Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dictatorships

Many equate socialism with dictatorship, yet, with the coming of the modern industrial state, most of the world’s population has lived under dictatorship. In the world today there are many countries under dictatorships of varying degrees of ruthlessness; that is to say countries in which the government is not responsible to the electorate, and in which political parties and trade unions are suppressed, or are allowed to exist only as organs of the government itself, and in which freedom of speech and opposition propaganda are denied. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, in conformity with its adherence to democratic principles, is opposed to all dictatorships. The Socialist Party has always insisted on the democratic nature of socialism, and on the value that the widest possible discussion of conflicting political views has for the working class. We do not minimise the importance of democracy for the working class or the socialist movement.

Under a dictatorship the traditional forms of working class political and economic organisation are denied the right of legal existence. Freedom of speech, assembly, and the Press is severely curtailed and made to conform to the needs of a single political party that has for the time being secured a monopoly in the administration of the State machine. Under political democracy the workers are allowed to form their own political and industrial organisations and, within limits, freedom of speech, of assembly and of the press is permitted, also the possibility of the electorate choosing between contending political parties.

Dictatorship in various forms exists at the present time, basically because of the political immaturity of most of the working class all over the world. Instead of being united by world-wide class consciousness they are everywhere divided: divided between the nations by the poison of nationalism; divided inside the nations by religious, racial and other superstitions; divided also by the failure of many to appreciate the importance of democracy. Nationalism plays a powerful role in thwarting the growth of class consciousness; by inducing workers in the newly created countries of Africa to accept oppression for the supposed benefits they will later receive when industrial development has been speeded up; by the readiness of the workers in countries holding colonies to condone what is in effect a dictatorship imposed on the colonial peoples.

Dictatorship does not exist in a vacuum: like every other social phenomenon it is related to, and has its origin in, a social background. That background is capitalism which inevitably gives rise to working class problems, consequent frustration, prejudices and bitterness which can be exploited by the opponents of democracy. With equal inevitability it also gives rise to problems of a specifically capitalist nature: such as maintaining the profitability of production; securing new and retaining old markets; the necessity of forging 'national unity' when faced with war with rival capitalist groups, and so on. It is precisely in an attempt to solve these problems that the ruling class in certain circumstances has recourse to dictatorship. As long as the workers support capitalism and capitalist policies they will be tempted ultimately to give their support to the policy best calculated to meet the political and economic needs cf capitalism, though that policy may be one of dictatorship.

We are said to have democracy in that we have free elections which allow us to choose whatever form of government we wish, unlike countries where a single-party dictatorship exists. Such dictatorships usually allow elections where the people may approve or disapprove of given candidates within the dictatorship but have not the freedom to vote for any other parties or for independent candidates. In other words the people have imposed on them by force, corruption or the control of information a specific political regime and have not got the necessary democratic machinery to challenge that regime.

We we are convinced that democracy cannot be defended by an adoption of the 'lesser evil', that is, a policy of concessions to and compromise with non-fascist parties and elements of capitalism. We do not unite with non-socialist organisations which claim to be defending democracy. Democracy for the working class can only be consolidated and expanded to the extent that the workers adopt the socialist standpoint. To renounce socialism so democracy may be defended, means ultimately the rejection of both socialism and democracy. Looking at the vast sums of money involved in our allegedly democratic elections we can hardly claim that they are "free"! In fact in most of the so-called democratic countries it could be said that the astronomical costs of challenging for political power have been deliberately manipulated in order to ensure that those who cannot attract rich backers will be denied meaningful access to the democratic process. Effectively this means that in the same way as people in dictatorships are denied the right to make real political changes, in Britain and other allegedly democratic societies prohibitive financial restrictions are placed in the way of the working class organising politically to effect real economic change. The idea of fair and free elections would give the ruling class political apoplexy. This does not mean that socialists equate dictatorship and bourgeois democracy. Within the latter we are free to organise politically and to develop our support to the extent where we can eventually overcome the embargoes and impediments that capitalism’s restricted democratic forms impose on us, whereas in the former any socialist work is necessarily clandestine and can invoke severe penalties.

The democratic state has been forced, against its will, to bring into being methods, institutions, and procedure which have left open the road to power for workers to travel upon when they know what to do and how to do it. In this country the central institution through which power is exercised is Parliament. To merely send working-class nominees there to control it is not sufficient. The purpose must be to accomplish a revolutionary reorganisation of society, a revolution, in its basis, which will put everybody on an equal footing as participants in the production, distribution and consumption of social requirements as well as in the control of society itself. So that all may participate equally, democracy is an essential condition. Free discussion, full and free access to information, means to implement the wishes of the majority which have been arrived at after free discussion, and the means to alter decisions if the wishes of the majority change. Socialist production needs to be organised democratically-a dictatorship organising production for use would not be socialism.

