undertake the responsibilities of democratic socialist society.

The SPGB is like no other political party in Britain. It is made up of people who have joined together because we want to get rid of the profit system and establish real socialism. Our aim is to persuade others to become socialist and act for themselves, organizing democratically and without leaders, to bring about the kind of society that we advocate. We reject the idea that people can be led into socialism. Socialism will not be established by good leaders but by thinking men, women and children. There can be no socialism without socialists.

Political democracy is not, or is not just, a trick whereby the capitalist class get the working class to endorse their rule; it is a potential instrument that the working class can turn into a weapon to use in ending capitalism and class rule. Democracy and majority decision-making must be the basic principle of both the movement to establish socialism and of socialist society itself.
If a majority of workers really were as incapable of understanding socialism as many on the Left maintin , then socialism would be impossible since, by its very nature as a society based on voluntary cooperation, it can only come into being and work with the conscious consent and participation of the majority. Socialism just could not be imposed from above by an elite as envisaged by the Left . Democracy is not the mere counting of noses; it is the only principle of organisation compatible with a classless society.

The American socialist Eugene Debs expresses the SPGB sentiment "I don't want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of the capitalist wilderness you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out."

a satirical tale :- The little vanguard's tail

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Alternative to capitalism

Posted here and plagiarised from here and here

The oldest existing socialist party in the UK has been propagating the alternative to capitalism since 1904. A Marxist-based ( but perhaps a William Morris - Peter Kropotkin amalgam , may be a better description ) organisation . It is a non-Social Democrat 2nd Internationalist , non-Leninist 3rd Internationalist , non- Trotskyist 4th Internationalist political organisation that is a formally structured leader-less political party .

Socialism is almost globally misunderstood and misrepresented. Socialism will be a basic structural change to society, and many of the things that most people take for granted, as "just the way things have to be", can and must be changed to establish socialism.

People tend to accept as true the things they hear over and over again. But repetition doesn't make things true. Because the truth and the facts often contradict "common knowledge", socialists have to show that "common knowledge" is wrong. That takes more words than just accepting the status quo.

Commodity production is organised within the constraints of the circulation of capital .This capital can accumulate , maintain its level or become depleted . The economic pressure on capital is that of accumulation , the alternative is bankruptcy . The production and distribution of goods is entirely subordinate to the pressure on capital to accumulate .Therefore the practical , technical organisation of production is entirely separate from the economic organisation of the accumulation of capital in which cost/price , value factors play a vital part. The economic signals of the market are not signals to produce useful things . They signal the prospects of profit and capital accumulation , If there is a profit to be made then production will take place ; if there is no prospect of profit , then production will not take place . Profit not need is the deciding factor .

This market system , involving the circulation of capital , generates commodity values which are brought into a relationship of exchange in the market , so that value , surplus to the value of labour-power , embodied in commodities is realised through sales . When enterprises calculate costs as a relationship of labour-time to output this is not with a view to passing on socially useful information about the organisation of production . They are calculating costs plus the average rate of profit . Through the exchange of labour- power for wages , capital is invested in the power of workers to produce goods . It is with active labour functioning as deployed capital that capital expands . Labour-power generates more values than it consumes . These surplus values belong to the enterprise in the material form of commodities which are then sold on the market . This is where capital realises its self-expansion and thereby accumulates . The market price of commodities produced must exceed the price of the materials and labour-power required to produce them . This is what costing is all about , it has nothing to do with the practical organisation of production In its overall effect the subordination of useful production to the accumulation of capital distorts and constrains social production . The market is at every point in the system a barrier of exchange between production , distribution and social needs . The circulation of capital confines useful labour within a self-enclosed system of exchange . Labour is activated by an exchange of labour -power for wages and this is determined by the capacity of the market to provide profit through sales .

In a socialist society, there will be no money and no exchange and no barter. Goods will be voluntarily produced, and services voluntarily supplied to meet people's needs. People will freely take the things they need.Socialism will be concerned solely with the production , distribution and consumption of useful goods and services in response to definite needs . It will integrate social needs with the material means of meeting those needs .

Common ownership is not state ownership. State ownership is merely the ownership by the capitalist class as a whole, instead of by individual capitalists, and the government then runs the state enterprises to serve the capitalist class. In the self-proclaimed "communist" states the state enterprises serve those who control the party/state apparatus. The working class does not own or control. It produces for a privileged minority.

Common ownership means that society as a whole owns the means and instruments for distributing wealth. It also implies the democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, for if everyone owns, then everyone must have equal right to control the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth.

The task of capitalist ideology is to maintain the veil which keeps people from seeing that their own activities reproduce the form of their daily life ,the task of Marxism is to unveil the activities of daily life, to render them transparent. As soon as people accept money as an equivalent for life, the sale of living activity becomes a condition for their physical and social survival. Life is exchanged for survival. Creation and production come to mean sold activity.As soon as people accept the terms of this exchange, daily activity takes the form of universal prostitution.

