Thursday, January 25, 2007

Organise and resist

In our companion blog Socialist Courier we have referred to Standard Life's proposals to downgrade the pension rights of its existing workers . Today , the Herald has an update on how it is now being resisted .

Six hundred employees of the non-unionised Standard Life attended packed meetings in Edinburgh yesterday organised by trade union Amicus which pledged to fight plans to cut pension rights.

It displays the need for workers to organise independently in real trade unions and not to rely on those phony docile staff associations that Standard Life management prefer to represent its employees and manipulate .

And here is example of the standard of Standard Life's bosses . Trevor Matthews , its chief executive , has been forced to apologise for racist language .

When asked why those proposals for pension cuts were buried in a one sentenced reference on Page 126 of the De-Mutualisation prospectus , Mr Matthews said: "That's the n****r in the woodpile." A formal complaint was made to the company, understood to be from a white member of staff who has a black spouse.

Friday, January 19, 2007

No News is Bad News

Last year millions of people in many countries lost their lives as a result of wars, violence, disease, and hunger, yet the major television networks did not tell their stories to the public .

In its annual report for 2006, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders said the staggering human toll taken by tuberculosis (TB) and malnutrition as well as the devastation caused by wars in the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic Republic of Congo were almost completely ignored by the leading television networks and it found very little or no coverage by the top three networks of the human suffering caused by ongoing armed conflicts in Haiti, Somalia, Colombia, and central India.

"Haiti, for example, is just 50 miles from the United States [but]...relentless violence in its volatile capital Port-au-Prince received only half a minute of network coverage in an entire year." said Nicolas de Torrente, executive director of MSF's U.S. chapter.

The ten countries and issues highlighted by MSF accounted for just 7.2 of the 14,512 minutes the three major television networks [ABC, CBS, and NBC] devoted to their nightly newscasts in 2006, reported The Tyndall Report, an online media tracking journal. The networks did report on malnutrition, TB, and Chechnya, "but only very briefly in other stories." They also completely ignored five of countries mentioned in the MSF list of underreported stories.

Worldwide, around 2 million deaths are believed to be caused by TB every year. The TB situation has become "frightening" and that it became "even worse" in 2006 with the detection of a strain that is resistant to both first-line antibiotics and to two classes of second-line drugs.

In addition to TB, each year millions of children in poor countries die due to severe lack of food. MSF said the use of therapeutic foods, like the milk-and-peanut-butter paste Plumpy'nut , could save many lives, but such treatment is not being widely used. In the past two years, with this method MSF has treated more than 150,000 children in Niger.

Contrary to the common saying , no news is not good news .

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bushmen Get Land Back

Tribal Bushmen began returning to their ancestral lands inside Botswana's largest game reserve this weekend, despite what their supporters describe as a heavy police presence and attempts to persuade them to stay in relocation camps. The Bushmen have lived in southern Africa for more than 20,000 years and are thought by some experts to be one of the oldest--if not the oldest--people on the planet, in genetic terms.

Basarwa tribesmen, also known as Bushmen, won a court order in December allowing them to return to land in the massive Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which, at 52,800 square kilometers, is larger than the nations of Denmark and Switzerland.
In its ruling, Botswana's High Court called the government's eviction of the Basarwa "unlawful and unconstitutional" and said that they had the right to live on their ancestral land inside the reserve. The court also ruled that the Basarwa who live in Botswana have the right to hunt and gather in the reserve . But the harassment continues - the government continues to dispute the Bushmen's return, maintaining that only the 189 people who filed the lawsuit would be given automatic right of return with their children--well short of the 50,000 Basarwa who live in Botswana, 2,000 of whom say they want to go home. And officials also argue that tribesmen cannot take along domestic animals or other items that have become necessities for these descendants of hunter-gatherers.
According to Survival International, government officials forced nearly all of the Bushmen to leave the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in three separate events in 1997, 2002, and 2005. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health center were closed, and their water supply was destroyed. Botswana's government has sought to evict the local tribesman numerous times over the last 20 years, ostensibly to promote tourism and protect wildlife in the area, although many believe the main reason has more to do with diamond mining aspirations.

Life in relocation camps outside the reserve has been especially difficult for the Bushmen, Survival says. Rarely able to hunt, they have been dependent on government handouts while their society has become gripped by alcoholism, boredom, depression, and illnesses such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS .
"The government has given various different reasons for the evictions," Survival International's Ross told OneWorld. "The government said it's for the people's own good--that they can't live hunting and gathering in this day and age, that they need to become civilized. The president said if the Bushmen want to survive they'll have to change or they'll perish like the Dodo. They've also said it's because the game reserve is for animals and that the Bushmen are a danger to animals.What Survival believes is that the Bushmen were evicted because there were diamonds found under their land in the early 1980s,"
Ross said. "There isn't mining in the reserve at the moment but we believe the government wanted to get the Bushmen out of the way so future diamond mining could take place."

Ross noted much of Botswana's foreign exchange comes from partnerships with diamond companies like DeBeers.

"DeBeers has a concession in the Kalahari Game Reserve," she said, "so it has the right to explore for diamonds in the reserve. I would ask the government to explain that."

It's my party ...and i'll cry if i want to

If we didn't already know that Solidarity was indeed Tommy Sheridan's personal fiefdom , we have this report in the Herald .

"The party had decided that Tommy the brand was key to success in May. Its best known figure will feature on every ballot paper for the regional vote across the country...Solidarity believes it is crucial to use Mr Sheridan's name on the ballot papers. "

And as the article reminds us , this was indeed the same electoral tactic that the Scottish Socialist Party previously used when Sheridan was its leader so they need not criticise .