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The State

The State is organised force. On examination, that from the first it has always and at every time been a class institution. This is, perhaps hard to grasp for the average individual of today. To most of us the state and governmental organisations are things which exist to conserve the interests of, to serve, to help, the community as a whole. We are frequently told, in fact it is dinned into our ears without ceasing by all supporters of the present system, that this is so. Nothing, however could be further from the facts of the case. The state has always been a strictly class weapon used to conserve class interests. The first state organisations came into existence as a result of class (instead of, as before, communal) ownership of the means of life, slavery and exploitation. The first master class had to have some properly organised power behind them to suppress slave rebellions, etc. Therefore, to meet the needs of the case, they organised armed forces (slave guards) to protect their property rights as slave owners. In order that these forces might be employed to the best advantage they further organised themselves into what may be called “administrative councils”. Here we have the state in its infancy – the administrative council representing the brain, as it were, the slave guards the fighting or striking arm. Our modern state is much more complex, of course, though still, the same thing in another form. To govern is to direct, control and to rule with authority. Operating as the state this is what governments do. For socialists the rule of government can never be democratic. Though it may include some incidental functions arising from the needs of people the main work of the state is the running of class-divided society; a system of economic exploitation. In the main governments work for a privileged section of society. They make the laws which protect the property rights of a minority who own and control natural resources, industry, manufacture and transport. These are the means of life on which we all depend but most of us have no say in how they are used. Behind Parliament governments operate in secret. They are part of the division of the world into rival capitalist states. With the back-up of their armed forces they pursue national capitalist interests. Though the politicians who run it may be elected, the state is the opposite of democracy. The modern democratic state is merely the veil behind which modern slavery hides itself.

Democracy means the absence of privilege, making our decisions from a position of equality. Democracy means that we should live in a completely open society with unrestricted access to the information relevant to social issues. It means that we should have the powers to act on our decisions, because without such powers decisions are useless. The democratic organisation of all people as citizens of the world would need to operate through different scales of social co-operation. Locally, in town or country, we would be involved with our parish or neighbourhood. Even now, there are many thousands of men and women throughout the country who work voluntarily on parish and district councils and in town neighbourhoods for the benefit of their communities. But these efforts would be greatly enhanced by the freedoms of a society run entirely through voluntary co-operation. Such local organisation would be in the context of regional co-operation which could operate by adapting the structures of present national governments. Whilst some departments such as those for administering tax and state finances, which are essential to the state would be abolished, others like Agriculture and the Environment could have an important job to do, especially in the early days of socialism. Such structures—adapted to the needs of socialist society—could be part of regional councils and would assist in the work of implementing the decisions of regional populations.

During the early days of socialism it is likely that the organisation of world co-operation would need to take place through a world council. Because the things we need now are produced and distributed through a world structure of production, and because its present capitalist nature has brought about immense problems, action to solve them would be required on a world scale, For example, it would be a priority to set up an ecologically benign world energy system as soon as possible. Similarly, the countless millions of people suffering from hunger and desperate poverty would need a considerable increase in food production. For this work the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations would at last he able to use its expertise and knowledge of world conditions to help with solving the problems of malnutrition. Again, to begin with, people in socialism would face a huge task in providing every person with secure and comfortable housing. This would call upon the efforts of communities throughout the world, especially in those regions where means of production were well developed. Such world projects could be co-ordinated through appropriate departments of a world council.

When we propose different scales of social co-operation such as local, regional and world scales, this is not a question of there being a hierarchy with power located at any central point. What we anticipate is both an integrated and flexible system of democtatic organisation which could be adapted for action to solve any proh1em in any of these scales. This simply takes into account that some problems and the action to solve them arise from local issues and this also extends to the regional and world spheres.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Green Issues

The docility of the world population has contributed greatly to keeping intact the increasingly unequal, barbaric and rapacious society that is global capitalism. Because people believe there is no alternative to capitalism, it keeps on existing. The idea of a zero growth, sustainable society is not new and in recent years has been put forward by the Green movement. But whilst many of the declared aims of the Greens appear to be desirable these are contradicted by a fatal flaw in all green policies. They stand for the continuation of the market system. This must mean the continuation of the capitalist system which is the cause of the problems of pollution in the first place.

Many Greens claim to advocate a society based on cooperation and production for use, a sustainable society where production is in harmony with the environment and affairs are run in a decentralised and democratic manner. They argue that only in such a system can ecological problems such as pollution and global warming be solved. However, on further reading, it is perfectly clear that this sustainable society is not socialism, for the continuance of money and the market is assumed, together with private ownership. The ultimate aim is a participatory economy, based on smaller-scale enterprise, with a greatly-reduced dependence on the world market. What is being proposed is the abolition both of the world market, with the competition for resources and sales it engenders, and of existing centralised states, and their replacement by a worldwide network of smaller human communities providing for their own needs. This will involve a steady-state economy based on maximum conservation of materials and energy.

