Monday, May 28, 2007

Paresh Chattopadhyay

Came across this writer , Paresh Chattopadhyay , author of The Marxian Concept of Capital and the Soviet Experience and indeed he is a very interesting read .

He can be accessed at LibCom page .

"...the Bolshevised socialism is a state under the absolute rule of the communist party, passing for a proletarian state, owning the means of production under the appellation of "public ownership" and employing wage labour whose products take the commodity form. Needless to stress, this statist socialism based on wage slavery is the exact antipode of Marx's immensely emancipatory socialism conceived as a "union of free individuals" without private ownership of either variety - individual or collective - without state, without commodity production and without wage labour..." - Worlds Apart: Socialism in Marx and in Early Bolshevism

"...Similarly a central economic law of all societies " the law of the economy of time " would continue to operate in the Union. However, here again, this law takes on a completely new character...From now on necessary labor time would be measured in terms of needs of the "social indivdual," not in terms of needs of valorization. Similarly the surplus labor time far from signifying non-labor time for the few would mean free time for all social individuals. It is now society's free time and no longer labor time that increasingly becomes the true measure of society's wealth..." - On Some Aspects of the Dialectic of Labour in the Critique of Politcial Economy.

"... C[apitalist] M[ode] of P[roduction] has proved to be the most destructive among all the modes of production that have existed so far in human evolution. Continuing through the plunder, uprooting, enslavement and outright murder of peoples perpetrated at an unprecedented scale across the globe, right at its `rosy dawn', capitalist transformation of the production process with the whole globe as its theatre, has, above all, meant the martyrdom of the producers; and the technology and the combination of the social process of production developed by it has meant the simultaneous exhaustion of the twin sources from which springs all wealth: the earth and the labourer..." - Marx on Capital's Globalization - The Dialectic of Negativity

"...the fundamental point of the Marx-envisaged society after capital which informs Marx's theoretical (and practical militant) work all his adult life is the immense emancipatory perspective (for the humanity) in which communism is placed through the abolition of capital. The whole process - which is "epochal," not momentary (like a 'seizure of power') - starts with the working class self-emancipatory revolution, given the adequate material conditions for such revolution prepared by capital itself through its self-annihilating contradictions. It passes through a "long, painful" "revolutionary transformation period," "changing circumstances and individuals" in preparation for the future "Association." After the workers have in course of the transformation period, largely eliminated (though not yet all the vestiges of) the existing elements of the old society such as classes, private ownership of the means of production, state, commodity production, wage labour, but carrying over all the "acquisitions of the capitalist era," a new mode of production comes into existence... Here, with the collective appropriation of the conditions of production and directly social labour, neither the allocation of labour time (across the different branches of production as well as between society's necessary and disposable labour time) nor the distribution of society's total product with regard to reserves and enlarged reproduction requirements as well as personal consumption need to be mediated by money-commodity-wage form - the enslaving elements of the old society...there is now the unmediated union of individuals who are all simple producers (after ceasing to be proletarians). Individuals cease to be subject to "personal dependence" (as under pre-capitalism) as well as to "material (objective) dependence" (as under capitalism) and as universally developed "social individuals," gain "free individuality." ...." - Class History and Theory: Capitalism and Communism in the USSR

"...The problem of rationally allocating productive resources in an economy is common to all human societies at least as long as these resources remain relatively limited compared to needs. However, there is no need to assume that this allocation could be effected rationally (if at all) only through the exchange of resources taking the value (price) form...The point is that the allocation through the value form of the products of human labor is only "a particular social manner of counting labor employed in the production of an object" precisely in a society in which "the process of production dominates individuals, individuals do not dominate the process of production" (Marx ) ..."- Capitalism as Socialism: Defence of Socialism in the Socialist Calculation of Debate Revisited

" should be clear that for Marx, after the demise of the proletarian political power along with the proletariat at the end of the revolutionary transformation period and the consequent disappearance of classes, the state, like commodity production and wage labour " embodying human unfreedom " can have no place in socialism. However, unlike what he does with commodity production and wage labour, Marx does not, in the Gothakritik, directly treat the question of the state in relation to the Association. He simply wonders about which social functions would remain in the communist society analogous to the present day state functions. That this is no way implies the continued existence of the state in the new society is clear in Marx's denunciation, in the same document, of the "Lassallean sect's servile faith in the state," which he considers as "remote from socialism."..." - A Manifesto of Emancipation: Marx's "Marginal Notes to the German Worker's Party" After One Hundred and Twenty Five Years

"...The communist revolution has a universal character. This is because the proletariat, having no property and no country, is the expression of the dissolution of all classes and all nationalities. Moreover, because of the universal development of the productive forces (under capitalism) and the "world-historical" extension of capital " appearing as a power alien to the proletariat " the proletariat's subjection is universal. The proletariat can exist only as a world historical (weltgeschichtlich) force, in the same way as communism can exist only as a world historical reality. Another fundamental aspect of the universal character of the communist revolution is that the emancipation of the proletariat, the result of the communist revolution, does not mean that the emancipation is limited to the proletariat. It is universal, human..." - The Place of the Communist Manifesto in the Elaboration of the Marxian Idea of the Post-Capital

Friday, May 25, 2007

Slavery in the US of A

A multimillionaire couple who run a world-wide perfume business were indicted on federal slavery charges after a battered domestic servant escaped from their mansion on the “Gold Coast” of Long Island, New York.

“It’s truly a case of modern-day slavery. No one would ever think that human beings were being brought into the United States and held for slave labour, and beaten, and tortured in a beautiful mansion right here in one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods on Long Island,” said Demetri Jones, an assistant US attorney.