What we , the working class , require to learn is that it is not the personalities but the principles and policies of a political party that truly count .

It is the case , not the face .

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bush widens the Iraq Civil War

Much has been written about the the 20,000 extra American soldiers "surge" announced by Bush . Not too much has been said about the other ominous strategic development proposed by Bush - the involvement of Kurdish troops in the capital . The quasi-independent state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq has enjoyed relative peace in contrast to the rest of Iraq but instead of leaving sleeping dogs to lie , Bush has followed the exact same tactic of Saddam Hussein of sectarian divide and rule and ethnic divide to maintain American hegemony .

From Yahoo News i read this :-
An Iraqi army brigade based in the northern Kurdish region is undergoing intensive training in urban combat and will be dispatched to Baghdad as part of a new joint U.S.-Iraqi security drive in the sprawling and violence-ridden city, the commander said Saturday...The second Kurdish brigade will come from the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.
"We will head to Baghdad soon. We have 3,000 soldiers who are currently undergoing intensive training especially in urban combat and how the army should act inside a city," said Brig. Gen. Nazir Assem Korran, commander of the 1st Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division of the Iraqi army that is based in the city of Irbil.
Korran said his troops would face a language barrier because 95 percent of the brigade is Kurdish and unable to speak Arabic. Kurds, a separate ethnic group, are largely Sunnis but not Arabs.
"I believe that we will bring translators with our brigade to solve this problem," he said.

The general said his troops were part of the Iraqi army and do not belong to local Kurdish militias, known as peshmergas, as some Iraqi media reports have claimed.
"We do not represent any sect or ethnic group," Korran said...

But when is a Kurdish soldier Pershmerga or Iraqi ?

According to Kurdish sources Kurdistan President Massuad Barzani made it clear to the public, via his speech in the Kurdistan parliament building, that the KRG would not send Peshmerge forces to Baghdad. After a number of conflicting statements by different Kurdish party and government officials, it is clear now, contrary to Barzani’s statement, Peshmerge forces will be sent to Baghdad to become “victims” in the words of Barzani. Barzani also made it clear that Peshmerge forces are not trained to provide security of Baghdad. The Kurdish officials tried to recover from this U-turn by stating: these Peshmerge forces that are sent to provide security of Baghdad are not Peshmerge forces of Kurdistan, but Peshmerge forces working for the Iraqi government.

And according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs UN Relief website , the point is made that :-

Since the fall of the Hussein regime, Kurdish forces have never been deployed in Baghdad and several Kurdish officials have indicated that this move would be dangerous and risk inflaming ethnic divisions.
It could also draw the Kurds into the sectarian conflict, which has been almost exclusively fought between the Shi'a and Sunni Arabs. Kurdish leaders have voiced concern over the perception that Iraqi Kurds, a majority of whom are Sunnis, would be fighting against their Sunni Arab brothers.
Mahmud Uthman, a prominent leader in the Iraqi Kurdish Coalition, has come out against sending Kurdish forces to fight Arabs anywhere in Iraq, "Al-Zaman" reported on January 8. "There are fears that a fight like this, pitting Kurds against the Arabs, is bound to add an ethnic touch to the conflict," he said. "The deployment of Kurdish forces in Arab areas is wrong and will create sensitivities and accusations that the Kurds are killing the Arabs."

Drawing the Kurds into the Iraqi civil war . Betraying the Kurdish people once more .

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Somalia - Is it the oil again ??

The BBC reports that the objectives of the USA in Somalia is to intervene decisively on the side of the transitional government now back in Mogadishu and to get at three al-Qaeda suspects linked to bombings of its embassies and the US make no secret that they are pulling the strings in the recent developments in Somalia .
"I would prefer for us to lead from behind" US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer .
The Americans may have indeed had fears about the possible spread of Islamic fundamentalism if the Union of Islamic Courts asserted its control over this geo-politically important region of the world . However as always lurking in the background is a much more mercenary and mundane motive - Oil .
Ahh , but Somalia currently has no proven oil reserves, and only 200 billion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves . But is that really so !

A 1993 article by Mark Fineman in the Los Angeles Times lays bare the rich pickings and rewards that may be available if peace and stability is restored to a Somalia sympathetic to the USA .
US oil companies, including Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips were positioned to exploit Somalia’s rich oil reserves during the reign of pro-US President Mohammed Siad Barre. These companies had secured billion-dollar concessions to explore and drill in large portions of the Somali countryside prior to the coup led by warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid that toppled Barre. Conoco’s Mogadishu office housed the US embassy and military headquarters. Diplomats and oilmen hand-in-hand once again .
"It's there. There's no doubt there's oil there," said Thomas E. O'Connor, the principal petroleum engineer for the World Bank, who headed an in-depth, three-year study of oil prospects in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia's northern coast."You don't know until you study a lot further just how much is there," O'Connor said. "But it has commercial potential. It's got high potential . . . once the Somalis get their act together."
Although the above was written in 1993 , this more recent article confirms the continued interest of American oil companies in the Horn of Africa .

“A new US cleansing of Somalian ‘tyranny’ would open the door for these US oil companies to map and develop the possibly huge oil potential in Somalia..." F. William Engdahl , author of ‘A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order,’

S.L.P. Anchors Dragging

In a previous blog I reprinted a chapter from a pamphlet by William Paul of the De Leonist Socialist Labour Party of Great Britain which showed the similarity of his views and the SPGB position .