Capitalist ideology treats land, capital , and the products of labor, as things which have the power to produce, to create value, to work for their owners, to transform the world. This is what Marx called the fetishism which characterizes people's everyday conceptions, and which is raised to the level of dogma by Economics. For the economist, living people are things - factors of production -, and things live money - works, Capital - produces .When men refuse to sell their labour, money cannot perform even the simplest tasks, because money does not " work ". The notion of the "productivity of capital," and particularly the detailed measurement of that "productivity," are inventions of the "science" of Economics.

The production of surplus value is a condition of survival, not for the population, but for the capitalist system. Surplus value is the portion of the value of commodities produced by labour which is not returned to the labourers. It can be expressed either in commodities or in money , but this does not alter the fact that it is an expression for the materialized labour which is stored in a given quantity of products. Since the products can be exchanged for an "equivalent" quantity of money, the money "stands for," or represents, the same value as the products. The money can, in turn, be exchanged for another quantity of products of "equivalent" value. The ensemble of these exchanges, which take place simultaneously during the performance of capitalist daily life, constitutes the capitalist process of circulation. It is through this process that the metamorphosis of surplus value into Capital takes place.

The portion of value which does not return to labour, namely surplus value, allows the capitalist to exist, and it also allows him to do much more than simply exist. The capitalist invests a portion of this surplus value; he hires new workers and buys new means of production; he expands his dominion. What this means is that the capitalist accumulates new labour, both in the form of the living labour he hires and of the past labour (paid and unpaid) which is stored in the materials and machines he buys.

The capitalist class as a whole accumulates the surplus labour of society, but this process takes place on a social scale and consequently cannot be seen if one observes only the activities of an individual capitalist. It must be remembered that the products bought by a given capitalist as instruments have the same characteristics as the products he sells. A first capitalist sells instruments to a second capitalist for a given sum of value, and only a part of this value is returned to workers as wages; the remaining part is surplus value, with which the first capitalist buys new instruments and labor. The second capitalist buys the instruments for the given value, which means that he pays for the total quantity of labor rendered to the first capitalist, the quantity of labour which was remunerated as well as the quantity performed free of charge. This means that the instruments accumulated by the second capitalist contain the unpaid labour performed for the first. The second capitalist, in turn, sells his products for a given value, and returns only a portion of this value to his laborers; he uses the remainder for new instruments and labour.

If the whole process were squeezed into a single time period, and if all the capitalists were aggregated into one, it would be seen that the value with which the capitalist acquires new instruments and labour is equal to the value of the products which he did not return to the producers. This accumulated surplus labour is Capital.

In terms of capitalist society as a whole, the total Capital is equal to the sum of unpaid labour performed by generations of human beings whose lives consisted of the daily alienation of their living activity. In other words Capital, in the face of which men sell their living days, is the product of the sold activity of men, and is reproduced and expanded every day a man sells another working day, every moment he decides to continue living the capitalist form of daily life.

Matters little if capitalism is small or large - either way , it is based on robbery .

The choice of "good" or "bad" capitalism is little different than choosing between typhoid or cholera

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Friday, February 13, 2009

now he tells us as if we didn't already know

The Iraq war was just the first of this century's "resource wars", in which powerful countries use force to secure valuable commodities, according to the UK government's former chief scientific adviser , David King

Implicitly rejecting the US and British governments' claim they went to war to remove Saddam Hussein and search for weapons of mass destruction, he said the US had in reality been very concerned about energy security and supply, because of its reliance on foreign oil from unstable states. "Casting its eye around the world - there was Iraq," he said.

"It was certainly the view that I held at the time, and I think it is fair to say a view that quite a few people in government held," said King, who is now director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University.

This strategy could also be used to find and keep supplies of other essentials, such as minerals, water and fertile land, he added

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Food for Thought

According to the Lancet nutrition series (January 2008), 178 million children under 5 suffer from nutritional deficiencies - 55 million acute and 19.3 million severely acute (wasting).

Unlike many diseases, malnutrition has a cure - a balanced diet, regular consumption of fortified foods, supplements when local foods don't have the nutrients needed, and animal-based products like milk, fish, eggs and cheese.

One solution is to increase spending on nutrition. According to the Lancet nutrition series, $300 million a year is spent on nutrition while $6 billion is spent on HIV/AIDS.

"Nutrition can only be sustainable if people ultimately pay for it," said Dr. Alfred Sommer, dean emeritus of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

What he means is for people to pay in pounds and pence , dollars and cents . No matter how well meaning those experts and NGOs are , they are bound by the confines of the capitalist system and the most obvious solution of actually providing such nutition freely is simply beyond their ken .

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Monday, February 09, 2009

normal service

After a long interruption , normal service will soon be resuming . Watch this space