The maids’ ordeal allegedly began when they were brought to the United States in 2002 to do housework for Indonesian-born Varsha Sabhnani, and her Indian-born husband, Mahender Sabhnani, both US citizens.
The two servants slept on mats in the kitchen and were forced to work up to 21 hours a day, seven days a week, from 4am to 1am, prosecutors say, and were fed so little that they resorted to hiding morsels above a ceiling panel.When strangers came to the home they were ordered to hide in the basement or a garage, they said. The maids were promised $200 a month in pay but Samirah told authorities that she later learnt that the Sabhnanis sent only half the amount to her daughter in Indonesia. It was not clear if Nona received any money. Both had US visas that had long expired.

Prosecutors allege the two maids suffered harsh punishment over a five-year period for perceived misdeeds such as taking food or being unable to find an article of clothing.
The arrest warrant says Samirah was forced to take as many as 30 ice-cold showers in a row, run up and down a flight of stairs 150 times as fast as she could, and eat at least 25 “extremely hot chilli peppers at one time”.
Punishment was meted out in the laundry room or bathroom with “a rolling pin, bamboo stick and a broomstick”. Samirah “bears highly visible scars that appear to be permanent over much of her body” including “deep, open knife wounds behind her ears”, court papers say.
She showed investigators “a door stained with [her] blood that was the result of an injury sustained during a beating”.

Immigration agents raided the millionaire couple’s home in Mutton-town suburb when their maid Samirah was found wandering half-naked . The maid showed the manager of a do-nut shop her expired Indonesia passport and sobbed: “Home, I want to go home.” Asked where she lived, she pointed towards the couple’s home and said “Master,” making a gesture as though she was getting slapped .

From far-out to far-reaching

The hippie generation's influence on mainstream culture runs deeper than the lyrics of a Grateful Dead song.

A new poll reveals that hippies have had a profound effect on the British way of life. Today the movement has moulded mainstream society's views on everything from war, government, sex, fashion, food and alternative therapy to the environment .

46%, agree with the hippie rallying cry "Make Love Not War''

49% are opposed to nuclear weapons

35%, think there is never any excuse for war

48% of British people also now believe in questioning authority

47% think there are too many rules

30%, disagree with party politics

82% of Britons saying they believe in Environmentalism and the need to save the planet

47%, said they would consider trying to produce all their own food

26% said they would build their home from recycled materials

43% would live solely with alternative energy sources

75% now hold no objections to sex before marriage

35%, said they had smoked marijuana

8% said they had taken LSD

43% said they were open-minded about meditation

25% believe in astrology

In the words of the The Dead - " What a long strange trip it has been "

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Truth Hurts McDonalds

McDonalds have launched a petition to get the dictionary definition of a McJob changed.
The Oxford English Dictionary currently describes a McJob as "an unstimulating low-paid job with few prospects" It first appeared in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary in March 2001. McDonalds are inviting its customers to sign petition books in its outlets , or alternatively via a new website, entitled Change The Definition. Its campaign is further supported by British Chambers of Commerce director general David Frost, British Retail Consortium director general Kevin Hawkins and City & Guilds director general Chris Humphries. McDonald's says that in its staff surveys, 90% of employees agree they are given valuable training that will be of benefit for the rest of their working lives. And 82% of its workers would recommend working at the company to their friends.

"One day our manager pulled us into the office and told us “you need to have a long hard think about why you’re here”. Well we did, and it wasn’t an easy question to answer. It certainly wasn’t for fun- the work was repetitive and monotonous, robotic and likely to cause minor injury. The pay was piss and the uniforms were far from chic. It certainly wasn’t to contribute to the general well being of the world since our principal functions were cooking and serving slabs of dead cow, raised on deforested land in order to be sold to the impoverished parents of emotionally manipulated two year olds. The obvious answer, that we needed money to pay the rent, didn’t explain why we were working at McDonalds as opposed to doing something vaguely useful that might afford us a shred of dignity. In fact, the only reason we could see why we, or anyone else, worked at McDonalds, was because in doing so we made some rich guys we had never met even richer."

“We don't want to prostitute our lives and resign ourselves to drudgery. And that's what McJobs mean- to surrender a piece of your life to an idiotic pursuit of wealth on behalf of those who already have too much...” – Glasgow MWR

"They (crew members) have no guaranteed employment rights. They do not have guaranteed employment or guaranteed conditions of employment" - Ronald Beavers, McDonalds US Vice President, 1995

"We couldn't actually pay any lower wages without falling foul of the law" - Sid Nicholson, then McDonalds UK vice President

“We sold them a dream and paid them as little as possible.” - Ray Kroc, Founder of McDonald's, speaking about company employees

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Nazi America

A BBC documentary recalls that Nazism adopted many practices that was common in the so-called democracies . One was "science" of eugenics .

This year marks the centenary of the first eugenics laws passed in the United States.
Policies were drawn up in over 30 states in the US to sterilise women, men and children who were considered to be physically, mentally or morally 'defective'. But in reality the majority of those who were sterilised were simply poor women. More than 60% of those sterilised were black women. State records conservatively estimate that between 1943 and 1963, over 63,000 people were sterilised under the eugenics laws in America.The federal government has never acknowledged that any sterilisation abuses have ever taken place.

Between 1929 and 1974, across the state of North Carolina, more than 7600 men, women and children were sterilised. Documents from the state's eugenics board reveal how for nearly 50 years this unelected body authorised 90% of all sterilisation cases brought before it. Social workers used gossip in their reports for the Eugenics Board.

Elaine Riddick , grew up in North Carolina with a violent father and an alcoholic mother.
She believes that the state used her chaotic childhood as a justification to sterilise her.
"When I was 13, I was raped. I had my beautiful son and when they cut me open, I had a caesarean, they sterilised me at the same time," she said. "I didn't know anything about it until I was 19. I got married and tried to have a child. The doctor told me I had been butchered."

Elaine Riddick's form refers to "community reports that she was 'running around' late at night" and her "promisicuity" and her "inability to control herself" constituted grounds for sterilisation.

Five states, including North Carolina, have issued apologies for the sterilisations carried out under eugenics laws .

Saying sorry is far from being enough .