In this extract of the Socialist Standard a review of William Paul's book "The State" again directs our attention to the fact that William Paul advocates the principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain rather than his own party's policy . The full review will soon be available in the Jack Fitzgerald Archives

"THE STATE: ITS ORIGIN AND FUNCTION," by Wm. Paul. Socialist Labour Press, Renfrew st., Glasgow. Cloth, 2s 6d.

...As this book is issued by the S.L.P. of Scotland with a special "benediction" in the introduction, it is fair to assume that it represents the views and policy of the Executive Committee of that body. If that is so then we are treated to a complete somersault in the policy that organisation has been advocating, with variations, for about twelve years. In 1905 the Executive Committee of the S.L.P., without in any way consulting the membership of the party, endorsed and adopted as a policy the position of the Industrial Workers of the World, had been formed in Chicago in June, 1905. Since then it has in various, and often contradictory, ways attempted to defend the claims of the I.W.W. that the workers by organising into industrial unions—one for each industry—could "take and hold the means of production." They claimed that the industrial unions furnished the "might" to carry through the revolution; that it was the economic organisation that supplied "the power" lacking in the political party, and so on.

How an economic organisation could " take and hold the means of production" while the capitalist class had control of the armed forces was a question neither the S L.P. nor the other Industrialists were ever able to answer. They simply wandered from one absurdity to another in the endeavour to dodge this—to them —fatal question. The endless contradictions and quibbles they have been led into by the catch phrases as "The economic is the basis of the political"; "The political is the reflex of the economic"; "The economic organisation will cast its own political shadow," etc., etc., have been dealt with in the SOCIALIST STANDARD on numerous occasions.

But now comes this volume which flatly contradicts all these years' teachings and takes up the position that the working class must seize political power in order to abolish capitalism.

Quite early in the book this position begins to take form, as on page 41 we read :

"Throughout history the State has slightly changed its form but its role as the weapon of despotism in the hands of the economically and politically dominant class has remained unchanged. It is able to enforce its will upon those who oppose it, because behind its demands it has the organised armed forces of the Society. " (Italics mine.)

Referring to the Civil War of 1644 it is stated . "The revolutionaries by their control of the political machine were able to use the rents of the Royal estates, the levies placed upon the goods secretly bought by the cavaliers, and the taxes gathered up and down the country to defeat the Crown." (Page 151. Italics mine.)

But it is in the last two chapters that this position—so long sneered at by the S.L.P.— is stated in its most complete form. In the chapter on "Modern Capitalism" we read:

"The State has behind every mandate it promulgates the armed force of the nation. It is this power which enforces the will of the ruling class." (P. 190.)

While in the chapter on ''Revolutionary Socialism" occurs the following remarkable statement—remarkable, that is, coming from the S.L.P.:

"In order to facilitate the work of the industrial organisation, it is absolutely imperative for the workers to disarm the capitalist class by wrenching from it its power over the political State. The State powers include the armed forces of the nation which may be turned against the revolutionary workers. The political weapon of Labour, by destroying the capitalist control of the State makes possible a peaceful social revolution. But in order to tear the State out of the grasp of the ruling class the workers' political organisation must capture the political machinery of capitalism." (Page 198.)

This complete reversal of a policy followed for about twelve years is simply staggering. It is a full confession not only that the S.L.P. has been wrong all this time—a fact we have proved over and over again in the pages of the SOCIALIST STANDARD and in debate—but also that the S.P.G.B. has been right in its attitude and correct in its policy throughout its existence.

When the S.P.G.B. was formed in 1904 it laid down one aim—Socialism. It drew up a Declaration of Principles that has solidly withstood all attacks from every quarter. Paragraph 6 of that declaration states :

"That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic."

We now have the S.L.P., in the pages of this book, taking up an attitude that corresponds completely with the above clause of our Declaration of Principles. Has it taken this world-war, with its terrific maiming and slaughter, to drive the simple but fundamental fact of their minds that it is control of the political machinery that is the essential factor in the domination of Society? What have the members of the S.L.P. to say to this complete change of policy? Does it represent the considered view of the members? or is it another example of the E.C. of that body laying down its own policy, in exact opposition to one preached for so many years, without any authority or mandate from the membership? Do the members understand and accept this new situation, and if so how can they justify the retention of their membership in the S L.P.?

Nor is this the only change in the policy of the S.L.P., though it is by far the most important. In addition to the claim that the Industrial Union furnished the "might" and "power" to overthrow capitalism, the S.L.P. claimed that these unions were the "embryo" of the Socialist Republic; that they provided the "framework" or "skeleton" of Socialism.

This silly and childish "Utopianism" the absurdity of which we exposed long ago, would hardly require notice here but for the change of attitude that is now adopted. To lay down here and now the details of what the organisation of production will be under Socialism is on a par with Bellamy's Looking Backward.

In the first place we have no means of knowing at what particular step in the development of capitalist production and methods a sufficient number of the working class will be converted to Socialism to carry through the revolution. The details of the economic organisation must depend upon the particular stage of development at that period. Moreover, the majority of the working class will then be Socialists—otherwise the attempt at revolution will be a fiasco—and they will have the requisite knowledge and ability to construct their economic organisation in conformity with the conditions then prevailing. It is, therefore, easy to see how foolish is the attempt to settle now the details of an organisation that will be called upon to act then. Even when the I.W.W. was first launched we pointed out that capitalism then was outgrowing the "Industrial" sub-division and large combinations of capitalists were controlling whole groups of industries. The increase of this factor that has since taken place and which looks as though it will extend still faster under the form of National and Municipal control as a result of the war adds further strength to this point. In addition it has to be remembered that economic organisations formed now have to fight the battles of wages and conditions of employment now. But to do so with any hope of success they must enrol as many as possible of workers in the particular businesses they are dealing with. This means the enrolment of Socialists (a small number of the workers at present) along with the passive and active anti-Socialists, all in the same union. This fact shows the utter impossibility of forming a Socialist economic organisation until a majority of the workers in a particular occupation have been converted to Socialism. Hence the farcical failure of the various attempts to form "Industrial Unions" before a sufficient number of the workers have accepted these particular teachings.

