Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Green and Unpleasant Land

The Agricultural Wages Board was the only wages board to survive the abolition of wage regulation by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. This was because even the Thatcherites recognised how "sweated" agricultural work was, namely, it was exceedingly low paid, dirty, dangerous and often seasonal, and thus merited some basic form of regulation. It has now been abolished.

The national minimum wage covers only minimum hourly pay rates (categorised by age) and nothing else.But under the Agricultural Wages Act 1948, the AWB enforces much more through a legal instrument called an agricultural wages order. So among the terms of the orders – which are reviewed and raised annually – is a raft of allowances including:
• Accommodation (where living at or on the work premises is necessary)
• Overtime (at time and a half)
• Sick pay
• Food and care for dogs (where a dog is needed to do the work)
• Rest breaks of 30 minutes for every five and a half hours of work
• Bad weather payments (so that workers are not penalised for not being able to work because of the weather)

On top of this, the orders set minimum hour wages by grade rather than just by age. So the 2009-2010 national minimum wage is £5.80 for an adult over 21 years of age while the rates for those above compulsory school age range from £5.81 to £8.64 under the AWB. For 2010-2011, the national minimum wage will rise to £5.93 while those in agriculture are due to rise to between £5.95 and £8.88.
Furthermore, the method of enforcement is far more lax under the national minimum wage than the AWB, and there are still loopholes by which employers can avoid paying the minimum wage.

With market forces now more fully unleashed, farmers will do away with many of the compulsory terms and conditions that the AWB provided for. They may do this because they are greedy and capricious. If they are not, they may still do it because gangmasters (despite some minimal regulation) can provide workers more cheaply than they can or because the big buyers of agricultural produce such as Tesco decide to ask for ever tougher terms in supply contracts.

The abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board will be damaging to the industry, All-Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group (APPGHG) secretary Brian Donohoe has warned. "People on the lowest wages will suffer..."

The decision does not affect the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board, with a government spokesperson stating: "The Scottish Government reviewed SAWB as recently as last year and decided to retain it, with a further review in 2011. This position is unaffected by Defra's decision to abolish the AWB in England and Wales."

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

post-traumatic embitterment disorder

There is now a new condition called post-traumatic embitterment disorder.Workers who whinge about their job or their boss and spread vicious gossip while doing as little work as possible may have fallen victim to it. Those with the disorder are usually people who do not have a good work-life balance and who derived too much of their self-esteem from their job. People who are passed over for a promotion, who have been humiliated in front of colleagues or who feel their true worth is not recognised are most likely to develop the condition. It affects their performance at work and at home and traps them in a vicious circle of underperformance and despair. They feel down-hearted and helpless but can also be aggressive. They are also more likely to throw "sickies" to avoid going to work.In the most serious cases, people can suffer nightmares and phobias relating to their job. They feel unable ever to return to work and may even become suicidal (the researchers found that those affected by the condition can sometimes raise a smile - especially when contemplating revenge.)

Soon they will be medicalising strikes.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

michael albert once more

Parecon to be quite conservative movement in essence. The reason that Parecon has to go to such lengths to construct such a complicated and complex (and wasteful system, i might add ) of elaborate checks and balances is ultimately that its proponents are unwilling or unable to accept that if given the right economic framework, then, in fact, humans can consciously co-operate, work and consume together. In the final analysis, Parecon lack confidence that either there are sufficient resources on the planet to provide for all, or that human beings can work voluntarily, and co-operate to organise production and distribution of wealth without chaos, and consume wealth responsibly without some form of rationing .

Pareconists remain fixated to the lazy person, greedy individual critique of human behaviour . In denying anarcho-communism Michael Albert simply preaches conventional bourgeois wisdom about peoples "selfishness" and a pessimistic view of human behaviour.