The Water Wars

The bottom line of the socialist case against war is that it is about ownership and contrrol of natural resources , and that religion or race are just the pretext for this competition .

Many came to their own conclusion when they ignored the politicians propaganda and recognised that the Iraq War was not about WMDs or bringing democracy but was a war for the oil .

Less would accept that the Middle East conflict between Israel and its neighbours was about the struggle to acquire natural sources . Yet this article from the BBC confirms much of the socialist argument .

The Six-Day War in 1967 arguably had its origins in a water dispute - moves to divert the River Jordan, Israel's main source of drinking water.Years of skirmishes and sabre rattling culminated in all-out war, with Israel quadrupling the territory it controlled and gaining complete control of double the resources of fresh water. A country needs water to survive and develop. In Israel's history, it has needed water to make feasible the influx of huge numbers of Jewish immigrants. In addition to their sheer numbers, citizens of the new state were intent on conducting water-intensive commercial agricultural such as growing bananas and citrus fruits.

As far back as 1919, the Zionist delegation at the Paris Peace Conference said the Golan Heights, Jordan valley, what is now the West Bank, as well as Lebanon's river Litani were "essential for the necessary economic foundation of the country. Palestine must have... the control of its rivers and their headwaters".

Those resources - the West Bank's mountain aquifer and the Sea of Galilee - give Israel about 60% of its fresh water, a million cubic metres per year. Israel, and Israeli settlements, take about 80% of the aquifer's flow, leaving the Palestinians with 20%. But the Palestinians say they are prevented from using their own water resources by a belligerent military power, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to buy water from their occupiers at inflated prices. Moreover, Israel allocates its citizens, including those living in settlements in the West Bank deemed illegal under international law, with between three and five times more water than the Palestinians.

Stalled negotiations on Syria's dispute with Israel over the Golan Heights - occupied by Israel in 1967 and annexed in 1980 - also foundered on water-related issues. Syria wants an Israeli withdrawal to 5 June 1967 borders, allowing Syria access to the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers. Israel wants to use boundaries dating back to 1923 and the British Mandate, which give the areas to Israel.

Former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said in the 1990s that the next war in the Middle East would not be about water not politics . In 2000 former UN general secretary , Kofi Annan warned that national rivaries over water could harbour the "seeds of violent conflict" and there were those who linked the recent attempted invasion of Lebanon by Israel on the water issue to gain access to the Litani .

Nor is the potential for future wars confined to the Israeli-Arab situation but involves all the Middle Eastern countries and water scarcity is indeed a world-wide problem .

Yet another urgent reason to discard Capitalism which has now out-lived its usefulness and only blocks any further progress of humanity .

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A New World -and Onwards To a Newer World

From the BBC :-

"No more agriculture for us . It doesn't feed us, it doesn't feed our children. We will move to the cities and work as tea bearers, and live in Mumbai's slums if we have to - it is better than starving." - Dharampul Jarundhe , a farmer in the west of India

Seventy per cent of India's people make their living on the land. Millions of farmers, spread out across rural India, have had to watch the value of their products depreciate on the international markets and are at the mercy of the whims and fancies of economic terms like the demand and supply curve .

They are caught in the cycle of debt and drought, and year after year life gets worse.

Critics of globalisation say the forces of free market style economics are to blame for the rising income inequality between the India of the haves, and the India of the have-nots.

"Is this what you call progress?" asks Jaideep Hardlikar, a farmer activist and a journalist. "I think it's loot by a few of the majority. "

Yet , as was discovered when Capitalism itself was a revolutionary movement in the 16th-18th centuries , sweeping away the aristocratic power under feudalism over the peasantry , re-interpreting the world that had been bound by theology , new progressive social relationships were born from the new capitalist mode of production and its new means of production , to-days Indian society and culture is also changing and will continue to change .

"It's a cliché now, isn't it, but it's still true. I am making more money than my parents could have ever dreamed of, and as an Indian woman that is so totally liberating. I don't need to depend on my parents for money, I don't need to depend on a husband for money. I can choose to get married later if I want to. I may not even need to get married. The opportunities that have opened up for me are mind-boggling." - 25-year-old Devika, who works at a call centre in Mumbai .

Then ,later , comes the understanding that with the rose there is the thorn , and the bloody price of capitalism is a steep cost to bear , which the new working class of India will learn about the hard way.

War - What are we fighting for ?

In a rare piece of candour a member of the Afghanistan parliament put her finger on the truth .
In describing the Afghan Parliament , she said:-

"A stable or a zoo is better, at least there you have a donkey that carries a load and a cow that provides milk. This parliament is worse than a stable or a zoo."

Ms Joya, a fervent advocate of women's rights, has angered male MPs with her criticisms. Some have thrown water bottles at her while she spoke in debates and others have threatened her with rape. She has also survived assassination attempts and has to regularly change her address after receiving death threats from Islamist groups ( the highest-ranking official dealing with female empowerment, Safia Amajan was murdered) . Earlier this year Joya opposed legislation granting an amnesty for the Afghani war-lords against charges of war crimes committed by them during Afghanistan's last 25 years of conflict.

Ms Joya said:-
"Talking about women's rights in Afghanistan is a joke. There really have not been any fundamental changes, the Taliban were driven off by the Americans and the British but then they were allowed to be replaced by warlords who also simply cannot see women as equals...Those of us who speak up are targets. My friends and colleagues have been assassinated. They have tried to kill me four times, the last attack was in Kabul which is the capital of this country which is supposed to be secure and democratic. And then if you try to speak up in parliament their first reaction is to try to gag you."

Democracy , Afghan style , as brought to you by Bush , Blair and the NATO military .

Monday, May 21, 2007

War and Peace

When the Third Reich surrendered in May 1945, 8 million people were left uprooted around Europe. Millions drifted through the 2,500 hastily arranged Displaced Persons camps before they were repatriated. Far from scenes of joyful liberation that should have greeted the end of Nazi oppression, files reveal desperation, loss and confusion, and overwhelmed and often insensitive military authorities. The last DP camps were closed in 1953 .