In the book now under review the question of Industrial Unionism takes so subordinate a place and is so watered down, compared with the former claims of the S.L.P., that if the term "Industrial Unionism" were left out the ordinary reader of the Socialist would fail to recognise this attitude as being the one taken up by the S.L.P. How much has been given up the following quotation will show :

"We see, therefore, that the function of the future administration of society will be industrial. The constructive element in the social revolution will be the action of the Industrial Union seizing the means of production in order to administer the wants of the community.
True to the dictum of social science, that the embryo of the future social system must be nourished within the womb of the old system, the revolutionary Socialist movement sets out to build up within capitalism the industrial organisation of the workers which will carry on the administrative work under Socialism on behalf of the community. Thus Industrial Unionism is the constructive weapon in the coming social revolution." (Pages 197-8.)

This very general and greatly modified position of the S.L.P.'s claims for Industrial Unionism shows how far they have come—implicitly, at any rate—to admit the correctness of our attitude on economic organisation. What the title of the future economic organisation will be is really guess-work now and is only of small importance, though the misleading, anti-Socialist, and Utopian associations covered by the term "Industrial Unionism" will certainly go far to discredit it in the minds of the workers as they become Socialists. Much more educational work requires to be done, however, before such an organisation can be started, for it is only as the workers learn that they are slaves, and clearly grasp that the essential factor in their emancipation is the control of political power, that they will build up the Socialist organisations, political and economic, necessary for the establishment of Socialism.

The nucleus of the political organisation exists now in the Socialist Party of Great Britain. The economic organisation cannot be started until numbers fulfilling the conditions laid down above have been converted to Socialism.

J. Fitzgerald
(Socialist Standard, February 1918).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"If I ate out of a dog bowl would you like me more?"

What's the more deserving ?

Enable Scotland , A charity for children and adults with learning disabilities , has launched a campaign highlighting that animal charities receive double the donations of disability charities .

Charities turning on one another . Deprived of the means to address their respective problems , charities now squabble amongst themselves for whatever spare change they can beg from the public's generosity . Choices that require the Judgement of Solomon and necessitates robbing Peter to pay Paul .

Is it not time that people and charities stood back and look at the root causes of their troubles are and see what the real solution is ?

Set in Stone - Heart of Stone

So now the late Robin Cook has an inscription carved on his gravestone
"I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did secure the right of Parliament to decide on war."

Apart from the false claim of it - declaration of war still remains the royal prerogative of the Prime Minister regardless of whether on one occasion a prime minister , safe in the knowledge that he could secure a majority , debates the issue in Parliament , it seems that Robin Cook has had himself raised to the heavenly heights of a saintdom.
But he did support war , although just not the Blair-Bush 2003 Iraq War - and that simply puts him on the same level of saintliness as another well known anti-Iraq war politician - Vladimir Putin , the Chechens Slaughterer .

"He was at heart very much a pacifist and also a champion of the underdog and the vulnerable," Mr Cook's first wife said

"Robin Cook was a terrible loss because he was the one cabinet minister who showed any signs of a principled opposition to war and had the courage of his convictions..." said Chris Nineham of the Stop the War Coalition

Just how much truth is there to such glowing praise ?

Cook became Tony Blair's first Foreign Minister and proceeded to grandly announce that :-
" Our foreign policy must have an ethical dimension ... The Labour Government will put human rights at the heart of our foreign policy..."

Well , we have a Foreign Ministry under Cook which was aware of illegal arms trading to Sierra Leon and the use of a mercenary company , contrary to a UN Arms Embargo . Not a very good start .

Then we have the Indonesia and East Timor debacle . Using lawyers loop-holes , Cook authorised the continuing export of Hawk fighter aircraft to Indonesia , fully aware that Indonesia had used them to attack the East Timorese . In the first two years of the Blair government, over 50 export licenses were granted to sell arms to Indonesia , In the same period over a million pounds of British taxpayers' money was spent training dozens of Indonesian military officers at a base near Hull.

Champion for the under-dogs , indeed !!

Then comes the Kosovo War , another war that possessed no UN legitimacy whatsoever , that Robin Cook stood 100% behind , suggesting it to be a "humanitarian" war .

Far from averting a mass humanitarian crisis, it is clear that the NATO attack created the major escalation of killings and expulsions. The flood of refugees from Kosovo began immediately after NATO launched its attack. War could have been averted

" negotiations [ Rambouillet Talks] have led to a consensus on substantial autonomy for Kosovo, including on mechanisms for free and fair elections to democratic institutions, for the governance of Kosovo, for the protection of human rights and the rights of members of national communities; and for the establishment of a fair judicial system." [Feb 1999]

However , the Albanian, American and British delegation then signed what became known as the Rambouillet Accords . The Accords called for NATO administration of Kosovo as an autonomous province within Yugoslavia; a force of 30,000 NATO troops to maintain order in Kosovo; an unhindered right of passage for NATO troops on Yugoslav territory, including Kosovo; and immunity for NATO and its agents to Yugoslav law. The American and British delegations knew that the new version that amounted to a NATO occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia would never be accepted by the Serbs .