Yet, these are firmly wedded to a form of capitalism, holding a belief that capitalism can be reformed so as to be compatible with achieving an environmentally sustainable society. The Greens are setting out to impose on capitalism something that is incompatible with its nature. The World Socialist Movement place ourselves unambiguously in the camp of those who argue that capitalism and a sustainable relationship with the rest of nature are not compatible. The excessive consumption of both renewal and non-renewable resources and the release of waste that nature can’t absorb that currently goes on are not just accidental but an inevitable result of capitalism’s very essence. The capitalist system creates vast amounts of energy waste in the military and its socially useless jobs such as marketing, finance and banking which are part of its profit making machine. Endless growth and the growing consumption of nature-given materials this involves is built into capitalism. The Greens has never been able to answer the question which is how it can achieve a zero growth, sustainable society whilst retaining a market system which includes an irresistible, built-in pressure to increase sales for profit and where if sales collapse, society tends to break down in recession, unemployment and financial crisis. Capitalism differs from previous class societies in that under it production is not for direct use, not even of the ruling class, but for sale on a market. Competitive pressures to minimise costs and maximise sales, profit-seeking and blind economic growth, with all their destructive effects on the rest of nature, are built-in to capitalism. These make capitalism inherently environmentally unfriendly. The ecological contradictions of capitalism make sustainable, or "green" capitalism a confidence trick. The only way in which the aims of the Greens could be achieved is through socialism.

Greens who want a radical transformation of the world can stick to their principles but come to realise, as socialists have done, that a sustainable society can only be achieved within the context of a world in which all the Earth's resources, natural and industrial, have become the common heritage, under democratic control at local, regional and world level, of all humanity. In such a society production and distribution can be geared to satisfying human needs which, contrary to the mythology used to justify capitalism, are not limitless and can be met without over-stretching nature’s resources. In fact satisfactions can be increased – which after all must be the aim of socialism – without doing this. Only by replacing the profit system with truly democratic organisation can we give the environment the priority it deserves. The WSM does not presume to lay down in advance what decisions will be made in socialism we can set out a possible way of achieving an eventual zero growth society operating in a stable and ecologically benign way. Capitalist politicians are incompetent to deal with the problem. The real powers of action are with the great majority of people. This will be when we decide to create a society in which we will be free to co-operate and to use all our great reserves of energy and ingenuity for our needs. We should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled. In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials; once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. You achieve this “steady state” and you don’t go on expanding production. This would be the opposite of cheap, shoddy, “throw-away” goods and built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources. Suggestions such as improving public transport, expanding renewable energy supplies and recycling will not be news to anyone and offers the kind vision of sustainable production many aspects of which could be taken on board in a socialist society. Imagine standardising the production of all bottles and glass containers so they can be returned to food and drink producers to be used again. It’s a sensible idea - socialism would do it. Seen solely from a technical point of view there are no doubt many ways in which the damage caused to the environment could be reduced with different uses of labour. But before any of these can become real options on which communities can freely make democratic decisions, labour itself must first be liberated. Labour must enjoy its own freedom outside the present enclosed system of commodity exchange in which it is confined to its function of profit making and the accumulation of capital.

If the environmental crisis is to be solved, this system must go. What is required is political action - political action aimed at replacing this system by a new and different one. There can be no justification, on any grounds whatsoever, for wanting to retain an exploitative system which robs workers of the products of their labour, which puts privileged class interests and profit before the needs of the community, which robs the soil of its fertility, plunders nature of its resources and destroys the natural systems on which all our lives depend. The Greens fails to realise that what those who want a clean and safe environment are up against is a well-entrenched economic and social system based on class privilege and property and governed by the overriding economic law of profits first.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Simple is best

Dhaka is surrounded by water, but it is so polluted that very little of it is drinkable. That, plus the very poor sanitation across the city, means that the people of the Bangladeshi capital not only have to scramble daily for clean water supplies but are also regularly in danger of the silent killer that is cholera. Dhaka has two cholera outbreaks each year: roughly, one before and one after the monsoon. Left untreated, cholera can kill in hours and it spreads quickly, which is why it so terrifies people.You can start being ill at ten the morning and be dead by two in the afternoon.

If you don't like hospitals then you would hate Dhaka Hospital during one of the Bangladeshi capital's regular cholera epidemics. The emergency ward was seething with men, women and children, many of them severely dehydrated and fighting for life. Patients moaned as nurses connected them with intravenous needles to bags of saline. Hospital orderlies pushed away trolleys piled with buckets of diarrhoea and vomit. And all the while more patients arrived, by wheelchair or stretcher, or half-carried by fretful relatives, until they spilled out into makeshift wards set up in the parking lot. It looked like pandemonium, but it wasn't. The Cholera Hospital, as locals call it, is efficient and deceptively high-tech. Look closely, and you will see that medical staff track each patient with handheld computers. And it is unrivalled at treating large numbers of patients with potentially fatal diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera.