Liberated concentration camps were transformed into DP camps. Food was still scarce — often just coffee and wet black bread — and medical care was insufficient, said a report written for President Harry Truman.
Inmates were kept under armed guard to maintain order. They still wore their old striped, pjama-like concentration-camp-issue uniforms and slept in the same drafty barracks through a bitter winter.
Compounding their misery, they could watch through barbed wire fences and see German villagers living normal lives.

"As things stand now, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them, except that we do not exterminate them," wrote presidential envoy Earl G. Harrison in his famously quoted report to Truman after visiting that summer.

People still died at the rate of 1,000 to 1,500 a day. Corpses were stacked in front of barracks, to be carted away by captured SS guards. "Bodies frequently remained for several days in the huts, the other inmates being too weak to carry them out," Francois-Poncet wrote in a report for the Allied Military Government.

Relocating those refugees was not easy .

Racism was rampant . "Being a Kalmyk of Mongolian race, is ineligible for most Anglo-Saxon countries,"

And the sexism . "The doors are closed to unmarried mothers," said a note from strongly Catholic Ireland.

Nor should the post -war horrors of the Second World War suffered by the German working class should be forgotten . It is something that has been hidden away . The largest ethnic cleaning of modern times , forgotten about . The treatment of German POWS by the Allies , forgotten about yet it was the first redesignation of prisoners of war to circumvent the Geneva Conventions , the precedent for Bush and Guantanamo Bay .

Throughout all of 1945 the Allies forces of occupation ensured that no international aid reached ethnic German civilian population .
" I feel that the Germans should suffer from hunger and from cold as I believe such suffering is necessary to make them realize the consequences of a war which they caused..." - General Lucius Clay , then Deputy to General Eisenhower

And of course it succeeded . In early October 1945 the UK government privately acknowledged in a cabinet meeting that German civilian adult death rates had risen to 4 times the pre-war levels and death rates amongst the German children had risen by 10 times the pre-war levels .
General Lucius Clay stated in October 1945 "...By the spring of 1946, German observers expect that epidemics and malnutrition will claim 2.5 to 3 million victims between the Oder and Elbe"
German infant mortality rate was twice that of other nations in Western Europe until the end of 1948.

Friday, May 18, 2007

for richer , for poorer

From here and here and here

In Britain, the country's thousand richest people now have wealth of about $300billion (£150billion), three times the figure of ten years ago.

The incomes of the middle class and poor in America have barely risen in a quarter of a century,but those at the top have gone up by about 150%.

According to Princeton economist Paul Krugman if you look at the distribution of income, at least pre-tax, it is the same as it was in the 1920s and the 1920s looked the same as pre-World War One .

The richest 10% of households in the world have as much yearly income as the bottom 90%.

The richest 1% alone owning 40% of the world's wealth.

28% of Thailand’s population live on less than $ 2 a day, 20-25% for Russia, 18% for Turkey and Mexico.

According to official figures, over 50 % of Mexico’s population is still poor.The richest 10th earns over 40% of total income, while the poorest 10th earns only 1.1 %),

The poorest one-fifth of Brazil's 182 million people account for only a 2.4% share of the national income. Brazil is second only to South Africa in a world ranking of income inequality. According to 2003 data, about one-fifth of the population live on less than US$2 a day and 8% live on less than US$1 a day. Brazil's Northeast contains the single largest concentration of rural poverty in Latin America.

1.5 million Dominicans fell into poverty as a result of the 2002-2004 financial crisis and 670,000 of them were forced to reduce their consumption of basic food below minimum subsistence levels. By the end of 2004 42 % of Dominicans were poor and 16 % of them were living in extreme poverty

"I do think there is something slightly obscene in the degree of inequality that prevails in the world...but to expect inequality to be taken care of by philanthropists is barking up the wrong tree..." - George Soros

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Married Priests

Today's BBC carries a report on celibacy and the the Catholic priesthood . A Catholic priest in south-west France has been forced out of the clergy after admitting to the Church authorities that he was having a sexual relationship with one of his parishioners. For the past 22 years, the couple have been in a sexual relationship, which is forbidden to a Catholic priest who has vowed to remain celibate. The villagers back their priest and his partner and have spent three weeks "on strike" -boycotting Mass and refusing to go to Church with the new priest. Huge protest banners hang from the belfry and roof, turning Asson's 13th Century place of worship into a giant billboard- a a backlash against hierarchical traditions they feel have long been outdated.

The political and economic reasons for celibacy in the priesthood i have posted on this blog previously .

"...The legislation that effectively ended optional celibacy for priests came from the Second Lateran Council under Pope Innocent II. The true motivation for these laws was the desire to acquire land throughout Europe and strengthen the papal power base. The laws demanding mandatory celibacy for priests used the language of purity and holiness, but their true intent was to solidify control over the lower clergy and eliminate any challenge to the political objectives of the medieval hierarchy."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It Was Always Blood for Oil

The Blood and The Cross

From Reuters report :-

Outraged Indian leaders in Brazil said on Monday they were offended by Pope Benedict's "arrogant and disrespectful" comments that the Roman Catholic Church had purified them and they had welcomed the arrival of European priests at the time of the conquest as they were "silently longing" for Christianity.

Millions of tribal Indians are believed to have died as a result of European colonization backed by the Church since Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, through slaughter, disease or enslavement. Priests blessed conquistadors as they waged war on the indigenous peoples.
Many Indians today struggle for survival, stripped of their traditional ways of life and excluded from society.

"The state used the Church to do the dirty work in colonizing the Indians..." said Dionito Jose de Souza a leader of the Makuxi tribe in northern Roraima state.

"It's arrogant and disrespectful to consider our cultural heritage secondary to theirs," said Jecinaldo Satere Mawe, chief coordinator of the Amazon Indian group Coiab.