In some exchanges i have engaged in , (more or less repeated in his reply to AA ), Michael Albert has said

"...I think you believe, instead, that there is a capacity for humanity to generate as much nice and fulfilling goods and services as anyone could possibly desire to have, plus as much leisure as anyone could want, and so on. Well, is that really your view? If so, okay, we can agree to disagree. And, honestly, I can't imagine discussing it - further - because for me it is so utterly ridiculous, honestly.... Suppose everyone would like - if the cost was zero - their own large mansion, on the ocean, with wonderful fantastic food every day, with magnificent recording and listening equipment, with a nice big boat, with their own private tennis courts, or basketball, or golf, or whatever....a great home movie system, a wonderful violin, magnificent clothes, and so on and so forth, and, also, while they like creative work a lot, they would like a whole lot of time to enjoy their bountiful home and holdings - so they want to work only twenty hours a week and of course not do anything other than what interests them. What you seem to be saying is that you think that is possible... or, even if all that were possible, no one would want it. Both are false..."

"...if something is of no cost, and I want it, sure, I will take it, to enjoy it, why not..."

"...Tell everyone that they can have a free house, a really nice car, or two, whatever equipment the like for sports or hobbies, whatever TVs they would enjoy and other tools of daily life, whatever food they want nightly, etc. etc. because it is all free, no problem for them to take what they want. And see what one will be able to conduct themselves responsibly..."

"... since they can have product, from the available social product, regardless. So sloth is rewarded. Likewise greed..."

For free access Socialists and Anarcho-Communists we will continue to struggle to create a structured society where people have accepted socially mutual obligations and the realisation of universal interdependency and we understand that decisions arising from this would profoundly affect people’s choices, perceptions, conceptualizations, attitudes, and greatly influence their behavior, economically or otherwise. Humans behave differently depending upon the conditions that they live in. Human behaviour reflects society.

The scare-mongering about the co-ordinator class simply just not arise since society members free access to goods and services denies to any group or individuals the political leverage with which to dominate others which has been a feature of all private-property or class based systems through through the control of and restrictions to the means of life. This will ensure that a socialist society is run on the basis of democratic consensus.

In an anarchist world 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 goods and services. Again Parecon ( since of its support and the continued existence of a wages system and remuneration differentials ) cannot do away with a status hierarchy in which social esteem is closely related to an individual’s “pecuniary strength”, those at the top of this hierarchy exercising their pecuniary strength which provides the key signifier of social esteem in this hierarchy. Hence there remains emphasis on extravagant luxury which only the rich can really afford and those lower down this hierarchy imitating those higher up. We can readily guess that with luxury items rationed only to those that "deserve" by their work contribution settled by bjc committees , the less fortunate and more envious will endeavour to appropriate these luxuries by theft which will require Parecon police, Parecon lawyers and judges and ultimately Parecon jails and warders .

To have a system that allows wages to be dispensed on the basis of work carried out, allows money to circulate, and restricts access to wealth ( food or housing) unless you have sufficient money to purchase something, doesn't seem to be too far from capitalism in terms of its outward appearance. retains major elements of the market system. More importantly is simply highly unlikely to be workable in the real world. Parecon appears to me to be about building a massive (and socially unproductive) administration for policing all the wage levels, labour outputs, prices etc. Anarchism/world socialism is not about creating ever greater bureaucratic structures, but quite the opposite - it will be about removing the barriers capitalism has developed which prohibit access to wealth, and at a stroke create an economic environment without individual (ie monetary or, in Pareconese, consumer credit accumulation)incentives.

Parecon is attractive to those who dislike capitalism but it must be terribly deflating for a person to have devoted so much time and energy in creating an elaborate, complex, convoluted construct to offer an alternative to capitalism and then to have others declare that it was totally unnecessary and that the answers and solutions already existed and stood on firmer foundations. This is the case with Michael Albert .