"If you arrive alive at our hospital," its director Mark Pietroni told us, "then you leave alive." Patients who were stretchered into Dhaka Hospital were walking out within 24 hours.

Oral rehydration solution (ORS), a simple mixture of salt, sugar and water, is used to treat cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases. ORS is thought to have saved more than 50 million lives. ORS is the primary weapon in Dhaka Hospital's fight against cholera.

http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/witness/2011/07/201171974227416827.html

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Chicago Class Divide

For most of African-American history, class divisions (forged during centuries of slavery, when slaveowners were happy to divide the loyalties of their chattel) have bedeviled attempts to unify the black community around a common strategy. In black Chicago, these tensions have smoldered for many years, flaring occasionally. The contrast between the poor West Side and the better-off South Side has become a crude geographical surrogate for black Chicago’s stark class divisions. Disadvantaged blacks have really been hard hit by changes in the economy. Meanwhile, trained and educated blacks are benefiting from changes in the economy. William Julius Wilson said in an interview on PBS’s Frontline in 1998. “Take a look at black income today. If you divide black income into quintiles, the top quintile has now secured almost 50 percent of the total black income, which is a record.” This skewed distribution of income continued throughout the 2000s

70 percent of all North Lawndale men between the ages of 18 and 45 have a criminal record, a figure almost three times higher than the national average. Sharon Dixon, the former alderman of the 24th Ward, which includes North Lawndale, says the community has the state’s highest homicide rate and the third-highest overall crime rate. his neighborhood, together with adjacent West Side communities like East and West Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and Austin, has a 52-percent youth unemployment rate—the highest in the entire nation.

“When we began the struggle for community development, we kept running into roadblocks set up by the very people who were supposed to be helping us. We began to realize that the death and destruction in our community could not have happened without the black leadership elite’s cooperation.” explains Martavius (Mark) Carter, a resident of Chicago’s distressed North Lawndale neighborhood and a founding member of the Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE), a group created to empower black people who were once imprisoned He declares “The black elite are playing with fire if they think they can keep fooling the masses of black people with their deceptive rhetoric. Things are getting hot out here and pretty soon that heat is going to light some fuses.” He is convinced that churches, businesses, fraternal groups, civic and social service organizations, and other established black institutions could more effectively plan strategies and marshal their collective wherewithal and resources to better serve the community. They don’t do this, he believes, because they have their own class interest at heart. The black middle-class seems to regard ex-offenders and other low-income African Americans as another race altogether. “In Africa, I suppose they would say different tribes, but here they treat us like a different race.”

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Monday, July 25, 2011

just a matter of luck

"Capitalism is an extremely unfair and unjust economic system. It is unfair and unjust because, in order to do well in a capitalist system, a person must have a good mind, health, energy and enough emotional maturity and interpersonal skill to perform effectively in the workplace. And, in order to have those qualities, a person has to have had good parents, parents who have provided him or her with the nurturance, support, guidance, affirmation and discipline that people need in order to grow into healthy adults. If you had that kind of parents, you are lucky and you will be able to do well in our capitalist system.

If your parents abused or neglected you, if they discounted you, ignored you, if they were too busy, sick, self-absorbed, dysfunctional, overwhelmed, etc., to provide you with a good upbringing, you will not do well in our capitalist economy. You will not have the brainpower, health or emotional maturity to be able to do well. And whether or not you had good parents is a matter of luck. You didn't have anything to do with it. You are either the beneficiary or victim of something you had no control over."

Al Galves retired psychologist at
http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-opinion/ci_18539080

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

ringleaders

Crown Prosecution Service remain intent on taking 30 "ringleaders" to trial for the occupation in March of the luxury Fortnum & Mason store in Mayfair during an anti-cuts demonstration. Protesters in Fortnum & Mason were told by police that they would not be arrested if they left the store peacefully, but it emerged last week that their subsequent detention had been planned. About 150 activists were arrested in Fortnum & Mason despite holding what Chief Inspector Claire Clark described as a non-violent and "sensible" demonstration. As they left the store, the activists were handcuffed and taken to London police stations. Video footage shows Clark assuring the demonstraators that nobody would be detained if they left Fortnum & Mason. Lynne Owens, assistant commissioner of the Met, told the home affairs select committee that police arrested so many people that day because it gave them "important intelligence opportunities" confirming UK Uncut claims that the Met was so desperate for intelligence on the relatively new protest group that it undertook the mass arrests to learn more about the command structure of the organisation.