"We repudiate the Pope's comments," said SandroTuxa who heads the movement of northeastern tribes. . "To say the cultural decimation of our people represents a purification is offensive, and frankly, frightening."

Even the Catholic Church's own Indian advocacy group in Brazil, known as Cimi, distanced itself from the Pope. "The Pope doesn't understand the reality of the Indians here, his statement was wrong and indefensible." Cimi advisor Father Paulo Suess told Reuters.

From the BBC :-

Indigenous leaders in Brazil have reacted angrily to Pope Benedict's comments that their predecessors had willingly converted to Christianity 500 years ago . The BBC's Emilio San Pedro said the Pope had said the Christianisation of the region had not involved an alienation of the pre-Colombian cultures. The BBC correspondent said Pope Benedict also made no mention of the violent history that followed or the documented decimation of native cultures in favour of the Christian model Conquistadores and other Europeans colonisers.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Who are the real mail wreckers ?

Royal Mail threaten to throw dummy out of pram . See Here .

Also note the unqualified claim that unions demand 27% pay rise

Friday, May 11, 2007

Vote Yes for Industrial Action

Me and my fellow postal workers are being called upon to vote for strike or not over this years pay-deal and the strings being attached to the present Royal Mail offer . Needless to say - a Yes vote must be returned .

A grassroots response to the pay offer is here

Headline figures put out by Royal Mail about "crazy" union demands for 27% pay-rise should be ignored . The 27% rise is to be implement over 5 years - a much more modest 5.4% rise a year and i have no doubt that the union would have negotiated some sort of productivity deal and costs savings agreement to off - set it all , per usual .

Inflation figures released states it currently stands at 4.8% . A 0.6% gain in our spending power a year . Woweee!!

Interest rates which effects our mortgages rose to 5.5% and is expected shortly to rise to 5.75% according to those in the know . Some analysts believe rates could reach 6% by the end of the year. (Each quarter of a percentage point rise raises the cost of a £100,000 repayment mortgage by between £15 and £20.)
Now to Agitate , Educate and Organise .

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Philanthropy or Profits First ?

Warren Buffett along with Bill Gates have been commended by the media as most generous billionaire benefactors with their charitable contributions and their endeavours to pour cash into alleviating the world's problems . I have before casted a cloud upon Bill Gates halo here , now it is Warren Buffett's time to have his saintdom questioned .

The Guardian carries a report upon the annual shareholders meeting of Berkshire Hathaway , Warren Buffett's conglomerate and if you had put $1,000 into Berkshire in 1965 it is now worth $7m. Last year, the firm achieved an 18% rise in the per-share value of its portfolio, which runs from Fruit of the Loom underwear to Dairy Queen cafeterias, Justin cowboy boots and Yorkshire Electricity.
A resolution criticising Berkshire Hathaway's stake in PetroChina, Berkshire Hathaway, holds 2.3 billion shares , or 1.3% of the foreign ownership of the oil company, a subsidiary of China's state oil company, CNPC, which has extensive interests in Sudan was put to a vote.
"CNPC is by far the most irresponsible and abusive oil investor in Sudan," said Jason Miller of the Sudan Divestment Taskforce. "At least 70% of the funds they provide to Sudan get funnelled into the Sudanese military."

A report in 2000 by a Canadian government commission said an airstrip at Heglig, operated by Sudan's Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co., was a staging area for military attacks on civilians. CNPC owns 40% of Greater Nile . Chinese-made helicopter gunships, based at CNPC airstrips in the country, to conduct raids on civilians !!

according to the Harvard Corp., which manages Harvard University's endowment funds, oil production has become "essential to the government's capacity to fund military operations" — a view shared by the U.S. Department of Energy. For this reason, Harvard has divested from firms with ties to Sudan.

At Buffett's urging, a proposal that would have required the company to sell its $3.3-billion stake in PetroChina was defeated . Profit before principle .

Of course , this is not an isolated case of Buffett's disregard for social conscience .

According to the L.A. Times and also here , about $56.4 billion, or 87% of Berkshire's stock holdings, is invested in companies criticized by research groups for profiting from environmental irresponsibility, human rights violations and other activities that undermine good works or its goals of improving the lot of humankind that Buffett may intend .

The holdings of Berkshire Hathaway, totaling more than $4.6 billion in eight companies, came in dead last by a wide margin in a ranking of oil and gas holdings among the 100 largest investors in the United States. The ranking was based on social, environmental and governance performance ratings developed by the investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and a related ownership analysis by Cary Krosinsky of CapitalBridge, a capital markets intelligence firm.More than any other large investor, Berkshire bought into oil companies whose records on greenhouse gas emissions, safety, business ethics, human rights and other issues significantly lagged those of their peers.

Berkshire holds about $64 million in pharmaceutical companies, for example, whose pricing policies have tended to keep antiretroviral drugs out of reach for HIV/AIDS patients in developing nations .

Berkshire also owns shares worth $28.5 billion in companies accused of human rights abuses, including $921 million in the Wal-Mart who have paid fines or lost rulings in regulatory and court cases accusing it of violating laws banning child labor and governing union organizing and adult working conditions.

A few years ago, Buffett said, he considered buying a tobacco company in Tennessee. He said he would invest in such companies in the future if he thought it would be profitable.Berkshire subsidiary General Re Corp. holds a small investment in Altria Group Inc., the nation's leading cigarette maker.

Among Berkshire's top 100 investments, 74 were evaluated for compensation problems by either KLD Research & Analytics, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., or Goldman Sachs. Of those, 35 were in companies flagged for overpaying chief executives and 50 in companies flagged for excessive rewards for board members.

Berkshire holdings worth more than $21 billion also fared poorly on overall corporate governance, including accounting procedures; transparency on environmental and social policies; and lawsuits or regulatory problems concerning harm to investors, employees, customers or local communities.