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When the split in the Russian Social-Democratic Party took place at a conference in London in 1903, Trotsky took an individual stand. It is not true that he was a Menshevik, for, although he, like the Mensheviks, opposed Lenin's plan for an organisation of revolutionary conspirators to be controlled by a dictatorship in the centre, his fundamental views differed from both factions. Trotsky himself made it clear that he did not consider the controversy important enough to warrant a split, and continued to work with both groups in an attempt to re-establish unity. whereas both factions were agreed that the coming Russian Revolution would be essentially capitalist and that Russia would consequently have to pass through an era of capitalist democracy, Trotsky was alone in proclaiming that the overthrow of Czardom could be accomplished by the Russian movement alone, which could maintain itself in power and so cut out completely the period of capitalist transition. This point of view he elaborated into a theory called "Permanent Revolution".Trotsky took up a position, arguing that if the working class were to come to power in the course of the coming bourgeois revolution in Russia it was unreasonable to expect them to hand over power to the bourgeoisie; they would, and should according to Trotsky, take steps to transform society in a socialist direction. The basic points of this theory rest on the assumption that power could be held by socialists in Russia long enough to enable the workers of the more advanced Western countries, helped, of course, by their Russian comrades, to introduce Socialism. Then the material backwardness of Russia could be overcome through the united efforts of a Socialist Europe. It was adopted by Lenin himself in April 1917 when he returned to Russia from exile in Switzerland. As a result Trotsky himself then rallied to the Bolsheviks.

When hopes for a socialist revolution in the West had been frustrated, Trotsky blamed this on bad and treacherous leadership. The debates between Trotskyists and Stalinists always revolved around such questions of leadership – if only the leaders had acted in such-and-such a way, things would have turned out better. Tactics, said Trotsky, should have been framed so as to win workers over from their Social Democratic leaders, under the command of the Communist Party: “We must understand how to tear the workers away from their leaders”. Trotskyists continue to attach themselves to larger movements in the hope of providing alternative leaderships and of being at the heart of the struggle.

Trotsky defended Russian state-capitalism on the grounds that the Russian economic system, i.e., state control, was essentially working-class, and apparently required only a change in its political administration to perfect it for working-class needs.This error is bound up with Trotsky's confusion between State-capitalism and Socialism, evidence of which can be found in his writings. Trotsky fell from power because his theory of Permanent Revolution and his consequent insistence on continued revolutionary agitation abroad would have cut off all technical aid from the Western world, and so made any attempt at industrial development more difficult in Russia. In exile Trotsky played the role of "loyal opposition" to the Stalin regime in Russia. He was very critical of the various political aspects of this regime but to his dying day he defended the view that the Russian revolution had established a "Workers State" in Russia and that this represented a gain for the working class both of Russia and of the whole world. Russia under Stalin was a Workers State, not a perfect one, certainly, but a Workers State nevertheless. Trotsky was only able to sustain his point of view by making the completely un-Marxist assumption that capitalist distribution relations (the privileges of the Stalinist bureaucracy) could exist on the basis of socialist production relations. Marx concluded that the mode of distribution was entirely determined by the mode of production. Thus the existence of privileged distribution relations in Russia should itself have been sufficient proof that Russia was not socialist. Trotsky rejected the view that Russia was state capitalist on the of grounds of the absence of a private capitalist class, of private shareholders and bondholders who could inherit and bequeath their property.

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Rosa and breakdowns

Some political groups argue that capitalism since the first world war is in a state of economic collapse due to its inability to find new markets on which to sell its products at a profit. The basic theoretical assumption is that by 1914 capitalism had become “decadent” as an economic system in the sense that it had become unable to develop the forces of production any further. This view is based on Rosa Luxemburg's The Accumulation of Capital.

Luxemburg admitted her theory conflicted with Marx at the end of Volume II of Capital which implied that long-term growth (accumulation) was possible under "pure" capitalism. She therefore tried to show where Marx had gone wrong, that there was a flaw in Marx’s Capital, in that he had failed to recognise that a lack of purchasing power was built-in to capitalism and that therefore it had to rely on external markets to expand and once these had been exhausted then capitalism would enter a period of economic stagnation and breakdown.