A 24-year-old man is facing trial on the basis that "he entered the store with a placard". Lawyers from Hodge Jones & Allen, who are also representing the protesters, say no information has been provided relating to when he acquired the placard or even what it stated. A 23-year-old woman, who "unfurled a notice on the stairwell" of the store, faces trial. Another protester is facing prosecution "due to her placing leaflets on displays". Another is referred to in the documents as "carrying an umbrella into the store". One 22-year-old participant is accused of carrying UK Uncut cordon tape and more than 50 printed signs stating: "Big society, revenue and customs: if they won't chase them, we will." Some activists have been targeted on the basis of previous convictions of aggravated trespass.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/24/uk-uncut-fortnum-mason-police

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

OUT OF SIGHT

The unemployed in the US number 14 million. Lose your job, and it will take roughly nine months to find a new one.

''There used to be a sense that unemployment was rich soil for radicalisation and revolt,'' Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor of labour history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said. ''That was a motif in American history for a long time, but we don't seem to have that any more.''

The jobless are, politically speaking, more or less invisible. With apologies to Karl Marx, the workers of the world, particularly the unemployed, are also no longer uniting. Unemployment doesn't necessarily beget apathy. Even so, numerous studies have shown that unemployment leads to feelings of shame and a loss of self-worth. And that is not particularly conducive to political organising. As Heather Boushey, an economist at the Center for American Progress, puts it, rather bluntly: ''Nobody wants to join the Lame Club.''

In 2010, about 46 per cent of working Americans who were eligible to vote did so, compared with 35 per cent of the unemployed. It's partly because of the greater dispersion of the unemployed, and partly because of the weakening of the institutions that previously mobilised them.

''There's an illusion that grass-roots activity just begins spontaneously, that people get mad and suddenly say, 'I'm not going to take it anymore!''' says Michael Kazin, a historian at Georgetown University. ''But that's not how it happens.'' Intellectuals used to play a big role in organising labour. In the 1930s, Communists and Socialists were a major force. Later, labour unions stepped in. But today's unions are not set up to serve the unemployed; they generally organise around workplaces, after all. Today, many unions are fighting for their own survival. They no longer provide such support for non-members.

http://www.smh.com.au/business/out-of-work-out-of-sight-the-forgotten-people-20110710-1h8xz.html

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Killing Fields

It is estimated that a billion people go hungry each day. People are hungry today not because there is no food. They are hungry because the food is too costly and because of its distribution. We need food to survive and food is big business and with rising populations fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides and other such chemicals find their way into our systems giving big profits. It is not that big businesses and political leaders do not know that they are responsible for killing people and destroying livelihoods in the developing world, not to mention the destruction of biodiversity and natural resources. Yet they continue their policies and practices.

There are over 1000 million farmers and nearly all of them live in the developing world only around 50 million live in developed countries where agriculture is highly mechanized. Farmers of these developing world constitute half the world’s rural poor but they produce 4/5ths food supplies.

Over the past 40 years approximately 30% (1.5billion hectares) of the world’s cropland had become unproductive due to soil erosion and degradation. It takes approximately 500 years to replace 25mm (1inch) of topsoil lost to erosion. The minimal soil depth for agriculture production is 150mm.

The easy choice to increase food production has been the use of pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides & scores of other chemicals being sprayed across arable land. The concept of pesticides is nothing new and has been used for centuries. It was in the mid 20th century that different types of pesticides came to be used in limited amounts. Today, more than 1600 pesticides are available and more than 4.4million tons costing more than $20billion used annually. Whatever names they come in they are all poisonous and excessive amounts entering one’s system is likely to lead to adverse affects to the entire human system, to biodiversity and to the aquatic environment. Farmers use 4 major kinds of substances on crops and livestock – pesticides and herbicides, contaminated sewage sludge (human waste used to fertilize non-organic crops) which eventually became mixed with chemicals and industrial waste which lead to chronic illnesses in human body, use of hormones, antibiotics and remains of other animals (found in dairy products, meat & eggs) one of the causes of mad cow disease & then irradiation (exposure to radiation likely to lead to many diseases). Every year pesticides kill more than 200,000 people worldwide. Do we really need toxic pesticides when we know they kill humans and upset the entire eco system? The answer to feeding the world’s population is not found in poisoning the earth and waters that grows our food or decreasing the diversity of the seeds with GMOs.

The pesticide industry has today diversified into biotechnology and genetic engineering industry and this is being promoted in lieu of pesticides. Nevertheless, what happens is new pests are created necessitating use of pesticides. Moreover, genetically modified seeds are pushing farmers into debt. How many keep count of the scores of Indian farmers committing suicide? So companies are getting richer because they insist on pesticides and genetically modified organisms. Yet, why has everyone ignored the fact that ecologically organic agriculture produces more food at lower costs than chemical agriculture? Commercial farming has helped only the rich!
All the chemicals being used to grow our food are running into our water and creating dead zones not to mention the harm they are doing to our bodies which all lead to some sort of cancer. We are eating synthetic foods and digesting chemicals and none of us are eating healthy. Genetically modified foods are not sustainable, they only serve to rob poor countries of their natural food while enslaving them to corporations.