Also at that share-holders meeting , a woman from the Karuk Indian reservation in northern California who broke down in tears as she described how two hydroelectric dams operated by a Berkshire subsidiary, PacifiCorp, have destroyed her community's salmon-fishing livelihood.
"My people are a river people. Our entire culture, religion and subsistence is centred around the river," she said

Buffett conceded little ground. "The world runs on electricity and it wants more electricity," he told the Karuk representatives .

Charity for some , a cold-hearted business reply to others.

Buffett's philanthropy is based upon robbing Peter to pay Paul , and it is a policy that Paul is unlikely to decry.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lest We Forget

The US/UK alliance continually use smoke and mirrors to spin the motives for the Iraqi war , but this article from Z-Net focusses us once more on the true reason for the war . It is also a reminder that the architect of the war was not necessary Bush and the Neo-cons , but has been an integral part of American and British foreign policy regardless of what administration is in charge . From simple domestic tinkering such as U.S. officials' secretly writing tax laws in the 1950s (so the Saudi royal family could collect more money from the sale of its oil and American companies could write off the added payments on their tax returns) to the overthrow of Iran's Mohammed Mossadegh and the installation of the Shah in the 50s

In 1977 the CIA sounded an alarm on the Soviets' faltering energy prospects in a secret 14-page memo titled "The Impending Soviet Oil Crisis." The agency concluded that the Soviet Union, which had been self-sufficient in oil, was running out and would soon become a major importer. "During the next decade," the report said, "the U.S.S.R. may well find itself not only unable to supply oil to Eastern Europe and the West on the present scale, but also having to compete for OPEC oil for its own use." Two years later, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. President Jimmy Carter, concluding that the Soviet army was passing through Afghanistan to seize the Middle East oil fields .

When President Carter issued this edict, "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force." quickly dubbed the Carter Doctrine, the United States did not actually possess any forces capable of performing this role in the Gulf. To fill this gap, Carter created a new entity, the Rapid Deplyment Joint Task Force (RDJTF), an ad hoc assortment of U.S-based forces designated for possible employment in the Middle East.

When Ronald Reagan replaced Carter in the White House a year later, he turned up the heat. Administration officials insisted that the Soviet Union's interest in Afghanistan was a prelude to a communist takeover of the Middle East oil fields. The CIA report on the Soviets' running out of oil gave the Reagan Administration the ammunition to secure more money from Congress to arm Afghan insurgents and establish a permanent military presence in the Persian Gulf. Soon after Reagan took office, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger announced that it was essential for the U.S. to establish bases in the Persian Gulf region "to act as a deterrent to any Soviet hopes of seizing the oil fields."

In 1983, President Reagan transformed the RDJTF into the Central Command (Centcom), the name it bears today. Centcom exercises command authority over all U.S. combat forces deployed in the greater Persian Gulf area including Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. At present, Centcom is largely preoccupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it has never given up its original role of guarding the oil flow from the Persian Gulf in accordance with the Carter Doctrine.

It is easy to blame individuals and personalities when the true culprit is the Capitalist system .

The report that Russia was running out of oil was very much a "failure of intelligence" , more so than the pretend intelligence failures to determine in Iraq possessed WMDs or not . Soviet oil production was trailing off. But the Soviets were not running out of oil. Nor would they become dependent on imports. Rather, they were using primitive technology and needed to improve infrastructure . Russia ships 3 million bbl. a day to other countries, including the U.S. make investments in their infrastructure. In fact, Russia today is the world's second largest oil producer .

Monday, May 07, 2007

Blood Upon The Grass

While reading this blog , i went to this blog and then to this blog and was pleased to see this rejection of nationalism and the nation state . Something , of course , the SPGB have always been advocating and have been villified for doing so by the apologists of Lenin's anti-imperialism theories . So it made a nice change to see those Left - wing heretic's re-appraisals .

Anyway , it was all this discussion on nationalism that recalled my Road To Damascus conversion and my disillusionment with the "Tartan Army" and the Scotland national football team .

In 1973 , Pinochet's fascist soldiers beat , tortured and murdered thousands in the Santiago football stadium , A few years later on the road to Argentina , Scotland played a warm up game against Chile and played in that very same blood soaked stadium . Russia , remember , had earlier forfeited their place in the 1974 World Cup Finals by refusing to play a qualifying against Chile , yet the mandarins of the SFA , ably supported by all football's 90 minute nationalists insisted - no politics in sport . The Scottish team lost my support , for what that is worth . Nor do i take any pleasure in celebrating that great Archie Gemmill super-goal against Holland - the studs of the same boots trampled over the memories of Chilean workers . I now even happily chuckle when England beats Scotland .

Anyway , when checking some facts i came across this song by Adam McNaughtan .

September the eleventh
In Nineteen seventy-three
Scores of people perished
In a vile machine-gun spree
Santiago stadium
Became a place to kill
But a Scottish football team
Will grace it with their skill
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Will you go there, Alan Rough
Will you play there, Tom Forsyth
Where so many folk met early
The Grim Reaper with his scythe
These people weren't terrorists
They weren't Party hacks
But some were maybe goalkeepers
And some were centre backs
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Victor Jara played guitar
As he was led into the ground
Then they broke all of his fingers
So his strings no more could sound
Still he kept on singing
Songs of freedom, songs of peace
And though they gunned him down
His message doesn't cease
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Will you go there, Archie Gemmill
Will you play there, Andy Gray
Will it trouble you to hear the voice
Of Victor Jara say
Somos cinquo mille -
We are five thousand in this place
And Scottish football helps to hide
The Junta's dark disgrace
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Do you stand upon the terracing
At Ibrox or Parkhead
Do you cheer the Saints in black and white
The Dons in flaming red
All those who died in Chile
Were people of your kind
Let's tell the football bosses
That it's time they changed their mind
Before there's blood upon their hands

Officials of the SFA refused to meet a delegation of three former prisoners of the Chilean military regime who called at their headquarters in Glasgow. About 70 per cent of Scottish professional footballers voted in favour of the national team playing Chile in June. Only ten per cent were opposed.