Civilian targets in Serbia were deliberately targeted by UK/US bomber aircraft as Cook knew only too well and which he turned a very convenient blind eye to , like any real politik politician would .

Now to the Iraq war , the war that Cook receive so many plaundits for being opposed to .

This was , of course , the Foreign Minister who was in full support of the sanctions system that led to the death of an estimated half a million children . HALF A MILLION DEAD CHILDREN .

Nor shall we forget Cooks contribution to the withdrawal of the UN inspectors , ( yes , the withdrawal , not kicked out by Hussein ) when the UK/US launched Operation Desert Fox in 1998 . The operation included more than 600 sorties, including 300 night strike sorties, flown by more than 300 combat and support aircraft. Aircraft employed 600 pieces of air-dropped ordnance, 90 air-launched cruise missiles, and 325 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles .
“… we took that action precisely because there was no co-operation with UN weapons inspectors at that time” - Robin Cook
That was a lie . UNSCOM inspectors had visited some 300 sites in the month prior to Desert Fox, at only 5 of which was there any problem about access, and at none of which was access refused. IAEA inspectors had no trouble at all.

But many will forgive all those previous transgressions because of that principled stand against the 2003 Iraq war .
How many remember him marching or speaking on the anti-war protests - no-one - he avoided directly associatng with the anti-war movement .
In March he resigned and voted against the government over the war . Yet the previous month he voted FOR the government . He could not bring himself to support an anti-war amendment . And then previously in November 2002 he declined to go along with other Labour rebels and vote in favour of a Lib Dem motion against an Iraq war without further UN authorisation .

Robin Cook - pacifist , humanitarian , principled - Don't make me larf , i think not .

Further reading :-

The Dark Heart of Robin Cook's " Ethical" Foreign Policy

Robin Cook - Man of Integrity ?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bill Gates , Charity , and Profits .

AT the end of 2005, the Gates Foundation endowment stood at $35 billion, making it the largest in the world. Then in June 2006, Warren E. Buffett, the world's second-richest man after Bill Gates, pledged to add about $31 billion in installments from his personal fortune. Not counting tens of billions of dollars more that Gates himself has promised, the total is higher than the gross domestic products of 70% of the world's nations.
Like most philanthropies, the Gates Foundation gives away at least 5% of its worth every year, to avoid paying most taxes. It invests the other 95% of its worth. This endowment is managed by Bill Gates Investments .
Monica Harrington, a senior policy officer at the Foundation, said the investment managers had one goal: returns -"that will allow for the continued funding of foundation programs and grant making."

The Los Angeles Times found that the Gates Foundation has holdings in many companies that have failed tests of social responsibility because of environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker rights, or unethical practices . Using the most recent data available, a Times tally showed that hundreds of Gates Foundation investments , 41% of its assets, not including U.S. and foreign government securities — have been in companies that countered the foundation's charitable goals or socially concerned philosophy.

The Gates Foundation has put $218 million into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. Yet - it has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing the Niger Delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe. Hundreds of flares at oil plants in the Niger Delta have caused an epidemic of bronchitis in adults, and asthma and blurred vision in children. Many of the 250 toxic chemicals in the fumes and soot have long been linked to respiratory disease and cancer. The bright, sooty gas flares — which contain toxic byproducts such as benzene, mercury and chromium — lower immunity, and make children more susceptible to polio and measles — the diseases that the Gates Foundation has helped to inoculate him against.
The oil plants , whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, find it cheaper to burn nearly 1 billion cubic feet of gas each day and contribute to global warming than to sell it.

Local leaders blame oil development for fostering some of the very afflictions that the foundation combats.Oil workers, for example, and soldiers protecting them are a magnet for prostitution, contributing to a surge in HIV and teenage pregnancy, both targets in the Gates Foundation's efforts to ease the ills of society, especially among the poor. Oil bore holes fill with stagnant water, which is ideal for mosquitoes that spread malaria, one of the diseases the Foundation is fighting.Investigators for Dr. Nonyenim Solomon Enyidah, health commissioner for Rivers State, where Ebocha is located, cite an oil spill clogging rivers as a cause of cholera, another scourge the foundation is battling. The rivers, Enyidah said, "became breeding grounds for all kinds of waterborne diseases."

In South Africa , In 2002, a study found that more than half of the children at a school in Merebank , near Durban , suffered asthma — one of the highest rates in scientific literature. A second study, published last year, found serious respiratory problems throughout the region: More than half of children aged 2 to 5 had asthma, largely attributed to sulfur dioxide and other industrial pollutants. Asthma was not the only danger. Isipingo is in what environmental activists call "Cancer Valley." Emissions of benzene, dioxins and other carcinogens were "among the highest levels found in any comparable location the world .
The Gates Foundation is a major shareholder in the companies that own both of the polluting plants. As of September, the Foundation held $295 million worth of stock in BP, a co-owner of Sapref. As of 2005, it held $35 million worth of stock in Royal Dutch Shell, Sapref's other owner. The foundation also held a $39-million investment in Anglo American, which owns the Mondi paper mill.

Bill Gates and his much lauded anti-AIDS campaign .

Gel capsules of Kaletra , a second line anti-viral drug , melt in Nigeria's sweltering climate, where temperatures often top 100 degrees. A new version of Kaletra does not require refrigeration . A hospital helped by the Nigerian government, which gets money from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The fund has been awarded $651 million by the Gates Foundation. Yet the hospital does not offer the new Kaletra. It is too expensive.