Disease and cancers are spreading at alarming rates all over the world and the only plausible conclusion is that most of these illnesses co-relate to the food we take. Most doctors are clueless on how to treat these ailments. Leukemia has increased by 11% over the past 20 years. Brain cancer is up by 30%, bone cancer has gone up by 50% while testicular cancer has gone up by 60^ in men under 30 years of age. Children whose parents work with pesticides are more likely to suffer from leukemia, brain cancer and other ailments. Studies of farm workers who work with pesticides suggest a link between pesticides and brain cancer, Parkinson’s disease, leukemia, lymphoma, cancers of the stomach, prostrate and testes.Studies certainly reveal a close correlation between pesticides and cancers, increase in childhood asthma is also a result of exposure to week killers. We are all exposed to too much of chemicals and that is a major reason why many of us find ourselves plagued with illnesses that even doctors find difficulty in diagnosing. Young children are most susceptible to toxic exposures. The chemicals used by the US and Allied troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya have placed thousands of children’s lives at risk not to mention the damage that is being done to the environment.

Transfatty acids are found in vegetable oils, soy beans, sunflower, palm oils, certain dairy products and increase Visceral fat, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol, trigger systematic inflammation & affect every cell in a person’s body. TFA in the US averages 2-3% of total energy intake whereas in the developing nations it stands at 4% where items like fried foods, pastries and doughnuts go up to 8%. In the US some states have banned use of TFA’s in restaurants but why are TFAs being used if they are so dangerous. TFAs help to keep food unspoilt, they are cheap and can prolong shelf life and provides easy transport and suitable for commercial frying. When companies say “zero grams of trans fats” they are lying because of loopholes in government laws which allows a certain serving of TFAs. Now you know why obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are increasing at alarming rates.

There are scores of additives like acids that modify flavour and preserve food, acidity regulators, anti-cake agents, anti-foam agents, food coloring and colour retention agents, emulsifiers, humectants, tracer gas that improves shelf life and sweeteners. These additives are dangerous – BHT causes damage to liver and kidneys, behavioral problems, infertility, birth defects and cancers, artificial coloring causes hyperactivity in children, learning disorders and damage to nerves, artificial sweeteners cause damage to central nervous system, menstrual difficulties and affects unborn foetus, brominated vegetables cause organ damage, birth defects while partially hydrogenated vegetable oils cause heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol. Nitrates cause cancer and even death, MSG causes headaches, high blood pressure and allergic reactions. Potassium bromate causes kidney disorders and gastrointestinal issues.

Talking at conferences has not made any changes and it has not reduced the number of people in hunger. The killing fields are in the foods grown to feed us and unless people begin to realise the damage being done it is likely to be too late.

from here

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

hungary's roma

Mailstrom has posted previously about the Roma. It takes extracts from this recent newspaper report.

Right across the continent, from Bulgaria to Britain, Europe is wrestling with a new outbreak of an ancient dilemma: the gypsies [the Roma], the gajé ( the non-gypsies) and how the two communities are to get along.

Since the arrival of the Roma from India via the Middle East in the 15th century, relations have rarely been smooth. Hitler's attempt to exterminate the community resonated with the deportations they suffered centuries previously in Spain and Henry VIII's England. President Sarkozy's grandstanding expulsion of thousands of Romanies over the past two years was only the latest version. In Britain the number has soared in recent years, because of waves of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria their alleged skilful exploitation of our benefits system has brought down the wrath of the tabloids. In Bulgaria and Romania, too, countries where they have lived in large numbers for centuries, the discrimination they suffer is still acute. Even in Spain, the dropout rate from high school is 80 per cent. And in many countries the image persists of a community of lawless, feckless petty criminals, condemned to eke out a miserable living on the fringes of our civilisation.

In Hungary in March, hundreds of uniformed vigilantes suddenly appeared in Gyongyospata. They stayed for three weeks. Wearing black paramilitary uniforms, they streamed into the gypsy ghetto and began ostentatiously to patrol in place of the police. They belonged to an organisation called Szebb Jovoert Polgaror Egyesulet, which means Civil Guard Association for a Better Future. They patrolled the town "day and night". The vigilantes were supported by a far-right political party called Jobbik which is anti-Semitic and anti-Romany. Roma residents are afraid to go to school, to work or even to buy food. The standoff ended only when the Hungarian Red Cross came and evacuated the gypsies with a convoy of buses.