An officer thought he recognized Victor Jara , pointed at him with a questioning look and motioning as if strumming a guitar. Victor nodded. He was seized, taken to the center of the stadium and told to put his hands on a table. While his friends watched in horror, rifle butts beat his hands to a bloody pulp. "All right, sing for us now, you ---," shouted the officer

Eternal Shame on Scottish Football

Doom and gloom on weather change

“We are on the edge of the greatest die-off humanity has ever seen .We will be lucky if 20% of us survive what is coming..." said James Lovelock , the originator of the Gaia hypothesis , that the Earth’s chemistry, climate and life are all closely linked into a kind of self-sustaining system . “...Human outpourings of greenhouse gases have flicked the switch that turns the world from its colder to its warm state – and it is probably too late to stop it,” he said.

In 2050 or soon after, most of the world may be scrub and desert and most of the oceans will be denuded of life . Millions – perhaps hundreds of millions – of people living in equatorial lands will be forced from their homes, with most of them heading northwards. The world will face mass shortages of food and water. That will lead to wars and the effective clearance of vast areas of land as the deserts spread . The grim possibility that billions of people face a miserable life and death as humanity finds a new equilibrium with the Earth.

In Cologne, Germany, 4,000 sharp-suited bankers, lawyers and financial traders at Carbon Expo 2007 were congratulating themselves on the booming new markets in carbon credits that will, they boasted, save the world as well as making them rich. For Lovelock, however, such dreams are dangerous nonsense on a par with a drowning man clutching at straws:-

“It’s all ridiculous,” he sighed. “These new markets do some good in that they generate wealth and keep these people employed, but they and the IPCC are just raising false hopes. We have done too much damage to the world and now it is changing too fast for us to make much difference.”

Pessimistic forecast , indeed , but let's hope that the prognosis for the Earth is not as fatalistic as speculated if the peoples of the world can manage to create a socialist society with a steady-state ecologically-sound economy .

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Too Little , Too Late

There will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a major scientific study. Stocks have collapsed in nearly one-third of sea fisheries, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Only 50 years left .

Marine scientists say the case for a moratorium on the use of heavy trawling gear in deep waters is now overwhelming and should be put in place immediately. A new report prepared for the UN indicates the equipment is doing immense damage to the ecosystems around seamounts, or underwater mountains. 1,100 scientists put their names to a petition supporting the demand for a moratorium.

The technique is very effective but smashes everything in its path, ripping corals and sponges from the sea-floor - removing the habitats on which the fish and other diverse organisms depend. It is practised by relatively few vessels - perhaps no more than 200 worldwide - and accounts for about 0.2% of the total world catch. Eleven nations have bottom-trawling fleets, with Spain's being the biggest. Studies have indicated that none would be commercially viable without government subsidies.

Now a partial agreement has been reached for the South Pacific . It will close to bottom trawling areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems are known or are likely to exist, unless a prior assessment is undertaken and highly precautionary protective measures are implemented. Observers and monitoring systems will ensure vessels remain five nautical miles from marine ecosystems at risk. The South Pacific contains the last pristine deep-sea marine environment. It extends from the Equator to the Antarctic and from Australia to the western coast of South America. The high seas encompass all areas not included in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a country

Yet vested interests continue to protest .

The delegation from New Zealand, whose fishermen are responsible for 90% of bottom trawling in the South Pacific high seas said:-
"Because of the cost implications of the necessary research and assessment and observer requirements, it may even have the effect of putting an end to bottom trawling..."

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Soldiers Life -

The latest research from The US Army's Mental Health Advisory Team makes depressing reading , summarised here .

A survey of U.S. troops in combat in Iraq found that less than half of Marines and a little more than half of Army soldiers said they would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian.

10 percent reported personally abusing Iraqi civilians. Mistreatment includes hitting or kicking a civilian.

Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect. About a third of troops said they had insulted or cursed at civilians in their presence.

44 percent of Marines and 41 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to save the life of a soldier or Marine.

39 percent of Marines and 36 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to gather important information from insurgents.

Lest we forget :-

"The healthy man does not torture others—generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers"- Carl Jung .

And indeed

“The aim of military training is not to prepare men for battle , but to make them long for it" - Louis Simpson

So should we be at all surprised by such findings ?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Chinese Capitalism Kowtows

From Johann Hari in The Independent :-
an old word once used in the Maoist gulags has come back to China. It is "gulaosi" - and it is used to describe the men and women who are literally being worked to death producing clothes, electronics and toys .
Wie Meiren was a standard-issue gulaosi, the kind you can find in every Chinese town. She was a 32-year-old woman with three kids who left her hungry village and travelled to Dongkeng, where she got a job assembling the toy cars for the British kids' market. She was expected to work 360 days a year, from 7.30am to as late as 9.30pm, with only a half-hour break for lunch and fines for taking too long on the toilet.
Meiren had a family crisis at home. She was forbidden by her bosses from going to take care of it - so she became angry and fainted. She forced herself to keep going to work for the next fortnight, but eventually she became so exhausted she collapsed - and died before she reached the hospital. The autopsy indicated gulaosi - heart and organ failure caused by extreme exhaustion.
Some 50,000 fingers are sliced off in China's factories every month.
Tao Chun Lan was a 20-year-old woman from Sichuan province at the heart of China who moved to Shenzhen and got a job working in a handicrafts factory. One night, she discovered the factory was filling with smoke - and the workers were locked inside. Some 84 workers were burned or trampled to death. Lan jumped out of a window, irreparably damaging her legs. She has received no compensation.
"They don't care if I am crippled for life," she says
Last year, the Chinese dictatorship announced a new draft of labour laws designed finally to allow Chinese workers like her - too late - some basic rights.
The new law would permit people like Lan and Meiren to join trade unions. It would give them the right to a written contract. It would give them the right to a severance payment. It would give them the right to change jobs freely.
The dissident-killing Chinese Communist Party didn't propose this change out of a sudden flush of benevolence. They did it because the Chinese people have in increasing numbers been refusing to be tethered serfs for the benefit of Western corporations.
Last year, there were 300,000 illegal industrial actions in China, a huge spate of "factory kidnappings" of managers, and more than 85,000 protests.
Groups representing Western corporations with factories in China sent armies of lobbyists to Beijing to cajole and threaten the dictatorship into abandoning these new workers' protections.
The American Chamber of Commerce - representing Microsoft, Nike, Ford, Dell and others - listed 42 pages of objections. The laws were "unaffordable" and "dangerous", they declared. The European Chamber of Commerce backed them up. Their lobbying seems to have paid off. The (unelected) Chinese National People's Congress is due to vote on the new labour laws in the next month or so, but the proposals have already been massively watered down.
Scott Slipy, the director of human resources for Microsoft in China, bragged to BusinessWeek, "We have enough investment at stake that we can usually get someone to listen to us if we are passionate about an issue."
As James Mann, the former Los Angeles Times bureau chief in Beijing, puts it after years of observing the behaviour of big business in China:-
"The business communities of China and the United States do not harbour dreams of democracy. Both profit from a Chinese system that permits no political opposition, and both are content with it."
And in this month's Socialist Standard - China: primitive accumulation of capital