Kaletra is made by Abbott Laboratories. As of this September, the Gates Foundation held $169 million in Abbott stock. In 2005, the Foundation held nearly $1.5 billion worth of stock in drug companies whose practices have been widely criticized as restricting the flow of key medicines to poor people in developing nations.On average, shares in those companies have increased in value about 54% since 2002. Investments in Abbott and other drug makers probably have gained the Foundation hundreds of millions of dollars.

Drug makers say they need price protection for research and development. The drug makers, with other research-intensive businesses, lobbied hard and successfully for the international Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which made it harder to move from costly brand-name drugs to cheap generics. The agreement protected new-drug monopolies for 20 years or more.This meant no low-priced generic for Kaletra. The pact locked in Abbott as its sole supplier, and Abbott set prices for the world.
"We also recognize that private industry needs adequate incentives to develop new drugs." states Monica Harrington for the Gates Foundation .

Some critics say the foundation's failure to use its own investments "to promote … public benefit in developing countries at reasonable cost" might trace back to the source of most of its money — Microsoft — which Bill Gates serves as chairman.Microsoft monopolies in computer operating systems and business software depend upon the same intellectual-property and trade-law approaches favored by drug companies.

"The Gates Foundation is in a position to change the dynamic, to make sure that drugs get first to the places they are most needed," said Daniel Berman, deputy director in South Africa for Doctors Without Borders. "But it conflicts with the interests of Microsoft."

On Tuesday 30 January 2007 at 20:00 in the Quakers Hall Victoria Terrace , Edinburgh , Tristan Miller , a research scientist in the field of computer science and digital information management will be offering a socialist analysis , Free Software dot.communism..? , that will be discussing patents and copyrights - so called "intellectual property" - that gives companies such as Microsoft the legal power to withhold computer software benefits from the public .

Sunday, January 07, 2007

It was never about the oil , was it ?

I remember only too well in TV interviews Blair accusing those of us who claimed the Iraq war was all about oil of being conspiracists The Independent on Sunday carries a story of the commercial developments in the Iraq oil industry .
A new oil law has quietly been going through several drafts, and is now on the point of being presented to the cabinet and then the parliament in Baghdad. Its provisions are a radical departure from the norm for developing countries: under a system known as "production-sharing agreements", or PSAs, oil majors such as BP and Shell in Britain, and Exxon and Chevron in the US, would be able to sign deals of up to 30 years to extract Iraq's oil. Production sharing agreements of more than 30 years are unusual . PSAs allow a country to retain legal ownership of its oil, but gives a share of profits to the international companies that invest in infrastructure and operation of the wells, pipelines and refineries. Their introduction would be a first for a major Middle Eastern oil producer. Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's number one and two oil exporters, both tightly control their industries through state-owned companies with no appreciable foreign collaboration, as do most members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Opec. The terms outlined to govern future PSAs are generous: according to the draft, they could be fixed for at least 30 years. The revelation will raise Iraqi fears that oil companies will be able to exploit its weak state by securing favourable terms that cannot be changed in future.
Iraq's sovereign right to manage its own natural resources could also be threatened by the provision in the draft that any disputes with a foreign company must ultimately be settled by international, rather than Iraqi, arbitration.
In the July draft obtained by The Independent on Sunday, legislators recognise the controversy over this, annotating the relevant paragraph with the note, "Some countries do not accept arbitration between a commercial enterprise and themselves on the basis of sovereignty of the state."
Under the chapter entitled "Fiscal Regime", the draft spells out that foreign companies have no restrictions on taking their profits out of the country, and are not subject to any tax when doing this.
It is also understood that once companies have recouped their costs from developing the oil field, they are allowed to keep 20 per cent of the profits, with the rest going to the government.Dr Muhammad-Ali Zainy, a senior economist at the Centre for Global Energy Studies, said: "Twenty per cent of the profits in a production sharing agreement, once all the costs have been recouped, is a large amount." In more stable countries, 10 per cent would be the norm.
While the costs are being recovered, companies will be able to recoup 60 to 70 per cent of revenue; 40 per cent is more usual. Contrast the terms of contract the French had negotiated with Saddam Hussein - Total , the French company , would only have kept 10 per cent of the profits once the company had recovered its costs.And while the company was recovering its costs, it is understood it agreed to take only 40 per cent of the profits
In just 40 pages, Iraq is locked into sharing its oil with foreign investors for the next 30 years .
It was never about the oil , was it ?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"Our Style Socialism"

According to the Christian Science Monitor North Koreans are taught to worship Kim Jong Il as a god. A cult ideology of complete subservience - that goes beyond the "Stalinist" label .

In 1990, ideology was 19 percent of North Korea's budget; by 2004 it doubled to at least 38.5 percent of state spending . It is the only category in the North's budget to increase , paying for some 30,000 Kim monuments, gymnastic festivals, films and books, billboards and murals, 40,000 "research institutes," historical sites, rock carvings, circus theaters, training programs, and other worship events.

Kim Jong Il has upgraded his deification strategies to strengthen the family cult system. Western reports often detail Korea's unique "juche ideology" - a theology of Kim worship, repeated hourly and daily, reminding Koreans they are insolubly bound to the Kim family and must erase foreign influence from their minds.

Yet juche is a sub-category of a far more encompassing umbrella of deification known as woo sang hwa, or idol worship. In North Korea, woo sang hwa contains all the aspects of cult worship. Kim broke away from orthodox communism, for example, in a program called "our style socialism." While Marxism-Leninism demands fealty to "nation," "party," and "serving the people" - Kim's "our style [Korean] socialism" does no such thing. It makes "family loyalty," with Kim at the head, the supreme good .