In Hungary the previous "Communist" regime refused to regard the gypsies as a minority, but as a social problem - undisciplined proletarians who needed to be forced into the same mould as the rest. They were accordingly given poor-quality worker housing with very cheap mortgages, and obliged to toil, like everybody else. The regime didn't want them to get more education because they needed cheap unskilled labour. But when that system abruptly collapsed in 1989 the Communists' uneconomic factories and plants closed down. It was the unskilled workers at the bottom – the Romanies in particular – who were left high and dry. Romany unemployment shot up from 15 per cent to 85 per cent in two years. In the absence of work there was now welfare. Milking the system became a survival strategy. a Romany family would live off welfare, which arrives on the fifth of the month. By the money would run out, so they would run up credit at the local shop, and the men of the family would get a few days' casual work, building walls, fixing roofs, in the neighbourhood. But with the financial crisis, credit stopped and people stopped spending money and the work dried up. The Romanies have survived for the past 20 years but the economic crisis has driven them to the wall.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

everything but the squeal

A formative part of my reading was Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. While its theme was the de-humanisation of people that concerned him , the exposure of the conditions of the meat industry was what brought the book to prominence. This article reveals that those horrific sickening brutalising conditions have little changed.

"Garcia ... had been stuck with one of the worst spots on the line: running a device known simply as the "brain machine"—the last stop on a conveyor line snaking down the middle of a J-shaped bench [DC] called the "head table." Every hour, more than 1,300 severed pork heads go sliding along the belt. Workers slice off the ears, clip the snouts, chisel the cheek meat. They scoop out the eyes, carve out the tongue, and scrape the palate meat from the roofs of mouths. Because, famously, all parts of a pig are edible ("everything but the squeal," wisdom goes), nothing is wasted. A woman next to Garcia would carve meat off the back of each head before letting the denuded skull slide down the conveyor and through an opening in a plexiglass shield. On the other side, Garcia inserted the metal nozzle of a 90-pounds-per-square-inch compressed-air hose and blasted the pigs' brains into a pink slurry. One head every three seconds. A high-pressure burst, a fine rosy mist, and the slosh of brains slipping through a drain hole into a catch bucket. (Some workers say the goo looked like Pepto-Bismol; others describe it as more like a lumpy strawberry milkshake.) When the 10-pound barrel was filled, another worker would come to take the brains for shipping to Asia, where they are used as a thickener in stir-fry. Most days that fall, production was so fast that the air never cleared between blasts, and the mist would slick workers at the head table in a grisly mix of brains and blood and grease...For eight hours, Garcia stood, slipping heads onto the brain machine's nozzle, pouring the glop into the drain, then dropping the empty skulls down a chute."
http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/06/hormel-spam-pig-brains-disease


Friday, July 01, 2011

Capitalism rips us off, NGOs soothe the pain

It's always a fine time to be an expatriate aid worker in Cambodia, where several thousand NGOs and aid organizations operate. By day, swarms of foreign do-gooders clog the streets of Phnom Penh in their company-provided SUVs, and by night they fill bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. Collectively, NGO workers represent a privileged caste, isolated and detached from the people who serve as the objects of their benevolence.

Scan the world's hot spots and disaster areas, and you'll invariably find NGOs and advocacy groups living high off the hog from donor money and hyping their causes with artfully presented information designed to prompt people to reach for their checkbooks. NGOs rushed in after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, but one survey of 60 U.S. relief organizations found that they had spent less than 40 percent of the $1.4 billion they raised during the first year. Many major projects are still stalled, and around 1 million Haitians live in squalid tent settlements.

Many billions of dollars of international aid have flowed into Cambodia since the U.N.-organized elections held in 1993, after a long civil war that followed the fall of the Khmer Rouge. The large sums provided by the United States and other Western donors is delivered through and controlled by international aid agencies and NGOs. Over the years, NGOs in Cambodia have cleared landmines and implemented programs to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS. There are many excellent international and local NGOs working in Cambodia. Yet many Cambodian NGOs have followed a path familiar to observers in other parts of the world. After arriving to provide immediate relief, they gradually transform themselves into survival-focused grant-proposal-writing shops chasing dollars and holding PowerPoint-heavy workshops on "empowerment," "governance," "capacity-building," and other empty buzz phrases.

A 2006 story in the Australian charged that a great deal of Australia's aid to Cambodia was wasted, because as much as 80 percent of it "goes straight out again in the form of high expatriate salary packages and running costs." The story said that country directors of prominent international charities in Cambodia received compensation packages worth as much as $250,000, which included large villas in Phnom Penh's upscale "NGO-ville" area, four-wheel-drive vehicles, and an assortment of other perks. A 2005 report by Action Aid said that in a single year, 700 top international consultants in Cambodia were paid an average of around $100,000. Their combined haul was roughly as much as the entire annual wage bill for 160,000 Cambodian civil servants. "Instead of transferring skills to Cambodian staff, their time is spent writing reports or doing jobs which they should be training local staff to carry out," the report said.