According to her, under "pure" capitalism (an economy where there are only capitalists and wage workers) market demand was determined by consumption (what the workers spend on consumer goods plus what the capitalists spend on consumer goods). If the capitalists were to consume all their surplus value, so her argument ran, there would be no problem, but as soon as they re-invest a part of it – which, the accumulation of capital, is after all the purpose of production under capitalism – market demand is no longer equal to what has been produced. For, the consumption of the capitalists having been reduced, so, according to Luxemburg, has market demand. The result, she concluded, was that there was nobody to buy the products in which the re-invested profits were embodied (new machinery, raw materials and consumer goods for the extra workers taken on). As she wrote: “as capital approaches the point where humanity only consists of capitalists and proletarians, further accumulation will become impossible”.

This argument makes accumulation impossible under "pure" capitalism. It led to her conclusion that for capital accumulation to take place there must be non-capitalist areas to buy the part of the surplus product not consumed by the capitalists. It followed then that capitalism would collapse at the point when there were no more non-capitalist areas left in the world. On this theory, the crisis of capitalism is a permanent one and is reflected in a global saturation of markets that can only be temporarily broken through world war and the reconstruction that would follow such a war.

Luxemburg made the mistake of assuming that the level of market demand was determined exclusively by consumption (the spending of workers and capitalists on consumer goods) whereas in fact it is determined by consumption plus investment (capitalist spending on new means of production). Thus, when a part of the surplus value is re-invested rather than consumed, market demand is not reduced; it is merely re-arranged: what the capitalists formerly spent on consumer goods they now spend on means of production. Marx had made no mistake. Her argument was based on a complete misreading of Marx's reproduction schemas for both "simple" and "extended" reproduction. Marx himself furnished the theoretical disproof of this view that growth in "pure" capitalism would be impossible, in Chapter 49 of Volume Three of Capital. Capitalism is not, as Luxemburg intended, simply determined by the combined consumption of the workers and capitalists. Overall demand is not determined by the consumption of the workers and capitalists but by this plus the investment of the capitalists (what they spend on new means of production rather than on consumer goods for themselves).

External markets did play a key role in the birth and early growth of capitalism and to say that there is no permanent underconsumption built-in to the capitalist system is not to say that there is therefore always a smooth crisis-free accumulation of capital. Accumulation under capitalism proceeds by fits and starts, but these crises are caused by other reasons than underconsumption: by disproportions between the different branches of production leading to a fall in the rate of profit or, at times, to a temporary retraction of the market demand for consumer goods.

Those who have accepted Luxemburg put the view that capitalism became a world system around the start of the First World War and that ever since it has struggled to find markets in which the surplus product can be realised in the ever-diminishing non-capitalist periphery of the world. However, fundamentally the disproof of this theory is practical rather than just theoretical, based on the actuality of capitalist development this century. If growth in "pure" capitalism or at least something near to "pure" capitalism is impossible, the system just wouldn't have been able to expand the forces of production in the way that it has been doing. If capitalism has been in a state of market saturation for decades ( as far back as 1914) its long-term growth in the years since would have been impossible. And, although its rate of expansion has slowed in recent years, it has still continued to enjoy considerable long-term growth ever since Luxemburg wrote--and without selling sizeable quantities of commodities to undeveloped non-capitalist areas of the planet .

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Friday, July 02, 2010

miracle food

Spirulina, a blue-green, protein-packed algae, was labelled a "wonderful future food source" 45 years ago by the International Association of Microbiology.

"It's as close as we will get to a miracle food" says Mahamat Sorto, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
An easily digestible high ( 60-70 percent) protein product with high levels of B-carotene, vitamin B12, iron and trace minerals, and the rare essential fatty acid y-linolenic acid (also called omega-6).spirulina cultivation has a small environmental footprint with low water needs, production could take place in salty conditions that would kill other crops, and there are no obvious negative cultural or religious issues associated with its consumption.