Concentration camps hold 200,000 inmates, a dozen intelligence units spy on the people and each other. North Korea has the world's fifth-largest army. But more importantly, North Korea uses "ideology rather than physical control" says Lee Jong Heon, who published a structural analysis of the North at Chung-Ang University in Seoul .

Along with Hugo Chavez and his "21st Century Socialism" , just how many sorts of "socialisms" do we need ? It is all smoke and mirrors to disguise the fact that real socialism is not the objective of either .

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Saddam Executed - What about the accomplices ??

James Connolly - The Great Betrayal

James Connolly - An Assessment

James Connolly was born in Edinburgh on 5 June 1868 , the son of an Irish immigrant labourer . He went to work at the age of ten or eleven and then seems to have joined the British army , being stationed in Cork . In 1889 he left ( deserted ) and went back to Scotland planning to marry a girl he had met in Dublin . In Dundee Connolly , who must already have had vague radical Irish nationalist sentiments , joined the local branch of the Socialist League . This was a breakaway from the Social Democratic Federation in 1884 , in which William Morris was prominently involved. However by this time there was little difference between the Socialist League and the SDF and it was only an accident that Connolly joined the one and not the other . Soon in Scotland the two bodies united to form the Scottish Socialist Federation which in 1895 became the Edinburgh branch of the SDF . It was this organisation which first introduced Connolly to Socialist and Marxist ideas.

But the SDF was not an uncompromisingly Socialist body. It advocated reforms ( or “palliatives” as they were then called) as stepping stones towards Socialism and was involved in the general ferment of the time in favour of independent ( of the Liberals , that is , and not necessarily Socialist ) working-class representation in Parliament and local councils. Connolly himself seems also to have been a member of the ILP as well as being secretary of the Edinburgh branch of the SSF/SDF. In 1894 he had stood as a “Labour” candidate in the local elections . Being an unskilled labourer - and an “agitator” - he found work difficult to get and eventually advertised his services to the “Labour movement” as a paid speaker, lecturer, and organiser. His offer was taken up by the Dublin Socialist Society and in 1896 he and his family left Scotland for Ireland .

In Dublin he was instrumental in forming an Irish Socialist Republican Party similar in character to the SDF. Basically “Labourist” , it also argued some Socialist and Marxist ideas. But it had a programme of palliatives ranging from nationalisation of the railways and a 48-hour week to free maintenance for children and universal suffrage . And it supported the demand for Irish independence . This last was quite in accord with the Social Democratic ( though not Socialist) thinking which , when it spoke of “international socialism” , envisaged this as a federation of independent national “socialist republics” ; so , on this view , insofar as “the Irish” were to be regarded as a “nation” they were entitled to an independent State - so ran the mistaken Social Democratic argument which Connolly accepted .

He believed that only through the establishment of an Irish “socialist republic” could Ireland really become independent of England , and appealed to Irish nationalist sentiment on this basis . He was of course an implacable opponent of the Irish Home Rule MPs at Westminster , pointing out that Home Rule under capitalism would make no difference to the poverty and misery of the workers of Ireland . In fact up until the turn of the century the activities of the IRSP seem to have been a combination of Labourism and Irish Republicanism , both of which were deviations from straight agitation for working-class political power for Socialism.

But by 1900 the position inside the SDF was changing . Some of the younger members were challenging the autocracy and opportunism of the clique around Hyndman which dominated the organisation . In Scotland they came under the influence of Daniel De Leon and the American Socialist Labor Party which some of them had come across at the Paris Congress of the Second International in 1900. Connolly , who still kept in contact with Scotland , also to a certain extent came under their influence . In 1901 he had done a paid speaking tour in England and Scotland .
The American SLP was on what might be called the extreme left of the Second International. It was completely opposed to compromises with the bourgeois parties and was moving towards saying that the struggle for reforms was futile and that instead socialists should concentrate exclusively on the capture of political power for Socialism via the ballot box . ( The SLP’s syndicalism deviation was to occur later , as we shall see ) It still , however , had a national rather than world conception of “socialism” ( and still does to this day)

In 1899 a French “Socialist” MP by the name of Millerand accepted a post in a bourgeois government There was an immediate storm. At the Paris Congress of the Second International a compromise resolution which condemned Millerand but not the principle of participating in bourgeois governments , was carried in place of one opposing participation on principle. The critics , or “impossibilists” as they were called ( since they were supposed to be saying that improvements in working-class conditions under capitalism were impossible and so not worth striving for ) , also challenged the lack of Party control over Justice which , despite being the SDF’s official organ , was owned and controlled by Hyndman and some of his friends.

Connolly associated himself with the impossibilists and allowed them to use the IRSP paper , the Workers’ Republic , to put their case on this , and other issues. A pamphlet of the pages was later published as the New Evangel which shows the limitations of Connolly’s position at this time He still had not broken with the idea that a socialist party should struggle for palliatives as well as for Socialism In fact the following January he stood as a candidate in the Dublin local elections on a programme of immediate demands .

Perpetually short of money , Connolly decided to go later that year on a speaking tour to America to help the American SLP get the Irish vote ( yes , despite their stand on reforms , aspects of opportunism survived ! ) Before he went he arranged to for the press on which the Workers Republic was printed to be used to publish a journal called The Socialist , on paper the organ of the Scottish Council of the SDF but in fact controlled by the Scottish “impossibilists” . In America he spoke all across the country from New York and Buffalo to San Francisco and Los Angeles . He returned to Ireland an SLP man . In January 1903 he again stood for the local council in Dublin . This time , however, there was no immediate demands in his programme , only the advocacy of political power for Socialism via the ballot box - in fact the sort of election manifesto we ourselves could have endorsed .