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Food Adulteration

When i was in Canada in March the big breaking story ( but not to have been highlighted by the UK media ) was the mysterious deaths of cats and dogs from contaminated pet foods produced there and distributed throughout North America . It is reported that there has been approximately 4,150 dog and cat pet deaths . 5,500 varieties of pet food and 150 brands have been withdrawn from store and supermarket shelves .
Health inspectors have investigated the supply chain and now generally believe that the contamination originated in wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate imported from China . And in pet products sold in South Africa and Namibia, the third vegetable protein ingredient, corn gluten, also has been found to be contaminated.

Investigators suspect that melamine , an industrial chemical used in the manufacturing of plastic utensils and fertilizer , in combination with a rice protein additive imported from China and found to contain cyanuric acid, may cause crystals to form in the kidneys, shutting them down. Cyanuric acid is used as a stabilizer in outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs.

All vegetable protein imports from China used in human and animal food is to be be detained.
The products include wheat gluten, rice gluten, rice protein, rice protein concentrate, corn gluten, corn gluten meal, corn byproducts, soy protein, soy gluten proteins and mung bean protein.

It has now been revealed that the food chain has been extended to and includes humans .

People have eaten millions of chickens that were given feed tainted with recalled pet food, federal officials said Tuesday, though they said the threat to human health is minimal.
The announcement came after an investigation of chicken farms in Indiana found that 38 of the facilities had given contaminated feed to poultry raised for human consumption, and that 2.5 million to 3 million people ate them.The officials added that they expect to discover that chickens on possibly hundreds of farms in other states were also given tainted feed.

FDA officials said 6,000 hogs that may have ingested tainted pet food entered the human food supply. Pork producers in seven states -- California, Kansas, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina and Utah -- are being investigated for buying adulterated feed.

The National Chicken Council, which represents U.S. poultry producers, marketers and processors endeavour to minimise the risks .

"...chicken feed may have been contaminated as a result of a practice common among pet food manufacturers -- they sometimes sell their leftover material to manufacturers of chicken and pig feed...What they're saying is that somebody bought that material and it got mixed in corn and soybean that gets manufactured in poultry feed...The dilution factor is enormous. You have a relatively small amount of pet food by-products used...It's a safe and wholesome product to use"

I'm not too sure i believe that .

A 2002 UN report concluded the potential risk posed by melamine is low. However, the UN based that conclusion on the slim chance that consumers would even come into contact with the chemical. Until the recent and ongoing recalls, regulators did not consider melamine a likely contaminant of food meant for either people or animals. Nor were the vegetable proteins considered at risk for contamination. The US Food and Drug Administration is now testing a variety of vegetable proteins, used to make everything from infant formula to energy bars, for the chemical.

How did the crisis arise ? - simple - for profit

Chinese producers appear to have been spiking the vegetable proteins to make them appear to have more protein than they actually did. Adding a nitrogen-rich contaminant like melamine would skew the results of tests to make an ingredient register as more protein-rich than it really is -- and allow it to sell for more money.

Alienated Aborigines

Health standards among Australia's Aborigines are as poor as those among the white population before the advent of penicillin nearly a century ago, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dr Jackson Pulver, from the Indigenous Health Unit of the University of New South Wales:-
"Indigenous babies born today can expect to live only as long as people in Australia 100 years ago. The Aboriginal people are dying at the same kind of rates that people did 100 years ago"

Aborigines still suffered from leprosy, tuberculosis and rheumatic heart disease, all of which were eradicated decades ago in other developed nations. Life expectancy among white Australians was 76.6 for men and 82 for women. In Aboriginal communities it was 59.4 for men and 64.8 for women. In some parts of New South Wales the average life expectancy for Aboriginal men was 33.

Dr Pulver goes on to explain:-
"It is acknowledged by the government that Aboriginal Australians have poorer health, educational, employment and social outcomes, however the solutions to address these issues have little to do with the underlying causes." These were "a combination of material deprivation and psycho-social stressors related to stress, alienation, discrimination and lack of control". and that she believes believes the after-effects of colonisation and injustices such as the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their families were still having an impact. The factors included "people being alienated from their country, land, language and culture".

I think we can safely say that many of the indigenous peoples around the World face the same problems and suffer the same inequalities as Australia's Aboriginal peoples . At least 350 million people worldwide are considered to be indigenous. Most of them live in remote areas in the world. Indigenous peoples are divided into at least 5000 peoples ranging from the forest peoples of the Amazon to the tribal peoples of India and from the Inuit of the Arctic to the Aborigines in Australia.