Lower-level NGO staffers, who often rotate through on short postings and spend a good chunk of their time partying, also do reasonably well. "Aid work is often much less about noble self-sacrifice and much more about getting hooked up with a dank salary and some pretty sweet perks," says a post at a website called Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like. "By 'dank salary,' we are talking by Western standards. By local standards, we might just call that a 'small fortune.' "

Among the more prominent (and best-paying) NGOs in Cambodia are the mainstream green organizations. They are also among the most powerful because government ministries dealing with environmental issues are typically underbudgeted and understaffed, so NGOs effectively fund and manage key agencies. During recent years, the Cambodian government has sold off vast swaths of land, some publicly owned, including protected areas, and some seized from the urban and rural poor. In the process, hundreds of thousands of people have been forcibly evicted from their homes. These deals have been a goldmine for Cambodian oligarchs and foreign investors, who have bought up some of the country's most beautiful areas and prime urban real estate. You'd expect that international green groups might have a lot to say about this tragedy. You'd be wrong. "The major environmental organizations have kept a near absolute silence over the ongoing land crisis, both in terms of human impact and impact on the protected areas they are working in," says a longtime consultant in Cambodia. Conservation International lauds the Cambodian government on its website for "investing in research and monitoring of protected areas." This was about the same time that Hun Sen's regime was awarding an Australian mining company exploratory rights to more than half of the park, one of Cambodia's two ASEAN Heritage Parks. Earlier this year, the government awarded another chunk of the park to a private company for a rubber plantation. In February, the government awarded a big concession in an environmentally sensitive area of Koh Kong province to a private company exploring for titanium. "Realistically, if it's economically really valuable, we should support it and make it happen in the best way possible," said David Emmett, CI's regional director.

Wildlife Alliance says on its website that it works with villagers who "once were forced to roam the forest as hunters and loggers, diminishing Cambodia's environmental heritage, and who now have legal jobs as guides and operators of sustainable trekking, mountain-biking, and river boat tours." In other words, people who once lived in the forest now hold low-paid jobs serving at the beck and call of foreign tourists who float down waterways and hike in woods that the villagers have long called home. "The wholesale destruction of Cambodia's environment is an important issue, but hunting and poaching by people eking out an existence in the forest isn't the problem," says a Western expatriate with extensive experience in land issues. "The primary causes are the government issuing massive land concessions to developers and wide-scale logging." Another WA mission involves protecting the rain forest of the Southern Cardamom Mountain Range. As part of that effort, the group's staffers have swooped in by helicopter with Forestry Administration officials who kick out destitute peasants living in the woods and in some cases dismantle and burn their homes. "They are not people-friendly," the longtime consultant says of WA, "but the trees and animals are all safe."

WA has herded peasants into community agriculture projects linked to its ecotourism ventures. Peasants at one community called Sovanna Baitong benefited with access to education and health care, but some told the Phnom Penh Post they felt "trapped in a state of indentured servitude" and had been threatened with expulsion if they refused to work on plots they had been allocated. "I experienced three years and eight months of the Khmer Rouge regime, and this is similar because they ordered us to work like we are in a totalitarian state," said one. "It is really miserable to live there."

In Sihanoukville, a coastal town whose beaches and islands have been sold off by the government to developers allegedly planning eco-friendly luxury hotel and condominium projects. "Those who lived or worked there were turfed out—some jailed, others beaten, virtually all denied meaningful compensation," said a 2008 story in the Guardian. The newspaper quoted a British property developer, Marty Kaye, who said, "Nowhere else in the world could you create your own kingdom from scratch. … It's fantastically exciting, the opportunity to zone a whole island, to see where the luxury exclusive villa plots will be, for the Brad Pitts, etc."

In 2008, a Hong Kong-based investment company called Lime Tree Capital was awarded a 99-year lease on an island near Sihanoukville called Koh Rung Sangleum, which it plans to fully develop with resorts and hotels. The only problem was that the island was home to a fishing village with 92 families. Lime Tree hired Fauna and Flora International and the NGO dispatched several staffers to the island. FFI provided Lime Tree with a development-friendly report, because the company subsequently filed a master plan saying there was little biodiversity on the island and hence not much to conserve. FFI staffers made a later trip to the island and told villagers they would be restricted to a tiny 12.3-hectare piece of land and ordered them to immediately stop cutting down trees and constructing any new buildings. Eighty villagers signed a document demanding the removal of FFI's lead staffer on the project, saying he had lied to them about how much forest and village land would be conserved under Lime Tree's proposal.

http://www.slate.com/id/2296334/pagenum/3
See also here http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/jul00/ngo.html

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