Meanwhile things were coming to a head in the SDF . At their 1903 Conference in London over Easter the expulsion of the leading Scottish impossibilists , Yates , was confirmed . The other Scottish impossibilists thereupon resigned and in June was founded the Socialist Labour Party of Great Britain , with The Socialist as its official organ .Connolly , who was on another paid speaking tour of Scotland at the time ( and reversing the opinion expressed in 1901 to stay in the SDF ) , chaired the first conference of the new party and was appointed its first organiser. However , the new party , like the SDF , had it list of palliatives - a move to delete them was defeated and it was not until 1905 that they were dropped , probably under the influence of the SPGB which never had such a list . By the Connolly was in America but it is probably safe to assume , in view of his subsequent evolution of his political ideas , that in 1903 he had been one of those in favour of the SLP having a reform programme.

The SPGB had been formed in June 1904 by the London “impossibilists” . Right from the start it advocated only socialism and had no reform programme .Among the founding members was Alex Anderson , who before moving to London had been the Secretary of the Edinburgh branch of the SDF .

To complete the Connolly story In the autumn of 1903 he returned to America hoping to pursue his chosen career as a professional “labour organiser” by getting a job with the SLP . He got no such job , though he remained an SLP member and activist becoming a member of its National Executive Committee . In 1905 the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was founded in Chicago . Connolly , as part of the SLP delegation , attended this congress and spoke on their behalf in favour of founding the new organisation. This support for the IWW represented a complete reversal of the previous policy of the SLP and its leader Daniel De Leon . Previously they had stressed the primacy of political action through a class-conscious socialist political party ; now they reduced political action to a subordinate , supporting role to the “socialist industrial unions” which were to take and hold the means of production . Connolly accepted this syndicalism deviation from Marxism and also its corollary that the industrial unions were to be the future administration of “socialist” society .

Connolly , however, was beginning to get tired of the sectarianism of the SLP and had already spoken in favour of a merger between the SLP and the more opportunist Socialist Party of America In March 1907 he helped establish an “Irish Socialist Federation” . This brought him into conflict with the SLP hierarchy and led to his expulsion or resignation (depending on your point of view ) . Anyway he left , and continued his career as a professional organiser by getting a job with the IWW . The IWW was in reality a militant general union with a revolutionary ideology and , like all unions , (as they must to be effective , of course) recruited members on an open-house principle, I.e. workers of all political views and not just revolutionaries In January 1908 The Harp was launched as the organ of the ISF and Connolly used it to urge support for Eugene Debs , The SPA candidate in the 1908 Presidential elections. This despite the fact that the IWW , for which he worked , had that year adopted a completely anti-political stance - though this was the occasion on a rare sensible comment from Connolly : asked if this meant he was against the workers taking political action to establish Socialism , he replied that when the time came “it would be impossible to prevent the workers taking it” , a point that could well be borne in mind by today‘s anti-parliamentarians . But he soon moved to a new job in line with his increasingly reformist views , becoming in 1909 a national organiser for the SPA.

When he returned to Ireland in July 1910 he had gone quite reformist. His new job was organiser for the “Socialist Party of Ireland” . This was the at-this-time somewhat moribund successor to the IRSP he had founded in 1896 , a self-styled “Marxist” party involved in reformist and Irish nationalist politics . The SPI soon found it couldn’t afford a paid organiser so Connolly moved on to become the Belfast organiser of Larkin’s Irish Transport Workers Union . Here he joined in the campaign to get the Irish TUC to set up an Irish ( as, purposely , opposed to the British ) Labour Party , i.e. a non-socialist , trade union party to act as a pressure group in the expected Home Rule Parliament . This was eventually done in 1912 .

So Connolly had now embraced Labourism and it is not surprising to find him standing as a Labour ( and Irish nationalist) candidate on a completely reformist programme in the Belfast municipal elections of January 1913. Later that year he returned to Dublin to play a leading role in resisting the Great Lock-Out through which the Dublin employers , led by William Murphy , tried to destroy the ITWU. Connolly stayed on afterwards as the acting general secretary The depth of his reformism at this period can be gauged from reading his Re-conquest of Ireland . This envisages “socialism” being established in Ireland as a gradual process, commencing with “municipal socialism” , a reform of the educational system , etc. A sentimental nationalism ( so often found in “patriots” born outside their “native” country , as Connolly was) with talk of the “soul of the Irish nation” is also evident.

When the first world war broke out Connolly can at least be given credit for opposing it , though behind the socialist rhetoric it is possible to detect a more basic Irish nationalism . As the war dragged on Connolly was to get involved in a conspiracy with “pure and simple” republicans to stage an armed uprising with help from Imperial Germany , to try to establish an independent Irish Republic . He began to neglect his trade union duties for military training and put the Irish Citizen Army , originally a self - defence body formed by the ITWU to protect its members from police brutality , at the disposal of the Republicans. The “rising” at Easter 1916 was a fiasco , easily put down by the British army . Connolly was executed for his part in it and so became an Irish National Hero - a sad end for someone who for a while came near to becoming a revolutionary socialist but who later fell back into the bog of careerism , Labour reformism and Irish republicanism .

A.L.B. Socialist Standard October 1973

Further reading :-

1914 Socialist Standard review of Connolly’s Labour in Irish History

The Easter Rising

The Dublin lockout of 1913

The Irish Question Socialist Standard article from August 1916